NEWARK - Facing a room full of reporters Friday afternoon in the bowels of the Prudential Center, Peter DeBoer had a question of his own.
"Why not us?" the New Jersey Devils coach said. "Somebody said the '42 Leafs. You're not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. So it has been long enough, and it might as well be us."
The reference was to the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the lone team in NHL history to pick itself up after losing the first three games of the Stanley Cup final and winning the next four to claim the Cup. The Leafs, no fewer than 70 years ago, rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games after falling into a 3-0 hole.
Three days ago, the Devils were in the same spot when they skated on to the ice in Los Angeles to clash with the Kings. Sixty hockey minutes later, the Devils had started the process that's nearly impossible to accomplish with a 3-1 victory.
Coaches love to talk about playing it just one game at a time, and there couldn't be a better example than what DeBoer is preaching with his team now.
The Devils had as much in mind following practice in preparation for Game 5 of the final Saturday night in New Jersey. They realize that worrying about winning three games when there is only one on the line likely would be their mental downfall.
"I believe," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "(But) it's hard because you know it is something that is out of the ordinary. It has happened once. For me to sit here and put my foot down and say, 'Yes, I believe (that it can be done) ...' I think deep down we have confidence."
As much as the Devils now know they're capable of beating the Kings, the visitors realize they wasted the chance to be done with this series and win the Cup for the first time in franchise history.
There wasn't a niggling doubt in the minds of the Kings 72 hours ago. No matter what they say, it has to be there now, even if it is just a hint of one. Human nature dictates as much, and it's not like the Kings were blowing the Devils away before New Jersey won Game 4.
"We wanted to nail it down," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "You want to finish it off was quickly as you can, but sometimes it does not go according to plan."
The Kings' 10-0 road record in the 2012 playoffs indicates they're not rattled by much. But none of those victories came with the Cup waiting to be presented at centre ice.
"I haven't seen a big change in our team emotionally for two months now," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I think we've been able to handle different situations.
"I don't think our team is going to struggle with confidence. I know our guys understand (the fine line) very well."
For whatever reason, and if someone has a definitive answer, feel free to mail it to DeBoer, the Devils have been nearly perfect in the latter stages of every series this spring. They've rattled off a 9-1 record in Games 4-7, sending the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers to golf courses across the continent and beyond.
"I think we've been a team all year that has kind of dipped our toe in the pool to check the temperature before we've jumped in with both feet," DeBoer said. "It's something we've been trying to get out of. I also think that as a series goes on, we recognize what is working for us and what isn't. We try to fix those things.
"Our focus has not wavered. It starts with Marty. Our guys believe we can win three or four games in a row.
"We're not done until they tell us we can't play anymore."