Stanley Cup Finals Betting Preview: Kings vs. Devils Odds and Prediction
by Trevor Whenham - 5/29/2012
There are a lot of people who will tell you that this is a disappointing or underwhelming Stanley Cup Finals pairing. Those people are just plain wrong.
Sure, it doesn’t look like much when a No. 6 seed meets a No. 8 seed in the battle for the nicest trophy in sports. Neither of these teams is what you would typically expect from their seeds, though.
Both teams started off the season below their potential, and have only started playing like they clearly could now that it matters most. Both teams have been very impressive getting here, and though one team has a clear edge in the eyes of oddsmakers (The Kings are favored at -170 to win the series according to Bovada), the games should be tight and entertaining.
For this Stanley Cup preview, let’s look at which team has the edge in four crucial categories:
The guys with the big pads are almost always the biggest single factor in the outcome of the Stanley Cup Finals. This year we are in for a particular treat because the storylines couldn’t be more intriguing.
The Devils feature the legendary Martin Brodeur. He turned 40 during these playoffs, and he has been at the top of the game ever since winning the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1994. His list of accomplishments is staggering — most games played and won, most playoff shutouts, and on and on. He is showing signs of his age, but he has been very strong in the playoffs — gaining confidence and improving his play as they have progressed.
On the other side you have Jonathan Quick. The 26 year old only played his first NHL game in December of 2007, but he has quickly emerged as one of the truly elite goalies in the game — and he is well poised to win his first Vezina Trophy this year. Quick has been absolutely incredible in these playoffs — a stone wall. He’s the biggest reason the Kings are where they are, and with the confidence and effectiveness he has shown all year — the guy had 10 shutouts in the regular season! — he is the biggest reason they are heavily favored to keep winning.
Edge: L.A. Kings
Both guys behind the bench have piloted remarkable turnarounds in a short time.
Peter DeBoer took over the Devils this season after three largely-frustrating years in Florida. His was a new style for the team, and it took a while for the squad to buy into his vision. Clearly they have done so now, though. He has out-coached his opponent in the last two rounds, and he shouldn’t be intimidated here.
Darryl Sutter’s job this year may be even more impressive because he has had less time to work with his team. His first game with the Kings came on Dec. 22 of this year, and the team was seriously underachieving at that time. He got them back on track, though the progress wasn’t rapid and they almost missed the playoffs. Once the postseason started, though, it was a different, far more impressive story.
While Sutter’s turnaround has been more dramatic, DeBoer had more work to do to establish his credibility with his players — Sutter is a well-known and respected figure, while DeBoer has had all his success in junior hockey, and he had only coached a bad team poorly enough to be fired in the NHL.
What’s refreshing about both of these teams and key to their success is that their best players have been playing like their best players. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have led the way offensively for the Devils, while captain Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar have played well for the Kings. Both have had competent guys really elevate their game as well — Dustin Penner for L.A. and Travis Zajac for New Jersey.
The Devils have gotten spectacular play from rookie Adam Henrique, while former Philadelphia teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have been sound for the Kings. The Devils have better numbers, but they have also played four more games. Neither team here is offensively driven or highly explosive, but both teams have more than enough ways to hurt an opponent and win a game.
The Kings have allowed three goals just twice in 14 games, and they never have allowed more than that. New Jersey has allowed four goals three different times but not since the first game of the second round. They have been much stronger since then, and were particularly sharp against the Rangers.
L.A. has been better overall defensively, and a big part of the reason for that is Drew Doughty. He has continued his emergence as the best young defenseman in the league, and has easily been the best defenseman in these playoffs. The only guy who can come close to him in terms of overall performance this offseason is New Jersey’s Bryce Salvador. The difference between the two is that Salvador seems to be overachieving, while Doughty is just playing like he is capable of.
I think this will be a tight and entertaining series. Ultimately, though, the Kings are just playing better. They are deeper, have better goaltending, and are more rested. The records don’t show it, but on paper the Kings are a better team, and they are now ready to demonstrate it. This will be the hardest series the Kings have played so far, but they should hoist the cup in six games.
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