- Craig Custance
NEWARK, N.J. -- Both recent and extended history suggest the Stanley Cup finals are over. This postseason, the Los Angeles Kings have made a habit of losing Game 4, then finishing off their opponent in Game 5. They did that against both the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes.
It's also been since 1942 that an NHL team has come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the Stanley Cup final. That's the only time it happened.
"People always look to what's happened in the past, what's happened in history. That has no impact on our series right now," said New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise. "That's our approach. It doesn't matter. We know the odds and the numbers are stacked against us. It doesn't bother us."
It was a loose Devils dressing room on Friday led by head coach Pete DeBoer, who joked about his intense focus in Game 4 despite the potential distractions behind him in the front row in L.A.
"I thought that question was going [to be] about the lady behind our bench last game," he said to laughs when asked about his team's focus. "I thought we were heading that way. You saw my 100 percent focus on the game. That's discipline, I'll tell you."
And why wouldn't the Devils be loose? We've all awarded the Cup to the Kings, so the pressure is on them to deliver it.
New Jersey still believes it has a chance, and a win on Saturday will strengthen their case considerably. Here are five reasons why it may not be time to count out a historical comeback:
1. New Jersey gets better as each playoff series advances
The Devils haven't lost a game in any series after Game 4 since the first round, when the Florida Panthers beat them in Game 5. Their record in Game 4 through 7 in this postseason is 9-1. "We've been a team all year that's kind of dipped our toe in the pool to check the temperature before we've jumped in with both feet," DeBoer said. "That's been one of our characteristics all year, something we've been trying to get out of."
Parise credited the coaching staff's ability to make changes as a series progresses as the biggest reason for their late success in each playoff series. "We do a good job of learning and making adjustments, so maybe that has something to do with why we get better as the series goes on," Parise said. "Hopefully that will be the case in this one too."
Today will be Martin Brodeur's 204th career playoff game. That's 173 more than his counterpart Jonathan Quick. There isn't much Brodeur hasn't seen, and New Jersey feeds off that steady presence. In the three games in which the Devils' season could have ended, Brodeur has stopped 78 of 83 shots. The future Hall of Famer isn't going to let the Kings win this thing without a serious fight. "Brodeur was awesome the other night," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter of Brodeur's performance in Game 4. "We need Jonathan [Quick] to be that tomorrow."
3. The Devils' stars are overdue
The next point Parise registers in the finals will be his first. He hasn't scored a goal since May 23 and that was an empty-netter against the Rangers in Game 5 of that series. Ilya Kovalchuk's only goal of the finals was the empty-netter that sealed the Game 4 win in Los Angeles. At some point, one of these guys is bound to break through. DeBoer has said for a few days now that they're on the verge.
"They're very close. You just got to stick with it. It's frustrating. It's pressure. I mean, you guys talk to them on a daily basis. You write about that fact," he said. "They recognize that if they weren't getting chances, I'd be concerned. They easily could have a couple goals each."
4. This series is much closer than 3-1
The Devils played their best game of the series in Game 2 and lost in overtime. It's not a stretch to say New Jersey wins Game 3 if they find a way to score during a first-period 5-on-3 when the game was still scoreless. "I said it to the guys, really the series could be 2-2 or 1-3. There hasn't been a gap in it," Sutter said on Friday. "You look at the first two games, six periods of 2-1 hockey. The other night is 1-1 with just a few minutes left. There's not enough of a gap."
5. It's time for some history
I like this theory from DeBoer best. Only one team has come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup. He figures it's time for someone else to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL history books. "You know, it's going to happen again, so why not us?" he said. "I think that's the approach. You're not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. So it's been long enough, it might as well be us."
Even the Kings could appreciate the "Why not us" attitude coming from the team they're trying to eliminate. "That's the mentality of an athlete, a professional athlete. You gotta always believe," said Kings center Jarrett Stoll. "That's obviously where they're at. We believe a little bit differently. That's the great thing about sports. You never know. You have to battle right to the end."
Craig Custance provides five reasons as to why it's too early to rule out the possibility of a Devils comeback in the Stanley Cup finals, including the potential scoring breakthrough from stars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.