Stanley Cup Final Perspectives
New York Islanders assistant coach and senior advisor Doug Weight is assisting the NHL Network in its coverage of the Stanley Cup Final as an analyst. Weight, who won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, is also writing a blog for NHL.com every other day during the Final. Weight will focus on what it is like being a player on hockey's biggest stage.
In his second entry, Weight writes about the need for the New Jersey Devils to be the aggressor in order for them to bounce back in Game 2 of the Cup Final.
NEWARK, N.J. -- If you look back to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final between Chicago and Philadelphia, it was 6-5 in Game 1. If you look at our Game 1 in 2006 when I was with Carolina and we hosted Edmonton, it was also poorly played defensively, the goaltenders weren't on, the teams weren't on, and we won it 5-4.
Those were weird Game 1s, and I think what we saw Wednesday night, while it was a different result, just 2-1 in overtime, was similarly weird.
Neither team was on. Neither coach was particularly happy. Los Angeles felt like it stole one. Neither team was particularly happy.
Now to wait this long to play Game 2, it seems like an eternity, but I think it bodes well to see some physical play early in the game. I think you're going to see comfortable players on their toes, really some physical play early in this game. I think you're going to see the best from each of these teams.
I remember after the first game we played in 2006, I felt relieved that it was over and that we won, but I also felt like that we were now in a series, so let's keep it going. I remember saying, 'It's just hockey, just breathe and realize we can just play the game, even if it is the Stanley Cup Final.'
But, we had only one day between Game 1 and 2. Now both the Devils and Kings have to be thinking, 'Let's get this thing going.'
They know it's just another game and they can go play their best game, but it's a standing-around process and it can make you go crazy. It feels like it's been five days since Game 1. The drop of the puck can't come quick enough. It's going to be exciting right from that drop of the puck.
What the Kings have to be talking about is the lull that they can't have. They took the first game and now if they lose Game 2 they still have a split going home. They've got to prevent that lull, that inevitable lull, from happening or hurting them. It's a natural thing.
For the Devils, this is where they have been the last two series but they need to come out and play the best game of their lives because they just can't go down 0-2 at home. So it's desperation and preventing a lull, those are the scenarios for each team.
If I can put on my coaching hat for a moment, let's talk about the adjustments. To be honest, when you make it this far you're not so much adjusting to what the other team is doing, but you're instead adjusting to be better at your strengths.
Both teams believe they're a more aggressive team than the other team and both believe they can win by doing their own thing. They're not combating as much as they are initiating what they are good at. That's why they're here.
For example, I saw no change on New Jersey's forecheck even though the Kings did a good job picking the Devils apart a bit, D-to-D to low-center.
The Devils are very wide and then they combine to the middle for turnovers, but they take those walls away. So, if teams are going to throw it up the wall the Devils are going to be able to keep pucks in. I think the Kings did a great job of working hard to get back to the puck, go D-to-D, and boom quick pass to the low center. That takes a lot of work and they did a great job of that in the first game, but the Devils didn't change, didn't address it.
That says to me that they're saying, 'We know how to do what we do best, we just have to do it better.'
So, to do that, they worked hard in practice Friday. You could see exactly what coach Peter DeBoer wants.
From the first drill I saw it was about the net-front defenseman joining the attack and making it a four-pronged attack. He was screaming six straight rushes down the ice at one guy, and that was the net-front D-man. He wants that fourth man up in the play, pushing the pace and trying to take advantage of the Kings aggressiveness to get down and get some odd-man rushes.
The second drill was 100 percent on the forecheck, taking the walls away. He was screaming at the first forward to get on his toes, to finish, to hem them in. And, he was pointing at the weak-side 'D' to pinch at everything down the wall, to be very aggressive in the end zone.
The theme of those adjustments was getting back to what they didn't do in Game 1, and really it was the first time in a long time that the Devils weren't that aggressive team. The whole team knows it. I look for them to be on their toes, aggressive, intense. I think we're going to see a fast-paced game from them. I think L.A's defensemen aren't going to have as much time as they did in the first game.
We'll see how they adjust to that.