We’re Going Going, Back Back, to Cali Cali
Damn, these Stanley Cup playoffs are hard to predict. Last night, with the Devils facing elimination for the second consecutive game, New Jersey found a way to squeak out a 2-1 victory. With the win, the series is now 3-2 in favor of the Los Angeles Kings and both teams must board a plane and fly across the country once again. The Devils are the first team since 1945 to even force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Heading into last night, the Kings had been 10-0 on the road, so for the first time LA had to actually hear rejoicing from an opposing team’s home crowd as the Devil fans celebrated loudly in the Prudential Center.
Throughout the playoffs, I’ve been praising Devils Captain Zach Parise. I’ve constantly stated that his leadership and overall play reminds me very much of Ryan Callahan, and when the two faced off in the Conference Finals, Parise got the better of the matchup. Last night, Parise took a lot of pressure off his team, when he snuck behind the net to intercept a lazy pass by the Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and snuck the puck between the goalies skate and post to give the Devils a 1-0 first period lead. It was one of the rare mistakes that Quick has made during the playoffs and as a captain is supposed to do, Parise took full advantage.
The Kings Justin Williams knotted the game at 1-1 three minutes into the second period, as he beat Martin Brodeur on a wrist shot from the point. It would turn out to be the only shot Brodeur would let past him, as he saved 25 of the 26 shots he faced. A few minutes later, Bryce Salvador gave the Devils a 2-1 lead on a shot from the blue line that was weirdly deflected and found a way past Quick. The crazy thing about Salvador is that the defenseman has now scored 4 playoff goals, but during the regular season he found the net 0 times. “We’re looking for him to score a goal all year, so he peaked at the right time if you ask me,” Brodeur said of Salvador after the game. Salvador’s goal ended up being all the Devils would need to send both teams back to LA.
The Kings had the Devils on the ropes and like most people covering the series, I wrote New Jersey off heading into Game 4. They looked like a lost team, but inside the locker room they never stopped believing. “We could have packed it in two games ago. That’s the bottom line,” Brodeur said. “But you see we have a bunch of resilient guys that want to try to make history and try to win the Stanley Cup. We’re not going to give up.” With last night’s win the Devils are 10-1 in Games 4-7 in the postseason, which will give them extra confidence to extend this series even further. If the Devils can win Game 6 and force the Kings to travel across the country for the 5th time in 2 weeks, after losing 3 games in a row, I believe the Devils will win Game 7. Therefore, I think the winner of tomorrow night’s Game 6 will determine this Series, and with no basketball on the schedule, you better be watching!