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Bernier not goat in Devils’ Cup loss

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The boarding call on the Devils’ Steve Bernier was a cruel blow to a team that thrives on the forecheck. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

You may want to fit the Devils’ Steve Bernier for goat’s horns after his five-minute major in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the penalty that essentially handed the championship to the Kings with their 6-1 victory. But there are many other people who deserve a share of the blame that history will unfairly heap on New Jersey’s fourth-line left wing for costing his team a chance to get to Game 7.

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  • Published On Jun 12, 2012
  • Devils’ adjustments push Stanley Cup Final to Game 6

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    Adding Henrik Tallinder (7), who has fresh legs, has made a huge difference for the Devils’ defense. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Stanley Cup Final moves to an unlikely Game 6 on Monday night as the Kings get a second chance to close out the Devils at home and win the hallowed chalice. Usually if you blow a chance to wrap up a series on home ice, it can be fatal and if L.A. coughs up a second opportunity and we get Game 7 on Wednesday night in New Jersey, anything is possible.

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  • Published On Jun 11, 2012
  • Brodeur, Quick keep Cup bubbling

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    Goaltenders Martin Brodeur of the Devils  and Jonathan Quick of the Kings are at opposite ends of the ice and their career arcs, and both have been playing superbly this spring. (Photos by Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    So here’s a frustrated Martin Brodeur after the morning skate before Wednesday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, and he’s calling out his teammates. “I try to give these guys a chance to win and I’ve done that in the first three games,” the sure thing Hall of Famer tells reporters. “At the end of the day, it’s hard to win games when you don’t score many goals. I try to be perfect, but the other guy is a little more perfect than me.”

    That’s quite something. Imagine if Marty had struggled this round and one of the Devils’ forwards had said to reporters, “We’re scoring enough goals but it’s hard to win games when your goalie can’t stop pucks.” But of course, Brodeur has been stopping them, and watching Game 4 was like watching video of the 40-year-old in his prime. When a guy plays that well and has amassed a body of work like Brodeur’s, his public irritation at his lack of offensive support — not to mention his team having no luck, not getting the bounces and the calls from the officials — somehow is forgiven in the dressing room. Maybe it was even welcomed.

    Regardless of whether Brodeur’s words sparked them, the Devils finally scored an opening goal, took the lead for the first time in the series, and didn’t buckle when the Kings tied the game. The proceedings now shift back to Newark for Game 5 on Saturday, and, at least through his goaltending, Brodeur helped make it possible.

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  • Published On Jun 07, 2012
  • Kings one win away from dream

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    Rogie Vachon, the Kings’ first star goalie, won two Stanley Cups with Montreal, but endured lean years in Los Angeles. (Steve Babineau/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    This, finally, could be the night that fast-talking Jack Kent Cooke envisioned in 1966 when he plunked down $2 million for an NHL expansion franchise. He called his new team the Kings, dressed them regally in gold and purple (which he’d later call “Forum Blue”), had them briefly play home games at the Long Beach Arena in 1967 before moving them to his new “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, and — as Sports Illustrated’s Pete Axthelm reported in a cover story near the end of their first season — believed they could win the Stanley Cup that spring.

    Now, a mere 45 years later, it is possible. More than possible, it is very likely. Whether it happens tonight or Saturday night or some time next week, chances are that the Sun Belt’s first hockey team will hoist the Cup for the first time. The Kings’ dominance, on full display in their 4-0 shutout of the Devils in Game 3, has turned a dramatic playoff year anticlimactic. All that’s left is the coronation.

    Before that, however, the Kings must get their fourth victory. Three times this postseason, they have had a chance to sweep a series with a win on home ice. They’ve only managed to do it once. You know what they say in the playoffs: That fourth game really is the hardest to win.

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  • Published On Jun 06, 2012
  • Devils forced into a must-win Game 3

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    Zach Parise and New Jersey’s other big guns have been misfiring or silent, a major reason why the Devils find themselves in such a dangerous 0-2 hole on the road. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The fat lady in this 10 month-long hockey opera hasn’t started to sing yet, but she’s put on her makeup and is warming up in the wings.

    A Game 3 win by the Kings tonight in Los Angeles will leave us within one game of the Stanley Cup championship. They’ve won the first two games and not really played their best hockey of the postseason — and that’s fine: You don’t get style points in the playoffs.

