Improbable Stanley Cup Final looms

Posted: 05/26/2012 by bc in Uncategorized

The LA Kings, one of hockey’s poster boys of futility prepare to battle for the preeminent annual award against a team led by a coach making his first appearance in the NHL playoffs and backstopped by a 40-year-old goaltender. As odd and unusual as this SCF seems my sense is that we are in for a truly remarkable series.
The Kings captured lightning in a bottle and have crushed their opposition on a stunning 12-2 playoff run. The Devils arrive at the SCF after having barely survived a 7 game series against the Florida Panthers, impressively shutting down a very good Philadelphia Flyers offense and finally by whipping NHL Board of Governors favorite NY Rangers.
No doubt the money was hoping for a NY/LA SCF.
The matchups and subplots are certainly intriguing.
Will Ilya Kovalchuck, a guy the Kings tried and failed to sign bury them in the Final?  Won’t that tweak (pun intended) the Kings blogosphere.
The wily vet Brodeur against the young Turk Quick is a compelling and timeless subplot.
Will the Devils no-name blue line stymie the Kings vaunted forecheck?
Can the Kings continue to dismantle their opponents with surgical precision?
Will Adam Henrique continue to write his Mr. Clutch story. I’m not sure NHL fans have witnessed a clutch performance on this level since the days of Claude Lemieux and Adam Deadmarsh.
Would the Kings star power defeat the four line rolling Devils? Speaking of fourth lines, props@Ryan Carter for proving himself to be an important role player on a Stanley Cup finalist.
Will cleared for contact 7 time 20 goal scorer Simon Gagne reunite with Flyer buds Carter and Richards on the Kings second line? If it happens the NHL might award a Bill Masterton Trophy Playoff Edition.
No Western Conference champ enters the SCF as well rested as these L.A. Kings. Does the rest factor work for or against them? At what point do healed bumps and bruises become rust that first affects timing?
All 6’4″ 210#’s of match up and shut down D-man Henrik Tallinder has been skating with the Devils since Friday. He hasn’t played since January due to a blood clot in his leg. Does he get into game shape in time to make a difference?
Either team entered the playoffs with much respect. Neither has won much along the way. If there’s meme for this series, I’d offer respect. One team will earn it and the other?

Improbable certainly doesn’t mean either of these teams is unworthy of being in the SCF. Each earned it. Maybe it’s because these respective Conference champs are the unlikely SCF combatants that the intangibles and X factors loom so large. Maybe, just maybe that says more about us than it does them. Stay tuned. It could be a short or long series. Regardless, we’re in for one intriguing, compelling and scintillating SCF.

Note to zseller: Did I just lose a second Travis Roy Foundation bet? Save me from searching the archives. What was our bet again? Do the Kings have to win the Cup or the Western Conference?

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Comments
  1. czhokej says:

    It will be exciting. Both teams are surprise finalists. LAK impressed me with amazing pressure hockey all over the ice. It’s almost textbook perfect system. With offensive power almost equal, these two teams will battle. The Kings have better defense, and netminders are even, then special teams may become a crucial factor. LAK had PP problems, but excellent PK. And PK was a weakness for NJD.

  2. czhokej says:

    New Jersey is a team that plays with a lot of structure, but LA seems to be stronger. My prediction would be the Kings in 6. But it will be unbearable to deal with LAK fans.

    • Kings fans are what they are. They’ll cuss out a child or out number some old guy in a parking lot. I’ll never have any respect for the Kings so long as Philip Ansutch, the so-called Christian owner of the LA Kings markets to trash. What a phony and hypocrite. Why is it you never see the Kings market to Christian groups? They give press passes to Hollywood crack heads though. So no, I don’t care what the team does on the ice. My contempt for the Kings org goes way deeper. Tim Lieweke is appropriately named.
      As for the series, you make great ponts as usual cz. One thing is that the Devils have really faced adversity throughout the playoffs. They were down 3-2 against the Panthers. They lost Game 1 against the Flyers and Rangers. They’ve played without the services of their top D-man. They played with their top center Tavis Zajac.
      It’ll be interesting to see if the Kings can defeat these comeback kids.

  3. tearingitup says:

    I was hoping that the Devils would get by the Rangers. I enjoy the play of the Z man…their Captain. I would say I covet him. He is a great leader and puts up numbers. I still hate to say that the Kings look strong…either way it should be a great series. I also realize it is early, but where are the rumor mongers? I am talking about rumors of change for this team. I am hoping for improvement. Have a great Memorial day…..the best to all that serve.

    • The Gossip Girls are singularly focused on Roberto Loungo. Funny that despite Steve Yzerman stating publicly that Lightning has no interest and has no talks, Eklund and Richardson blogs are replete with reasons why they think El Floppo might land in Tampa Bay. The common reason is that Roberto’s wife is a Florida girl. Naturally it goes then she has the juice to influence a $50million decision. I enjoy following them but jeez most times I read it and laugh. Who does she think she is, Anita Bryant?
      BTW tearingitup try this. I subscribe and find it the best of the lot.

  4. It’ll be an intriguing SCF for sure. Young vs. Old with the goaltenders, and some of the matchups will be fun to see. The recent IIHF World Championships were great too, I meant to comment on some of your posts on them. I saw every game of it, it’s too bad about the scheduling.

