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Stanley Cup Final preview: Devils, Kings
1. Quick to the punch
There’s a reason some pegged Jonathan Quick as a Hart Trophy candidate; the Los Angeles Kings wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him. And they certainly wouldn’t be in the Stanley Cup Final without his postseason-best 1.54 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. The New Jersey Devils possess plenty of offensive depth with 15 different goal-scorers in the postseason, though Quick will test that. Getting goals from defensemen through screens, which New Jersey has done plenty of, could be the key to cracking Quick.
2. Kovalchuk past the pain
Ilya Kovalchuk fought off a back injury during the Devils‘ series against the Philadelphia Flyers and took a little bit of time to look himself again. No worries. His shot on the power play has been deadly (five goals) and Kovalchuk has shed any possible reputation about coming up small in the playoffs. He has the most assists and points in the playoffs and could be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner if New Jersey wins.
3. Road is where the wins are
New Jersey has home-ice advantage, but that might not be as big of an advantage as most would think. Los Angeles is 12-0 on the road in these playoffs, and the Devils are keenly aware of that. Mike Richards said Staples Center in the final minutes of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals was the loudest he has ever heard an arena. If the Kings are 14-0 on the road going into Game 3 and have a two-games-to-none lead in the series, that might change.
Matchup to watch:
When it’s clicking, New Jersey’s power play is downright scary. At its best, it includes tic-tac-toe passing, and Kovalchuk filling the net. Not only does Los Angeles have to stay disciplined, but there’s a huge onus on the likes of Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene to be sharp on the penalty kill. Relying on Quick’s brilliance could win the Kingsthe Stanley Cup, but there’s not much he can do if Kovalchuk gets open shots on the weak side.
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