NEWARK – As they enter Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings share several traits. But the one that might make this series the most interesting is that they’re getting key contributions from everyone in the lineup.
Roster depth has been an enormous factor in both teams being here and will continue to be on full display in the final. Of course, both coaches rely on their star players and top defensemen, but neither is afraid to engage his fourth-liners in key situations. Devils coach Peter DeBoer, for example, was not hesitant during the Eastern Conference final to have his fourth line out against the Rangers’ first line.
“I don’t think it’s an accident that the teams that are rolling four lines and six ‘D’ are still playing,” DeBoer said. “It’s been critical. You don’t play 20 or 25 playoff games and the grind and the emotion and the battle without having depth. You just can’t. I think that’s why we’re both still playing.”
For that and other reasons, fatigue should not be a huge factor in the series, even though both teams are at the three-quarter point of what can often be a marathon of attrition. Most coaches will tell you the key to success is getting out of the first two rounds in the fewest possible games. The Devils managed to do that in 12 games and have played a total of 18 through the first three rounds, but their travel has been minimal. The Kings have cut a swath through their opponents, playing four fewer games than the Devils, including just nine in the first two rounds. The travel has been relatively good for the Kings given the Western Conference factor and they’ve had ample time to rest and recover after each of their series.
“Obviously we’ve been able to manage our time well,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “I think between the regular season and when we played Vancouver, there was two or three days. Then the next one was five or six. As series go along, there are players that definitely need days away and days off. It’s not just the physical part of it. Guys are banged up. But the mental part of it. I think it’s really helped our two or three older players, specifically Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi – the time.”
That should make for a good pace to the series, particularly since both teams have some excellent speed up front and are not afraid to use it on the forecheck. It should also make for an interesting chess match in terms of the defensive matchups, since neither coach has the luxury of focusing on just a couple of opposing players.
“The sheer pace you can play at when you’re not overloading minutes or overplaying guys can be high,” DeBoer said.
Here’s how each team stacks up line by line and on the defense corps:
Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus
Patrik Elias-Adam Henrique-Ilya Kovalchuk
Alex Ponikarovsky-Jacob Josefson-David Clarkson
Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier
Bryce Salvador-Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene-Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov-Peter Harrold
Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dustin Penner-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan
Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez-Matt Greene
Ken Campbell will be filing daily from the Stanley Cup final.