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Devils/Kings Stanley Cup Preview: Who has the better special teams?

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings— on the ice and off the ice.

You don't get this far in the playoffs without contributions from your special teams to either score a goal when up a man or prevent one when you're down a man -- or in the Los Angeles Kings' case, score one when you're shorthanded.

One of these teams has been incredibly efficient in one area and dismal in the other, while the other has been consistent in one facet and done an about-face in the other.

Who has the better special teams: Los Angeles or New Jersey?

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings' power play had been given the most opportunities (74) in the playoffs. They've only managed to cash in six times. Three of those goals have come during 5-on-3 play and the entire unit has a dismal 8.1-percent success rate. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards lead LA with two goals apiece.

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These issues aren't anything new as the Kings finished 17th in the NHL during the regular season at a 17-percent rate.

What's been the problem? Drew Doughty would tell you they've been too cute with the puck and making an unnecessary extra pass. They've averaged 1.41 shots per chance, fifth among the eight teams who made it out of the first round.

The penalty kill, however, has been just as strong and dangerous as it was during the regular season.

The Kings ranked fourth in the NHL at an 87-percent kill rate and were tied for fifth with nine shorthanded goals. That success has carried over into the postseason with a 91.2-percent rate and an incredible five shorthanded tallies, which is one less than the combined total of the 15 other playoff teams (Philadelphia finished with four).

New Jersey Devils

The Devils were middle of the pack on the power play during the regular season and that has carried over into the playoffs with 12 goals on 66 opportunities. Against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final they were 3-for-23, highlighted by the tic-tac-toe beauty goal in Game 6 by Ilya Kovalchuk. Neither the Kings or Devils spend a lot of time in their respective penalty boxes, so seizing opportunities against a vaunted shorthanded unit will be important for New Jersey.

There was no better penalty kill unit during the regular season than the Devils'. An 89.6-percent success rate and 15 shorthanded goals took away a lot of momentum of teams, playing a role in New Jersey's success.

In the playoffs they've slipped back to Earth killing just 74.2-percent of power plays. Things started out rough allowing nine goals on 27 opportunities against the Florida Panthers in the first round, but New Jersey started getting their groove back early in the second round against the Flyers, which continued over through the Rangers allowing just three goals on 16 chances.

Advantage: Kings

Considering the ups and downs each club has in the respective categories, you could give a slight edge to the Kings here because of how dangerous their shorthanded unit can be. Not only knowing that nine times out of 10 a power play will likely be killed off without harm, but the fact that they have the horses out there capable of scoring shorthanded is something that could help change momentum over the course of a game and series.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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