On Saturday night, Game 5 of the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Finals will be played in New Jersey. The New Jersey Devils will be playing host to the Los Angeles Kings, who have not lost a single road match during their entire playoff run. The Kings snatched home ice advantage away from the Devils in Games 1 and 2, shocking the Eastern Conference champions, and proceeded to win only 1 of the 2 games in LA. However, as the series shifts back to the road - where the Kings, improbably but undeniably, have been better than at home - there's a sense of inevitability in the air. The Kings, who have never won Lord Stanley's Cup, seem to have destiny on their side.
Much has been said of the last time the Kings made the Stanley Cup Finals. That team, with Wayne Gretzky at the forefront, captured the attention of a town not known for caring about hockey, as well as the hearts of many impartial hockey-watchers. Their failure in those Finals has hounded the team for almost two decades - this is merely the Kings seventh entry into the Playoffs at all, since that season.
After failing to close out the Devils on their home ice on Wednesday, the Kings will look to repeat their pattern from the Conference Quarterfinals and the Conference Finals. If there's any consolation to be had for Los Angeles, the fact that they are a perfect 2-0 in this situation's previous incarnations thus far in the Playoffs has got to factor in. Additionally, although it most likely does not matter one whit to the players or coaches, fans of the NHL in general must be pleased that the current elimination game will be played on Saturday in prime time (6 PM MST) on NBC, as opposed to being relegated to NBC Sports.
All this focus on the Kings, though, belies how good New Jersey has been during its Playoff run, as well. Compiling a Playoff record of 12-6 prior to the Finals, the Devils have moved beyond their mediocre stats - they finished a paltry fourth in their Conference and were middle of the road in goals per game - to outlast and outwit their opponents. Even with a possible loss in the Finals approaching, there is chatter of a bright future for the organization thanks to the youth and power of Adam Henrique.
All of this is merely to say that if you haven't tuned in to the NHL Finals yet, Saturday night is the perfect time to do so. What will unfold is hard to prognosticate precisely, but either the Los Angeles Kings will get to celebrate in a way they never have before in club history, or they will lose on someone else's ice for the first time in this Playoff run, extending the delight of a Stanley Cup Finals for a bit longer. Both are wins for fans of the game.