Archive for May, 2012

Stanley Cup: predictions edition

- May 28th, 2012

Three rounds down and one to go.

Four more wins until one team gets to lift that big silver trophy and the other is left in anguish, wondering what might have been should another bounce or two gone their way.

Hard to believe that posting a 1-1 record (picks were made solely on twitter since I was on holidays and moving from one condo to another) was progress but at this stage of the game, we’ll take what we can get. For those keeping track (and occasionally laughing out loud at my struggles), my record is now 4-10. Good thing I get to keep my day job!

So after correctly predicting the Western Conference champion, it’s time to give some love to the one team I have yet to pick through three rounds, the New Jersey Devils, who ousted the rival New York Rangers in impressive fashion to win the Eastern Conference in six games last Friday.

The Devils have managed to stay under the radar and just seem to go about their business, squeaking by the Florida Panthers in double overtime of Game 7 in the first round, handling the Philadelphia Flyers in the second before vanquishing Henrik Lundqvist and the Broadway Blue Shirts to reach the Stanely Cup final.

Ilya Kovalchuk has showcased his tremendous talents and has impressed me thoroughly, both during the regular season and especially during the playoffs.

Captain Zach Parise has been a force, Winnipeg’s own Travis Zajac has found his form after battling an Achilles’ issue for most of the season, an unheralded defence corps that includes Brandon product Bryce Salvador is getting the job done and goalie Marty Brodeur has come up with the big save when he’s needed it.

Let’s not overlook the fact the Devils’ fourth line of Ryan Carter (claimed off waivers), Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta (who both started the season on AHL deals) produced more offence than the Rangers top line during the third round match-up either.

Plus, rookie Adam Henrique has two series clinchers in overtime (one vs Panthers, another vs Rangers) and 30-goal man David Clarkson are contributing big goals, along with Patrik Elias and company.

The Devils can still play stifling defence, but head coach Peter DeBoer isn’t afraid the guys with offensive gifts to do their thing, provided they do so within the structure.

DeBoer leans on four lines and gives all three sets of D-men a regular shift. The Devils also allowed the fewest power-play goals in the NHL this season, while the Kings power play has endured some struggles in the post-season.

The Kings are now 12-2 in these playoffs after knocking out the top-ranked Vancouver Canucks, second-ranked St. Louis Blues and third-seeded Phoenix Coyotes.

Much like the Devils, they’ve got excellent depth down the middle with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser and they play four lines as well.

Darryl Sutter has done an exceptional job since taking over the Kings from Terry Murray, Jeff Carter seems to be finding his stride and defenceman Drew Doughty is doing a fantastic job on the back end (despite his epic temper tantrum after he was given an interference penalty in Game 5).

It’s not just Doughty playing well on the blue-line though. Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene and youngster Slava Voynov are all logging big minutes and doing an excellent job.

By the way, Jonathan Quick has been light’s out between the pipes and might just end up being the ultimate difference-maker.

Richards remembers the pain of falling short in 2010 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers against the Chicago Blackhawks and he’s not about to let this opportunity slip through his fingers.

We see this being an incredibly tight series and it will be far more entertaining than some are predicting.

Yes, it will be tight-checking but there’s some serious skill on display as well.

We wouldn’t be surprised if this goes either way, but we’re going to take the Kings in six hard-fought games (Devils’ fans everywhere rejoice).

Conn Smythe goes to Quick and look for Winkler product Dustin Penner to find a way to score one more game-winner.

Enjoy the final.