Devils know they must execute better to even series
NEWARK, N.J. -- For the Devils, it's a matter of execution, and really nothing more.
"Our execution was poor in a lot of areas," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday morning, roughly 12 hours after Anze Kopitar scored in overtime to give Los Angeles a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"I think he's spot on," forward Ryan Carter said of his coach's assessment.
Execution was the key word of the day from the Devils, who did not practice on the first of two off days before Game 2 Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) but still had some guys come to the rink to do off-ice workouts.
"We didn't execute well enough in our dumps, on our routes," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "We didn't win enough battles to keep pucks alive, keep the forecheck going. We can execute in more areas and we'll have more success."
The lingering question is how can they go about executing their game plan better in Game 2 to snap the Kings' road winning streak, which is up to nine games? To add to that, why weren't they good enough at executing it Wednesday night in Game 1?
"You want a nice boxed answer on how to fix it," DeBoer said. "It's not that easy. There's no clean answer to it."
Fair enough, but a good starting point would be with the forecheck, the Devils' single greatest weapon through the first three rounds. It was good, as DeBoer said, only in spurts Wednesday night.
The reasons as to why are split down the middle.
Credit goes to the Kings for forcing turnovers and forcing their game and their own aggressive forecheck on the Devils. L.A. used that forecheck to score its first goal of the game to take a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
Blame goes to the Devils for giving the puck away and sitting back when they should have been attacking. The Devils did too much of both in the first half of Game 1.
"We were a little nervous in the first period, a little tentative. You could see that," Zajac said. "We weren't making plays. We were throwing the puck away a little too much. We weren't moving our feet and getting on the forecheck like we usually do."
And as a result they blew an opportunity to win Game 1, an opportunity that despite their lack of execution was still there for the taking in the third period and overtime.
"We were able to hang around against this team not playing our best game," Zajac said. "Still having a chance to win, that makes us feel pretty good that we can play better, be a little bit more successful."
Loading up with some first-hand knowledge of the Kings-- more than they were able to glean off of video prior to the series -- could help the Devils in Game 2.
For instance, Carter felt they sat back early because they were trying to learn about the Kings, who they hadn't faced since October, when both teams were far different versions of the ones that played Wednesday night.
While both DeBoer and Zajac stressed the scouting report the Devils had on the Kings was spot on -- they're a team that presses, takes away time and space, plays physical and fast with a good goalie -- Carter said it was still was a mistake for the Devils to sit back.
"We should have gone out there and played our game," he said. "They're a good group. They've got some strong 'D', obviously a good goaltender. We got to find ways to keep the puck away from the goaltender, get our forecheck going, get back to our game. I think we'll learn quite a few things from that last one."
MAKE A DEAL WITH THE DEVILS
They've now got two full days at their disposal to get even more up to speed on the Kings complete with video of what they did and did not do against them, not what the Canucks, Blues or Coyotes tried to do in previous rounds. The problem is the Devils would rather have one day.
"We'd like to jump right back in and play," DeBoer said. "I'm sure they would, too, after getting a win. I think you want to play, for me, every other day this time of year, that's the perfect scenario. But we'll take the time to fix what we have to fix."
There's plenty there.
"We have multiple issues," DeBoer added. "Again, I can't box this up and wrap this up in one nice little package for you. We had a lot of different issues. Some of them you give credit to them for what they did. Some of them were self-inflicted. We've got to fix them all up."