Well here we are, down to the final two teams.  The Los Angeles Kings versus the New Jersey Devils.  Exactly the two teams that we all expected to be here, right?  RIIIIIIIGHT!!!  (A little Dr. Evil humor there!) 

Okay, so maybe not EVERY expert had these two teams picked.  But I’m sure that most of them did, right?  After all, this is only hockey.  It should be easy to predict which two teams will reach the championship round, shouldn’t it? 


Fine.  So not everyone expected this matchup for the Stanley Cup.  If I recall, most of the experts were going with either New York or Pittsburgh out of the east and Vancouver or St. Louis out of the west.  The spoiler teams were supposed to be Boston or Nashville. 

I must admit, I didn’t do much better.  I figured Vancouver or St. Louis would face off (pun intended) with either New York or Boston.  My spoilers were Detroit and New Jersey, so I guess I can’t feel completed defeated! 

But please remember that I warned you before the playoffs even started that this would happen.  That’s why I would only pick the winners of each round when each round began, rather than picking a champion before the playoffs started. 

That’s because hockey is notorious for this playoff outcome.  As long as you are able to grab a spot in the playoffs, you have a legitimate shot at making it to the finals…not like that other sport with the big brown ball that goes bounce!  If not for season ending injuries to the top two players on the Bulls, all four of my final four picks would have been there.  (But that’s a story for another time!) 

So let’s look at the final showdown.  The Los Angeles Kings, the #8 seed in the west, has not only made it to the finals, but they ran through the top three seeds in the west to do it! 

First of all, they took on #1 Vancouver.  They won the first two games on the road, came home and won game three, lost game four, then won the series back in Canada in game #5. 

Next up…#2 St. Louis.  The Kings went on the road and took the first two games, then came home and won two more to blank the Blues four games to nothing! 

Third round action had them going on the road to #3 Phoenix, where they proceeded to win two more games on the road.  Then they came home and won game three, lost game four, then won the series back in the valley of the sun in overtime in game #5. 

Anyone see a trend here?  This team is not afraid of anyone, anywhere, anytime!  They are 8-0 on the road so far in the playoffs.  They are 12-2 overall in the first three rounds.  They have skilled players, giants that like to hit hard, a great coach and the hottest goalie in the league. 

Believe me, as a Coyotes fan, that last paragraph was not an easy one to spit out, but if I’m going to be honest, that’s exactly the way it is. 

The Kings next victims…er…opponents are the New Jersey Devils.  Watching this team during the last few weeks of the regular season, I believed that they were fully capable of making it this far.  They played hard, aggressive hockey and seemed to be clicking. 

Then they ran into Florida in round one.  Before they had a chance to blink, they found themselves down three games to two and on the brink of elimination.  And this was against a team that they were supposed to sweep or, at the very least, beat 4-1. 

Fortunately for the Devils, they woke up in time to win games six and seven and move on to the next round.  This time they were on the road at Philadelphia to take on a Flyers team that had just finished destroying a very good Pittsburgh Penguin team. 

Unfortunately for Philly, the Devils had learned from their mistakes in round one and took it to the Flyers from the very first drop of the puck, winning the series four games to one. 

In the third round, New Jersey had to travel yet again, this time across the bridge to Madison Square Gardens to take on the New York Rangers, the lone top seed remaining.  The two teams split games one and two, then went back to New Jersey and did the same with games three and four.  Game five saw the Devils jump to a 3-0 lead, just to watch the home team come back and tie it up.  With only a few minutes left in regulation, New Jersey scored the winning goal to put them up three games to two. 

Game six was back in New Jersey and was a classic battle to the end.  In a fitting fashion, the Devils won the game in overtime to wrap up the series four games to two. 

So here we are.  The #8 seed from the west traveling to the #6 seed from the east.  Neither team has begun a series at home yet, so this is new ground for New Jersey.  And dangerous ground apparently, since the Kings have yet to lose on the road. 

If the Devils want to stay in this series for more then four or five games, they have to pay attention to what Los Angeles has been doing over the past six weeks.  Forget about the regular season.  Forget about the total points for the season.  That means absolutely nothing.  Just ask Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix! 

On paper, any one of those teams should have been able to beat the Kings in a seven game series.  But none of them came close.  Ironically, the #3 seed gave them the best battle, as the #1 and #2 seeds were completely outplayed. 

The only way for the Devils to win this series is to win game #1.  I know that sounds rather simplistic, but the reality is this LA team plays at the top of their game when they have a lead, whether that means points in a game or wins in a series.  They have won every road game so far and have been up three games to none in all three of their series. 

I have predicted them to lose each of their previous three series.  I won’t fall into that trap again.  They are playing better hockey than any team in the league, and have been for a month and a half. 

Forget the #8 seed in front of their name.  This is a #1 team right now, and that’s all that matters in the final round. 

The Stanley Cup will reside in southern California this summer. Los Angeles wins in five games. 

And remember, this is hockey, so that’s guaranteed!!!



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