Watching the New Jersey Devils attempt to become the first team in seven decades to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final is causing Glenn (Chico) Resch to have flashbacks.
Before you get too excited: Resch wasn’t a member of the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the only team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup after trailing 3-0. But he knows about coming back from big deficits in the playoffs, and is seeing it again in the New Jersey’s series with the Los Angeles Kings.
A former Devils goaltender, who is now their television analyst, Resch was a member of the New York Islanders in 1975, when the team was involved in two series in which they trailed by three.
In the first, the Islanders rallied from the brink of elimination and won four straight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, including a 1-0 win in Game 7 on a goal by Ed Westfall. Right after that, the team lost the first three games to the defending champion Philadelphia Flyers, tied the series and then lost Game 7.
Where the Devils’ attempt will take them is not known. But it has been stirring for Resch, as well as the current team, which will play Game 6 Monday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I have been walking with the Devils in this series, not so much physically, but psychologically,” Resch said Sunday. “This series has flipped. When you come back from 0-3, which doesn’t happen very often, things have to happen. You have to be as good as the team you are playing. They can’t be better than you. If they are better, they are going to have the ability to turn it on and you are just not going to be able to handle them.”
Resch believes little separates the Devils and Kings this series, and both teams know it.
Three of five games have been decided by one goal and a fourth was a two-goal margin because of an empty-net tally. The only blowout was Game 3 in Los Angeles, when the Kings beat New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur with a controversial goal early, and then blew the door open in the third, en route to a 4-0 win.
Resch said a major factor in being able to come back from such a deficit is believing that it can be done.
“One of the parts of belief,” Resch said, “is that when you start getting breaks or the other team starts to look a little bit nervous, a psychological switch seems to go on. And that’s what I am watching now.”
Resch said the Devils’ 3-1 win in Game 4 showed them that the Kings weren’t invincible. The 2-1 win on Saturday in Game 5 showed the team might be destined.
Not only did the Devils get the goals, they also got the breaks.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made a rare mistake while handling the puck to set up the game’s first goal by Zach Parise, and the game winner by Bryce Salvador went in off a Kings defenceman. Resch also noted that on Parise’s power-play goal, coach Peter DeBoer took off his No. 1 unit halfway through the penalty and put them back on late, noting the rest might have allowed Parise to get to the puck after his made a bad pass entering the zone.
“What I see is a psychological turning,” Resch said, “with one team saying we might have lost it, and the other team thinking ‘Boys, not only is Lady Luck and all those other unseen things on our bench, but she’s brought along a few friends with her.’ Not that it’s not going to turn again, but I think the Devils have a big psychological edge.”
Resch said not to underestimate how the change affects the team that was ahead.
“The Kings are probably saying ‘We’re doing everything we did in the first three games, and now we are not getting any rewards,'” Resch said. “It’s just a frightening thing one way, and exhilarating the other way.”
Resch said Brodeur has been unflappable for the Devils the past two games and he has to remain that way for New Jersey to win. If the 40-year-old lets in a bad goal, that could be the difference between who snares the Cup.
If the Kings want to win, Resch said one of their stars has to step up. He noticed Drew Doughty has had trouble getting his shots in recent games, and he might be the player who has to make the big play. While the Devils are a team that will continue to grind it out, believing something good will happen.
“I don’t think the Devils think they are going to lose,” Resch said. “I really don’t. It’s not so much that you think you are going to win, and I know it sounds the same, but you aren’t thinking going into a game that you’re going to win, but we’re not going to lose … because we are going to play well enough.”