This year's playoff season has been one of the most unpredictable on record with the sixth seeded New Jersey Devils and the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings making it to a final showdown that no one would have predicted at the end of the season.
Like most folks, we struggled with our predictions, going 5-3 in the opening round and 2-2 in the second round. Our 1-1 record in the Conference Finals is directly attributable to thinking the Coyotes were a team of destiny after they cruised past the Predators.
Hopefully, this will be a time of redemption with the pick for the finals. Make the jump for the final breakdown...
(6) New Jersey Devils vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings - The first two games in this series should be very telling as to how the match will play out. The Kings are a perfect 8-0 on the road this year but are coming off an eight day layoff which could make them easy prey if the Devils take an early lead in the opening game at the Prudential Center. An opening game loss would not be devastating for the Kings if they came back strong in game two.
Conversely, if the Kings were to continue to win on the road and took the first two games in Jersey, it could turn into a short four or five game series. If the Devils could win a pair at home, I would think that the odds of a seven game series would be good with New Jersey holding the edge in the final game. The Kings have faced little adversity in the playoffs so that would be a real test for them.
The goalie showdown between future Hall-of-Famer, Martin Brodeur and the red-hot Jonathan Quick could be a good one with the netminder of the winning team having an excellent shot at the Conn Smythe. Brodeur, with his experience in three finals, could have a bit of an edge and he will have to be on his game for the Devils to lift the Cup.
The Kings, who could not buy goals earlier in the season, appear to have had more fire-power in the last couple of months. The Devils beat the Rangers with a balanced attack but will face a tougher defense against the Kings.
The Los Angeles power play is due to come alive after clicking at only an 8.1% pace so far in the playoffs. Their penalty kill has more than made up for their lack of special team points, killing 91.2% of the opposition man advantage. The Devils power play has been adequate (18.2%) while their penalty kill (74.2) may open the door for the Kings to break out of their man advantage slump.
In summary, the series could go either way and should provide plenty of entertainment for the national hockey audience. I've spent the last two season's predicting greatness for the Kings and even had the Kings losing to the Pens in this year's finals in my preseason picks. With that in mind my prediction for the final is Kings in six.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass