NEWARK - So, now we have a Stanley Cup final.
Apart from a couple of monster collisions between Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner and New Jersey Devils defenceman Marek Zidlicky, a very entertaining Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final was a clash of trends.
Zidlicky might have come out on the short end after getting pancaked by Penner, but the Devils’ trend won out in their 2-1 win at the Prudential Center.
Now, there will be a Game 6 Monday in Los Angeles.
The longer a series goes, the better these Devils get.
The Devils are now 10-1 this post-season in Games 4-7 of their four series so far. Their only loss was in Game 5 of the opening round against the Florida Panthers. They’ve now won 10 straight once a series has progressed beyond Game 4.
The Devils got another great performance from veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur, and while all the talk early in this final was about Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, Brodeur is now a big talking point.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer married the Devils playing their best later in series and Brodeur being the reason why.
“I wish I was more eloquent and I had more ways to phrase it for you. His performance speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s the timing of it. The fact that we are 10-1 in games 4-7 is a testament to how he enjoys that type of pressure.”
The Kings’ butts might have been just a little tight in their seats as they returned to the West Coast, their once seemingly bullet proof 3-0 lead in this series now whittled down to just 3-2.
They were handed their first road loss of this post-season (10-1).
“Marty is the story of the final so far. He’s played unbelievable,” said Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk. “I know for sure he’s got a lot in him. We know he’s our leader. I don’t know about you guys, but we know he gives us a chance to win every night.”
“We were able to pull two tight games on our side like (the Kings) were able to do in Games 1 and 2,” said Brodeur. “It’s a matter of us going into a tough environment in L.A. and try and ruin the party again. They’re so close to winning the Stanley Cup, I’m sure it’s getting to them a little bit to have all these chances and not capitalize on them. We’re looking to just stay alive.”
If the Devils can go to the Staples Center and find a way to win Game 6 Monday night, Game 7 will be back here Wednesday.
There’s another trend hockey fans can hope continues: exciting hockey. Game 5 was the best of the final.
There was tempo and physical play -- including a crackling start to the game -- and the scorers got the edge on the defenders, resulting in great chances at both ends.
Devils defenceman Bryce Salvador, the unexpected playoff dynamo, scored his fourth goal of the post-season for the winner at 9:05 of the second period after not having any goals in 82 regular-season games.
Quick, now looking mortal, loaned the Devils a helping hand for New Jersey’s first power-play goal of the final after they had gone 0-for-15 coming into Game 5. Quick cleared the puck behind the net right to Devils captain Zach Parise, who managed to tuck the puck in before a sliding Quick could get to the post.
The Kings tied it at 3:26 of the second and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it was Los Angeles forward Justin Williams who got it. He was easily the Kings’ best player on the night to that point.
In the end, it was fitting the 17,625 fans in the Prudential Center were waving white rally towels that were sponsored by an amusement park.
This Stanley Cup final now has a rollercoaster feel to it.
“We could have packed it in a couple of games ago,” said Brodeur. “We have a bunch of resilient guys who want to make history and win the Stanley Cup.”