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Kolby Solinsky

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New Jersey Devils Can Climb Back from Hell

Posted: 06/04/2012 11:14 am

Game 2. Los Angeles 2, New Jersey 1. Overtime. Okay, so the details are out of the way. Do you have any other questions? Can we skip to the good stuff?

Game 2 might have showed many people that the Los Angeles Kings were well on their way to their first Stanley Cup. It may look like Ilya Kovalchuk picked the wrong team to sign with until the end of eternity. It may look like this is dead in the water, like a duck near a BP oil spill, or a cheating mob wife in the Hudson River.

But, no. The Kings, yes, are well on their way to a cup victory, with only two wins needed to become the first eighth seed to ever win a trophy. But, no.

If Game 2 proved anything, it's that the New Jersey Devils can win this series. It proved that they should win this series. They have been lazy, sloppy and often undisciplined, but they have somehow looked like the better team. They have looked like the more capable team. They have looked more powerful, and they appear to be rolling over.

Floating and bloated.

They're giving Drew Doughty space, his first goal in yesterday's game was a beautiful example of what can happen when a defenceman has the confidence to make an end-to-end rush and fire a puck from just inside the blue line.

Of course, the goal got more credit than it probably deserved, as all goals do.

Watch it again, and laugh at the absurdity of knowing that CBC's commentators called it "Bobby Orr-like." First of all, Doughty uses his speed to break away from David Clarkson. Not Zach Parise, not Travis Zajac, not Adam Larsson, and not even Martin Brodeur. David Clarkson is not the Trajan Wall, and calling Drew Doughty "Bobby Orr" for this is probably the most unjust compliment that we've heard in this series.

Orr went through everybody to score his goals. Doughty goes through one player, and that's his own.

It's a talented goal, we know. But, it's nothing more than that. The Sedins eat that goal in their Corn Flakes. Kovalchuk would have made another two moves because it wouldn't have been pretty enough. Even Brad Marchand can dummy it.

That was the most overrated deference-generated strike since this one. That goal says more about the Columbus Blue Jackets than it does about Edler.

Just because you score a goal and you're a defenceman, does not mean you're Bobby Orr. You're not even Paul Coffey, and that would still be a hefty compliment. We'll give you Pierre Pilote, how's that?

Sure, Vince Young can beat USC's defence. It doesn't mean Vince Young is Joe Montana.

Drew Doughty, as good as he's been for the Kings in these playoffs, does not merit the comparisons he's been granted to past individual greats, and neither do the Los Angeles Kings.

They're feisty, they're tenacious, and they're hungry for wins. That we know. But every time one of their defencemen or forwards is given the keys to the kingdom, we're forgetting that the only reason they're here is Jonathan Quick.

How about Jeff Carter getting last night's first star, despite being invisible for large pockets of Game 2? Oh, yes, he scored the overtime winner. But, shouldn't a first star be good for the whole game, not just half a second?

If the Devils want this, they can take it. They just have to take it. The Los Angeles Kings have bobbed and weaved their way to a final, capitalizing on teams that didn't realize they were in the series until Game 3, and by then it was too late.

The Kings have led 3-0 in each of the first three rounds, and their competition has included Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix. No discredit to those teams, but their 2012 versions are a notch below what any previous Western Conference champions have had to go through.

2011: Chicago, Nashville and San Jose.
2010: Nashville, Vancouver and San Jose.
2009: Columbus (okay, you've got us there), Anaheim and Chicago.

Again, we realize that each team wins it how it wins it, and we're not saying the Kings don't deserve to be here.

We're just saying that this year is an anomaly. Everyone put $20 on Red, and the Kings bet on Black. Game over, go home.

It's been the kind of weird, pancakes falling on the floor, two-month affair that makes Berlusconi's Bunga Bunga parties look organized and civil.

And, at the end of it all, it's shocking to see the New Jersey Devils succumbing to the same fate as those three other loafs, despite going to overtime in both games and looking down their bench at each other, repeatedly, as if to say, "What's happening? We can beat them. Why aren't we?"

Well, not everything works out. Not everyone wins the series they should. So far, the L.A. Kings shouldn't have won any series in 2012, but they have. Of course, they not only won them, but they destroyed them, sweeping one and dispatching of the others in five games.

New Jersey appears to be heading down the same road. Not with a bang, but a whimper. So, how do you come back?

You fight back. You claw back. You beat them because you know you can, and you know you should. You don't worry about losing home-ice advantage, because you know that there's no such thing as home-ice advantage against Los Angeles, who are 10-0 on the road in these playoffs.

You watch highlights of last year's Stanley Cup Final over and over and over. You know that the Boston Bruins climbed back to win, despite going down 2-0 in the series (and, in similar fashion), only to whip the Canucks in four of the next five, and grab the Cup like they were Somali pirates boarding a Norwegian cruise ship.

The Devils can take this. They just have to want it. If not, congratulations, Los Angeles. I'll bet you have no idea that Wayne Gretzky still doesn't play for you.

 

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