My coaches of old would find it comical that I’m the guy writing this article, but it has to be said: the New Jersey Devils are playing with a visible lack of fire/grit/stones/balls/sandpaper/heart/whatever-you-want-to-call-it in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 3 was borderline pathetic.

Not all hockey fans are down with “old school” thinking, but in this case, to hell with ‘em - the Devils badly needed to stir some shit up at the end of Game 3. They rolled over like a disciplined dog staring down the nose of a snausage.

We were spoiled last season by a seven-game Final between two teams who genuinely loathed each other after all of one period (Boston/Vancouver), who punished each other at every opportunity, who got distracted by that emotion it was so overwhelming at times. But this series has been at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Neither team has shown much dislike for the other, but if you’re the Kings, you’re smart to not stir up any unnecessary emotion in your opponent. Let them sleepwalk through the series. There was a point in last night’s game where Jonathan Quick covered the puck, and Andy Greene whacked his glove, hard. Trevor Lewis skated over to him, and on fine stationary with a feather pen, wrote the polite note “Please do not hit our goalie after the whistle” (at least that’s how I remember it). Guys like Lucic and Bieksa would’ve been firing up chainsaws to get redemption last year, but in this case, Lewis did the right thing. Very smart.

So fine, for the Kings, don’t wake the sleeping giant. But what the hell, New Jersey? It’s Game 3, and you’re playing the world’s stingiest defensive team. They’re up 4-0 with half the third period to play, and you’re about to go down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final. Nobody’s angry right now? Passionate? Nobody’s trying to turn the tide, to do something, ANYTHING to get a rise out of the boys on the bench, to at least show that you give a shit?

I know it’s the Finals, and you don’t want to do anything stupid. I know there’s a reason guys like Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton haven’t dressed for the Devils, despite playing a combined 100 regular season games – they aren’t very good. But David Clarkson can’t challenge someone? Volchenkov? Carter, Salvador, Fayne? Hell, Zubrus and Ponikarovsky are 6’5″ and 6’4″ respectively. They can’t run someone a little harder than necessary, or at least mix in a post-whistle facewash?

I just can’t believe the lack of animosity in a series where you’re playing for something you’ve been playing for your whole life, and the game is out of reach. Something has to change at that point – the current plan isn’t working. Am I advocating for running the goalie? No. Am I advocating for maybe getting tangled up in his crease, maybe falling on him, maybe trying to piss someone off every shift for the rest of the game? I am.

I know not everyone gets the whole “the game’s out of reach, it’s going to get ugly” concept, and in the regular season, I’m usually on board with that thinking (assuming it’s not a division rival). A loss is a loss.

But the Kings have had to face zero adversity this post-season. They’re a great hockey team who’s playing extraordinarily disciplined, as they should. My junior coach once said “When you’re a good team, never let ‘em see you sweat.” It frustrates teams – “We just can’t get to these guys, they could care less about us.” But when we were losing, he also used to say “fuck, fight or hold the light.” As in, do something.

It’s too late now. Next game they have to play hockey, do the right things, and win. But watching their dull parade to the final buzzer last night was infuriating.

Games 1 and 2 were close, and could’ve gone either way. But the second Justin Williams scored last night, the Devils looked like their will was broken. Maybe it was.

Comments (13)

  1. Ponikarovsky has never been and will never be a physical force. Clarkson had some really good battles with Brown last night but I can’t think of anyone else who battled.

  2. Just a thought, but maybe the Devils are having a hard time switching from the docile, turn-the-other-cheek mentality they used to great success against Philly to the opposite approach. Either way, the detached approach isn’t working against an L.A. team that is outdoing them in that area and many others.

    • Karina – agreed, but…someone. It could be Parise, just any show of aggression would’ve been nice.

      Matt – That’s true, they did keep things tight in the previous series with success, I just think you gotta make that adjustment in that moment. Getting beat up is better than just…taking it.

  3. The Devils look like they have already been beaten mentally, or they have exhausted every option to find that extra gear. Most likely, they are praying a little too hard for a lucky bounce to expose Quick to be human. I feel like they are going to have to stop praying and find a way to manufacture some luck.

  4. I tell you one thing, if the Devils were to run Quick, there’d be so many fans coming over the glass the Kings players wouldn’t even need to fight.

  5. The Blues tried to do this and it back-fired. They got penalties which tired their guys out on the PK so they had less energy left to score to get back in the game after killing the penalty.

  6. Salvador had that concussion last year, you can take him off the fighting list.

    I think part of it has to go back to the series with the Flyers. Devils made it a point NOT to get into a physical, gathering after every whistle fight fest like the Pens got goaded into. And it was effective. The Devils hit their stride and won in 5. I also think having the 4th line as your main offensive threat certainly plays a role, too. Instead of Bernier and Carter mix it up physically, they’re too busy trying to keep the team from getting blanked every night.

    I think the team went into shock. They can’t figure out how to score on the Kings. It’s that simple. I think the thought on the bench isn’t “Well, we’re not scoring, so we may as well get chippy”, it’s more of “Why can’t I score?”

  7. Mid way through the 3rd period last night, I looked at my two boys and said “This is going to get ugly. I sense a goon show about to erupt.”. I really, really expected Quick to get run (at least a LITTLE bit), and even as an ex-member of the goalie union, I wouldn’t have minded it too much .. but… Nothing. It was amazing. The game was just kind of left to waft away from NJ like so much fog.

    That has to be coaching or leadership. This series is over. Plan the parade.

  8. I totally agree with this post. For the first time in a long time, I stopped watching a game after 2 because I knew I wasn’t going to miss anything – an incredible comeback, a brawl, a cheapshot, even a fight. The Devils were really sad last night.

  9. Take it from a Kings fan who had to watch Ponikarovsky last season as a King. Poni is not one of those big guys who can lay someone out (Maybe he has as a Devil, I just stopped paying attention to him since he left the Kings) And he won’t be a huge factor on the scoreboard either.

  10. Yep, no heart in game 3. The Devils needed to so *something* when they went down 4-0, or hell, even 3-0. Bump Quick, check a little late, give an extra slash here or there…nothing. They look done.

  11. Nope. WRONG.

    By not gooning it up when the game got away, the Devils showed a level off class that you, the author, obviously don’t have.

    • Agreed that it was classy not to goon it up, but there are shades of gray here. You can still do some facewashing and not pull up on hits in order to send a message for the next game…

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