It’s been a long time since any hockey was played. OK, not nearly as long as the summer drought, but when you are in the middle of playoff season, five days seems like an eternity. The Los Angeles Kings finished off the Phoenix Coyotes more than a week ago. The New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers last Friday evening.
You think the NHL could start things a wee bit sooner? Nope. They are rigidly set in their scheduling ways and will not deviate. Even if continuing momentum might actually help build an audience who can quickly forget what they had for lunch, much less remember there is still hockey to be played.
But at last it happens. For Kings and Devils fans, they have been itching for this. If you are a Ducks fan with any long history with Anaheim, you kind of feel like….meh.
Who do you root for? You can’t root for the team up the road. That would be like USC and UCLA fans changing their loyalties. You can’t really root for the Devils, who vanquished the Ducks hope for their first Stanley Cup in 2003, beating them in seven games.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur is still at the helm of the Devils, albeit a much older version of Brodeur. 40? Age be damned. He’s still better than a lot of younger players and you cannot deny that he has the experience.
Jonathan Quick is minding the net for Los Angeles and he is no slouch either. Quick has been consistent throughout the entire year and has been a primary reason for the Kings success. His name has been mentioned for the Conn Smythe trophy and he is the only Vezina trophy finalist still in it. There is no reason to expect him to play any differently in the final round and he could find himself bringing home a lot of hardware this year.
So how will this one go? The Kings are a #8 seed and the Devils were the #6 seed in the East. That is a vast difference over past years where the top seed usually wins the whole shebang. This year, it will be a bottom seed.
With the way the Kings are playing, they seem unstoppable and likely to finish off the Devils in four or five, as they have their other opponents up until now.
Then again, maybe during their time off they needed to look at videos of the Ducks in 2003. The Ducks also won 12 out of 14 games in the first three rounds. The Ducks swept Detroit in the first round, took Dallas to six games in the second and swept Minnesota, the other Cinderella team that year, to get to the Finals.
When they got there, they were well rested. They met up with the Devils. Did not end nearly as idyllic as the first three rounds.
Anything can happen in these games, and things can change drastically and turn momentum. There is still discussion about Marty McSorley’s stick penalty in 1993. Was it the only reason why the Kings lost that year? Probably not, but it seemed to be a pivotal moment that turned the series.
What will be the pivotal moment this time? Will there even be one?
Whatever happens, you want things to be even, well played on both sides and a battle to the bitter end. Because when this round is over it is going to be a loooonnnnnggggg time before more hockey is played again. Enjoy it while you can and may the best team end up victorious.
Good luck to both teams and know that I will not be at either of your victory celebrations. Thanks. I’ll pass. But the least you can do is make it entertaining.