The New Jersey Devils finally found a way to get past Kings goalie Jon Quick in Game 4, defeating L.A. 3-1 and avoiding a finals sweep. Nevertheless, with the series heading back to New Jersey, the Kings have played some of their best hockey on the road, and they'll look to end their nearly 45-year championship drought tonight.
Despite ending Jon Quick’s streak of 139 minutes of shutout hockey, there is no reason to doubt the young goaltender and question the King’s chance of winning the Cup this evening. However, at the other end of the ice, there is still good reason to believe in the Devils, as Martin Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, is also playing very well.
Essentially, Game 6 comes down to whose offense can figure out the opposing goalie.
On paper, the Devils have a much stronger offensive group. Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias, Zajac and Henrique are all very talented and productive offensive players. However, the Kings have shown their young talent is more than capable of creating scoring opportunities, and Jon Quick has outplayed Martin Brodeur up to this point.
The question is whether the Devils' stars can get hot after finally breaking out of their slump in Game 4 and continue to win against a very strong defensive team.
Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Mike Richards and Drew Doughty have played very well in the postseason and are clearly not intimidated by a goalie like Brodeur. Nevertheless, after Game 4, Marty is as likely as anyone to catch fire and absolutely shut down an offensive group. Though they are talented, they cannot match the play of a very deep and quick Devils team.
In order for the King’s to win, they simply need to keep playing their game of attrition. In Game 4, they allowed some of the Devils' key offensive players to get clear shots on Quick and break open the game. While Quick covers up a lot of defensive miscues, the Devils have too much talent to be allowed open shots and opportunities in transition.
In Game 5, the Kings need to focus almost entirely on their defense and not permitting the Devils to score early and take control of the game’s momentum through their offense. The King’s want a low-scoring game in which they need to net only one or two goals in order to win. They simply cannot be successful against the Devils in a run-and-gun type game. They need to rely on their terrific young goalie, provide him with as much help as possible and be patient, waiting for the right opportunity to strike offensively and get an easy goal either in transition or off a tip in front of the net.
It’s a tough call, but ultimately I look for the Devils to take Game 5 and force a sixth.
Their offense gained some much-needed confidence in Game 4, and facing elimination I expect them to play their best game. Their frustration thus far should give them extra motivation to play hard and fast Devils hockey. Although I have learned to never bet against Jon Quick, I think the Devils are too good to allow the Kings to walk with the Cup in five games, in their own building no less.
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