Even some of those of us who were there had to glance at the schedule for confirmation. The Kings and New Jersey Devils played twice during the regular season, with both games in October. That’s Oct. 2011, even though it feels as though it was two or three years ago. Given how much has changed for both teams, and the ups and downs of a six-month regular season, it’s doubtful that either team will put too much emphasis on the regular-season meetings, both of which were won by the Devils (one in a shootout).
For one, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur played only one period against the Kings because of injury, and backup goalie Jonathan Bernier started one of the games for the Kings. Both teams have undergone roster changes. The Devils’ bottom-six forwards, credited by sparking the team in the playoffs, were completely different in October. The Kings had totally different lines as well. All of which explains why Dustin Brown isn’t thinking too much about those regular-season games, or even when they were played.
BROWN: “It’s one of those things — I don’t even really remember the game. I just remember it was our first game back (after Europe), I think. Maybe our second game back. I don’t really remember much about their team, from playing them. Both teams are a lot different now. … I think there’s a big difference, game four in the schedule and a Stanley Cup Final game. It’s pretty irrelevant, what happened in the regular season.’’
One thing that players can look to is that the Devils figure to be their greatest challenge of the playoffs. The teams aren’t identical, by any means, but the series could easily come down to a battle of the forecheck. Both teams are aggressive in that area and both will look to establish momentum by stifling the other. Brown and Jonathan Quick talked about the matchup and the similarities between the teams.
BROWN: “I think they’re both really well structured. I think there’s differences in our structures, but everyone looks at the matchups and if they’re similar. I know they’ve got big wingers and so do we. It’s really hard to say, just because we don’t play these guys like we do the Coyotes and all the other teams we faced. We’re looking at video now, and figuring out what their game plan is.’’
QUICK: “They play a lot like us. They play a really strong game. They work hard. They have fast, big wingers. They have great centermen. They have a strong forecheck. So that’s something that I’ve going to see a lot of, over the next few games. I have to, if I’m able to, play the puck and try to create stuff for our defensemen so they’re not getting ran. If you look at Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, they’ve got tons of guys. Those top two lines, in general, are very potent, so we’re going to have to neutralize them.’’