Following two consecutive victories against the New York Rangers, the Devils will try to wrap up the series tonight in Game 6 at The Rock in Newark and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the surprising Los Angeles Kings.
Here's a look back at the five keys I put down almost two weeks ago, just before the series started—and here's how the Devils have fared in each of those categories so far through five games:
1) Pepper Lundqvist
They've been getting to King Henrik lately, scoring seven goals against him over the last two games, not including a pair of empty-netters by Zach Parise.
The two games the Rangers have won have been by shutout, and the Devils will again be looking to get on the board as quickly as possible. Lundqvist, though, gave up some goals in Game 5 at MSG that he'd like to have back, and he'll likely be at his absolute best tonight with the Rangers facing elimination. The Devils have to rise to the occasion.
2) Stay out of the penalty box
Easier said than done, considering the inconsistency of the officiating in the playoffs so far. The best thing the Devils can do is not get caught up in extracurricular activities after the whistle, as the Rangers tried to make them do in Game 4.
There's bigger things at stake here than local bragging rights—New Jersey should just skate away.
3) Play physical and control the boards
This was evident in Game 5 on the game-winning goal by Ryan Carter. Ilya Kovalchuk (really) got on the defense deep in the Rangers' end, and Stephen Gionta got the puck and took a hit to feed Carter in front for the deciding marker.
The Devils need to keep on banging opposing bodies and keep the puck in the offensive zone as much as possible to wear down the shot-blocking Rangers.
4) Get good goaltending
Martin Brodeur would be the first one to tell you that Game 5 was not his best outing, as two of the three goals he allowed were of the hair-pulling variety. Expect the 40-year-old backstop to bounce back tonight with a chance at his fifth Stanley Cup Finals berth on the line.
5) Win at home
The Devils have split their two games at the Prudential Center with the Rangers so far, but have the chance to end the series on home ice, where they've gone 5-2 so far this spring. There's been less Blueshirts among a sea of red than there normally is for Rangers-Devils match-ups on this side of the Hudson, and a victory tonight would cause a crimson tide for the finals, where the Devils would have the home-ice advantage.
There's 60 minutes to go, and the Cup final is on the line for the first time in almost a decade. Now's the time for the Devils to get it done.