Feeling the Heat
It's amazing how quickly a series can turn. A week ago the Kings took game three and were one win away from a sweep and their first Stanley Cup, fast forward to today and things aren't as simple. Martin Brodeur has limited a high octane offense to two goals in the past two games and the Devils' offense has provided just enough spark to put pressure on Los Angeles.
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1945 Detroit Red Wings have become relevant again. New Jersey joins select company by trailing in the Stanley Cup Finals 3-0 and becoming the third team to bring the series back 3-2. In both the 1942 and '45 series the team down 3-2 won game six to force a game seven. The 1942 Toronto team was able to reel off the unlikely four consecutive victories to capture the Cup, while the '45 Red Wings fell short in game seven.
But enough about history. The only history the Kings are focused on is winning their first championship. The Kings suffered their first road loss this postseason Saturday night resulting in a must-see game six. The question is simple but could prove meaningless: Which team is feeling more pressure?
You could say the Kings but you might be a prisoner of the moment in doing so. Most terrifying for the Kings is that a loss tonight sends the series to game seven travelling back to New Jersey. Up until Saturday night this scenario didn't seem as precarious because the Kings had posted a historic 10-0 away record. But the loss showed the Kings mortality and has ignited a New Jersey team brimming with confidence. The combination of the Devils' momentum, the Kings inability to close, and the pressure of winning their first cup is a recipe for disaster for a franchise synonomous with agony.
But the Devils have to win tonight just to stay alive. The Kings can afford mistakes and still have a shot at hoisting the Cup, the Devils can't. An errant line change, untimely penalty, or even a misplaced clear could send the Devils back to New Jersey to clear out their lockers. Even more ominous for the Devils is that they could play a great game and still come up short because the Kings are that good. The Kings played out of character in game five and the Devils saw the puck bounce their way throughout the night.
Tonight's game will feel like a game seven. The Staples Center will be bustling and the Devils will be the first team this postseason to see the Kings play with their backs against the wall. The winner tonight will end up victorious in the series.
Players to Watch
Martin Brodeuer: The veteran, linchpin, and one of the greatest goalies of all-time needs to play well tonight. The Devils will go as far as Marty takes them. Brodeur has matched Jon Quick all series, the only difference is that Quick can afford a mistake or two because of the Kings offense. With the exception of game three (4-0 Kings victory) Brodeur's play has been sensational. The Devils will need a first star performance from their seasoned netminder.
Dustin Brown: The American born captain has been quiet all series. The Kings need more from their captain than some crushing hits. Brown has been unable to find the back of the net and has struggled in generating chances. Luckily for Brown, a big performance tonight can salvage an otherwise underwhelming series.
Prediction: Kings win 3-1 and Jon Quick receives the Conn Smythe Trophy. Hail to the Kings.