Wednesday, May 30, 2012
New York vs. Los Angeles in Playoffs
In the red corner: The New Jersey Devils, the 6th seed in the NHL Eastern Conference, having disposed of the Florida Panthers and the 2 teams they hate the most, the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Filth) and the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum).
Heroes thus far include 40-year-old goaltending legend Martin Brodeur; Travis Zajac, whose overtime goal won Game 6 vs. Panthers; Adam Henrique, whose double-overtime goal won Game 7 against the Panthers; Alexei Ponikarovsky, whose overtime goal won Game 3 against the Flyers; David Clarkson, whose 3rd period goal won Game 2 against The Scum; and, of course, Henrique again, whose overtime goal won Game 6 against The Scum, and is a serious challenger for the title of greatest Devils goal ever, along with John MacLean '88, Claude Lemieux '95 and Jason Arnott 2000.
The Devils, having started play as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974, and become the Colorado Rockies in 1976, moved to New Jersey, into the Brendan Byrne Arena (now the Izod Center) in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford in 1982, and into the Prudential in 2007. This is their 5th Stanley Cup Finals, and they will be going for their 4th Cup -- 4 in 30 years, as compared with the New York Islanders' 4 in 40 years (or, if you prefer, 4 in 4 but none in the other 36, including the last 29) and the Rangers' 4 in 86 (including a drought of 54 years and the current drought of 18).
In the black corner: The Los Angeles Kings, the 8th seed in the NHL Western Conference, who beat the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes along the way. (Meaning neither team had home-ice advantage at any point, until the Devils do now, and both had to beat the 1 and 3 seeds.)
Heroes thus far include Anze Kopiar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, all of whom scored at least 22 goals in the regular season; former Flyers star Simon Gagne, a man used to driving the Devils nuts; goalie Jonathan Quick, who notched 10 shutouts in the regular season and 1 in the Playoffs thus far; Jarrett Stoll, whose overtime goal won the clinching Game 5 against the Canucks; and Dustin Penner, whose overtime goal won the clinching Game 5 against the Coyotes.
The Kings, having started play in 1967 at the Forum in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, first wore purple and gold, to match the colors of their arena-mates, the Los Angeles Lakers. When Wayne Gretzky arrived in 1988, their colors were changed to silver and black to match another team then playing in L.A., football's Raiders. They switched back to purple and white, but now wear black again. In 1999, along with the NBA's Lakers and Clippers, they moved into the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
In spite of having some great players over the years, including Gretzky, his former Edmonton Oilers linemate Jari Kurri, and before that Hall-of-Famers Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon, the Kings have only been to the Stanley Cup Finals once before, in 1993, when they beat the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1, then dropped the next 4 straight, including the next 3 in overtime.
With both teams having pulled 3 upsets along the way, neither is going to be taken by surprise by the other. It's hard to say that these are the two best teams in the League. But it's easy to say that these are the two teams that have earned the right to be here.
A postseason game or series between teams from the New York and Los Angeles areas has been possible in the following rounds, and in the following eras:
Baseball: Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, from the 1958 World Series onward, and only in the WS; Yankees vs. the team currently known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, from the 1969 American League Championship Series onward, and until 1995 only in the ALCS, but now also in the AL Division Series; Mets vs. Angels, from the 1962 WS onward, and only in the WS; and Mets vs. Dodgers, from the 1969 National League Championship Series onward, and until 1995 only in the NLCS, but now also in the NLDS.
Football: Giants vs. Los Angeles Rams, in the NFL Championship Game from 1946 to 1965, and in the NFL/NFC Playoffs from 1966 to 1994; Jets vs. Los Angeles Raiders, in the AFC Playoffs from 1982 to 1994; Giants vs. Raiders and Jets vs. Rams, in the Super Bowl only from the 1970 to the 1994 season.
Basketball, only in the NBA Finals: Knicks vs. Lakers, since 1961; Knicks or New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers, since 1985 (although the Clippers never even won a Playoff series until this past month); New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets vs. Lakers, since 1977.
Hockey: Rangers vs. Kings, since 1968, but in rounds prior to the Finals only from 1971 to 1982; Islanders vs. Kings, since 1973, but in rounds prior to the Finals only until 1982; Devils vs. Kings, since 1983, but only in the Finals; Rangers, Islanders or Devils vs. Anaheim Ducks, since 1994, but only in the Finals.
I won't count New York Liberty vs. Los Angeles Sparks, or New York Cosmos vs. Los Angeles Aztecs, or New York Red Bulls vs. Los Angeles Galaxy.
Here's the list:
1963 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
1970 NBA Finals: Knicks over Lakers (Willis Reed)
1972 NBA Finals: Lakers over Knicks (the Lakers' first title in L.A.)
1973 NBA Finals: Knicks over Lakers
1977 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers (Reggie Jackson goes boom, boom, boom)
1978 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers (Reggie gets hip)
1979 Stanley Cup Preliminary Round: Rangers over Kings
1980 Stanley Cup Preliminary Round: Islanders over Kings
1981 Stanley Cup Preliminary Round: Rangers over Kings
1981 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
1982 American Football Conference Divisional Playoff: Jets over Raiders
1984 National Football Conference Wild Card Playoff: Giants over Rams
1988 National League Championship Series: Dodgers over Mets (Mike Scioscia)
1989 National Football Conference Divisional Playoff: Rams over Giants (Flipper Anderson)
2002 NBA Finals: Lakers over Nets
2002 American League Division Series: Angels over Yankees
2003 Stanley Cup Finals: Devils over Ducks
2005 American League Division Series: Angels over Yankees (Randy Johnson implodes)
2006 National League Division Series: Mets over Dodgers
2009 American League Championship Series: Yankees over Angels
Devils: 1-0 going into these Finals
Kings: 0-3 going into these Finals
Baseball: Los Angeles leads, 5-4
Football: New York leads, 2-1
Basketball: Tied, 2-2
Hockey: New York leads, 4-0
Overall: New York leads, 12-8, but take out hockey and it's an 8-8 tie.
In Finals, New York leads, 5-4.
Let's go, Devils!