Follow @frozenroyaltyEL SEGUNDO, CA — With Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final just hours away, we are all about to see two very similar teams face-off against each other.
“They roll four lines, like we do,” said Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards. “They forecheck well, they get to the puck well, they’ve got a lot of speed, and they’ve got a couple of guys with a lot of skill, too.”
“They play a lot like us,” said Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. “They play a really strong game, they work hard, they have fast, big wingers, great centers. They have a strong forecheck, and that’s something I’m going to see a lot of. If I can play the puck, I have to create something for our defensemen.”
“We’re both really good teams from the back end out,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. “Both goalies are two of the best goalies in the whole league. Both teams kind of have that defensive system they play. But at the same time, they jump on opportunities on turnovers to create offense. Both teams are going to work hard, finish checks, play hard in every area on the ice. I think it’s going to be a real battle to try to win this series.”
And now, from the New Jersey Devils…
“I think you look at the two teams,” said Devils forward Patrik Elias. “We have a similar build to the team. We have four lines that we’re rolling and everybody’s contributing. Our defense is doing their job, [all-time great goaltender Martin Brodeur] is doing better than ever, and he gives us a great opportunity to succeed.”
“You look at their forecheck,” added Elias. “They’re very aggressive on the forecheck. They got some big bodies, big guys that play strong, physical hockey. You look in the back line. You have role players that know their roles. They roll four lines, they have skill players, and everybody is doing their job. Their goaltender has been awesome. You have to have that to get this far.”
What it will come down to is which team can do all those things that they both do, better than the other.
“They play everybody,” said Kings center Jarret Stoll. “They play all four lines, and their fourth line is playing really well right now—if you can call them a fourth line. They work hard on the forecheck, they pressure all over the ice, much like we do. We’re going to have to support each other very well. The center is a big key in supporting our defense, and our goaltender, making sure that we’re not spending a lot of time in our own zone.”
“They play all four lines, but we do that also,” added Stoll. “Our fourth line, if you can call them that, they play right to the end, also. They chip in with big goals, and big shifts, and they can change the momentum of a game, just like their line over there.”
“They’ve got a good penalty-kill, so our power play is going to have to figure that out, and score a couple of big power play goals.”
Avoiding turnovers will be a key.
“Especially against a team like New Jersey, it’s important that we manage the puck, and don’t have too many turnovers,” said Kings right wing and team captain Dustin Brown.
“They’re one of the hardest working teams, and they’re really solid defensively,” Doughty stressed. “Their forwards really work hard [on the backcheck], and they create turnovers. Once they create them, they’re good on the odd-man rushes, creating chances and good shooting opportunities. We have to make sure we’re getting pucks [into their zone] and out [of their own zone], and that we’re not [turning the puck over].”
Throughout the playoffs, forcing the opposition to react to the way they play has worked well for the Kings.
“We keep doing what we’ve been doing, but we can make adjustments,” Stoll explained. “They’re a different team, so we’ve got to adjust to what they’re going to bring to us. At the same time, we’ve got to do a lot of the same things we’ve been doing that has made us successful. Keep the confidence high, and [maintaining their] discipline with everything, with [sticking to their] system, [not taking unnecessary] penalties, playing whistle-to-whistle, all those smart things that we have to do.”
Establishing the relentless forecheck they have displayed throughout the post-season will also be a key for the Kings.
“From a hockey standpoint, I think it’s important, again, our forecheck is probably the key to our game,” Brown emphasized. “To follow that up is getting through the neutral zone successfully against them is probably a key. If we can get through there, we can get on the forecheck. Again, our forecheck has probably been the reason we’ve been so successful.”
The Kings will also need to find a way to contain some very talented Devils forwards.
“Their top players are going to be really hard to contain, but we’ve got the guys to do it,” said Doughty. “[Ilya] Kovalchuk is so skilled, offensively. If you give him room to take that shot, he’s usually going to score.”
