Unpredictable, Entertaining, the Cup!
By Jon Maxfield aka DnJcards
The crowd is hush as the final moments tick off the clock and another team’s season comes to an immediate halt as the final two teams are set. The “never say die” attitude of the New Jersey Devils has helped them come out of nowhere in these Stanley Cup Playoffs as they eliminated the Florida Panthers in seven games before making relatively quick work of Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. They then went on to shocking everyone by disposing of the gritty, number one seeded, New York Rangers in six games. The Devils were one of the quieter teams coming into the playoffs.
Not highly regarded for their offence as other teams were (The New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins), not highly touted for their defence (unlike the Bruins and Flyers) and they had a huge question as to whether goaltender, Martin Brodeur was still on top of his game despite becoming one of the older goalies in the league. They did not have a dramatic rivalry that boiled over into blood-shed (See the Flyers/Penguins series for an example), and despite being written off quickly by most fans and teams alike, the Devils did what every great hockey team does. They went out and played good, smart hockey.
Led by Ilya Kovalchuk who has amassed seven goals and eleven assists for a league leading eighteen points, the Devils offence kept pace with some of the most high scoring teams in the league, while their goaltending stood the test of time as Martin Brodeur brought back shades of the 2003 playoffs where the Devils defeated the Anaheim Mighty-Ducks. Brodeur has stood on his head at times keeping his team on top, making saves that would have every sniper in the league throwing their heads back in disbelief, meanwhile with the rookie presence of youngsters such as Adam Henrique, paired with secondary scoring by the likes of Ryan Carter, Danius Zubrus and David Clarkson, the Devils have put together a team very similar to that of the 07 Stanley Cup Champion, Anaheim Ducks which built from the net out including a potent defence, and a offence that had its finesse, and grittiness.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the Los Angeles Kings who were behind the eight-ball on 3 separate occasions these playoffs as they were seeded against the first, second and third seeds, in that order! The Kings were not even in the top eight with only days remaining. They squeaked into the playoffs and took the league by storm.
Jonathan Quick has been beyond stellar, actually saying his play was stellar is putting it lightly. He has been unstoppable. He leads the league in just about every important statistic for a goaltender, eerily reminiscent of Tim Thomas last season, (Albeit, without the last second saves that gave Canucks fans and Bruins fans alike heart attacks!) leading the league in save percentage, goals against average, and wins, it’s not farfetched to say that a Conn Smythe could be in Jonathan Quick’s future regardless of the outcome of the Finals (JS Giguere in 03′ anyone?)
Dustin Brown has been everything you want in your captain, he’s been a leader while contributing both offensively and defensively. Although a tad undisciplined at times, it hasn’t stopped him from leading his team in just about every potential category. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown account for 14 of the Kings’ 42 goals. The Kings much like the Devils have had huge contributions by their 3rd and 4th lines. Dwight King, Trevor Lewis and Jordan Nolan have been quintessential parts to the Kings success, being the best players on the ice for more than one game.
The Kings, much like Devils have a team built from the net out, Quick has been the best player on the ice, meanwhile their defence has shone through a bit more than the Devils’, with Doughty and Mitchell having been the 2 best defensemen for the Kings, stellar positioning and offensive prowess have made them a force to be reckoned with.
I think it’s quite safe to say that New Jersey was definitely a shocker making it quite this far into the playoffs, and while the Kings finished strong, to say it was expected for them to do as good as they have would seem a bit asinine, but this may be exactly what the NHL needs! For the past few seasons, most of the playoffs were quite predictable, few teams came out of nowhere and shocked the hockey world making it to the finals (The Flyers, with Michael Leighton in net being the exception). This new essence, of complete unpredictability is refreshing and makes games worth watching! Watching Washington upset Boston, and take New York to seven games with a third string goalie was phenomenal, watching LA beat the Number one, two and three seeded teams (with what looked like complete ease) was tantalizing. Watching the veteran role players and the unproven youngsters come together to play a huge role in carrying their teams was unforeseeable to say the least, but has made the NHL playoffs far more exciting than any playoffs in recent memory. While the two teams in the Finals may not have an Ovechkin, or a Crosby, the finals look to be much more entertaining than one would predict.
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