Devils

Hartnett: Admiration Between Stanley Cup Rivals, Devils And Kings

Justin Williams: "Your Leaders Rise To The Occasion When Things Are Tough."
Captains Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo by Paul Bereswill and Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Captains Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo by Paul Bereswill and Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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‘Devils In The Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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Dustin Brown played alongside Zach Parise at various levels while representing the United States.  They both served as assistant captains for USA at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and led the Americans to the Gold Medal Game where they lost to the Canadians in overtime.

Now, the two American captains left standing will be competing against one another for the Stanley Cup.

I spoke with Brown during Stanley Cup Media Day.  “Zach’s been a marquee player for this franchise and for this league since he’s probably came in.  He probably still doesn’t get enough credit, in my opinion compared to guys around the league,” Brown stated.

“Again, he’s one of those skilled guys with a fourth line workman mentality.  He does a lot of the little things right that most players with his type of skill don’t do.”

Brown continued, “Zach is one of those guys who wants to win so bad.  He’ll do anything he can.  Both teams have battled hard to get to this point and now it’s a seven-game series.”

Justin Williams spent four years competing against Parise in the Eastern Conference as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.  His experiences playing against Parise and alongside Brown in Los Angeles gives Williams a unique insight on the desire that these two captains bring every game.

“I think what sets them apart from a lot of other guys and why they’re elite players is certainly their work (ethic.)  If you look at Zach Parise, he just reminds me of one of the hardest workers in the game,” Williams explained.

He continued, “When you have a leader with a ‘C’ on your jersey, it’s just going to rub off on everybody else.  Dustin is certainly the same way.  He’s always been one of our hardest workers.  From work, comes your skill level.  Certainly those guys are at the tops.”

Rod Brind’Amour captained the 2006 Stanley Cup winner Carolina Hurricanes whom Williams was a member.  “Your leaders rise to the occasion when things are tough.  When I was in Carolina, our captain Rod Brind’Amour and he elevated his game when it got to the biggest stage.  I know that Dustin isn’t going to shy away from anything and that includes the spotlight, especially when the game starts tomorrow.”

Adam Henrique and Dwight King are two rare rookies who’ve shined in their first career playoffs and scored important goals along the way to reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.  The two promising 22-year-olds have made and will now compete against one another for hockey’s ultimate prize.

Henrique leads all rookies with 11 playoff points, while King is currently tied with Chris Kreider with 5 goals for best among rookies.

Henrique understands exactly what King is going through and he prefers the spotlight and pressure being thrown upon him.

“I see the highlights of him.  It’s nice to see young guys around the league coming up and playing well.  I’m in the same situation, I know what it feels like.  It’s a good feeling.  You want to be relied upon in all situations.  I’d rather be counting on than not,” Henrique mentioned.

King expressed similar praise for Henrique who he’s kept a close eye on throughout the playoffs.

“I’ve watched their last couple of games.  I’ve seen he’s scored a lot of big goals, two really big ones for their club.  That’s been a big part of their team all year.  He’s obviously a first-year guy, he’s got his nose in their right away.  It will be a great competition,” King said.

Jonathan Bernier grew up in Laval, Quebec looking up to fellow Québécois net-minder Martin Brodeur.

“He’s definitely a guy that a lot of goalies look up to.  Obviously, he’s got a different style (of play) but if you look at his overall career, he always finds a way to make those big saves or come up big at the right time.  That’s why he’s here again.”

Kings’ defenseman Matt Greene spoke about the challenge of defending against big bodies like David Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus and Ilya Kovalchuk.

“It’s going to be tough.  They’ve got big guys with a ton of skill, too.  It’s a big challenge going up against those guys and something we’ve got to make sure we’re handling if we want to have success,” Greene mentioned.

“It’s about limiting chances, limiting Grade-A chances, try to make them dump pucks and disrupt what they have going,” Greene explained.

Dustin Brown is looking forward to competing against Kovalchuk, a player the Kings cannot allow open space on the ice.

“From a one-on-one skills standpoint, he’s probably the most-skilled player, we’ve played thus far.  You’ve got to limit his time and space.  He’s a big, strong physical guy but we need to try to be physical with him,” Brown detailed.

“You give him open ice and allow him to gather speed, he becomes a really dangerous player.  When get it front of him, we try to slow him down and make it hard for him to get into open ice.  His success as a player is when he has time and space,” Brown concluded.

Who has the edge in this evenly-matched series?  Will it be Parise or Brown who inspires their team toward lifting the Stanley Cup?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.