Stanley Cup Final 2012: New Jersey Devils Win Would Be Biggest Upset in History
With surprising back-to-back wins in Games 4 and 5, the New Jersey Devils will bring newfound confidence and momentum into Monday's Game 6.
The once written-off Devils will seek to tie the series with the Los Angeles Kings this evening at the Staples Center.
If they succeed, New Jersey will be only the third team in history to rally back from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final and force a Game 7.
If they fail, however, the Stanley Cup will rest in the hands of the heavily-favored Kings for the rest of the summer.
These 2011-2012 Devils are used to being the underdogs, though.
Coming off of a disappointing 11th-place finish in 2010-11 and sporting one of the oldest rosters in the league, few expected New Jersey to even qualify for the playoffs this spring.
They did, in the end, but not by much—it wasn't until March 31st that the Devils clinched their postseason berth.
Then it was off to the sunny skies of Florida, where the upstart Florida Panthers, making their first playoff appearance since 2001, pushed the Devils all the way to a Game 7 overtime before conceding.
And then began the magic of New Jersey's postseason run of 2012.
At last, in came an NHL title-deciding series with the Kings, pioneers of one of the most dominant playoff runs the hockey world had ever seen.
Led by star goaltender Jonathan Quick, L.A. had risen from the lowly eighth seed to destroy each of the Western Conference's top three clubs en route to the Stanley Cup Final, losing only two of 14 games along the way.
At that point, no one dared to bet against the Kings—over 70 percent of voters in a Bleacher Report poll picked Los Angeles to win from the start—and, truthfully, no one should have. L.A. quickly opened up a 3-0 series lead in the series' first week, outscoring the Devils 8-2 while pulling within one game of hoisting the cup.
But then, the tide began to change.
New Jersey stunned the Kings' hometown crowd with a 3-1 victory in Game 4 and then grabbed the momentum with a hard-fought 2-1 win in Saturday's Game 5. Already, the Devils are the first team since 1945 to rally from a 3-0 Stanley Cup Final deficit to force a sixth game.
And now, New Jersey hopes to extend that date three more years.
The NHL boasted only seven total teams then, however, and the Red Wings had a losing record in the regular season. Today, they wouldn't have even qualified for the playoffs, much less have had the opportunity for a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
Will New Jersey complete the comeback and win the Cup?
Toronto's eventual victory could hardly be called an upset.
The Devils, on the other hand, would need to win 16 games to take the crown (compared to the Leafs' mere eight) and do so against a cornucopia of opponents with regular-season records far better than theirs (conversely, the '42 Leafs were the higher seed in both of their series).
The 3-0 deficit aside, the Devils would also be the lowest seed to ever win the Stanley Cup in any fashion.
No squad seeded sixth or lower has ever won the NHL title—in fact, they never even had the chance to until the league expanded to the current playoff format in 1994. Oddly, the fifth-seeded N.J. Devils of 1995 are the lowest-ranked club to ever win the Stanley Cup before this summer.
These 2012 Devils' uphill climb to reach the summit is far from over—they still must overcome the odds by winning both games left in the series, including Monday's duel in the Kings' own lair.
Nevertheless, the possibility of the biggest upset in Stanley Cup history is currently, at least, plausible.
Can New Jersey continue to keep that hope for a history book-shattering Stanley Cup title alive?
We'll see tonight.
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