Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Devils Who Must Step Up to Extend Final Series

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJune 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  Dainius Zubrus #8 of the New Jersey Devils slides on the ice for the puck against Trevor Lewis #22 and Dwight King #74 of the Los Angeles Kings in Game Four of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have had an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals and have had a successful season regardless, but they will need big performances from some key players down the stretch if they want a fighter's chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

History would tell you that teams down 3-0 in a playoff series are all but done for, but don't tell that to the Devils. On the heels of their first series win, a 3-1 third period drubbing of the Los Angeles Kings, you can bet they are feeling good about themselves and are ready to extend the series yet again.

Adam Henrique proved his worth by netting a game-winner just past the shoulder of stud Jonathan Quick, who is a lock to win the series MVP if the Kings close out in Game 5. Martin Brodeur also willed his team to a win in net to keep his hopes alive of winning a fourth Stanley Cup.

But they will need more production from players not named Henrique or Brodeur in order to claw back in this series, and these are the players who need to get it done. 


Ilya Kovalchuk

The New Jersey breadwinner has yet to make much of an impact on this series, despite putting it all out there and trying effortlessly. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his third period empty net goal as Mike Richards #10 of the Los Angeles Kings skates by in Game Four of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 6, 2012 in Los
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The obvious power-play quarterback for the Devils managed just five shots on net in their first three games of the series, playing a big part in New Jersey's 3-0 hole early on in the series. From someone we should expect five shots per game from, this was an inexcusable performance. 

He also was held pointless until his empty-netter to win Game 4.

He has been reportedly struggling with a back injury throughout the playoffs and there is no telling how much that could be throwing off his game. But injured or not, they will need his best to get back in this series.


Dainius Zubrus

Zubrus has been one of the main components of New Jersey's run to the Cup, but he is coming up short in this Finals series.

He got off to a poor start in the series with penalty trouble, getting into the box in each Games 1 and 2. He has been invisible offensively and has not made much of an impact on either side of the ice despite playing a generous amount of minutes per game.

For a player who played in all 82 regular season games and tallied 44 points, it is unclear why he cannot get himself going in this series.


Marek Zidlicky

Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky was brought in to be the hub of the defense and an impact player in front of Brodeur, but he has been inconsistent this series and needs to improve his game.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04:  Marek Zidlicky #2 of the New Jersey Devils moves the puck ahead of Dustin Penner #25 of the Los Angeles Kings in Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by
Harry How/Getty Images

Perhaps the most evident sign of Zidlicky's poor series was in Game 3. He got himself in the penalty box two times, not only putting the Devils on the penalty kill but scrapping a top-line defender for the kill as well. They ended up losing the game by the score of 4-0.

Zidlicky is in his first season with the Devils and has played magnificently since his arrival, but he will need to be unstoppable on the defensive end and avoid making costly mistakes for New Jersey to even have a chance at beating the unstoppable Kings.