Only in the NHL will you have the 6th seed from the East and the 8th seed from the West make it to the final and have little reaction from the experts and fans. Hockey is all about momentum, and home ice is usually irrelevant until game 7. The Devils didn’t have the home ice advantage in the first three rounds but will have it for the finals; unfortunately, the Kings are 8-0 on the road so far and would love to continue that streak in Newark for game 1. Ironically, the Kings seem to be the clear-cut favorite, beating teams at will and giving the opponents almost no hope along the way.
Don’t let the King’s 8th seed title fool you -- they have been one of the most dominant teams in NHL playoff history so far. They took 3-0 leads in all 3 of their first series and only lost 2 meaningless game 4s to the one and three seeds. In the same way, the Devils weren’t supposed to make it this far -- maybe half of the experts had them making it past round 1 -- but there was no way they should have made it to the finals. Round two was where they should have lost to the media darling Flyers, who had just beat the Penguins in an impressive fashion. Yet the Devils made short work of the Flyers and ended up just embarrassing that defensive unit. After a 2-2 start with my beloved Rangers, most of the experts still chose the Rangers and continued to call out the advantage in goaltending for New York. People said Marty Bordeur was 40 and clearly past his prime. I wish that was true and kept telling myself that... up until the Devils scored the series-clinching goal in the overtime of game 6.
Both teams didn’t seem to belong in the finals at the start of the playoffs, yet both teams are hot and showing us an amazing amount of desire and will on the ice. Once again the veteran goalie Marty Bordeur for the New Jersey Devils will be facing one of the best young goaltenders in the game in Jonathan Quick, who was only 6 years old when Bordeur won his first Stanley Cup in 1995. Quick has dominated in this year's playoffs, and it’s a good thing because the LA Kings struggle to put in power play goals. LA has almost just as many shorthanded goals as they do power play goals in these playoffs, which shows you how good Quick and that defensive unit can be. Most people have written off Marty Bordeur and have started wondering when this guy will eventually retire, but I think the only thing people should be thinking now is if this man is going to end up with his 4th ring.
There will be no shortage of big names offensively in this series. Mike Richard and Jeff Carter, both ex-Flyers that have been to the Cup Final before, will continue to play with a chip on their shoulders as they try to finish this magical run. While the Devils will rely on their two stars, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, who have been scoring at will in this playoff run. Both teams have players who have been here before, so I don’t think experience will play a huge role in this series. Also I don’t believe the physical play will bother either team. The Kings will look to try to rough up the Devils early, but after seeing the amount of punishment the Devils took from the Rangers, it's obvious that even getting knocked down on the ice won't faze them.
Overall this series should be filled with quality goaltending and physical play, with both teams bringing a blue collar attitude to work. The Kings have already made me look very foolish by picking against them, but that’s exactly what I will be doing once again. I am going to take the Devils in 7 because of the resurgence of Marty Bordeur -- it just doesn’t seem right to pick against a man who is 3-1 in Stanley Cup finals just because he’s over the hill.
The New Jersey Devils over The Los Angeles Kings in 7 games
Photo courtesy of Maxx Wolfson - Getty Images