‘Devils In The Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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Exorcising the New Jersey Devils has proven to be a difficult task for the Los Angeles Kings.
After appearing destined to complete a four-game Stanley Cup sweep, the Kings have thrown away their momentum and failed in consecutive opportunities to close out the series.
It’s one thing to start something, but finishing it is an entirely different challenge. This is what the Kings are learning as the Devils have forced Game 6 and refused to buckle under the pressure. They’re clawing themselves back into the series and refusing to hand over the Stanley Cup without a fight.
“We found a way again tonight like we did in Game 4 to get that ball rolling and it’s critical this time of year,” head coach Peter DeBoer said post-game.
The ball isn’t just rolling in the right direction for the Devils, it’s gaining serious momentum and turning into a boulder of uncertainly for the Kings. There is a heightened belief in the spirit of the Devils, who always believed they can win any game if their stick to their game-plan.
“We’ve been counted out right back to last summer and the preseason predictions all the way through,” DeBoer stated.
“One thing about our group is that, you know, they believe that we can win. They believe we can win every game we play — if we play the right way. It’s just a matter of stringing together a couple more here.”
Not only have the Devils made life difficult for opposing net-minder Jonathan Quick, they’ve been extremely focused and disciplined in their own end. They’ve tightened themselves positionally around the slot and forced the majority of Kings’ chances from low-scoring areas.
“Throughout the series, we’ve done a pretty good job of not giving them a lot of great opportunities. From an offensive standpoint, that can get frustrating,” Devils’ captain Zach Parise explained post-game.
Unselfishly and with little regard for their own bodies, players such as Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov are wholeheartedly throwing themselves in front of speeding pucks to ease Martin Brodeur’s workload between the pipes.
“We made some good blocks, key plays defensively to win this game,” Brodeur mentioned post-game.
“I think at the end of the day, guys are concentrating on getting themselves ready, leaving everything out there. We’ll see where everything’s going to fall.”
Brodeur and the Devils aren’t getting caught up in history, statistics, opinions, percentages or predictions. They’re simply concentrating on staying the course and improving their own game, game-by-game.
“You feel, when you’re getting the opportunities, that if we kept working hard in getting those that the puck was eventually going to go in for us. Hopefully it will keep going in,” Parise stated.
Game 5 hero Bryce Salvador believes the Devils’ even-keeled mentality is benefiting them whenever adversity comes their way.
“The team’s done a great job whenever it’s been faced with adversity,” Salvador explained.
“We’re just staying level-headed and not getting ahead of ourselves because we know we have a big task ahead of us. There’s a great hockey team over there. We’re just trying to build on our momentum.”
Now, the momentum is firmly shifted in the Devils’ direction. Should they come away with a Game 6 victory at Staples Center, the Devils’ momentum could turn into a runaway train.
“It’s definitely an unusual series and we hope to keep it that way,” defenseman Mark Fayne reflected.
The Devils are putting the pedal to the floor by laying everything on the line until someone lifts the Stanley Cup.
New Jersey is attempting to go the distance by bringing this series all the way back to the Prudential Center for Game 7. It’s a scenario no one could have imagined after Game 3, but the Devils are hoping their undeterred effort results in them shocking the hockey world by hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Has the momentum fully shifted in the Devils’ direction ahead of Game 6 at Staples Center? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.