Devils-Kings Game 6 Preview: How Shaky Is the Kings' Throne? We Find Out Monday!
Saturday, February 25, 2017
By Stan Fischler
VINCIBLE -- That may be conquered: As defined by Webster's Dictionary.
The Los Angeles Kings have gone from invincible to vincible in one easy week.
For that uneasy state of Stanley Cup Final affairs, they can blame the New Jersey Devils as a group and Martin Brodeur as chief protagonist.
That explains why Monday night's Game Six in beautiful, Downtown Los Angeles looms as the most momentous hockey game since last June 15 when Boston beat the Canucks in Vancouver to take the title.
A series that once was in the bag for an LA team that boasted a three-games-to-none lead now is virtually up for grabs, although a win at home for Darryl Sutter's outfit will turn Tinseltown upside down and sideways for an encore.
And if -- as the bromide goes -- turnabout is fair play, the Garden State lads have won the last two games fair and square on superior goaltending and obvious opportunism.
The Ancient Mariner, Brodeur, has been one save better than sometimes wunderkind, Jonathan Quick, in each of the last two New Jersey victories while the likes of Patrik Elias and Zach Parise have been among the more opportunistic Devils, each scoring the vital first goal for the Newark-ites.
But while about 103 percent of the media has "Miracle" on their minds, coach Peter DeBoer knows that in order to match the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs feat of winning four straight after losing the first trio in the Final, you have to win Game Six to get to The Finale. And, brother-sister, that ain't easy because Quick sounds like -- but doesn't equate with -- quit.
"All five games have been close," observes the Kings puck-stopper from Connecticut. "It comes down to who gets the bounces. We got the bounces in the other (first three) games and then they got the bounces. Now we're refocusing for Game Six."
So are the Devils, who are quick to admit that they did not play a super-duper game on Saturday night at The Rock. What they did -- with pluck and luck -- was withstand assorted LA blitzes in each of the three periods. As has been their custom through most of the four playoff rounds, they bent but they didn't break.
They held fast in the first ten minutes when coach Sutter's six threw everything but the Hackensack River at Brodeur. After Justin Williams tied the game, Bryce Salvador put the locals ahead to stay with a shot that seemed to change direction at Secaucus Junction before making a three-point landing behind Quick.
In the third period all the Kings horses and all of Sutter's men couldn't put the game back together again and, as Quick succinctly explained his loss, "We didn't win; that's how you assess it."
Never mind Quick's quick X-Ray, here's how The Maven assesses Game Six:
*QUICK CONCERNS: The Kings' goalie no longer has a hermetically-sealed net and that plays in New Jersey's favor. What's more, Long Jonathan is not a master puckhandler as proven by the Parise goal. If the Devils force Quick to do more stick work, the rubber just may wind up on a visitor's stick in the manner that it did for Parise on Saturday night. "It's nice that we're finding holes on him," smiles DeBoer. We'll know who has the last laugh Quick enough!
*WHO'S BETTER?: None of the Devils were fooled by their Game Five win. Parise said as much while lauding the Kings overall game. Both captain and coach understand that, to remain alive for a Game Seven, they must improve their forecheck to the success level it enjoyed against the Rangers while figuring better ways and means of clearing their own zone. What allowed the Devils to escape elimination in Game Five -- fortuitous bounces -- may not be available at Staples Center.
*SLEEPING GIANTS: His relieve-the-pressure open-net goal in Game Four notwithstanding, Ilya Kovalchuk has not been the offensive threat Devils fans had hoped he would be. Then again, Kings captain Dustin Brown's gun has been muzzled, not to mention Mike Richards'. If any of the aforementioned has a bust-out Game Six we could be seeing champagne on South Figueroa Street or yet another squadron of flights back to Newark International Airport. Then again, we might say the same about the respective offensive defense aces on each squad, Drew Doughty and Marek Zidlicky.
*PRESSURE: As my insightful colleague, David Kolb, points out, "It will be interesting to see how the Kings react to their bubbles being popped. This is the first time they're playing a Game Six in the playoffs." Or if you want more sage synonyms, try buddy Gus Vic: "Sutter's message should be simple, 'Monday or else!'"
CONCLUSION: The Kings have the bigger, faster, more consistently threatening team. On Saturday night they delivered their best 60-minute effort and Quick produced some dazzling saves despite the defeat. A repeat in Game Six should seal the deal for LA. However, there is one caveat and that's included in Brodeur's proclamation before jetting West:
"We could have packed it in a couple of games ago. We have a bunch of resilient guys who want to make history and win The Stanley Cup!"
Like yourself, The Maven can't wait for the opening puck drop! So, take a lot of deep breaths and long exhales; then sit back and relax. Or at least try to while the boys go about their critical business on the ice.