* Disclaimer: The title is borrowed from author George R. R. Martin.
Where did that team come from?
My Devils are halfway to the impossible now, on their way back to Los Angeles where an entire city must be asking the above-mentioned question. Just four days ago, the Kings were happily cruising along, one victory away from giving the City of Angels its first Stanley Cup with an amazing young goalie and a stream of good luck. Now, the Kings have lost two consecutive games for the first time in months. The Devils, by contrast, are gaining confidence by the minute.
Of course, with the series currently at 3-2, my Devils are clearly still the underdog–one mistake and the series could end with the Stanley Cup parading through Hollywood and Beverly Hills. But we are, as of now, halfway to a feat that has only been achieved once in NHL history: bouncing back from a 3-0 series to win the Cup.
Capitalizing on a mistake by Quick, our superstar captain Zach Parise scored the all-important first goal 13 minutes into the first period. Check out the video below. After four games of putting forth the effort and not seeing results, Zach finally scored on a unique combination of skill and hustle. The Captain was, as his usual self, all over the ice.
Zach’s tenacity and amazing athleticism make him the superstar captain that he is. Of course, his adorable smile doesn’t hurt either. Look, he’s reading to the children too:
Then, the game winning second goal came from one of our highest scoring Defenseman, Bryce Salvador.
Some of the bitter Kings fans called this goal a “lucky bounce,” since the shot bounced off of Kings’ Voynov’s shoulder into the goal. This is the second goal bouncing off of Voynov in this series, and some have jokingly said that Voynov currently has more goals for the Devils in the final than Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias.
Luck? That’s just a part of it. I think this goal actually demonstrates amazing team work by the Devils and shows off our players’ experience and execution. A little breakdown (using the game clock for timing):
- At 11:14, Travis Zajac (19) carries the puck across the blue line, makes a quick shoot which bounced off of Quick. But Travis was immediately there to pick up the rebound. Great reflex and skating skill.
- Picking up the puck, Travis Zajac goes around the net, shaking three Kings off him. At 11:08, Alexei Ponikarovsky (12) follows him for support. This is a great team work–Zajac just shook off three players, but one is still tight on him. To take pressure off Zajac, Ponikarovsky was there to offer support, and Zajac knew this. Therefore, at 11:06, Zajac was able to, without looking, snap the puck back to Ponikarovsky. This is great position play and communication.
- At 11:04, Ponikarovsky passes the puck along the board to Salvador (24). Salvador puts a one timer on goal with a slap shot. A “one timer” is when a player makes a slap shot right off the pass without stop to retain possession. This shot is hard to guard because of the sudden change in direction of the puck. Great use of a slap shot here–I think that other than one timers, slap shot are not that useful because they take too long to set up. A wrist shot or a snap shot would be much better in most situations.
- The one timer bounces off Quick and into the corner. At 11:01, Anton Volchenkov (28) makes the decision to pinch. A “pinch” is when a defenseman, who usually stays back on the blue line during an offensive attack, goes in deep in the hope to gain possession of the puck or to tie up an opposing player. This is a very risky move because if it is unsuccessful, the opposing team’s break out becomes a 3 on 1 instead of the typical 3 on 2 break out. The common saying is that, on a pinch, you have to either get the puck or get the man, but you can’t miss both. Volchenkov got the man at 11:00, as he pins a Kings player against the board.
- The best thing to do during a pinch is for forwards to pull back and cover the defensive position during a pinch. The forwards have to read the play timely and accurately. That’s exactly what Zajac and Ponikarovsky did at 11:00, as they both moves towards the blue line to cover the void left by Volchenkov’s pinch. Great read.
- Volchenkov passes the puck to Salvador at 10:58, now the ice is wide open before Salvador except Jordan Nolan (71), a Kings’ forward is rushing towards him. Instead of quickly shoots off the puck, which could easily miss or be blocked, Salvador waits patiently and didn’t shoot the puck until 10:56. By this time, Nolan had overshot Salvador’s shooting lane and was no longer in the way. Here, patience paid off; Salvador is also experienced to know that he needs to fire off a quick shot, so at 10:56, he fired off a wrist shot at the goal, instead of taking more time to perform a slap shot. Excellent shot selection.
And we can’t end the post without mentioning our amazing goalie, Marty Brodeur, whose name has become a chant for the fans. (“Marty! Marty! Marty!”). Who could ever forget such memorable moments as Marty’s “Scorpion save!”
When the Kings became desperate in the last 9 minutes of the game, forward Jeff Carter punched Marty and pulled his jersey over his head. Brodeur pulled it back down with a smile on his face like the whole thing just happened in an open hockey game on a Friday night. Check out the scene starting at 1:54 of the video.
Marty is calm, confident, and is putting all of his efforts into this game. It’s hard to believe believe that he just turned 40 during the playoffs. Now, he is two victories away from the signature moment of a Hall of Fame career, summoning every bit of greatness along the way.
Whatever disappointment I might have had initially has dissipated. My Devils are at the halfway mark of their journey towards what people thought was an impossible goal a few days ago. Win or lose ultimately, this journey towards the Cup has been an extremely rewarding one.
GO DEVILS GO!