Already down three games to none in the Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey Devils need to quickly scramble something together in order to extend the series to at least Game 5.
The Los Angeles Kings have dominated the Devils thus far, and now have New Jersey on the brink of elimination. With Game 4 approaching, Devils head coach Peter DeBoer needs to hastily find a solution for a pesky Kings team.
While the Devils were able keep both home games close enough to require an overtime period, New Jersey had no answer for the Kings at the Staples Center in Game 3. Los Angeles blasted the Devils 4-0 and have now outscored the Devils 8-2 in the series.
If the Devils wish to claw back into this series—or at least avoid being swept—the first order of business needs to be finding a way to get past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
In three games, the Devils have only found the back of the net twice, as Quick continues the hot streak of superb goaltending that has brought the Kings this far in the playoffs. If the Devils plan on taking Game 4, they will need to increase their offensive output.
The Devils main offensive stars Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac each tallied seven goals in the playoff games leading up to the finals. However, so far in the Stanley Cup Finals, all three have been held scoreless. Not even an assist has come off the stick of the Devils’ big three scorers.
With 44 postseason points, the Devils relied heavily on their top scoring line to guide them through the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, that line has not shown up so far in the finals. While the Kings have seemingly found an answer to the Devils’ top scorers, no one on the New Jersey bench has stepped up into a scoring role.
New Jersey can spark its struggling offense by capitalizing on more extra-man opportunities. The Devils power play is 0-for-12 so far in the Stanley Cup series. If New Jersey can put a power-play goal in the net, the momentum may be enough to help string a couple goals together and send the series back to New Jersey for an opportunity to play in front of their home crowd at least one more time.
While getting past Quick is a quite daunting task, slowing down the Kings’ offense on their home ice is equally intimidating.
However, the Devils need to keep the game low scoring if they want a chance to win. If the Devils allow the Kings to build a lead as they did in Game 3, or find themselves in a shootout with LA, they will be at an incredible disadvantage.
During their entire 2012 playoff run, the Kings have only dropped two contests. Both losses came in the fourth game of the series (Game 4 vs. Vancouver in the Western Conference quarterfinals and Game 4 vs. Phoenix in the Western Conference finals). In both instances, LA’s opponents were able to temporarily shut down the Kings’ potent offense, holding them to one and zero goals, respectively.
The Devils need to play outstanding defense in Game 4, which starts with 40-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur’s performance. If he can post a stellar save percentage and hold the Kings to under two goals in regulation, like he did in Games 1 and 2, Brodeur will put his team in an excellent position to get a win.
The Devils defense could give Brodeur a hand by blocking more shots and stiffening up their penalty kill. The Devils have been out-blocked by Los Angeles 36-24 in the past two games, while the Kings went 2-for-2 on power-play opportunities in Game 3.
The Devils will need to play better hockey on both ends of the ice if they want to topple a Los Angeles team that has dominated the 2012 NHL playoffs. If history repeats itself at all, the Devils may be in luck tonight, as they will have a chance to deliver the Kings’ third Game 4 loss of the playoffs and move the series back to New Jersey.
Unfortunately for the Devils, the road may get tougher with a win tonight, as the Kings are undefeated away from home during the Stanley Cup playoffs.