Neither the New Jersey Devils nor the Los Angeles Kings could have expected such a slow and timid start to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, but in Game 2 set at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ at 8:00 PM ET on Saturday evening, both teams will be ready to come out fast and physical in an extremely important showdown that will change the nature of this 7-game series. With a Devils win at home, they will become the first team in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs to beat the Kings while they’re away from LA, and could very well reverse a trend of domination that Los Angeles has had over their last 3 playoff opponents. With a Kings victory however, the Devils will find themselves in unfamiliar territory, down 2-0 with a possibility for Los Angeles to close out on their home ice. It’s all on the line then for New Jersey tonight, and we’ll start with a look at their keys to pulling even in this series, and stopping the longest playoff road winning streak in NHL history.
New Jersey Devils Key #1: Get Ilya Kovalchuk active early, and putting lots of shots on goal.
Kovalchuk is a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy this postseason, awarded to the most valuable player throughout the playoffs. With 18 points accumulated through 7 goals and 11 assists, he’s without question the offensive leader for the Devils. In Game 1 however, he became almost an afterthought, registering just one shot on goal while being constantly hounded by the Kings’ Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty. The Devils can’t expect the Kings, who have one of the best sets of blue liners in the NHL, to simply match straight up on Kovalchuk in Game 2. Therefore Kovalchuk is going to have to play with more physical intensity, apply himself better on the forecheck, and get in around the net to create scoring chances for himself. With two days’ rest, expect Kovalchuk to come out skating hard, and to log plenty of ice time, and with him controlling the puck more in the offensive zone, the Devils will be able to generate more scoring opportunities and keep the Kings back on their heels a bit more. 5-6 shots from the Devils’ star forward should be a reasonable expectation, and if they can get an early goal from their points leader, confidence will definitely shift towards the New Jersey bench.
New Jersey Devils Key #2: Prevent the offensive surge of the Kings.
Here’s a snapshot of the Kings’ Game 2 performances during this year’s playoff run: first, a 4-2 win at Vancouver, despite being outshot 26-48. Second, a 5-2 blowout of St. Louis, despite getting outshot 21-29, capped by a 4-goal first period. Third, a 4-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes, finally getting the advantage on shots, 40-24, highlighted by a Jeff Carter hat trick. See a trend here? The Kings have gradually improved on each Game 2 performance, and in each of those efforts they completely took the wind out of their opponents’ sails. Frustration played a key part in each of those games for the opposition, so even if the Kings do manage to jump out to an early lead against New Jersey tonight, the Devils must stay focused and play disciplined hockey, and avoid allowing the Kings to build confidence among their top scoring threats. There is no question that New Jersey has a solid defense, and has been great at killing penalties all year long (despite their documented struggles on the PK in the playoffs, operating at just 74.6 pct.), and for tonight’s showdown they have to keep focus on Kings’ captain Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who are all due to be contributors this evening if history has any say. The Kings are going to try to push the puck into the offensive zone and outskate the Devils to the puck, but if New Jersey can stay poised on defense and make sure to apply physical pressure on anyone entering the area around goalie Martin Brodeur, they’ll be in a good position to keep scoring chances to a minimum. New Jersey was solid in Game 1 at limit the Kings’ shots on goal, and continuing that trend will certainly be a huge asset to them this evening.
Los Angeles Kings Key #1: Find another unsung hero.
Despite having a roster loaded with scoring weapons, the Kings have been excelling in this postseason by getting clutch efforts from their less-notable players. Guys like rookies Dwight King, and Slava Voynov have stepped up huge in key moments for Los Angeles, and have had a huge impact on the success of the Kings on the road in particular. The defense of Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell have been incredibly important to stymie their opponents’ surges. While it’s certainly going to be important to have strong showings from the Kings stars, including Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Drew Doughty, Los Angeles will have another huge boost of confidence if they can get another big performance from one of the lesser-known Kings. Look out for someone like Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis, of the aforementioned Dwight King in particular to be in a good position to make a huge contribution, as without question New Jersey will be honing in on the Kings top playmakers in Game 2.
Los Angeles Kings Key #2: Step up the physical play.
The Kings have taken each of their last 3 opponents completely by surprise in the first two games of the last 3 series, and it has centered on being the first team on loose pucks, finishing every check, and preventing the opposing offenses from getting rushes on Jonathan Quick. Los Angeles looked slightly sluggish in Game 1 against the Devils, and they can’t at all afford to come out flat tonight. If you watched what New Jersey was able to do to New York in the last few games of the Eastern Conference finals, you noticed how the Devils got out early, pressured the net, and put the same type of effort towards getting after pucks as the Kings have done. Los Angeles must play hard-nosed, physical hockey, and avoid getting sucked into a purely defensive mindset. They play their best hockey when they attack on both offense and defense, but have a tough time recovering once they enter a mode of sitting back and waiting for the action to come to them. There is a reason the Kings lead all teams in the playoffs with 5 short-handed goals; They are aggressive, bigger, and skate harder than any of the teams that they have faced so far. With New Jersey matching up very well against them in this series, it becomes all the more important for the Kings to keep up their hard-hitting ways, attack loose pucks, and not settle into a protective, careful style of play. The man that must lead the action once again is Dustin Brown, who has set the physical tone for Los Angeles in each of the series predating this one. He must be the guiding light for the Kings this evening, as a continuation of his physical style of play will influence the entire Kings line-up, who does have an advantage with their size and speed.
Betting Lines for the Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at TopBet Sportsbook.
The odds have flipped for Game 2, with the New Jersey Devils being picked as the favorites to win tonight, getting -120 odds to win straight up. The bookmakers at TopBet are certainly factoring history into tonight’s equation, as with each road win accumulated for the Kings, it becomes more likely that they’ll finally suffer a road loss after winning 9 straight away from home during this playoff run. Thus, LA is just a slight underdog at EVEN odds on the money line today.
Against the spread, we run into something rather interesting. The Devils are the ones getting 1.5 goals to play with, at -330 odds, while the Kings must cover 1.5 goals at +270 odds. The Kings, having won all their Game 2 efforts by at least 2 goals, could be in line to see a lot of wagers coming their way with such favorable odds. We like a small wager on the Kings just for fun here, to see if history can repeat itself one more time. Make note though that in the 2 games the Kings have lost during this playoff run, both came by a 2-goal margin of defeat.
For the over/under surprise, surprise it’s set at 4.5 goals! This has been the favorite mark for all the top online sportsbooks through the last two rounds of playoff action, taking into consideration the quality of defense and goalies involved in each game. Though both Jonathan Quick and Martin Brodeur have been outstanding through the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs, with both teams settling down, being more comfortable with the match-up, and looking to generate more offense, there is going to be huge pressure on both these goaltenders tonight. Though it’s a risk with two quality netminders and two great defenses skating tonight, we’re betting on history once again, as both these two teams have pushed past the over/under in each of their 3 Game 2 showdowns thus far.
No matter which way you wager tonight, make sure to check out each one of the top reviewed online sportsbooks found here to hone in on the best odds for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings, and prepare for what should undoubtedly be an intense and exciting showdown between two very well matched hockey clubs.