The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - NBC, CBC, RDS; Radio - 1130 AM WBBR
The Last Game: In a game in which many ‘fans' and mainstream media had written off the Devils, the Devils survived a hard fought battle and persevered in game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings , escaping from LA with a 3-1 victory, to take their first game of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. After two scoreless periods-with the Kings having the better of the opportunities-things opened up a bit in the third.
Patrik Elias was able to get the Devils on the board first, putting home a rebound from a Bryce Salvador shot. After the worst penalty in the history of modern hockey, the Kings quickly bounced back a little over a minute later on a power play goal by defenseman Drew Doughty. At 1-1 with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period, things started to look bleak for New Jersey. But then, he did it again. In a fantastic sequence, rookie Adam Henrique, taking a pass from David Clarkson was able to control the pass, get the puck in a shooting position and shoot the puck past Jonathan Quick for the 2-1 lead. An Ilya Kovalchuk empty netter iced the game late, and the Devils avoided the sweep, took game 4 and headed back to New Jersey with a little bit of momentum. John's recap of that game is here.
The Game Specific Goal: Make sure there is a game scheduled for Monday. Win. Survive. All those sentiments apply here. The Devils are faced with their fourth elimination game of the playoffs and hope to continue to stave off their summer vacation for a shot at game 6 back in Los Angeles. We all know the key points the Devils have to focus on; getting the puck on net, establishing a consistent forecheck and capitalizing on the few opportunities the Kings defense and Jonathan Quick give up.
If you want an opponent's point of view, please check out SBN site Jewels from the Crown. More thoughts after the jump.
Why NOT us?
During the Devils media sessions early Friday afternoon, a popular phrase has quickly caught the notice of many. Devils coach Pete DeBoer, when questioned by the press and faced with the enormity of the task still at hand and all the statistics associated with it that make the Devils chances seem slim, said ‘Why Not Us?'
"You know it’s going to happen again, so why not us? DeBoer asked. "That’s the approach. You’re not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. It’s been long enough. It might as well be us."
He's right. Why Not Us? (or them) Hockey, unlike other sports with seven game series, seems to have had more frequent comebacks from down 3-0 or 3-1, just not during the Stanley Cup Final. But why not in the Stanley Cup Final...why not now? This Devils team has run off streaks of wins during this playoff season of two, three and four consecutive games already. The current task still seems enormous but it is only three wins. That's it. The Devils needed to win four straight games. One down, three to go.
Tallinders Return Give Defense a Boost:
One of the surprising things that popped up before game 4 was the insertion of Henrik Tallinder into the Devils lineup. Out since January 17th because of a blood clot, Tallinder stepped right into the lineup and didn't seem to show any rust coming off such a long break. Tallinder, the Devils best defender since the beginning of the 2010 season through his injury in January, gave the Devils a veteran presence on the blue line that helped spread out the tough assignments between all three defensive pairings. Having another solid, big-bodied, solid skating defenseman was a welcome addition to the lineup and certainly helped the Devils in being able to limit scoring chances for the Kings late in the third period when trying to keep their lead.
The Salvador/Volchenkov Pairing:
I like the toughness and physicality that Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador brings to the defense. I just think I like them more on different pairings. On the penalty kill they have been great this season. That said, should they really be on the same pairing at even strength? Their lack of speed and at times poor passing was evident as the Devils were lucky that the Kings did not capitalize on any of the odd man breaks that the pairing was on the ice against. It will be interesting to see how the Devils coaching staff matches this pairing up against the Kings now that the Devils are home and have the last change at the Rock. You can argue that perhaps they should be on the ice for more defensive zone faceoffs as their lack of speed wouldn't be exploited as much as opposed to having to recover defensively in reaction to a quick attack by the Kings from the offensive zone/neutral zone.
If the Devils have been consistent in one area during the playoffs it's that they don't change their lineup after a win. So, unless there is an injury the lineup that the Devils will ice tonight will be the one you see for the rest of the season. However long it lasts.
The only possible change I think you might argue for is Jacob Josefson in the lineup for the struggling David Clarkson (barely over 9 minutes of even strength ice time in game 4), but with Clarkson's proclivity to score in big spots (and Josefson's own reluctance to shot) I don't think you make that change--or any other change-right now.
For those of you lucky to go to tonight's game, the team needs your support. The players have commented numerous times over the past few days about getting the series back to New Jersey because the fans deserve it. The Devils players did their part, and now its time for the fans to cheer like it's the last game they may see for three months. Make the Rock as loud, if not louder, than when the Devils played either the Rangers or Flyers.
And should the result look to be unfavorable tonight remember that there is still a possibility that this could be the last game that the face of the franchise, Martin Brodeur, ever plays for New Jersey. Cheer and salute accordingly.
Perhaps it is because I've already mentally accepted the prospect of a series loss, because I'm not nervously awaiting the start of this game like other games as I fully believe the Devils win tonight and the series goes back to Los Angeles for a pivotal game six.
What are your thoughts on tonight's game? Why NOT them? What did you think of the Volchenkov/Salvador pairing? Were you surprised at how well Tallinder played? Who are you looking for to be the hero for New Jersey tonight? Thanks for reading and sound off below.