In which your friends at Puck Daddy attempt to pick the winner of the Stanley Cup.
Greg Wyshynski, Editor
Kings in 7
Hahahahahaha … jinx.
Now, I understand that (a) I'm an admitted New Jersey Devils sympathizer and (b) I've picked against the Kings in each round.
But as much as I'd like to attend a short Stanley Cup parade in downtown Newark, just to understand what it feels like to live in a celebratory police state, the Kings have outstanding goaltending and a defense that should be able to subvert the Devils' forecheck.
It won't be easy. The Devils have proven to be a team that won't go quietly, and have enough offense to win a few close games against Jonathan Quick. But having seen the Kings dismantle other offenses for three rounds, it's likely they'll do it again. And God help the Devils if their power play starts clicking.
Kings in seven, because winning on the road would be poetic for a team that's dominated away from home in the playoffs. And also because JINX!
Conn Smythe: Dustin Brown. He'll need a couple of big goals and for Jonathan Quick not to be the determining factor in the majority of the Kings' victories. But the path is there for the captain to usurp his goalie for MVP.
Sean Leahy, Associate Editor
Kings in 6
I've picked against the Kings in every series so far and finally learned my lesson. Jonathan Quick has played even better than he did in the regular season. Dustin Brown has dominated offensively. And Dustin Penner has turned from an albatross into a valuable commodity.
The turnaround job that Darryl Sutter has done is remarkable. How many stretches during games did it seem like the Kings owned the puck? And let's not forget about L.A.'s dominance away from Staples Center.
While the Kings have breezed through to the Final playing a meager 14 games through three rounds, the Devils will offer a tougher test. Martin Brodeur is playing some of his best hockey and Ilya Kovalchuk seems determined to carry the Devils, if needed.
In the end, Quick will outduel Brodeur -- maybe in a passing of the torch kind of way -- and the Kings will continue getting production from up and down their lineup.
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Quick. He's been the reason for L.A.'s success all season long. He'll continue to do that in the Final against a New Jersey team who will give the Kings their toughest test yet.
Harrison Mooney, Associate Editor
Kings in 6.
The Kings are the better team on paper. They're deeper at every position. Martin Brodeur may be the greatest goaltender of all time, but 2012 Jonathan Quick is better than 2012 Martin Brodeur. The Devils may roll four lines, but the Kings roll four more talented lines. The Devils' may have a top six that's worth more than the sum of their parts, but so do the Kings, and their parts are better too.
That said, I've been picking against both these teams all postseason long, so if you haven't yet learned to take my picks with a grain of salt, now is probably the time.
Conn Smythe: Dustin Brown. I think this will be a higher-scoring series than people think it will be, and there should be enough offense to leave the door open for a skater to wrestle this award away from the goaltenders. If that happens, Dustin Brown can't lose. He's impossible to miss when he's on the ice, especially when juxtaposed when the quiet enabling of Anze Kopitar, he's the captain, and watching him win the playoff MVP after he was on the trade block just three months ago is just too juicy a story for the voters to resist.
Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer
Kings in 6.
On a personal note, I really want Ilya Kovalchuk to win the Cup. But objectively, I think the Kings have been playing tremendous hockey in these playoffs, asserting their dominance early and effectively.
The Devils have pleasantly surprised a lot of people this season. They are a very deserved Stanley Cup finalist. But they will have to face the Kings' relentless forecheck that was so effective meeting the Coyotes at their own blue line that they can frustrate the Devils offense long enough to capitalize on counter attacks.
In the end, I think, Kopitar, Carter, Brown and Richards will do something the Great One couldn't -- win the Cup for Southern California.
Conn Smythe: A flip between Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick. Brown because his antics can get under the skin of the Kings' opponents taking them off their game. And, of course, he is a very good player. And Jonathan Quick because as the final line of defense, his game throughout these playoffs has instilled confidence into the Kings.
Ryan Lambert, Columnist
Kings in 6
It's really hard to pick against a team that could (if they sweep) tie the all-time fastest Stanley Cup winner, especially because they're rested and fully healthy. I would say that rust could be a concern for the Kings if they weren't so used to sitting around waiting for their opponents to finally get their other series over with.
The Kings just seem to be the deeper, better team, too. Maybe they don't have anyone as good up front of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, but collectively, I'd prefer a team with the Kings' depth over New Jersey's somewhat top-heavy lineup. And at the back, the Devils don't have a defenseman who could crack the Kings' top two. If the series comes down to goaltending, I trust a top-of-his-game Jon Quick far more than a 40-year-old Marty Brodeur.
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Quick. Chalk pick, for sure, but that having been said, he's the rock upon which the Kings' success was built and is clearly their All-World, All-American goaltender. I've heard assertions that he wasn't at his best in the Coyotes series, but if allowing eight goals on 132 shots (a .939 save percentage) isn't his best, I shudder to see what is.
