Frank Seravalli: Sizing up the Stanley Cup finals

Mike Richards celebrates Dustin Penner's overtime goal that beat Phoenix goalie Mike Smith and lifted Los Angeles Kings into the finals.
Mike Richards celebrates Dustin Penner's overtime goal that beat Phoenix goalie Mike Smith and lifted Los Angeles Kings into the finals. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: May 30, 2012

For Flyers fans, it is the Stanley Cup finals matchup from hell. Rooting for either the Los Angeles Kings or the New Jersey Devils to skate off with the Cup is like playing a game of the lesser of two evils.

Would Flyers fans rather watch Mike Richards and Jeff Carter celebrate their first Stanley Cup less than a year after being jettisoned from Philadelphia?

Or would they rather watch the Devils, who surprisingly ousted their team in short order after finishing below them in the standings, win their fourth Cup in 17 seasons?

Either way, the winning team will become the lowest-seeded in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup. The Devils are a No. 6 seed and the Kings are an unfathomable No. 8.

Pick your poison. You've still got another day to decide. The puck drops in Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night in Newark.

With that, here are 5 reasons why the Devils or Kings will win.

Five reasons theĀ Devils will win

1. The forecheck: New Jersey flummoxed both the Flyers and Rangers, two beasts in the East, in subsequent rounds with their exhausting forecheck. The pressure is constant and it comes in waves. Under coach Pete DeBoer, the Devils are relentlessly aggressive, giving opponents fits just trying to make an outlet pass.

2. Attitude: Unlike the emotionally spent Flyers, the Devils never seem to get too high or too low. Maybe that's a testament to New Jersey's "no frills'' franchise motto, from top to bottom. The playoffs are a 2-month marathon and the Devils seem to understand that. Unlike Los Angeles, which needed just 14 games to get to the finals, the Devils have faced a bit of adversity this spring.

3. Shutdown roles: The matchup seems to favor the Devils since they have done such a good job of minimizing their opponents' top lines this postseason. They limited Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell to a combined seven points in five games. Last series, the Rangers' Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik combined for one goal.

4. Who are these guys?: Stephen Gionta is only a recognizable player in the Devils' lineup because of the name on the back of his jersey. His brother, Brian, was a New Jersey mainstay. Stephen Gionta, 28, played just 13 NHL games before this playoff run but has chipped in with seven points. Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and even defenseman Peter Harrold, all unknowns before the playoffs, have been phenomenal.

5. Marty being Marty: Suffice to say, the Devils will only go as far as their goaltender takes them. Martin Brodeur was shaky against the Flyers, yet brilliant against the Rangers. He has given up more than two goals in a game just once in seven starts since turning 40 on May 6. No one ever thought he would be strong enough to get the Devils back to the finals, let alone deliver a fourth Stanley Cup to the New Jersey swamps. Yet, here he is.

Five reasons theĀ Kings will win

1. Game 1: It might be as simple as saying that the Kings will win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history - after entering the NHL in the same year as the Flyers in 1967 - by winning Game 1. Amazingly, Los Angeles is 8-0 this postseason away from Staples Center.

2. Jonathan Quick: If the Kings netminder is not the runaway Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs' MVP, the voting system is flawed. He is the one obvious advantage for Los Angeles in this series. Quick is 12-2-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in the playoffs. He has outplayed Roberto Luongo, Brian Elliott and Mike Smith - three sharp goaltenders - on his way to the finals.

3. Depth scoring: After scoring the second-fewest goals (194) of any team in the league during the regular season, the Kings have gotten timely contributions from unexpected sources. Dustin Penner has 10 points in the playoffs, including his Western Conference final-clinching overtime winner last week, after posting just 18 in 65 regular-season games.

4. The travel: The Devils have had a fortunate playoff run so far, not traveling much more than 90 miles over the past month between Philadelphia and New York. The Kings are used to a long haul. The flight was short to Phoenix, but it was a decent ride back and forth to Vancouver (1,200 miles) and St. Louis (1,800 miles) this spring. They will be long and daunting plane rides for the Devils, especially if they are in a hole early in the series.

5. Flyers connection: Penner, who suffered back spasms once this season while eating pancakes, has been playing on a line with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. They've brought a steady net presence for Darryl Sutter. Richards and Carter rarely played on a line together in Philadelphia. The trio has combined for 30 points in just 14 playoff games.

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