Devils-Kings Game 3 Preview: Where There's a Will There's a Way; But What About the Skill?
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
By Stan Fischler
For two games, the Devils tried Plan A -- as in win AT HOME -- and it failed by a one-goal sudden-death margin both times.
Now that the Stanley Cup Final has shifted to Los Angeles, it's imperative for coach Peter DeBoer to switch to Plan B -- as in BACK IN THE SERIES -- to avoid a dreadful sweep.
Game 3 on Monday night in Tinseltown is certain to include Plan B lineup changes because the obvious is staring DeBoer in the face and Pistol Pete isn't one to dismiss the cold, hard facts.
"We haven't scored enough," the coach allows and that may be the understatement of the half-century.
New Jersey's scorers aren't even "scorers" as we have come to believe in the term. Last Wednesday, the Devils lone goal belonged to defenseman Anton Volchenkov who scores about as often as my piano is tuned. On Saturday, Mister Goal Man was the Carter who didn't net the winning goal; fourth-liner Ryan Carter.
Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with either Anton or Ryan contributing, but where -- pray tell -- are the counted-upon lamplighters? Come out, come out wherever you are: Zach Parise, Ilya Kovlachuk, Patrik Elias, just to name a few mired in what seems like LA's LaBrea Tar Pits-on ice!
"The fourth line (Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier) has been doing its part," adds DeBoer. "They've been doing it for the entire playoffs. We have to keep getting efforts like that from them."
But the likeable coach knows that he needs more and that's why Plan B is likely to include the insertion of Petr Sykora back into the lineup; very likely on a line with his longtime colleague Elias. Sykora has been benched since the Rangers series when he was replaced by Jacob Josefson who added speed and some nifty face-off work.
Still, Sykora has a well-earned reputation as a clutch playoff scorer and if there's any magic left in his stick, now is the time to find out.
DeBoer may -- or may not -- concede that some of his defensemen have become enervated by the playoff war of attrition. Therefore it's quite possible that either rookie Adam Larsson or veteran Henrik Tallinder will be given an opportunity to turn the series in the Devils favor. Maybe even both.
While he's not exactly a Drew Doughty, whose spectacular end-to-end rush resulted in the Kings first goal in Game Two, Tallinder does have an offensive bent as does Larsson.
Certainly, either one could be granted a spot on the power play which was so ineffective in Game Two that quarterback Kovalchuk should have had a sign on his back reading: BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED!
Nevertheless, we should remember that the Devils not only outshot the Kings but had a territorial edge for much of the game if not the overtime.
"We played much better on Saturday than we did in the opener," DeBoer concedes. "We spent more time in their end of the ice, got more shots through to the net, got more points shot. We executed better."
All signs indicate that Kovalchuk is playing hurt; and if his shoulder is the problem -- as some suspect that it is -- Kovy should be moved off the point on the power play and down low on the left.
New Jersey's power play -- if it had been sharp it could have won both games -- inevitably fails because of a lost offensive zone face-off and misguided stretch passes. Obviously, face-offs must be won and, instead of the stretch pass, quick, break-out passes would be a solution. The PP operates too slowly; fast decisions are required.
While Jonathan Quick has performed nobly for LA, he's not invincible. One method of outsmarting him would be for the Devils to outnumber the Kings around their net; get rebounds; convert at the goal mouth.
Finally, and most important; once and for all, the stars must STAR. it begins with Parise and his center Travis Zajac lifting their games even higher than in Game Two when they failed on a promising two-on-one break. Elias and David Clarkson are capable of better results than we've seen in the first pair of games.
The Devils have proven that they can win on the road but if ever the sign "MUST WIN" belongs in the visitors’ dressing room on Monday night, it must be hung right now.
You can bet -- based on Saturday's night's gutsy effort -- that the Garden Staters have the will. The question is; have they the skill to go with the will?
The answer to that will determine whether we see a Game Five at The Rock next Saturday night!