They may hold a 3-1 advantage over the Devils in the Stanley Cup final, but the Los Angeles Kings are tossing statistics aside.
Forget their immaculate road record or Jonathan Quick’s save percentage.
The feeling is the final is a lot closer than it looks, so the numbers mean nothing.
“Really the series could be 2-2 or 1-3,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “There hasn’t been a gap in it.”
Games 1 and 2 were settled in overtime, both 2-1. The Kings won comfortably 4-0 in Game 3 while the Devils scored twice in the last four minutes 31 seconds to win Game 4 by a 3-1 margin.
A popular Kings line Friday was they were treating the next game as if the series was tied 0-0.
Still, however close the series has been, the bottom line is Los Angeles needs just one win to claim the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The City of Angels is preparing to party.
The Devils have to dig themselves a deep hole but aren’t rolling over. They are not alone in thinking that another New Jersey win could make things interesting, and their playoff pedigree is stellar.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Kings forward Jeff Carter said of putting the last nail in the Devils’ coffin. “You look at their playoffs, they’ve gotten better as the series wore on in previous rounds.”
The Devils are 5-1 in Games 5, 6 and 7 in these playoffs and have a goaltender with a sense of occasion in Martin Brodeur.
The Kings, meanwhile, bounced back from Game 4 losses to defeat both Vancouver and Phoenix away from home on the way to the final. In between they swept St. Louis.
“The fourth one’s the hardest to win,” L.A. forward Colin Fraser said. “It sounds cliche but it truly is. We truly have to have our best game to close it out. They’re not going to go away. Their backs are against the wall, they’re playing desperate because they have to. And we have to as well.”
Another familiar refrain was the importance of the first goal, which has turned out to be an accurate predictor of how the night is going to end.
“Getting the first goal is huge,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “And that’s our main focus right now, everyone’s first shift (Saturday) night.”
Over four games, the Kings have outshot the Devils 100-96 and outhit them 155-154.
It is a series where little things make a difference.
“I know our guys understand it very well,” Sutter said. “They know it’s just the little things that you have to try to accomplish during your shift that might be the difference in a game.
“I think our players have been right on top of it. You can see how serious both teams are.”
The goalies have been left to clean up, and have done so in most cases.
Just four pucks have got past Quick, and two of those bounced in off another body or a stick. At the other end, Brodeur has had his own unbeatable spells.
“Brodeur was awesome I think the other night,” Sutter said. “We need probably Jonathan to be that (Saturday).”
The Kings believe they paid for an incomplete performance in Game 4.
“We started OK and we were good in spurts but for a full 60-minute effort, it clearly wasn’t good enough,” Fraser said.
The Kings have won 10 straight on the road in these playoffs, so another game away from home should be welcome.
But Brown insists that the road record means nothing.
“The only time we as players think about it is when you guys bring it up,” he said.
Like the Kings, the Devils believe the final could have gone a different way.
“We didn’t think we played bad but no result,” Brodeur said of the first three games. “So it was nice to get at least a result last game and we should build off of that and try to improve as we go along.
“We’re going to need to. These guys won’t give up. They’re one win away of having their dream come true. For us we just have to play hard and make their life as miserable as we can.”
Devils coach Peter DeBoer said his team’s focus has not wavered, despite the size of the task at hand.
“Our guys believe we can win three or four games in a row,” he said. “We’ve had that, I think, from kind of the midpoint in the season on.
“I don’t know if there’s one box I can put it in exactly why. It’s part personnel, part of the leadership in our room. A lot of it’s on our goaltender and how he plays. But they believe.
“And we’re not done until they tell us we can’t play any more.”
Added forward David Clarkson: “We believe it can be done. If we didn’t believe, we wouldn’t be showing up every night. We always believe in here.
“We have a lot of heart and character. We’re going to give everything we have every shift and every play. That’s all we can do right now.”
Devils veteran Patrik Elias drew praise for scoring the first goal in Game 3 and for getting in the face of Quick.
Following orders, it seems.
“We know he listens to the coach now, so that’s good,” Brodeur said of Elias’ feistiness in front of goal.
DeBoer called him a special talent.
“Imagine this guy if he played in Toronto, in a (hockey) centre like that,” asked DeBoer. “For me, he’s a Hall of Fame player. He does it all. He’s a coach in the dressing room. He knows how to win. He knows how to find another level at key times.
“He had some struggles early in the playoffs. But you can see, I think he’s been our most consistent guy here through the finals at a key time. There’s a reason he’s got multiple Stanley Cups.”
Hockey gave way to Brazilian singer-songwriter Roberto Carlos at the Prudential Center on Friday for the latest stop of his “Un Millon de Amigos” Tour.
Both teams skated at the practice rink attached to the arena.
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