- Last Updated: 4:16 PM, June 11, 2012
- Posted: 12:44 AM, June 11, 2012
LOS ANGELES — It is a pleasure to spend time around a successful coach such as Pete DeBoer, who doesn’t feel the need to belittle professional journalists covering the Stanley Cup playoffs or strike a pose as the man who wants to win more than anyone else in the world.
The Devils reflect the equanimity presented by DeBoer throughout the tournament in good times and bad, much as the Bruins followed the lead of coach Claude Julien on their way to last year’s Cup; poised from the start to the finish line that is now in sight.
It bears remembering the Devils are still twice as far away from attaining historic victory as they are from the summer in confronting a third consecutive potential elimination match in tonight’s Game 6 that will surely test the stamina of 40-year-old Martin Brodeur and his fellow senior travelers. The seeds of doubt, however, have been planted in a Kings team that has faced an absence of adversity in a run to a 15-2 record in the tournament prior to Game 4.
This dozy final has a chance to become a doozy, but only if the Devils win again tonight, only if they continue to chip away at Jonathan Quick’s metaphorical and minuscule feet of clay, only if the frustration displayed by Kings such as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Dustin Penner through Saturday’s third period mounts.
To do that, the Devils must be much sharper than they were through most of their 2-1, Game 5 victory, in which they were beaten to the puck regularly and turned it over in dangerous spots far too often when they were able to gain control. The fact is, the Devils sent just four shots on net in the first period and three shots on Quick in the third, a dangerous way to live.
But there was the one puck-handling gaffe by Quick upon which Zach Parise seized to score the game’s critical first goal, just as Patrik Elias was able to convert a square angle rebound of an unusually juicy rebound off a pad save in Game 4 and just as Adam Henrique was able to find the sliver of the net left by the Los Angeles goaltender for the winner in that first elimination contest.
Quick has set the bar at such a high level throughout this tournament, any moment of human frailty is worthy of notice. The Devils have been opportunistic, and though DeBoer said he doesn’t believe his team is playing with any more desperation now than early in the series, let alone in the first round against the Panthers, the eyes have it pegged differently.
“The confidence is there,” Henrique said. “We’re sticking to our game plan and [will] keep moving forward.
“Only a couple more to go, so it’s going to ramp up.”
There was more snarl in the Devils’ game on Saturday than in the opening two defeats at the Rock. There was a clear and present response every time the Kings’ big bodies encroached on Brodeur’s net, a regular happenstance throughout the third period.
But the Devils have maintained their discipline, avoided retaliatory penalties pretty much throughout the tournament (shorthanded just 11 times in this series after going down a man just eight times in the final four games against the Rangers).
“We’re pretty good at playing from whistle to whistle,” Andy Greene said. “You know that when there’s an exchange or punches thrown that the second guy pretty much always is the one to get the penalty, and none of us wants to be that guy.”
DeBoer’s team has looked elimination in the eye twice and not wavered. The Devils believe their opponents have blinked. Game 6 tonight: winner either take all or continue on the road to history.
Either way, the Devils and their coach will respond with class.Follow @NYPostsports