The 'Hawks Blog

This is hockey in the greatest city in the world.

The Kings’ last two minutes, the celebration, handshakes, and the awards. Such wonder.

Tonight is L.A.’s Night

The Kings have taken a 180 degree turn as they have lost the last two games to the Devils. While Game 4 was open until the final minutes, but Game 5 on Saturday was all Devils, all the time. This is nothing good for L.A. Brodeur has returned to playoff form, and all the bounces seem to be going right off Voynov’s back and into the net. However, the raucous Kings contingent will have nothing to fear tonight. The Kings still boast a power play that annihilates¬†the Devils, have the hottest goalie in the league, and will be playing in a building that will be nothing but loud tonight.

The Kings have simply had a bad couple of nights. In both, they did not play particularly terribly, but some bad bounces and decisions just cost them. Parise’s goal in Game 5 was due to Quick’s very poor idea to toss the puck out himself, and Salvador’s goal only went in because Slava Voynov can’t catch a break. The defense isn’t to blame for these, so that is one area that L.A. has no worries about.

Goaltending will be a toss-up tonight, as Jonathan Quick’s confidence may, for the first time this entire playoff year, be shaken. He cannot feel great about losing two straight, nor is he enthralled by Parise’s goal on Saturday. If he can’t get back on his horse tonight, Los Angeles will have a lot of trouble mustering enough goals to keep Quick out of trouble.

Offense is the make-or-break point for both teams tonight. First off, the first team to score will be the winner tonight. On top of that, the team that finds a way to score three goals or more will most definitely win. No team in this year’s Stanley Cup Final has lost a game when they fulfill one of those two points. Thus, the first period will be decisive tonight, but L.A. will have the advantage.

L.A. can win the first period, and thus, the game, because they are playing in their home building. They’ve scored ridiculously often on the power play at home, and the crowd will pump them up to start the game. It all comes down, then, to execution by their top guys. Gagne, Richards, and Carter are still as good as they were in Philadelphia, and they will all step up tonight. They’ve been rejected by Chicago in 2010; they will not let a similar letdown occur again.

L.A. will win 3-2 tonight with both teams having spectacular goaltending. However, the Kings will get at least one power play goal and have Quick play as well as ever. L.A. will go crazy tonight.

The Devils delay the inevitable thanks to Henrique. Going back to Newark with the series 3-1 for L.A.

(Source: nhl.com)

Kopitar’s was easily the prettiest play of the thumping that was Game 3.

(Source: nhl.com)

Game 2’s highlight.

(Source: nhl.com)

One Highlight for each game of this Stanley Cup Final thus far. This one’s for Game 1.

(Source: nhl.com)

Brodeur v. Quick

Both goaltenders have been on fire and had some bad bounces in Game 1. However, Quick hasn’t lost yet away from L.A., and that won’t change tonight. Here’s why:

Brodeur and his defense looked shaky on Wednesday. A lot of the time, they would just sit back and let the game come to them. This includes the last twelve minutes of regulation in Game 1. Also, the two goals that Brodeur did give up are ones he’d want back. Fraser went 5-hole, and Kopitar had no elevation on his OT winner. This is a bad sign for any goalie; any hybrid goalie has no reason to not stop pucks skidding on the ice. While this may be just a bad sample of an otherwise wonderful Devils postseason, it could be a foreshadowing of the rest of the series.

Meanwhile, Quick is still playing out of his head. The one goal he gave up was an example of wrong place, wrong time, and Quick bounced back and played spectacularly for the remainder of the game. However, the Devils did give Quick a break last night as they failed to hit the net on several high quality opportunities to score. Thus, Quick may not have seen everything that New Jersey has yet; his defense will have to stand up for him.

This Game 2 will be another close affair tonight, but Brodeur will make a bad mistake as he did in Game 1 and ultimately lose it tonight.

I’ve done it. Scott Stevens has done it. Mario Lemieux has done it. It’s one thing that you can’t judge somebody or overthink certain things that happen. He had his reasons. At this time of the year, emotionally and physically it’s a grind, and sometimes you’re not ready to show it to people. I’m all good with it. If you do what you do all the time you should have a little break once in a while. That’s the bottom line.

Marty Brodeur on Zach Parise’s refusal to speak to the media after Game 3.

Quick Goalie Comparison

Brodeur: fast, nimble, hybrid between stand-up and butterfly. Handles the puck beautifully. Magical pads and glove. Number one in almost every goalie stat. He’s been there before: two times his name has been inscribed on the Cup. Works hard. Could be final year. Looks to go out with a bang.

Lundqvist: stellar, high expectations, very quick. Very rarely loses crease. The blocker and glove don’t fail much: 1.57 GAA. Has huge standards and expectations set for him. Has played like everyone knew he could so far this season. No signs of slowing down. If he doesn’t win it all this year, he will soon.

Advantage: Brodeur for Game 4, Lundqvist for the series.

Previewing the Devils-Flyers Series

This series is all about the match-ups. There are some holes in each team that the other can easily exploit. Because of this, the team that plays to its strengths the most often will be the one that will advance to the Conference Final.

The Flyers seem to have it all; they are physical, they pass well, all four of their lines are threats, their defense can be very good, as can the goaltender. However, the final two, the defense and goaltending, will be where this series will be won or lost by the Flyers. Looking back to the Pennsylvania series against Pittsburgh proves that. Just look at the scores: 4-3, 8-5, 8-4, 3-10, 2-3, 5-1. In four out of those six games, Bryzgalov and the blueliners in front of him did not play well by any stretch of the imagination. In spite of this, though, the Flyers won 3 of those four games because the offense bailed them out. This will not happen against a very experienced, crafty and defensive team like New Jersey. Bryzgalov has to earn his huge salary in this series or the Flyers will be playing golf in about two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Devils play a different kind of game. They hold the fort, and then exploit defensive mistakes by their opponents. Also, when needed, New Jersey’s big guns (Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias, Zajac) use potent offensive strategy when the situation necessitates it. On top of that, one of the greatest playoff goalies of all time, Marty Brodeur, is still wearing the jersey with the big red “N” on the crest. His numbers against an aggressive Florida team were impressive; he maintained a GAA of 2.06 and a save percentage of .922. Like the Flyers, the play of the man between the pipes will be a major factor in either winning or losing. I say this mostly because the Devils are a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to goal scoring and power play. However, on the flip side, they own one of the best defensive and penalty kill schemes in the league, and if they play to this strength, they will win the series.

My prediction: Flyers in 6. They crushed Pittsburgh, and they showed, at least in games 1 and 6, that they can defend their zone. Also, their physicality will wear down the Devils and thus lead to more defensive mishaps, which will eventually lead to goals. However, the goaltending duel between Brodeur and Bryzgalov will be the deciding factor in the semifinal. Look for Bryz to step his game up.