Kings in 6
I hate betting against the Devils, as I have these last two rounds. Martin Brodeur isn't playing like the Brodeur of old, but he's playing 10 times better than he was during the regular season, and behind a Peter DeBoer system that's good enough. And had Travis Zajac been healthy all season long, New Jersey would have been seeded much higher come playoff time. It's amazing how one player can make an entire team so much deeper in terms of scoring.
But in the end, the Kings are too powerful. They have found the chemistry and the magic that they should have had back in October when many predicted them to be Cup contenders. They got rid of some loser named Dustin Penner and brought in some elite power forward named Dustin Penner. Jonathan Quick has been a wall. He could very well add a Conn Smythe to his Vezina Trophy this year (yes, I can see the future). And in the end, after being steadfast throughout their young lives in their vow to never touch alcohol, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards will get to have that first drink. And it will be out of the Stanley Cup.
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Quick.
Kent Wilson, Advanced Stats Writer
Kings in 6
Although Brodeur is having a nice postseason, Quick has been superb all year. I think that will be the difference between in the Final. Plus, it's hard to bet against a team that has only lost a couple of times in the playoffs so far.
Jeff Marek, Marek Vs. Wyshynski
Devils in 6
Even though you could make the argument that the Kings have the Devils licked at every position AND have spent more time resting and healing than actually playing I'm picking New Jersey.
I'm a sucker for a great story; and although Philadelphia West is a compelling one I keep coming back to a few with Peter DeBoer's squad. Starting with Marty Brodeur, who in the golden age of the goaltender as we've called it on the MvsW podcast (Brodeur, Roy, Hasek, Belfour), Brodeur may be the best of the bunch. Another Stanley Cup would be the icing on the career cake. I say that knowing full well he's probably coming back for another kick at it next season.
Adam Henrique lived in the shadows of Taylor Hall in the OHL and as he's transitioned to the NHL, he's overshadowed by Kovalchuk, Parise, Zajac, Elias etc. But what does this guy do when he wakes up in the morning? He puts on his pants and scores series-winning overtime goals.
David Clarkson wanted to quit hockey in junior. He wasn't playing, frequently scratched by the Belleville Bulls and wanted to call it a day and move on. He called his father to tell him he was done with the game and his dad came back with "OK, if that's your decision, call your grandfather who served in the war and tell him you're going to quit." Gulp. He stuck it out, was moved to the Kitchener Rangers and won a Memorial Cup. Peter DeBoer was his coach, but you already knew that. Never drafted, Clarkson fought his way up to the NHL and is now a 30-goal scorer and one of the league's premiere power forwards.
And more than anything else, as the New York Rangers essentially became the Devils of the past 20 seasons, trapping to death and blocking shots, it was the Devils who figured out a way around it and slayed Team Torts. It was like watching the Devils play themselves from a decade ago.
If you really think about it, the Devils in a way saved hockey. I'd like to see that rewarded.
Elena Pagliarello, Marek vs. Wyshynski
Kings in 6
I've been picking against the Kings all through the playoffs, so I see no need to change now… But seeing as how I've been totally humbled when it comes to them, maybe I should change my mind.
Devils have impressed me mightily in the first three rounds, from the clutch Adam Henrique, the playoff magic of Ilya Kovalchuck and the ageless wonder Martin Brodeur; but I just have to wonder if they can continue their run to win the Stanley Cup.
Brodeur is the only holdover from past championship teams and it would be amazing to see him win his fourth cup, but in my mind you just can't be sure that he won't pull a Brodeur and give up a costly goal at a really, really crucial time. I also have to wonder what the impact of beating the Rangers has on the Devils — as players, will they have the same purpose and focus to win the Stanley Cup after they've vanquished their hated cross-river rivals?
In the first round, I wasn't sure about Jonathan Quick's ability to hold the fort in really low scoring games. He did just fine against the Canucks, including a 1-0 shutout, something of a Kings trademark this season, in Game 3. In Round 2, I said that there was no way the Kings offense would suddenly come to life and score enough goals to get them past the Blues. Well, although they got some significant help from Brian Elliott (poor guy), they came up with enough to sweep St Louis. For the Western Conference final, I wondered if having a long layoff would adversely affect L.A. and leave them at the mercy of the Coyotes — wrong again, surprise surprise. It wasn't necessarily pretty, it wasn't necessarily entertaining, but the Kings won in five games again and kept the road warrior winning streak moving right along.
So there you go. My dream of actually predicting the Stanley Cup winner is dead, so why not do a 180 and say the Kings will win? But it will probably take them more than five games to do it.
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Quick.