The New Jersey Devils are in danger of becoming the latest NHL team to be steamrolled by the Los Angeles Kings.
The Devils played one of their worst games of the playoffs in dropping the Stanley Cup opener 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday and they cannot afford another sub-par effort.
Lose two games at home to a team that has posted a 9-0 record on the road this post-season, and the guys who lug around ice hockey’s biggest prize might start shining it in earnest after today’s contest at the Prudential Center.
The situation is desperate for coach Peter DeBoer’s team. While they missed chances to win the opener, they also made a slew of mistakes that ranged from bad dump-ins of pucks, being tentative on the ice, failing to shoot when the shot was there and leaving the Kings open. The most glaring error came in overtime when Anze Kopitar scored on a breakaway.
The problems can be fixed. The bad news is that the Kings were not exactly at their best either ... and still won.
If you are a Devil, here is a scary fact. The Kings have played some of their best ice hockey in Game 2s of their three previous series, beating Vancouver, St Louis and Phoenix by a combined 13-4 margin to take a commanding 2-0 series lead back to Los Angeles each time.
Kings captain Dustin Brown said that the Darryl Sutter-coached team has done a good job of not being satisfied after winning Game 1.
“In Game 2, it’s been our starts,” Brown said. “Some teams get a win and they are satisfied. This group hasn’t been and it goes a long way when you come out in Game 2 and really put it to them.”
“It’s demoralizing,” he said.
The Devils have done an outstanding job of battling back from 1-0 deficits against Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. They won four straight after losing the opener in overtime against Philadelphia and four of five against local rivals the Rangers. This is a different team, though. The Kings are playing better than any team in the NHL now, posting a 13-2 post-season record.
The Devils were at their best in the opener when they got their forecheck going and cycled the puck down low in the third period. However, their mistakes led to chances and only a good game by Martin Brodeur kept New Jersey in it.