NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils found a hungry and well-coached but underskilled team in Florida in the first round, a battered but talented team with weak goaltending in Philadelphia in the second round and a deep and disciplined but low-scoring team in the Rangers in the third round in the postseason.
The Devils today were saying the Kings were a different beast because they have all the best qualities of their first three opponents and very few weaknesses. Los Angeles is fast and physical, balanced and deep, and they have the goaltending to match any they faced so far in the playoffs.
"They’re a different team than the Rangers and the other teams we’ve faced so far," rookie center Adam Henrique said after the Devils lost, 2-1, in overtime in Game One. "They bring a little bit of all those teams into one. They’re a deep team. They have puck-moving defensemen and solid goaltending, but that’s to be expected. They’re here for a reason. We need to focus on our game and how we need to play. There’s a lot of room for improvement on our side."
The Devils took comfort knowing they pushed Game One into overtime despite playing poorly in the first two periods. They admitted being nervous in the first period and sloppy in the second. The good news for them was that they still had a chance to win. They missed several opportunities in the game that would have changed the outcome, and the complex of the series, had they converted.
"We didn’t play our best," forward Travis Zajac said. "We were a little nervous in the first period, a little tentative. You could see that. We weren’t making plays. We were throwing the puck away a little too much, and we weren’t moving our feet and getting in on the forecheck like we usually do. We felt me missed an opportunity."
The Devils did not skate today as a team. Instead, they took the day off and will resume workouts tomorrow in preparation for Game Two on Saturday night in a game they desperately need. The team that loses the first game in the Stanley Cup final has lost the series 76 percent of the time. New Jersey lost the first game against Philadelphia and the Rangers before storming back to win both series.
"One of the areas that's cropped up in every round is we've been a little tentative in the first game, kind of felt our way and then jumped in with both feet in Game Two," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think that's hopefully what we'll do here again."
--- Bucky Gleason