The foe’s jersey
Chalk up another challenge, chalk up the New Jersey Devils.
These clubs have seen each other just three times throughout the past two years, and not one time since October.
For the Kings, those dates with the Devils have brought very little success. However, it’s senseless to base the outlook of this series on recent history. Unless we’re talking the past month.
We’re talking a different head coach, and a completely, utterly different Kings team here. If not through growth and production, through their roster. Remember Trent Hunter and Ethan Moreau? Remember when Kevin Westgarth played? Oh god.
Remember when Terry Murray sat Jonathan Quick after three consecutive shutouts, only to see Jonathan Bernier get torn apart in a 3-0 loss to the Devils in October?
Actually, that wasn’t a completely terrible decision. It’s just easy to make it look like one now.
Red October: New Jersey has come as an ‘early-bird’ opponent for the Kings the past two seasons, all three of their match-ups coming during the first month of the regular season, that being October. In these games, the Kings have gone 1-1-1 against the Devils, including 0-1-1 this season alone.
Purple Daze: The New Jersey Devils already have two of the worst commentators in Chico Resch and Steve Cangialosi, and their graphics department hasn’t been stumping their performance. The MSG+ network is rocking the purple crown (above) like it’s last season. This gives me full-on justification for continuing with the throwback trend for a little while more.
Turning back the clock, :27 seconds left on the clock
Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it
Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it
- Season Series -
October 13, 2011 – Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
New Jersey Devils (2) – LA Kings (1) *Final/Shootout
Game Notes: The Kings would notch the first goal less than two minutes into the contest, Simon Gagne scoring his first goal in a Kings uniform. The Devils would tie the game later in the period with a goal from Patrick Elias. There would be no more goals until the shootout, the Devils ending things quickly in just two rounds. Jonathan Quick was stellar, stopping 36 of 37 New Jersey shots, including an absolutely stellar 3rd period and OT performance. Johan Hedberg would replace Martin Brodeur after the 1st period, and stopped all 16 Kings shots he faced. This was also the Kings first regular season game on North American soil, after starting the season in Europe.
October 25, 2011 – Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
New Jersey Devils (3) – LA Kings (0)
Game Notes: The Kings entered this game on a defensive tear, riding three consecutive shutout victories – all recorded by Jonathan Quick. Terry Murray chose to start Jonathan Bernier to give Quick some rest, and the backup was picked apart in a 3-0 loss, allowing all three goals in a six-minute span. Johan Hedberg started again for Martin Brodeur, who was injured four games prior against the Kings. Their fortune of luck against Hedberg wouldn’t change, the Kings failing to score on any of their 31 shots. This wasn’t just the end to the Kings franchise-record shutout streak, but the end to their hot start to the season. The Kings would begin to slip from here on out, going 1-5-1 in their next seven contests.
Devil Killer: He scored the only Kings goal against the Devils this season, and he’s been beating them his entire career. Simon Gagne, who is likely to miss the Stanley Cup Finals in final recovery from his concussion, is now skating with the Kings in practice.
Even if he is feeling physically well, Gagne hasn’t played a game in just over five months. To insert him into the lineup at this point is a major, major risk to take. For a player who’s been out for the length he has, with the injury he sustained, a solid two weeks of ice conditioning is needed at the very least. Why fix something when it’s not broken.
I’m not talking just getting back to full in-game shape, this hockey is at a completely different level right now. It’s not just playoff hockey anymore, it’s the Stanley Cup Finals. That takes mental and physical strength I just don’t see Gagne having right now.
Now, if the Kings get to the point like they have in the previous three rounds, the point where they see themselves with a 3-0 series lead, then I’m all for letting Gagne dress. Since he didn’t meet the NHL‘s minimum games-played requirement to get his name on the Stanley Cup if the Kings win, he needs to play in at least one Stanley Cup Final game to get that privilege.
By the way, out of all current NHL players, Simon Gagne has the most goals against Martin Brodeur with 19. It only makes it harder to say, but Gags has to watch this one from the seats – it’s only for the better.
Knowing New Jersey
Stopping Ilya: The much-maligned forward for the Devils, Ilya Kovalchuk, has had an absolutely astounding postseason run so far. With seven goals and 11 assists, Kovalchuk is riding 18 points heading into the series.
While he can be a liability defensively (tagging along with a -4 rating), he is a menace on the powerplay. Out of Kovalchuk’s 18 points, eight of them are on the man-advantage, in the form of five goals and three assists. The Kings, whose penalty kill has been stalwart, must keep Kovalchuk from finding any powerplay success.
Seeing Marty: Possibly the biggest story other than the Kings these playoffs is the play of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is heading back to the Stanley Cup Finals at the age of 40. The Kings saw Brodeur for just one period this season due to injury, scoring one goal on 11 shots.
Brodeur, who is carrying a 2.04 GAA and a .923 save % into the finals, has been helped by his offense quite a bit. If the Kings know what they’re getting from Jonathan Quick, Martin Brodeur could easily become New Jersey’s weak link if offensive pressure continues for the Kings.
Top-line grind: The line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Justin Williams must continue it’s forceful presence. Not only have they combined for four shorthanded goals, but 42 goals all together – in just 14 games. They’ve showed serious presence on both ends, also shutting down the defensive zone, carrying along a +32 mark. You may see Mike Richards‘ line paired up with Ilya Kovalchuk‘s to try and maintain the steady production of Kopitar’s line.
The last time the Kings played the New Jersey Devils, all things were looking up under the helm of Terry Murray…
Not. Look who’s up in this b*tch now
How about a Stanley Cup Finals series prediction?
C’mon Gretz, you’re killing my cool in front of everyone.
Kings in 5 games. I repeat, Kings in 5 (five).
Because, the time is– oh, that’s no good
Now there we go
But because, the Time is Now