Then they ran into the Los Angeles Kings. The Western Conference eight seed was 12-2 and 8-0 on the road in the postseason up until the Finals. The Kings didn't slow down as they won the first three games in the Finals. However, the Devils won Game 4 in L.A. on Wednesday 3-1.
With the series headed back to New Jersey for Saturday's Game 5, the Devils should be glad to be heading home with a chance to get back in the series. But with L.A. being 10-0 on the road this postseason, that is not going to be easy. The Devils showed that they could win and that the Kings could be beaten, but there are several things that New Jersey must do to stay alive.
Win The Face-off Battle
The Devils won 34 face-offs in their 3-1 win Wednesday night, while L.A. won 29. With goals at such a premium this series, getting those face-off wins is vitally important, especially in the defensive zone. The Devils must keep the puck away from the Kings' offense. Carter and Elias must dominate the face-off circle against Kopitar. The Devils are 0-3 in the Finals when they lose the face-off battle, and won on Wednesday when they won the battle. The Devils must do the same on Saturday.
Capitalize On The Power Play
If New Jersey wants to win this series, they are going to have to get some production out of their power play. The Devils are an atrocious 0 for 13 on extra man opportunities this series, including a five on three chance. In Game 3, they had six power plays, and yet they only had 22 shots in the game and lost 4-0. The Devils must find a way to score on the power play if they want to have any chance to win.
Put Pucks On Net
The Devils have had 30-plus shots on net just once in the series. That was in Game 2 in which they had 33 and lost 2-1 in overtime. They have had fewer shots than the Kings in the three other games and have failed to have more than 24 shots. When the opponent's goalie is playing as well as Jonathan Quick is playing, the only way you are going to win is to put a lot of shots on net. New Jersey needs to start doing that if they want to win.
Take Advantage of Home Ice
The Los Angeles Kings have done an amazing job of taking away the home ice advantage from teams. But a Stanley Cup Finals team like the Devils should be able to stop that. The advantage of being on home ice, besides the fact that you know the rink and the arena and have the fans on your side, is that you get the last change on a stoppage of play. Head Coach Peter DeBoer needs to find a way to get the right guys out there at the right time to exploit certain matchups.
If New Jersey wants to have any shot at winning they need to capitalize on the few opportunities that they have. If they cannot find a way to fix these issues, expect to see L.A. hoist the trophy on Saturday.