STAT BOX STORIES is back! That’s right, no need to adjust your internet; this week, we’ll be pumping out a series of content using EA SPORTS NHL 12 to play through the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, which begin in real life on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012. Updates for the site will not be returning to the daily Monday-Friday schedule that we had going last fall, but expect new content much more frequently than what has been posted over the past few months.
This year’s series features the Western Conference 8th-seed Los Angeles Kings against the Eastern Conference 6th-seed New Jersey Devils. For goaltender Martin Brodeur—now playing at the age of 40 for the Devils—it is a chance to add yet more hardware to his trophy room after previously bringing the Cup back to the Garden State. For the Kings, it is only the second opportunity in franchise history that the team has even made the Stanley Cup Final; the last time was in 1993 when Wayne Gretzky was on the team and they were unable to overcome Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens on the way to Roy’s second Cup win.
For this set of entries using NHL 12, I kept all of my usual time, slider, and difficulty settings and decided that I would play as the Kings in an attempt to bring the franchise their first Stanley Cup victory. Now, time to talk about Game 1!
The Devils got off to a good start in Game 1 at home, with Marek Zidlicky putting in the first goal of the series less than halfway through the first period. A subsequent penalty to the Kings’ Dwight King for slashing allowed New Jersey to control possession and end up leading the shots on goal tally for the opening frame of the game.
Unfortunately for New Jersey, their hot start didn’t last long into the second period; less than 5 minutes in, Drew Doughty “put the biscuit in the basket” for Los Angeles to knot the game at 1-all in an otherwise-uneventful middle period which saw no penalties called on either side.
In the third period, neither team was able to break the tie on the scoreboard but not for lack of trying. Just over halfway through the period, the Kings appeared to have a go-ahead goal on the road until Dustin Penner was whistled for goaltender interference to send the home team on a power play and nullify the tally. Less than a minute later—in the midst of their own power play—the Devils found the back of the net only to have David Clarkson also called for goaltender interference, taking the home team’s goal off the board and setting up a 4-on-4 situation. However, neither team was able to find scoring space with the extra room on the ice, and even a late New Jersey power play after Alec Martinez of the Kings was called for boarding was unable to prevent Game 1 from going to overtime.
After killing off the remaining time on their penalty to begin overtime, the Kings had to weather an early flurry of New Jersey chances; thankfully, young goaltender Jonathan Quick came prepared and made some clutch stops to keep the game from ending. With back and forth action, the game finally was decided just over halfway through the overtime period when LA’s Jarrett Stoll took a pass in the slot and scored on Martin Brodeur, lighting the lamp and bringing a deafening silence to the Prudential Center as dejected Devils fans filed to the exits.
With two solid goalies tending the nets in the series, it was certainly expected by me that games would be close and likely low-scoring. Game 1 did not disappoint, and despite the two teams combining for 46 shots only 3 goals were scored. Los Angeles had a significant physical advantage in hits, but the Devils were more controlled on offense, spending more time on the attack and completing a higher percentage of passes than the Kings. One of the keys to the game, however, was New Jersey’s inability to score with an extra player as they failed on 3 separate power plays for nearly 5 minutes of 5-on-4 play.
Making 25 saves on the game, Jonathan Quick took the 1st Star, followed by Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll, the goal-scorers on the Los Angeles side. More important than any individual achievement, however, was winning the all-important Game 1; especially since it was on the road. Since the Stanley Cup Finals went to a Best-of-7 format, the team winning the opening game has gone on to win the Cup just about 75% of the time.
Would this trend continue for this playthrough of the Stanley Cup Finals using NHL 12 as well? Come back tomorrow to see how Game 2 played out as the Devils prepare to host the Kings facing a 1-0 series deficit!