The New Jersey Devils lost Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, 2-1 in overtime, to the Los Angeles Kings. With the way the Kings have rolled through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs thus far, the Devils cannot afford to lose any more ground in this series. Devils head coach Peter DeBoer and his staff, which includes former NHL stars Larry Robinson, Adam Oates and Scott Stevens, needs to find a way to stop the Kings in Game 2 before heading to Los Angeles.
Although this is only Game 1, 76 percent of Game 1 winners have won the Stanley Cup since the best-of-seven format began in 1939. By losing Game 1, the Devils do not have history on their side, and playing for all the marbles creates desperation.
Let’s take a look at some adjustments the Devils must make in Game 2 to even the series. Game 2 is set for Sunday, June 2, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
*All statistics were collected from nhl.com and hockey-reference.com. All statistics are updated through Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
Ilya Kovalchuk leads the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs in power play goals (five), assists (11) and points (18). But in Game 1, Kovalchuk failed to take even one shot. If any one player on New Jersey can score on Jonathan Quick and the Kings, it has to be Kovalchuk. The Devils paid Kovalchuk $6 million this season, the highest salary on the team.
Large salaries bring about high expectations, especially in in the playoffs. The Russian superstar has played very well thus far in the playoffs, but the Kings found ways to neutralize his elite offensive abilities in Game 1.
Head coach Peter DeBoer and staff should look at the tape from Game 1 and try to give Kovalchuk more chances in open space in Game 2, which would allow him to fire off those lethal shots on Quick.
The greatest to ever play in the National Hockey League, Wayne Gretzky, once said:
Gretzky was telling people to take risks once in a while and to go for good opportunities in life. The Devils should follow Gretzky’s words literally and shoot the puck. What hockey player would not want advice from whom they call “The Great One”?
New Jersey took 35 shots in Game 1, 17 of which were shots on goal. Los Angeles, on the other hand, took 54 shots, 25 of which were shots on goal. That is quite a discrepancy between the two teams.
In addition, six Devils skaters failed to register a shot on goal in Game 1.
Granted the Kings have dominated the opposition throughout the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Devils offense must keep up with the Kings’ offense in Game 2 if they want to win.
Perhaps New Jersey feels a little intimidated by Los Angeles and the way the Kings have played lately, but like the introduction slide discussed, the Stanley Cup Finals demands the absolute best from both teams, and players must feel as if they left everything out on the ice.
The Devils must understand a saved shot or a blocked shot is better than no shot at all.
This may not be something the team can do on the ice, but a full effort from Devils fans at home games is a must to throw off the Kings. The Kings have not lost a road game in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and with Game 2 in New Jersey, the Devils fans could play a huge role in breaking that streak.
Just for this series, the Devils could use backing from the entire state of New Jersey. In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Devils knocked off both the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. Fans bases of all three teams draw from the Garden State. If the Devils win the 2012 Stanley Cup, then Flyers fans and Rangers fans can say their teams lost to the best team.
If the Devils could expand their temporary fan base to all of New Jersey for this series, then the team can keep up with the Kings in the support department. The Kings have not made the Stanley Cup Finals since 1993, and considering Los Angeles is the 2nd most populouscity in the country, the Kings have a lot of people backing them right now.
Drawing penalties seems like something hockey teams should avoid, but for the New Jersey Devils, it just might work.
In Game 1, the Devils committed only one minor penalty. Interpretation of this statistic should be left to players and coaches, and New Jersey should not attempt to recreate the first round series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Devils cannot let Los Angeles get too comfortable in this series, especially at the Prudential Center. Down 0-1 in the series, and with Game 2 at home, the Devils should not feel bad about making more trips to the penalty box.
During the regular season, the Devils led the National Hockey League in penalty kill percentage (89.6 percent) and in shorthanded goals (15). They executed more with less than any other team. In the playoffs, New Jersey ranks 13th in penalty kill percentage (74.6 percent), which is considerably worse. Head coach Peter DeBoer and staff should look at some old footage from the regular season, see what worked so well, and try to recreate that success against Los Angeles. Maybe creating more opportunities to play with a man down will help.
With an 8.0 percent success rate, the Kings power play unit in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs has failed miserably. New Jersey would be wise to expose this glaring weakness in their opponent’s arsenal in Game 2 and cause more penalties.
Again, this may sound obvious to some, but Lord Stanley’s Cup is at stake.
Devils forwards Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Dainius Zubrus were the only players to record a -2 plus/minus rating in Game 1. This means all three were on the ice together both times the Los Angeles Kings scored. One such goal, in overtime, was on an Anze Kopitar breakaway.
Head coach Peter DeBoer and staff can use the next two days to figure out why this trio was twice over victims of Kings goals. If Game 2 reaches overtime again, the Devils should try a different lineup up front.
NHL captains need to show leadership qualities on both ends of the ice. In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devils captain Zach Parise has a -5 plus/minus rating. Captains must show the ability to score goals on offense and to prevent goals on defense. As the previous slide discussed, Parise had a -2 plus/minus rating in Game 1 alone.
The Devils as a whole, in the playoffs, have a +12 plus/minus rating. In this instance, the captain has not led the way on defense; Parise must improve in his own zone.
Brodeur has carried his Devils from the number 6 seed in the Eastern Conference to the Stanley Cup Finals. For those who wondered if Brodeur could withstand another playoff run, he has proved the doubters wrong so far.
New Jersey needs to step up their game against Los Angeles, as would any other team fortunate enough to face the Kings for the Stanley Cup. That all starts again in Game 2.