Stanley Cup Finals 2012: Devils' Stars Must Step Up to Even Series with Kings
In a matter of three days, the New Jersey Devils have gone from potentially swept to suddenly relevant.
New Jersey has gotten minimal production from their top forwards in the series, but Martin Brodeur has shown why he is the best goalie in the history of the NHL, coming up with huge save after huge save.
Facing elimination in Game 4 in L.A., New Jersey played its best hockey of the series and got the best of Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Devils did a solid job of pressuring the Kings in the offensive zone and crashing the net, helping set up Patrick Elias' goal with 12 minutes left in the game.
Adam Henrique's top-shelf game-winning goal in Game 4 gave new life to a New Jersey team struggling to find its way against the No. 8 seed from the Western Conference.
For the third straight game, it's win or go home for New Jersey. Game 6 in L.A. will be the Devils' toughest challenge this season with nearly 19,000 rowdy fans waiting to hoist the Stanley Cup in Hollywood.
New Jersey has been resilient the last two games, and if it can withstand a hungry Kings team ready to close out the series, then Game 7 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. is only two days away.
If that's going to happen, Brodeur is going to need a little help from his friends.
During the regular season, Bryce Salvador had no goals and nine assists. He has three points in his last two games.
Salvador netted the game-winner in Game 5 for New Jersey and has been on a tear this postseason. After missing the entire 2010-11 season with a concussion, Salvador has reveled in his first playoff action in two years, scoring 14 points in 24 games.
The Devils' veteran defenseman was able to stay out of the penalty box in the first three games of the series but wound up in the box early on in Game 4.
With the exception of their Game 3 outburst where they shutout the Devils 4-0, the Kings have had a difficult time putting the puck in the net. Salvador has been key to New Jersey's success the last two games finishing with a plus-three rating in that span.
Like most of the New Jersey Devils, Travis Zajac has yet to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals.
After scoring 10 points in the first two series, Zajac has only managed four points in his last 10 games. His two assists in his last two games have been minimal satisfaction for Zajac to say the least.
When on the ice, he has the potential to change the game instantly. L.A. has done a great job silencing the New Jersey forwards in the series, and Zajac is still searching for his first goal since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
He put five shots on goal in Game 5 and the Devils' consistent pressure over the last two games has been pivotal to their success against the Kings.
New Jersey captain Zach Parise finally made himself relevant in the Stanley Cup Finals by scoring a goal in Game 5.
Until then, Parise was about as relevant to the New Jersey offense as Ringo Starr was when it came to writing songs for The Beatles.
Hopefully, a goal in Game 5 can jump start Parise's game, since it has been absent for the majority of the series.
He will be one of the most sought-after free agents available after the season ends, and his inability to perform on the biggest stage in hockey could affect his potential suitors' decision on what kind of offer to make him.
Could somebody please explain what has happened to Ilya Kovalchuk? With the exception of an empty-netter in Game 4, he hasn't scored a single point in the entire Stanley Cup Finals.
Kovalchuk finished the regular season with 37 goals and 46 assists and continued to dominate throughout the entire postseason.
Until the Stanley Cup Finals.
Kovalchuk had 18 points in New Jersey's first three series, but since then, he has been a complete disappointment.
His wrist shot off the crossbar in the closing seconds of Game 2 was an inch away from finding the back of the net. Since then, he hasn't done anything.
It's been a tall task for the Devils to crawl back from the abyss against the Kings these last two games. Needless to say, if Kovalchuk continues to struggle in Game 6, there will be no fairy tale-comeback for New Jersey.