  5. bbdux93 says:

    Can someone explain to me a bit about what I saw in game 1 of SCF. It looked to me like the Kings were able, in the first period, to (in my words) stretch the ice by not trying to send 3 forward up the middle, so much as in a line along the boards until they got past the Devils. Their passing in that kind of formation was impressive. I only 1/2 watched the 2nd period – had work to do, but by the 3rd it seemed to me that the Devils were not allowing that to get set up as well.

    Question – What are the advantages and dangers (beyond what I’ve noted) in such a formation and how was it the Devils took that away as the game went on. An Xs & Os description or strategy to defeat the style of play is what I’m hoping to read. 🙂

    • I’ve always enjoyed your eye for the game bb. You’re quite right and something I posted on only once or twice during these playoffs. The Kings attack from the outside in. In other words they come at you from the wings. Rarely does the shot come from the wings though unless they have a guy planted in the low slot. Mostly they’re trying to setup Kopitar or Carter between the hash marks or just above. You’ll often see Doughty or Voynov drift in from the point as well.
      There’s nothing particularly special or new. What is different for the Kings anyway is how well they execute.
      Let’s use the Kings top line to kind of x & o it. Brown takes a perfectly place first pass from Doughty and is moving through the neutral zone up his wing. Kopitar is alongside or trailing a bit with Williams further back. Keep in mind that as they move toward the Devils net the shot will come from between the hash marks. Henrique with Salvador and Fayne are back for Jersey. From the blue to the net, Brown has two options, (1) flip the biscuit across to Kopi, (2) drop it back to Williams.
      The defensive assignments are Henrique on Williams, Salvador takes Kopitar and Fayne’s job is to knock Brown off the puck.
      Two things happen for Brown as he’s crossing the Devils blue line. He may use speed to drive Fayne back and open the passing the lane, or; Fayne cuts off the passing lane and forces Brown further outside toward the boards. In the former with Fayne driven back toward the net, Brown can move in toward the center lane. If the latter, Fayne holds the blue line and forces Brown outside. In either situation Brown maintains his two passing options, a drop to Williams or flip to Kopitar. As Brown penetrates deeper into the Devils zone a third passing option, back to the point, opens up.
      The Devils are doing a great job of breaking this up as the Kings two goals and what half a dozen or so genuine scoring chances per game indicate. The problem isn’t the Devils defensive scheme. Quick is the difference in the first two games.
      Sorry it took so long to respond bb. Have a lot of work here as well.

  6. bbdux93 says:

    BC – This is exactly what I hoped for, I will read it again then watch it with a better understanding.

    I do agree – Quick is the difference. It was not that long ago that goal tending was maybe their biggest problem – not anymore.

    • Well thanks for letting me bb 🙂 Didn’t really go into defending against the Kings attack because there’s really nothing special to it. Keep the play in front of you. Get sticks and bodies in the passing lanes. Keep the puck away from Doughty as much as possible. Rough Doughty up whenever he touches the puck.
      Devils are winning the battles along the boards. Credit Quick and the Kings for shutting down Kovy, Zajac and Parise though.

  7. bbdux93 says:

    My apologies, I intended to start my last post with a Thank You for the explanation and got ahead of myself.

    Thanks for your work, it always gives me a better understanding of the game.

  8. czhokej says:

    I wanted to respond to you bb, but I am no expert. I am glad that bc explained it well and much better than I would be able to. Certainly this Kings’ “wing game” opens space in the center for shooting. And the Kings are attacking those open spaces dangerously with speed. I am so envious. This is well beyond anything Carlyle would be able to design.

  9. bbdux93 says:

    Thanks CZ. I always enjoy the posts between and with you and BC.

    I’m sure I must have seen the wing game used many times before, but never so well as the Kings are doing it. Even a novice like me can tell this is something special.

  10. czhokej says:

    bb, you are keen-eyed and observant and quite often you notice things which I miss.

  11. czhokej says:

    The Kings demolished the Devils 4-0 today. I expected something better from New Jersey, but their star players did not deliver. The Kings look like the best team ever in the playoffs. As I said before I am envious.
    One of the players who plays well for the Devils is the former Duck Ryan Carter. He is a role player there and gets only 8 and a half minutes of TOI, but he scored 5 goals and he is +5. He also won 65% of FOs. I was angry when our GM traded him. He only needed to develop, into a supporting role guy.

    • Missed the game. Caught the post game. That was another stunner in a playoff full of stunners.You’re right the Kings playoff dominance ranks among the all time best playoff performances. Jeez what a stunner.
      Quick deserves the Conn Smythe. I’m also impressed by the growth of Anze Kopitar. but jeez another stunning fact is that after 17 playoff games Kings have just one guy with a negative +/-. Kyle Clifford is -1. 11 goals in 17 games from the 3rd & 4th lines ain’t too shabby.
      Have to give it ’em. They certainly earned it.

  12. czhokej says:

    The Kings may match the playoff record of the Oilers 1988 (Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Marty McSorley, Mike Krushelnyski, McTavish, Tikkanen, Fuhr). The Oilers scored 84 goals during their playoff run, the Kings only 49 so far, but their defense and goaltending look better.

  13. bbdux93 says:

    If I could sing it for them – the Devils – I’d be signing “Turn out the Lights, the Party’s Over”.
    Amazing, for a team that struggle to make the play-offs, to one that has dominated it – the Kings have been Amazing.

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