By Rob Kotaska
Yet another biased prediction: one part admiration for a captain, one part bitter vitriol for a franchise that mucked up a sport I love for the better part of fifteen years. I’ve made no bones about my preference for the Kings to win, surely Dustin Brown will bring the Cup to the Finger Lakes. If he doesn’t Brown will join an eternal, “no backsies” sh**list residing with skell the likes of Brett Hull and Leon Lett. My feelings regarding the Devils and their riding the neutral zone trap to three Cups and almost unwatchable hockey.
So here is the emotional pick: Kings in five game. Brodeur will carry the Devils away from a sweep, but not before it is too late for anything but saving face.
Now onto the more clinical side, as best I can.
Anze Kopitar has been a revelation to me this post-season. Prior to the 2012 playoffs his name was familiar to me only through ” EA’s NHL series” and trade deadline rumors. He was always on the cusp, but never seemed to hit that next level. If Dustin Brown were not from Ithaca he would be in a similar boat as Kopitar, anonymous outside those small parts of the NHL universe. It seems to have taken his name being bandied about as trade chum to get Brown to hit the next level. Other than an unfortunate knee-to-knee hit with Michal Rosival he has had an almost flawless post season.
The depth of the Kings forward play has been the big surprise with Dwight King, Jared Stoll and Trevor Lewis chipping in a fair share for 3rd and 4th liners. And then there is the reclamation line of Dustin Penner, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. For me they are the difference in this series. If they play as they have this postseason or better the Kings are shoe ins for the Cup.
That is not to say that the Devils have been one-dimensional. Zach Parise has been impressive as always. Jersey has gotten timely goals from their 3rd and 4th lines as well. My favorite player on their from line is Adam Henrique. It is all too NHL and Canadian that a benefit of the Devils going this deep is that he has not had to work the tobacco farm back in Ontario this spring.
The Devils have a better corp than most people realize. Zidlicky was a slick trade deadline move and Volchenkov is a great shot blocker, a lesson learned the hard way during the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. The wild card is Henrik Tallinder. Though often the whipping boy of many Sabres fan, including yours truly, he has solid post-season credentials. His injury in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals gave the Canes a leg up in the series. Jay McKee and his infected shin guard may have been the final dagger for that Sabres squad, but Hank the Stank’s injury started the bleed out in a big way.
The Kings defense is 1-6 the better squad. My admiration for Rob Scuderi is well documented, he has the chops to clamp down on Kovalchuk or Parise. Drew Doughty is criminally underrated. +10 while averaging 25:53 minutes of ice time is ridiculously impressive, especially when you are lined up against the top line shift after shift. Willie Mitchell deserves major kudos for his +8 and 25:28 ice time in the post-season. I am concerned the extra ice time will take its toll on the 13 year vet.
Marty Brodeur is a three-time Cup winner an all time great, maybe the best ever at his position and deserves the respect that comes with that legacy. At this point in his career he is also the 2nd best goaltender in this series.
It would not shock me if he could outplay Jonathan Quick, but it is not likely either. Quick has come into his own, and is the best American goaltender in the NHL right now. Sorry Ryan Miller, you have been surpassed.
How my brain sees it:
I hate to have the same prediction as Barry Melrose but I see the Kings in six, and the Cup parading through the streets of Ithaca in a few weeks.
“Mark it Dude“