The sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils from the East will have home-ice advantage against the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings from the West, but that doesn't appear to be much of an edge according to the oddsmakers. The Kings have looked unstoppable in the playoffs, winning 12 of their 14 games, and the general consensus is that the Devils will have to do something above and beyond the call of duty to derail them.The odds for the Kings to win the 2012 Stanley Cup are minus-170, and the New Jersey Devils, plus-150.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the X-factors for each team to see what they need to accomplish to win the Stanley Cup.
For the Kings, it's fairly simple: do what you've done.
Through three rounds of the 2012 playoffs, the Kings have been untouchable. They've led all three of their series 3-0 while losing just twice en route to the Cup finals. They're rested, confident and dangerous.
But getting into the x's and o's, the Kings need to keep up their suffocating forecheck. They have put a lot of pressure on the defensive corps of Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix, and all three of those teams cracked. They have fired 32.9 shots per game, which is the best of any team that lasted more than one round.
Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix all had trouble getting the puck out of their own zone, and what's scary for New Jersey is that all three of those teams are better defensively than the Devils. For the Kings to win, they need to bring the same heat they did in previous rounds.
As for the Devils, they unfortunately don't have just one X-factor — they need a few things to go their way. For starters, Martin Brodeur has to play like a Conn Smythe trophy candidate. It's not that he hasn't to this point, but he needs to find the fountain of youth (maybe call Kevin Garnett?) and play like he did when he was the best goaltender in the league. That means he may need to steal a game or two for the Devils.
Second, the Devils will need Ilya Kovalchuk to be the best player on the ice for either side. He leads all players in the playoffs with points but he needs to be dominant, not just good.
Third, the Devils have to find a way to win the special teams battle. The Kings penalty kill has been awesome in the playoffs, but the Devils need to find a way through it. The Devils have scored power play goals in 11 of their playoff games and are 9-2 in those contests. They'll need to get a boost when they have the man-advantage. Meanwhile, the Kings power play is struggling mightily, and the Devils, who set a regular season record for the best penalty kill percentage, will need the Kings to continue to stumble.
Many people seem to feel that the Stanley Cup will inevitably be for the Kings, but keep in mind that virtually nothing about this postseason has been predictable.