“[Zach] Parise just does it all,” added Doughty. “He battles so hard, he works so hard, he’s a tough player to play against. That’s why he’s their leader. He’s like Brown, in that sense. He just plays so hard, and leads by example.”
“They’re still playing that strong defensive game, but if you look at the guys they’ve added up front—Kovalchuk, and all those guys, they’re definitely more offensively [gifted] than they’ve been in past years,” said Kings forward Jeff Carter.
Although Quick has had a better season, Brodeur is one of the very best goalies of all-time. With three Stanley Cup Championships under his belt, he has a clear experience edge over Quick.
“He’s the big X factor,” Stoll noted. “He’s been there, and done that before, many times. He has that experience, and he’s a great goalie. We’re going to have to get to him.”
“Everybody knows he’s got three [Stanley Cup] rings already, and a bunch of playoff games [under his belt],” said Kings center Anze Kopitar. “Lots of experience. But when it comes to the Finals, you don’t care who is in the net. You just want to do as well as you can.”
Richards, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded to the Kings last summer, is all too familiar with Brodeur.
“You can’t get him off his game,” he said. “He’s seen as much as you can in the game of hockey. He’s been around awhile, and has been though everything. We just have to get as many pucks as possible to him, get some traffic [in front of him], and hopefully, get some lucky breaks.”
Brown remembers Brodeur from when he was a young boy.
“Every since I was ten years old, he was in the Stanley Cup Final or the Conference Finals, in the East,” said Brown. “He is, arguably, one of the best goaltenders of all-time, if not the best. That’s an exciting matchup for Quick. Given the year that he’s had, to have a [guaranteed future] Hall of Famer at the other end to compete against is exciting, because that’s the one position where you have a [one-on-one] matchup.”
“As players, it’s a matter of finding a way to make it difficult on him, and ways to score,” added Brown. “Regardless of who’s in net, we’ve got to make it hard [for them].”
Richards pointed out that while Brodeur has the edge in terms of experience, Quick has done it all for the Kings this year.
“He’s our cornerstone,” Richards stressed. “He make the big saves, he’s our best penalty-killer, he’s our best five-on-five player. We may rely on him a little too much, but he answers the challenge every time we need him.”
Two similar teams, who do a lot of the same things, most notably, they share a relentless forecheck. Indeed, the Kings know that they’re in for a dogfight.
“They’re a great team, they’re in the Finals for a reason,” said Carter. “They’re a pretty deep, solid team. We’re going to have to be pretty good to get by them. They’ve got a lot of high-end talent on their top two forwards lines, they’ve got, arguably, one of the best goalies ever. We’re going to have to be firing on all cylinders.”
“They’re a very impressive team,” said Quick. “I would say you look at the teams they beat to get here, they didn’t have an easy road, and they played well. Their power play, at times, has been very potent. Their top two lines have been very potent. They scored some timely goals. Solid defense. Obviously Marty is one of the best goalies ever to play. They’re a very strong team and they’ll be a big challenge for us.”
“We’re going to have our hands full,” said Richards. “They’ve got big, strong skating forwards, and, obviously, great goaltending, too. We have to execute what we do, and play well in the first game, and get momentum off of that.”
After all that, the Kings have an advantage down the middle, on the blue line, and in goal, although Brodeur’s experience makes Quick’s advantage slight. That should help them win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Frozen Royalty’s prediction: Kings in six.
Raw Audio Interviews: Los Angeles Kings Pre-Stanley Cup Finals Practices
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed
Dustin Brown (8:39)
Jeff Carter (3:18)
Drew Doughty (2:06)
Dustin Penner (2:30)
Jarret Stoll (5:02)
Anze Kopitar (2:35)
Jonathan Quick (2:27)
Mike Richards (5:00)
Darryl Sutter (5:54)
Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home Stanley Cup Final games against the New Jersey Devils – June 4, 5:00 PM PDT (Devils vs. Kings: Game 3); June 6, 5:00 PM (Devils vs. Kings: Game 4); June 11, 5:00 PM (Devils vs. Kings: Game 6 – if necessary) are available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.