As negligible as the consequences appeared in the scoreboard in the wake of a 2-1 overtime loss, the New Jersey Devils set a terrifying tone for the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday.
Within the first two minutes and six seconds of action, they were called for three consecutive icings.
By the end of regulation, the Devils had been whistled for icing seven times as opposed to the two occasions the Los Angeles Kings committed the same infraction. In overtime, two more icings worked in favor of the visiting Kings and only one for New Jersey.
And although they occurred nearly a minute apart, it is worth noting that the Devils’ ninth and final icing of the night was the last stoppage of play before they surrendered the winning goal.
A more assertive defense and transition game on New Jersey’s part will be in order in Saturday’s Game 2. The Devils must cut down on L.A.’s time of puck possession and find a way to clear their zone by a more licit means.
Anything less can only bring on a similar vicious cycle from Wednesday’s series opener, wherein the Kings outshot the Devils, 25-17, and trumped them in terms of attempted shots, 54-34.
Quicker and more cunning clearance of the defensive zone will naturally bring about more opportunities for head coach Peter DeBoer to change units. In turn, there should be a more consistent and more diverse outpouring of offensive pushes.
On New Jersey’s end, only Zach Parise, David Clarkson and Adam Henrique landed more than one shot on net in Game 1, combining for eight, or nearly half of the total team output. The rest of L.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick’s tests came one apiece from nine individual Devils while six skaters, including four forwards, were held shotless.
By contrast, all 12 Los Angeles forwards managed at least one shot on goal. Half of their strike force waged multiple bids at Martin Brodeur, including the leaned-on Anze Kopitar, whose team-leading fourth stab proved the sudden-death clincher.
Kopitar’s individual output of four registered shots on seven attempts almost matched the combined output of New Jersey’s top three scorers. Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac logged an aggregate five shots on eight attempts.
Further down the depth chart, the Devils’ third-round heroes from the fourth line turned in a transcript more typical of their job description. Of the nominally bottom troika, only Ryan Carter took any shots with three on net while he, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta threw two, four and five hits, respectively.
But as L.A. fourth-liner Colin Fraser’s icebreaker proved, every skater will need to chip in a little something in every fundamental facet of the game to ensure each team’s best odds. For Carter and his linemates, this means looking to spend less time chasing and pinning puck-carriers and more time being the puck-carriers.
Even with their shortcomings in Game 1, the Devils ought to be encouraged by the mere fact that they still made this one of the Kings’ harder-earned nine road wins in these playoffs.
If not for such moments as Mark Fayne’s near-miss at the halfway mark of the third period, they may even have gotten away with a win, with none other than Carter and Bernier assisting on the decider.
Since they didn’t, the Devils can set their eyes on Saturday and on a drastically different start, which should amount to a paradoxically minor and major tweak on the scoreboard.