Devils know they gotta believe
NEWARK, N.J. -- In all sports, the 0-3 series hole might as well be the equivalent of an open grave. The number of times that teams have overcome such a deep deficit can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And yet, the Devils haven't made their beds in the soil quite yet.
With a 3-1 Game 4 win in Los Angeles on Wednesday, New Jersey began the arduous process of climbing out of its deep hole. The odds are nowhere near in the Devils' favor, but as the series turns back to Newark for Game 5 on Saturday, a win can make their long shot just that much shorter.
"It's a long ways away for us," goalie Martin Brodeur conceded Friday. "We're just taking it day by day."
It isn't impossible, however. That's something captain Zach Parise knows. His father, J.P., played on the 1975 Islanders, one of the three teams that have risen from certain death. (The '42 Maple Leafs and the 2010 Flyers are the others that have overcome 0-3 deficits to win a series.) Longtime Devils broadcaster Chico Resch, too, was part of that team. And Parise remarked earlier this week that his father reminded him that he and Resch were living proof that it could be done.
"You know, it's going to happen again," coach Pete DeBoer said. "So, why not us? I think that's the approach. You're not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. So it's been long enough [since the '42 Leafs, who did it in the Final]. It might as well be us."
The Kings, however, have plenty riding in their favor. For one, there are many more than three series won by teams that built a 3-0 lead. There is also their immaculate road record this postseason. However, Los Angeles defenseman Matt Greene reads almost nothing into their 10-0 run as visitors. "We only know about it because [reporters] keep bringing it up," he said.
But even though it at the forefront of their minds, the Kings will come into the Prudential Center with the confidence of those 10 wins behind them, not to mention Conn Smythe-worthy goalie Jonathan Quick, whose spectacular play all spring has brought Los Angeles to the brink of its first Stanley Cup.
With his superb rebound control and athletic flexibility in net, Quick has been nothing short of sublime. Through the first three games of the series, he let in just two goals on 72 shots. The Devils had gone through another stellar goalie earlier in the postseason (Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers), but the book on Quick, a four-year NHL veteran, is not as lengthy as the one on Lundqvist, who entered the NHL in 2005.
The two goals New Jersey scored in Game 4, though, might have helped flesh out a chapter. "We need to get more goals like the [Patrik] Elias goal," DeBoer said on Friday. In the third period of Wednesday's game, Elias had perhaps bumped Quick on an initial point shot and then scored on the rebound from in close. "We've had people in those positions. We haven't stuck them in. [But] that's constantly something that has to get better for us. This guy is a great goalie. The more people, the more bodies, the more pucks around that net, the more we're going to get rewarded."
In four games, the Devils have only reaped the rewards once. And though it might be tempting to make drastic adjustments, New Jersey has not. Apart from a couple lineup changes -- the insertion of defenseman Henrik Tallinder and winger Petr Sykora, both veterans, for youngsters Peter Harrold and Jacob Josefson -- the general game plan and philosophy remains the same.
"We believe in what we're doing," DeBoer said. "Most nights it's about execution ... We're not a team that throws things out because they're not working."
Truth be told, most of what New Jersey has been doing has actually been working. The difference between the Devils and the Kings in the first two games was simply two spectacular plays, and sometimes that's all it takes. But as they look to push this Cup final just a little bit further, they may take some solace their 9-1 record this postseason in Games 4 through 7.
"We've been a team all year that's kind of dipped our toe in the pool to check the temperature before we've jumped in with both feet," DeBoer said. "That's been one of our characteristics, something we've been trying to get out of ... As a series goes on, we recognize what's working for us and what isn't. We try and fix those things. [But] the luxury we've had the other three series, you know, we haven't dropped three games in a row."
And that really could be the difference. But belief is all the Devils have now, belief in their system and belief in each other.
"If we didn't believe, we wouldn't be showing up every night," winger David Clarkson said. "We always believe in here. We're going to give everything we have every shift and every play. That's all we can do right now."