The New Jersey Devils enter their second straight elimination game having twice played a game on this date in the calendar year, both in each of their previous two Cup Finals.
Three of their active players will remember it all well enough. Two of them, Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias, have a mixed bag of memories while the other carries a double-dose of vinegar. Although second-time Devils forward Petr Sykora also had a more triumphant moment in an elimination game on June 9, 2009.
But on June 9, 2001, all three brooked bitter defeat together as the Devils missed their chance to repeat as champions, conceding a 3-1 decision in Game 7 to the Colorado Avalanche. Precisely two years later, in the exact same situation, they returned to the summit of the NHL with a 3-0 triumph over Sykora and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
This year, there is only one way the Cup can be doled out on June 9 yet again, namely if the host Devils drop Game 5 to the Los Angeles Kings at Newark’s Prudential Center.
In the 20 years since the NHL first starting spilling its postseason into June, the Cup has been clinched on the ninth day of the month four times.
Of the two cases not involving the Devils, one fell in 2010, when Patrick Kane’s overtime goal gave the Blackhawks a six-game victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The other was in 1993, when the Canadiens finished off none other than the Kings in Game 5 with a 4-1 victory at the Montreal Forum.
The current incarnation of the Los Angeles franchise is hoping to put a 360-degree spin on its June 9 fortunes with a Game 5 clincher. Doing so would virtually copy the way the Devils turned their luck around with a redemptive Game 7 victory in 2003.
The Kings also hope to avoid becoming the third team to blow a potential June 9 closeout, the first two being the 1994 New York Rangers and 2009 Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers allowed the Vancouver Canucks to force Game 6 with a 6-3 falter while the Wings let the Pittsburgh Penguins draw a 3-3 knot in their series through a 2-1 decision.
Sykora, though sparsely used by the Penguins in that 2009 run, took part in that game, his only appearance in the series ultimately won by Pittsburgh with an identical 2-1 triumph in Game 7.
Elias, New Jersey’s only skating holdover from the franchise’s last title team, was likewise in action with Brodeur and Sykora when they relinquished their title to Colorado in 2001. He would garner the primary assist as Sykora managed to rob eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Roy’s shutout bid, but not before the host Avalanche wrested the game out of reach with three unanswered goals.
More recently, Sykora was reinserted for Game 4 of this year’s finals after previously sitting out the previous six contests. He posted a plus-one rating while Elias broke the ice and Brodeur repelled all but one of 22 shots en route to a season-saving 4-1 victory in Los Angeles.
All three will be banked on for a comparable follow-up in front of the home masses at the Prudential Center on Saturday, with Broduer trying to improve his June 9 record to 2-1, Elias the same and Sykora to 3-1.