My young friend James Mirtle may think it's great fun to remind me I'm the guy who wrote not long ago it was time for Martin Brodeur to retire but I can only shake my head sadly at his notion the old goaltender and his New Jersey Devils will win the Stanley Cup.
Oh, there is no doubt this will be a close series, with lots of games that will hinge on a break either way. The Devils and Los Angeles Kings play a similar style - fore-check hard, crash the net, spread the scoring around and be physical on defence - and both have a star goaltender as the last line of defence.
However, the Kings have the edge in overall talent and depth, so here are the real five reasons why they will win in six games:
1. Okay, Brodeur proved in the playoffs he is not quite ready for retirement. His puck-handling also makes a big difference for the Devils defence in clearing their zone. But Jonathan Quick of the Kings is simply better right now. One of the big reasons the Kings are undefeated on the road in the post-season - another big difference between these teams - is that Quick`s work allows his teammates to play comfortably, knowing he will cover any of their mistakes.
2. The Kings` power play is the only part of their game that has yet to fall into place from a regular season that started with them playing well below expectations. Its 8.1-per-cent success rate is downright embarrassing. But the Devils are not exactly airtight when it comes to killing penalties (74.2 per cent in the playoffs) and with the firepower the Kings have on offence a breakout could come at any time. Besides, the most important part of special teams in the playoffs is penalty killing, which is where the Kings excel. They have allowed a mere five power-play goals in 57 opportunities for a cool 91.2-per-cent success rate.
3. The Devils are to be congratulated for getting this far with a defence corps that lacks a big star. Bryce Salvador is having quite a post-season at the age of 36 with 11 points in 18 games but he is no Drew Doughty. The Kings` stalwart is showing why he deserved that big contract that caused him to sit out training camp last fall during negotiations. The holdout did set Doughty back for a good part of the season but he is now the best defenceman in the playoffs by a large margin. He has 10 points in 14 games, is plus-10 and is the best skater on the Kings` stellar penalty-killing unit. With Doughty, the Kings defence as a group is bigger and more physical than the Devils and in good position to neutralize Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and the rest of the New Jersey forwards. The Devils will pose the biggest challenge to the Kings defence thus far but they are capable of meeting it.
4. Kovalchuk may lead the playoffs in points with 18 and the Devils` fourth line may be getting a lot of attention with its 19 points in 18 games, including some big goals, but overall the Kings have the advantage up front. In Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, the Kings have a great one-two punch at centre, with Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser giving them the best depth at that position. Dustin Brown, with 16 points, leads a group of Kings forwards playing the best hockey of their careers. Parise and Travis Zajac are formidable on the Devils` top line but as a group the Kings are better.
5. Most of the intangibles, for lack of a better term, favour the Kings as well. They are the first NHL team to make it to the Stanley Cup final without losing a game on the road. This is a big help because the playoffs are a war of attrition, so going 8-0 on the road means the Kings have played four fewer games than the Devils. This is not quite as big an edge as it appears, since the Devils avoided an onerous travel schedule thanks to playing the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final. The Kings may also be rusty from not playing since May 22 but they are too good to let that trouble them for long.