LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06: Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings moves the puck against David Clarkson #23 of the New Jersey Devils in Game Four of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Looking at the challenges for both New Jersey and Los Angeles to keep on track and remain focused in Game 6 tonight.
Call it discipline, call it focus, call it genius -- no, sorry, that's a cooking show. The biggest challenge for both teams in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals Monday night is the need to shut out distractions.
The Kings, in an odd way, actually have the worst of the equation tonight. Despite jokes about Taylor Stevens attempting to distract Devils' head coach Peter DeBoer, she's one woman. Los Angeles is going to have something like 18,000 people looking over their shoulder tonight, cheering their successes, but also calling out their mistakes.
If Jonathan Quick cannot regain the glacial poise he maintained for so much of the postseason, those voices could easily become a smothering pressure. Struggling forwards like Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar could easily be sucked into the same loop, pushing themselves into mistakes as they attempt to satisfy the fans and wrap up the Finals at home.
The Devils, meanwhile, will feel the "win to survive" pressure, but that's a role the team seems to be adapting to. The larger challenge is for them to capture the "pissed off" mentality that has driven them in the last two games without letting their emotions overwhelm them. Los Angeles has been weak on the power play, but the lesson of the Kings' first round series vs. the Panthers should have been that if you give your opponent enough chances, they will eventually figure you out.
Embracing the underdog mentality has helped to keep Jersey competitive, but the other side of the coin is the stress of constantly feeling like you must overcome stacked odds - something which could become a major burden if the Kings can break through and take an early lead. There are only so many times you can push yourself to charge uphill - how much willpower do the Devils have left, and how emotional lift were they given by their decisive victory in game five?
Another key area for New Jersey is to protect Martin Brodeur on the Kings' ice. Given the opportunity, Bryce Salvador, David Clarkson and Ryan Carter were happy to go to the net and knock around Jonathan Quick, but the Kings will now have better opportunities to return the favor to the future Hall of Fame goaltender, and a decent chance to get a few more whistles in their own barn than they received in the Prudential Center.
With scoring at a premium in this series, it's fair to expect another 2-1 or 1-0 game, and overtime seems all too likely. The club that can get the first goal and keep themselves on point will have a tremendous advantage, and neither team has shown the ability to break through and regain control of the game to this point.