Hard to believe the New Jersey Devils played like a bunch of nervous nellies in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night, but they admitted that nerves played a role in their less-than-inspiring 2-1, overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
"Every series has it's own story," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "We were excited to start. You could tell we were a little nervous, especially in the first period in the way we played. I thought we settled in pretty good after that. It was a little chess match and who was going to make a mistake. We made the bigger one."
Wait just a minute. After going seven games in the first round and then playing the Flyers and Rangers in the second and third rounds, the Devils were nervous?
"It's the Stanley Cup finals. It's not that easy to go out and perform," Brodeur said, speaking to all us dunderheads who think this stuff is actually simple. "You just wait and see what kind of atmosphere it's going to be. Whether you've done it five times like me or it's the first time, you get butterflies. I'm sure the Kings will tell you the same thing, that they felt a little nervous at times also. That's what hockey is all about."
There are a couple other factors that came into play as well. One, the teams were a bit rusty after having had time off, so the play wasn't especially crisp. And two, these teams haven't played one another in months, so there is a feeling-out process.
"When you play a Western Conference team you don't know much about them" Brodeur told reporters. "This was a feel-out game. It's not like they dominated on the other side. It was kind of a weird game. Not too great for hockey, that's for sure. Not very exciting."
Other Devils noted the nervous start.
“Especially in the first period,” Patrik Elias told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “But that’s for everyone. We talked about it to try to settle down and just play, but we couldn’t get it going. Our forecheck was bad. We had a tough time coming out of our zone under control and in the neutral zone we were just getting rid of the pucks. Obviously, that has a bit to do with the way they play, but a lot to do with the way we didn’t play.”
“We had a little rust, were a little jittery,” left wing Ryan Carter agreed. “Nerves maybe got the best of us in the first period.”
Which certainly showed when New Jersey went almost 14 minutes without a shot.
“We have to be better pretty much in all areas,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. “We made it way too easy for them. We turned the puck over at the blue line. We didn’t dump it right. It wasn’t our best game.”
So now the Devils face the first pressure point, namely putting some pucks on goalie Jonathan Quick, get a win in Game 2 and let the Kings face some adversity.
"This team hasn't lost on the road all playoff year," Brodeur said. "They feel good about it. They're finding ways to win. We have to get a win and that's going to be a tough loss for them if we're able to get them. How are they going to react to that? We've got to put that doubt in their minds as quick as possible. It's going to start on Saturday."
The Devils can take solace from the fact they looked very overmatched by the Rangers after a 3-0 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. So they know a comeback is more than possible.
“We did have the opportunities,” Parise said. “We had a couple of open ones there in the third period. A couple of good ones in overtime too, but we couldn’t put them in.”
And that has to change, starting Saturday.
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