‘Devils In The Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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The Devils have their backs firmly pressed against the wall, staring directly in the face of elimination. Some have pointed to a lack of effort as reason for the Devils’ impending demise, a theory I’m not buying.
“Our backs are against the wall, and we can’t lose any more. It’s never easy, but we got here for a reason and we’re not a bunch of quitters,” Kovalchuk said after the Devils’ 4-0 defeat in Game 3.
It’s clear to the eye that the Devils are putting in the right amount of work needed to win games. It’s their execution that’s lacking. Head coach Peter DeBoer believes effort is not an issue for the Devils.
“I’m not disappointed in our team. We played right to the final buzzer. I don’t care what the scoreboard said. We battled right to the buzzer, and we’ll do the same on Wednesday night,” DeBoer stated following Game 3.
He continued, “We created some real good chances early. (Quick) made some saves. The frustrating part is you’re creating some quality chances, you’re getting some quality shots, and they’re not going in. You have to handle that frustration the right way.”
The Kings are embarrassing a very strong Devils team. They’ve made a habit of making talented teams look ordinary and forced each of their four steady, defensively-sound playoff opponents into making a catalogue of mistakes.
Los Angeles rolled past the number one-seeded Vancouver Canucks, swept the 109-point St. Louis Blues and easily brushed past the Pacific Divison-winning Phoenix Coyotes en route to the Stanley Cup Final.
Many hockey analysts pegged the Canucks to represent the Western Conference once again in the Stanley Cup Final. Los Angeles silenced Vancouver’s big guns and forced a disciplined Blues’ team into uncharacteristic turnovers. They made the Coyotes lose their heads and their cool in the Western Conference finals.
Now, the Devils are experiencing symptoms of each of the teams previously eliminated by the Kings — a recipe for disaster. New Jersey teeters on the edge, trying to lift themselves what feels like an inevitable four-game sweep.
It will take something truly extraordinary to bring the series back to New Jersey for Game 5, nevermind pulling-off four unlikely victories needed to deliver a fourth Stanley Cup banner to the Prudential Center rafters.
The last team to comeback from an 0-3 hole to lift the Stanley Cup was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. Given the evidence we’re seeing from the Devils, there aren’t many signs of life for their fans to cling onto.
New Jersey’s powerplay is ice-cold. They’re yet to score with the man-advantage and are a staggering 0-for-12 on the powerplay during the Stanley Cup Final.
The Devils’ penalty kill were doing a fine job of holding off the Kings’ powerplay but they caved-in on Monday night. The Kings scored on each of their Game 3 powerplay opportunities.
Martin Brodeur is doing everything possible on his end and cannot be blamed for the Devils’ current state of affairs. Their offensive go-to stars have failed to make an impact this series.
Kovalchuk is hampered by injuries and looking like half of himself. He’s yet to record a point in the Stanley Cup Final. Rookie sensation Adam Henrique has made his mark on each series but now, he’s without a point against Los Angeles. Travis Zajac is also point-less and a minus-3.
Most worrying is the play of captain Zach Parise. The player known as the Devils’ heartbeat is yet to collect a point against the Kings and is a minus-4 in the Stanley Cup Final. In addition, his usually composed defensive play has been lacking.
A poorly-positioned Parise allowed Anze Kopitar to glide toward the net as Kopitar buried the Kings’ second goal of the night. That was the breaking point for the Devils as everything went downhill from there.
It’s up to Parise to find his game ahead of Game 4 and rally the Devils into showing signs of life. He’s been in this position before and sparked the Devils’ comeback from 2-1 down during the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.
“We’re not going to quit until someone has won a fourth game,” Devils captain Zach Parise said after Game 3. “We start over. We’ve got to win four straight. That’s it. That’s our approach. Win the next one. That’s all we can do.”
Otherwise, the Devils will go quietly into that dark night of elimination.
Can the Devils find life in Game 4 and stave off a sweep? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.