Given that the Kings have lost a grand total of two games this entire postseason, it would not be a stretch to say that hope does seem a bit lost for the Devils. However, there is still a chance that they could swing the series back in their favor and to do that, they need one of their most trusted veterans to step up and take the fate of his team into his own hands.
I am talking about Patrik Elias. Obviously, the leader of the team is goaltender Martin Brodeur, followed closely by captain Zach Parise and superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. However, if the Devils have any hope of making this series anything more than a bitter defeat, Elias is the key.
While he certainly isn’t their biggest offensive threat, he is one of the men on this team with the most experience in the Stanley Cup Finals. Prior to this year, Elias had tallied 40 goals and 77 assists and a plus-minus of +19 in his postseason career. In 20 games this postseason however, he has only seven points, coming in on four goals and three assists, a plus-minus of -4 and 53 shots on goal.
Elias’ stats are not the only area where his presence needs to be felt. He needs to become a facilitator for the rest of the team. Three assists in 20 games is far too few for a player of his caliber, and he will have to increase that number if he wants to help his team win. The area where he can make an true impact is in leadership.
This past season was Elias’ 16th in the league, all with the Devils. He has been a member of two of their Stanley Cup Champion teams and has more playoff experience than most players, period—let alone on the Devils.
Being down 2-0 is no joke, especially when you consider that they’ve only scored two goals in those two games. The good news is that they’ve only given up four. The Devils are not being subjected to blowout losses.
In overtime games, the margin for error becomes predictably minuscule. It’s not a stretch to think that with a bounce here or there, this could be a 1-1 or series or even 2-0 in favor of the Devils. The hard truth is that it is not. They face the unenviable task of having to win at least two road games if they want to be the ones hoisting the Cup.
When all is said and done, Elias will be an integral part of how the team rebounds from this deficit. He needs to set the example for the rest of the team. Obviously, having Brodeur in the net is a huge bonus, and his demeanor will certainly set the tone for the team to a certain extent. The only problem with that: he plays goalie.
Many of these players will need to be able to look out onto the ice and see someone outside the crease keeping calm. Elias needs to be that guy.
As I’ve already pointed out, he needs to improve statistically if the Devils want to win. The biggest difference he can make is not in the score sheet, however; it is in the way he handles the adversity that the Devils now face.
If he is able to play calmly and under control, others will follow his example.
Don’t mistake this to mean that every other player will be having jitters and be huddled in a ball in the corner out of fear. These are professional hockey players. But Elias’ experience—not only in the league, but with this team—will need to serve as a calming force for the rest of the younger players.
If Elias can boost his scoring, his message will be particularly well-received by the rest of the locker room.