Playoff Preview Number 4 – Stanley Cup Finals

So it is set, the Stanley Cup finals kick off tonight with the Los Angeles Kings facing off against the New Jersey Devils. Sorry that this is going to be a technologically deficient post, but I’m on vacation and I can’t be bothered to care or create images on my computer that is currently 600+ miles away.

Since at least the trade deadline I have not really said anything positive about the Kings. Despite that, it really is hard not to cheer for them in the Cup finals. So far this postseason, out of a possible 21 games the Kings have played in only 14 it isn’t a record but it is incredibly impressive. In order to produce such an impressive wins total, they have not yet lost on the road throughout the entire playoffs. In order to reach the Cup finals the Kings have played the top 3 seeds in the Western Conference. This equals the mark that their current coach, Darryl Sutter, set in the ’04 season when he led the Calgary Flames to the Stanley Cup finals by beating the top three seeds in the Western Conference. The Kings are the second 8 seed to advance to the Cup finals in the post-lockout NHL, the ’06 Oilers were the first. It should be noted that both the Flames and the Oilers ended up losing in the SCF.

A little bit about the Devils. As Penguins fans it is a lot harder to root for the Devils. They are division “rivals,” although they don’t have a whole lot of fans and the fans they do have don’t really care about rivalries the way the Rangers or Flyers fans do. Nonetheless, the Penguins have waged some pretty serious wars against the Devils in their day, and now they are the alternative to the mighty Kings, who still barely made the playoffs at all. Of course, unlike the Kings, I have actually given a lot of praise to the Devils this year, at the outset of the playoffs I said they were probably good enough to win any division in the league except the Atlantic, and that there were no glaring holes in their team. Well guess what, now they are the only Atlantic Division team, the only Eastern Conference team still standing. In light of all that, the Devils definitely have some redeeming qualities too.

What does the future hold for Martin Brodeur? You have to assume that if the Devils can win the Cup he will retire. Although the Penguins have famously chased him from the net more than any other team over his playing career, the Penguins also must be near the top, if not at the top for the team he has shutout the most. Brodeur retiring is not a bad thing if you are the Pittsburgh Penguins. What happens if the Kings win? If the Devils don’t win and Brodeur isn’t given the opportunity to “ride off into the sunset” as a hero, and therefore decides that he wants to come back, you would have to assume it would basically cost the Devils Zach Parise. Ever since their colossal mismanagement of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract this has been a perpetual issue for the Devils, how can they hold onto Zach Parise? If the Devils lost Parise it would be a real shame. To me there is no doubt that he is the best American NHL player today and despite playing for a divisional rival, I would hate to see him leave the division (of course he might not, the Islanders have some money to spend, but that would just make them that much better…).

Either way, both are good teams, both have the chance to make a bit of history, and most importantly, this is the matchup to determine the winner of the best trophy in professional sports. If that isn’t enough to get you pumped up, you’re probably dead inside. Go Hockey!

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