Stanley Cup Final 2012: Would a Kings Game 2 Win Spell Doom for the Devils?
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The Kings grabbed Game 1 in overtime on a breakaway goal by Anze Kopitar, but it wasn't a game that either team particularly dominated.
The Devils led in hits, takeaways and blocked shots, while the Kings had the advantage in faceoffs, shots and giveaways, and neither team scored on their combined three power-play opportunities.
However, that win comes after eight straight road wins for the Kings, and that means momentum should be on their side headed into Game 2.
The Devils will try desperately to win in Game 2 for a multitude of reasons—most importantly, to even the series, but additionally to prove to themselves that they can beat the Kings and that the Kings aren't unbeatable away from home.
I believe Game 2 could go either way, but let's say the Devils lose. Do they still have a chance in the series?
It's hard to believe they would.
It would mean needing to win four out of five against a team that's only lost two all postseason. It would also mean sneaking four wins' worth of goals by all-world Jonathan Quick.
That being said, it's not impossible.
The Kings have not been superb at home this season; in six games, they've won four times. It's not exactly a weakness, but it's as big a soft spot as the Devils are liable to find in the Kings' exterior.
In their game in Los Angeles this season, the Devils won 3-0. However, it's hard to take that result too seriously, as it didn't feature Travis Zajac, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Marek Zidlicky, Jonathan Quick or Martin Brodeur*.
The Kings haven't lost a Game 3 yet this postseason, but momentum is a hard thing to shake when your team has already gone down 2-0.
The Devils have shown themselves resilient this offseason, coming back from 3-2, 1-0 and 2-1 series deficits, respectively. In each of those series, the Devils showed they can come from behind and that they can win two, three and even four games in a row.
In other words, Game 2 could go sour, but that doesn't mean the Devils couldn't jump back in and take Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles. The Devils had one of the best road records in the league this season, and they've made it this far despite some of their best players not showing up for significant periods of time.
So then it would come down to a best-of-three series, where the Devils have home-ice advantage. That is where the importance of Game 2 comes into play.
The Kings need to lose on the road. Another win and they'll tie the all-time record (held by the Devils) for road wins in a postseason.
Would the Devils be done if they lost Game 2?
Even if the Devils evened the series after four games, the Kings would still have all the confidence going back to New Jersey. Why? Because the Devils need to win a game at home in order to win the cup.
The Devils have played the underdog more often than not, and it's often suited them fine. However, the Devils "won" home-ice advantage by having more regular-season points, and that means the Kings get to spend four of the seven games on the road.
The playoffs are just as mental as they are physical. It's easy for players to get worn down by the stress and pressure to perform night after night, and the emotional wear must be excruciating.
If the Kings win Game 2, they give themselves a huge mental advantage, and I don't know that the Devils would be able to overcome it.
Despite that, it would not be over.
If they drop the first two to L.A., they may just be able to bring that momentum back home and take a series lead.
It's not exactly likely, but it's what makes the sport great: No matter how much it looks like one team might be done, it can't be counted out until the last game is played.
*Johan Hedberg earned a 31-save shutout that game. In the Devils' other game against the Kings, he relieved an injured Brodeur after one period and stopped all 16 shots he faced, as well as both shots he saw in the shootout.
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