No one wanted to be here. But here we are. I figured, hell, I predicted that the Canes would take the series in six, so the Devils are doing better than I thought.
That being said, I personally think the biggest key to Game 7 tomorrow night is going to be who scores the first goal. I expect the Devils to come out all guns blazing with the energy of the home crowd behind them. I'm hoping that will lead to the Canes taking a penalty or two in the early going and the Devils power play will come through. Maybe there will even be a Patrik Elias sighting. And Zach Parise has gone dormant as well, which I suppose you could expect with Langenbrunner missing some time and the Canes surely keying much more on stopping the prolific winger.
Although I imagine many things will be key to winning Game 7 and advancing to face either the Penguins or the Capitals. They include any of the following:
- Discipline - The Devils absolutely must be the more disciplined team. Sure, Zubrus got hit in the back about 18 times by a Canes defender, but you have to be able to take punishment in the playoffs without taking stupid penalties. The Washington Capitals have learned that well and have let the Rangers die by the sword in their series. Let the Canes do the same thing.
- The Canes power play - Can the Devils stop it and make sure that it remains relatively ineffective? Or will Babchuk and Corvo awaken when the Canes need it most?
- Stopping Eric Staal - Staal came to play on Sunday. More so than any other game, he was all over the ice and the Devils didn't have an answer. Can the Madden line adjust and go back to stopping the big Canes forward?
- Elias/Parise/Brodeur/Martin - They say that Game 7's need your best players playing at their best in order to advance. The Devils need Patrik Elias to contribute something, Parise to awaken, Brodeur to be just as good as Game 5 and 6 (he was the only stellar Devil in that game) and Paul Martin needs to be a force again.
- Getting that first goal - The Devils record is ridiculously good when they get the first goal of the game. If they get an early lead of a goal or more, you will see the years of experience of playing a fine defensive system come into play.
I anticipate a great game tomorrow night. I'm nervous as all hell about it (my brother lives in Raleigh and the text messages have not stopped since the series started) and I just hope that Sutter has this team ready to play. I know it shouldn't be up to the coach to get the team mentally prepared to play as big a game as a do-or-die, but with the New Jersey Devils, you never know. I just hope we see more Ottawa 03 Game 7 rather than Colorado 01 Game 7.