Will Kings Sweep the Devils in LA?
No. 6 NEW JERSEY DEVILS at No. 8 LOS ANGELES KINGS (Kings lead series 3-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Los Angeles -190 & 4.5 flat
The Kings look to cap off one of the most dominant postseason runs in NHL history and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history when they host the Devils for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night.
For the fourth straight series in the 2012 playoffs, L.A. has taken a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Kings put together arguably their best game of the playoffs in Game 3, blanking the Devils 4-0 in front of a raucous Staples Center crowd on Monday. As the Western Conference's No. 8 seed, Los Angeles is now 15-2 in the postseason, and a win on Wednesday would tie them with Wayne Gretzky's 1988 Edmonton Oilers for the best postseason record in NHL history. As dominant as the Kings have been in the playoffs, both of their losses came in Game 4s, where they were unable to close out the Canucks (first round) and Coyotes (third round) on home ice after winning each of the first three games. Something about this series feels different though. The Devils played very well in Games 1 and 2, but left New Jersey down 2-0 after a pair of heartbreaking overtime defeats. A couple of lucky bounces for Jersey in those overtimes and this is a totally different series, but the Devils looked tired and defeated after giving up the first goal in Game 3, eventually unraveling as the contest wore on. The Kings have imposed their physical will on a fatigued Devils team-keep in mind, L.A. has played only 17 games all postseason long while the Devils had already played 18 before this series even began. Interestingly, the past four Stanley Cup winners have closed out the series on the road-and while that would certainly be a fitting ending for the Kings (perfect 10-0 on the road in the playoffs)-it would be even more special to finally close out a series in front of the home crowd.
After scoring 12 goals in the final three games of the Eastern Conference Finals to close out the Rangers, New Jersey has struggled mightily to generate scoring chances in this series. The Devils have scored just two goals in three games, averaging just 24 shots on goal per game-well below their playoff average of 30.4 entering this series. Credit the Kings' defense for keeping New Jersey's big guns in check-Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac have not registered a point in this series. New Jersey is 0-for-12 with the man advantage in Cup Finals, while L.A. ended an 0-for-18 PP drought by scoring on both of its power play chances in Game 3.
One could hardly blame Martin Brodeur for the Devils' misfortunes-the 40-year-old netminder has done a tremendous job keeping his team in games with no goal support to speak of. Brodeur stopped 53 of 57 shots faced in Games 1 and 2, and despite giving up four goals on Monday night, none could be blamed entirely on him-defensive breakdowns and relentless crease crashing by the Kings played a big part. Barring an unprecedented comeback, it looks as though Brodeur's quest for a fourth Stanley Cup will fall short.
Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick (15-2, 1.36 GAA, .950 SV Pct.) continued to dazzle in Game 3, turning aside all 22 shots he faced for his third shutout of the playoffs. The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for the Conn Smythe Award, and will become the second straight goalie to win the award for Playoff MVP (Tim Thomas in 2011)
Los Angeles looked dead in the water in Game 2-after allowing the Devils to tie the game early in the third period, New Jersey controlled the pace of play well into the overtime period before Jeff Carter shocked the home crowd with a terrific individual effort to score the game-winner. Like the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes before them, the Devils have simply had no answer for Los Angeles's top line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown. The trio has combined for three goals and four assists in the Finals, including Kopitar's game-winning breakaway tally in overtime of Game 1.