From their colors to their coasts, the Devils and Kings couldn’t be more different, yet in other areas, these teams have quite a bit in common, especially their underdog status.
Nobody expected the No. 6 seed Devils, or worse, the No. 8 seed Kings to be around in June playing for the Stanley Cup, but alas, here we are, with Jersey and L.A. as the last teams standing.
Historically speaking, the edge goes to the Devils who are gunning for a fourth championship (they won it all in 1995, 2000 and 2003) as they have now made the Final five times since 1995. Not too shabby. In fact, the 1995 Devils, as a No. 5 seed, are etched in the history books as being the lowest seed to ever win the Cup. One way or the other, a new group of men will take that title within the next two weeks.
The Kings record books are barren in comparison as the Gretzky-led Kings’ loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 1993 marks the only Final appearance for L.A.
Both teams have players with Cup Final experience on their resumes, but the Kings young nucleus of Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and team captain Dustin Brown is completely lacking in that department while the Devils’ on-ice and locker room leader Martin Brodeur, is one of the most experienced players in the history of professional hockey.
The Kings’ inexperience has been nearly invisible since their unexpected playoff run began as L.A. ripped through the Western Conference with a 12-2 record after beating Vancouver Canucks in five games, sweeping the St. Louis Blues and disposing of the Phoenix Coyotes in five games as well. All three of L.A.’s series-winning games came on the road as the Kings are 8-0 away from home.
The Devils’ road to the Cup Final has been tougher, needing a full seven games to take care of the Florida Panthers in the first round, followed by the Philadelphia Flyers in five games and the top-seed New York Rangers in six games. Of course, Brodeur - who turned 40-years-old during the Conference Semifinals - has been outstanding in net for the Devil while rookie Adam Henrique has impressed, scoring two series-winning goals, both coming in overtime periods.
The Devils won the regular season series beating the Kings in both games, the first, by a score of 3-0 (both teams played with backup goaltenders) and the second by a final score of 2-1 in a shootout. Both teams use size and aggression when battling for the puck and on the forecheck. It should be interesting to watch these two go against each other considering their similar style in that respect.
Perhaps the most interesting match up isn’t even a true match up at all, as Brodeur and Jonathan Quick are the brightest-shining stars of the bunch. Old Man Marty has a 2.04 GAA in the playoffs while Quick’s stat line looks outstanding with a 1.54 GAA. While neither guy has the flash or looks of a Henrik Lundqvist, both men have had their fair share of exquisite, body-bending saves throughout the playoffs. In fact, the Kings players themselves will admit that they wouldn’t have made the playoffs if it weren’t for the consistency of Quick throughout the regular season, especially in that last month.
Both goalies have had plenty of help in the playoffs as the Devils are averaging 11.27 blocked shots per game while the Kings are keeping the crease clear for Quick at a rate of 14.07 blocked shots per contest. Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell are playing with brutal physicality on the blue line for L.A. and Anton Volchenkov and Marek Zidlicky are doing the same for New Jersey.
As for the offense, the Devils are lucky, boasting four solid lines and guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise who have played big-time in these playoffs. As for the Kings, most agree that the team’s top six forwards are the ones to worry about, but L.A. has had 15 different players score at least one goal and another 15 log at least one assist in the playoffs. That’s ridonkulous.
Special teams has been interesting for both teams in the post season. The Devils are scoring on the man advantage 18.2% of the time while the Kings are at a measly 8.1% on the PP. Perhaps the more important number comes on the flip side of the coin. The Devils are 74.2% on the penalty kill while L.A. is a whopping 91.2% on the PK. Jersey has logged two shorthanded goals while the Kings have scored five while killing penalties. The Devils can really do some damage if they can poke holes in the Kings special teams play.
At the end of the day, my heart says Kings. Then again, I’ve picked against the Devils in every series, and they’ve made a liar out of me each time. I think the extra rest for the Kings, as well as their special teams unit and the play of Dustin Penner might just put L.A. over the top and crown the Kings Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in franchise history.
UPDATE: 7:00pm EST
Below is a statement released by Tim Thomas on his facebook page in regards to why he chose not to attend the White House:
I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL. This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT
Original Post: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas seems to be getting more press for declining an official invitation to visit the White House than he did for winning the freakin’ Stanley Cup! Go figure.
Yes, it’s true, Boston’s netminder was absent from Monday’s ceremony at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as Thomas decided not to participate with his teammates in a ceremony hosted by President Obama in honor of the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup Championship in an incredible playoff run that took them to the brink against the Vancouver Canucks in seven games last season.
Thomas, a Michigan-native and one of only two Americans from last year’s team, refused the invitation in protest of the Obama Administration’s policies. Thomas, only the second American-born player to win the league’s playoff MVP award is a noted Republican. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told reporters the trip to the White House was not mandatory and that Thomas had told him months ago that he would not attend because of his political views.
I respect every person’s right to refuse an invitation to the White House. Plenty of other athletes and celebrities have made the same choice throughout the years, but here’s where that decision confuses me.
During random streams of consciousness over the years when a previous administration was in office, I always thought to myself, “what would I do if I ever had the chance to meet the President? Would I even shake his hand?” The conclusion I came to on a personal level was that instead of using silence as a form of protest, why not use the opportunity to air my grievances?
If you have the chance to stand in front of the President of the United States of America, and he is locked into shaking your hand and looking you in the eye as a part of his ceremony-hosting duties, I am WITHOUT A DOUBT taking that time to run down my top three issues and solutions to those problems. Does it mean the President will be inspired to pass a bill in my name and change policies according to my ideals? Probably not, but it sure is better than the alternative, which is having no platform to personally reach a sitting President.
While I may not agree with his political views, I adore Tim Thomas. Covering the Bruins for Comcast Sportsnet New England, I spent plenty of time around him, interviewed him countless times and saw him interact with others. He is a hard worker, family man, nice person and all-around class act.
In my time with Thomas, I never knew his political affiliation as I never heard him, or anyone else for that matter, discuss it. Based on reports that Thomas cited The Glenn Beck Show as one of his favorite television shows, I think it’s safe to assume my political views are vastly different from his.
That said, while I respect Thomas’ decision to skip the White House, I wish he would have used his passion for politics to take advantage of the opportunity to face President Obama in person. Sure, it’s much easier to huff and puff about political policy while sitting at home watching Fox News Channel, but I would’ve rather seen Thomas muster up the chutzpah to respectfully share his thoughts and suggestions with President Obama in a sincere effort to make a difference by bringing awareness to his causes. That is an opportunity millions of Americans would take a Chara slap shot to the chest for.