    Four times now, the Kings have put a team that had the supposed home ice advantage at a distinct disadvantage by forcing it to win twice at the Staples Center to draw even in a series. No one has done it yet, not Vancouver, St. Louis, or Phoenix. It’s a remarkable achievement.

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  • Published On Jun 04, 2012
  • Kings and Devils thrive in Game 2s

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    The Kings were able to keep Ilya Kovalchuk in check in Game One. (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    After an underwhelming opening night performance by both teams, the stakes have suddenly gotten quite high for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Two opposing trends will be on the line when the teams face off in Newark on Saturday evening.

    The Kings have taken a 2-0 series lead on the road in each of the three rounds they’ve played so far. Their Game 2s have been strong outings all spring.

    The Devils, conversely, have lost the first game in the last two series they’ve played and come back to win the second and the round. They say they are quite comfortable being down 0-1 and they’ve played well in their Game 2s.

    Both trends can’t continue. One will end on Saturday and that should have a lot to do with the course this series takes. A win by L.A. in this one will send the Kings back home for the fourth straight series with a chance to make this one a quick affair and hoist the Cup on home ice.. A win by New Jersey could at least mean that what many prognosticators expected, that we’re in for a six- or seven-game series, will indeed ensue.

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  • Published On Jun 01, 2012
  • Keys to the Stanley Cup Final

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    You can expect that Mike Richards’ Kings and Zach Parise’s Devils will go at each other fast and hard. (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    So here’s the Stanley Cup Final no one could have anticipated in early April. Kirk Penton of The Winnipeg Sun figured out that this is the “worst” match-up in 20 years: “New Jersey was ninth overall and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Kings were 13th overall and eighth in the Western Conference,” he wrote. “Their regular-season placings total 22. The only higher sum was in 1991, when the No. 7 Pittsburgh Penguins beat the No. 16 Minnesota North Stars. In fact, not since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1980 has the better seed among the finalists been as low as No. 9 overall.” But he was quick to say that this was just a technicality, insisting “New Jersey and Los Angeles should be solid entertainment.” True that.

    As low as their seeds may have been, the Devils and Kings belong in this series. The Kings were underachievers for most of the regular season, in part due to not having Mike Richards at full strength after he was concussed in December. The Devils were without their top center, Travis Zajac, for 67 games. And both teams had to adjust to new systems brought in by new coaches — one at the start of the season, one during it — that emphasized aggressive forechecking. The saying goes that “It’s not the best teams that get to play for the Cup  but the teams playing the best.” Now that they’re healthy and comfortable playing a style that fits their personnel, it’s hard to argue that these two currently aren’t the best teams in hockey.

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  • Published On May 29, 2012
  • Nasty Rangers-Devils series moves back to Broadway

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    If the Rangers can’t get their offense going, stellar goalie Henrik Lundqvist will have to steal another win. (Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Will the Devils be able to build on their 4-1 Game 4 win when they visit Madison Square Garden tonight for Game 5 or will the Rangers frustrate, if not disrupt, New Jersey’s territorial dominance and find the offensive gear that was absent on Monday in Newark? Those are the main questions facing these two teams in what is now a best-of-three and the only series left before the Stanley Cup Final begins one week from today.

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  • Published On May 23, 2012
  • Keys to the Eastern Championship

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    Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, who has been playing with a suspected bad back, must continue to be productive against New York’s tough defense and stellar goaltending. (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    They’re not good neighbors, as we saw a few times this season, but that can make for great hockey when the Devils and Rangers hook up. Yes, there will be echoes of 1994, when New York won the Eastern Conference championship in the second overtime period of Game 7, but that was long ago. With the exception of Marty Brodeur, who is still in goal for the Devs, almost everything and everyone has changed, including the way each team plays: The Rangers are now the more defensive oriented club and the Devils are the team that might be stronger offensively. But both play a strong all-around game and this series will be a treat.

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  • Published On May 14, 2012
  • Overconfidence is Flyers’ downfall

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    High-priced goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is the obvious scapegoat, but the Flyers’ demise was a true team effort. (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    There’s no brotherly love in Philadelphia today. All three of the city’s major sports teams dropped games on Tuesday night: the Phillies blowing a 4-0 lead to the Mets, the 76ers failing to clinch their series against Chicago, and the Flyers being eliminated by the Devils. That last one is, as hosts Mike and Ike said on their WIP Radio midday show, “the deepest wound of all.”

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  • Published On May 09, 2012


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