Oh sure New Jersey was hopping. With a Bruce Springsteen cover band singing “Born in the USA outside – and actually sounding a lot like “The Boss” and a sea of red inside the Prudential Center, it was hard to believe this was is an organization fighting for attention in the Metropolitan Area.
Yet, Newark’s team was in the Stanley Cup Finals with a golden opportunity to make a statement in Game 1. However, for some reason they came out flat and the Devils played hard for about 35 minutes of the game.
“Yeah, I think we’re going to have to find another level,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “I feel we have another level. I thought we came out a little tentative, as was expected for a Stanley Cup Final game. I thought we got better as the game went on. That’s a team you’ve got to play 60 minutes against.
“The good news is we started in the same hole against Philly, we started in the same hole against the Rangers. We responded to the situation in the right way the last two rounds, and I expect the same.”
Big difference here. The Flyers played defense as if they were coached by Mike D’Antoni, while the Rangers believed the best offense was a really good goaltender with shot blocking defensemen.
The Los Angeles Kings are a different animal. They have the Henrik Lundqvist-like goalie in Jonathan Quick, the defense that will never quit and scoring forwards like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, which make them the biggest challenge to New Jersey so far.
So, even though Martin Brodeur was good enough to get the game to overtime with 23 saves, he couldn’t stop Anze Kopitar’s goal on a breakaway with 11:47 left in overtime to take Game 1, 2-1.
“Every time you get on the road you need a team effort,” Kopitar said. “It showed again tonight. We had four lines going, six D. Jonathan was great at net for us again. We got to continue doing that.”
All throughout these playoffs, the Kings ruled the road and tonight they showed no sympathy for the Devils. Undefeated away from Southern California, Los Angeles seems to player when the crowd is against them. Tonight they didn’t seem to mind the 17,626 screaming Garden State backers, who hurled insults to the opposition with the best of them.
And if the Devils plan on doing anything in this series, they will need a 60 minute effort on Saturday night. They can’t take any time off during the game, frankly because the Kings are just too good.
“I think it was probably the worst game in the playoffs for us,” said Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a very quiet night with one shot on goal. “We were maybe a little too nervous before the game, but no excuses. We had our chances in the end.”
Sure the Devils had their chances but with a goalie like Quick those opportunities usually turn into saves. It’s impossible for New Jersey to compete if they don’t give a maximum effort.
DeBoer pointed out the last two series. They both started on the road for New Jersey, who was able to take home ice with a Game 2 win. This time it was the Kings who took the home ice away. Now the Devils will be fighting for a split before their trip to Hollywood.
If they give a maximum effort, they should be fine.
But if they don’t, the Kings will rule again. And DeBoer knows that.
“I think our group has done a pretty good job of self-analyzing, you know, looking at the game and realizing, both individually and collectively where we have to get better,” he said. “We have two days to do that. We’ll be better on Saturday night.”
And if they don’t the hole may be too great for the Devils to climb.