The Los Angeles Kings rolled to the brink of the franchise's first NHL title, beating the New Jersey Devils 4-0 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday to take a 3-0 series lead.
Martin Brodeur is not Jonathan Quick. And that's why he will be shaking his hand and giving congratulations in a small matter of time.
For five periods, from the start of Game 2 to somewhere in the second period of Game 3, the Devils threw their best punch, like when you'd hit the Star button on Tyson's Punchout for the haymaker. Problem is, when you missed that, you were left completely open to be torn apart. Well, the Devils missed. And they missed because once again, Jonathan Quick had all the answers, and the Devils couldn't even stand up straight on their power play.
The game changed when David Clarkson had the first clean look the Devils have gotten at Quick all series. Seriously, I don't remember another breakaway or 2-on-1 down low that the Devils have gotten. This capped their best series of pressure in Game 3 against the Kings. But when finally given time to pick a corner, Clarkson declined and was turned away. Half a minute later, Dwight King and and Alec Martinez combined to bull one home, and you could tell where it was going.
The real decider was when the best player on the Kings, Anze Kopitar, got the better of the Devils' best player, Zach Parise. He beat him to the net and buried it. What a perfect metaphor for the series, where Kopitar has provided just enough to capitalize on the platform Quick has given them, and Parise is a half-step behind.
The underlying story will be the Kings penalty kill, which swallowed the Devils' power play whole, spit it back out, and then swallowed it again, and regurgitated it for its kids. The Kings jammed up the Devils on the boards consistently, won that battle, and then lazily sent the puck down the other way with no pressure. Not only could the Devils not generate chances, they couldn't generate anything, and you could see their spirit ebb away because of it.
With them out on the ropes, the Kings put them away on their power play. Kings fans are probably in disbelief at that. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Justin Williams suddenly appeared, while Zach Parise can't find space and Ilya Kovalchuk can barely move. That's the difference.
Oh, and Jonathan Quick is redefining the position. That helps.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Chicago Blackhawks. His work has appeared on NBC Chicago, SB Nation, Yahoo's Puck Daddy and NBC's Pro Hockey Talk. Fels is a lifelong hockey fan and also writes for Second City Hockey.