New Jersey is the first team in 67 years to lose the first three games in the Finals and force a Game 6. How have they staved off elimination? Perseverance, timely goal scoring, and big time goaltending from Martin Brodeur.
I think the turning point in this series came in Game 4. Despite a tough boarding call on David Clarkson in the third period and then giving up the game-tying goal, the Devils responded with impressive effort and intensity. The Devils had the better of the play after the Kings tied it and they eventually won that game on a rocket to the top shelf by Adam Henrique.
Before Game 4 prognosticators were predicting the end of the series in LA. In fact it was said that the Devils look defeated in Game 3. Well, if so they did not let it carry over. They have bounced back with an impressive effort to not only win in LA, but to end the Kings 10 game road winning streak in Game 5.
The Devils are exhibiting great resiliency. They did not allow the fact that Quick and the Kings' defense was shutting them down to make them negative or give in. They kept battling. They continued to believe that hard work would lead to positive results. And, it has. This is a good lesson for all of us. When things are at the worst you have to keep working and doing the right things. If you do your fortunes may just turn around.
For the Devils to win I mentioned that Brodeur had to steal a game. He did that in Game 5. Los Angeles carried the play for much of the game but Marty was unbelievable. He has been able to flip the focus from the Devils being unable to score on Quick to the Kings not being able to score on him. Brodeur is making huge saves when he needs to and controlling his rebounds. The Devils defense is not allowing second chance opportunities and minimizing the Kings power play opportunities. Brodeur has been especially good in the first period.
Brodeur has been huge for the Devils in the last two games and really throughout the series. Just as huge has been getting the first goal. The Devils scored first in Games 4 and 5. It takes a great burden off of the shoulders of the Devils and helps them focus shift-by-shift. When you get behind you can hear the clock ticking on your season and panic can set it. New Jersey has gotten the first goal and created a positive feeling on their bench which has allowed them to persevere when the Kings have brought the offensive pressure.
If you read my earlier post on the Six Things Teams Must Do to Comeback When Down 3 Games to 1 you will notice that the Devils are achieving some of these principles. The Devils have continued to expect success. They have been talking a good game like they can comeback and win the Cup. They also have changed momentum by scoring the late third period goal in Game 4. Furthermore, the Devils have been able to stay focused and play solid hockey games, not having extended periods of time where their defense lapses. Finally, Brodeur has gotten hot and they have gotten some puckluck. Combine that with the fact they have taken Dustin Brown out of this series and you have a recipe where a comeback is possible. Game 6 is going to be a dandy!
By the way, I want to give props to Justin Williams of the Kings who was awesome all night long. He was the most dangerous King in Game 5 and I expect Williams to play an important role in Game 6. Watch for him to score another goal before this series is over.
Looking forward to Game 6 the Kings need to remember that they still have the lead and look forward to the opportunity to win the Cup on home ice. They cannot allow their minds to dwell on the fact that they have lost two opportunities already. The Kings must focus shift-by-shift and get that first goal Monday night. For the Devils, keep doing what you are doing. Their intensity and effort is paying off. Brodeur must continue to outduel Quick and when they get the chance the Devils' power-play has to strike. That could be the difference maker in what has turned in to a very interesting and exciting Final.