Five from the Kings-Devils

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Five from the Kings-Devils

NEWARK, NJ Here are five thoughts from the first period with the Kings leading the Devils by a 1-0 score after the first 20 minutes of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Prudential Center.

1) A thing of beauty by Drew Doughty in the first period when he weaved through three Devils defenders and buried a shot to the blocker side of Martin Brodeur. Drew comparisons of Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Scott Neidermayer on twitter and rightfully so. Hes something special.

2) A lot more nasty for both the Devils and the Kings in Game 2. A much tighter game with better flow as both teams predicted over the last two days. Devils actually managed 10 shots, which nearly matched their total from Game 1.

3) Martin Brodeur looks a little shaky bobbling pucks and not catching anything cleanly. The shot he gave up to Doughty wasnt the greatest stop in the world, and he finished with five saves.

4) Jonathan Quick, on the other hand, continues to look dominant. Ten saves in the first 20 minutes and a couple of solid stops on a shift where Zach Parise turned on the jets and looked determined to get the puck past him. Hes still the odds on favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

5) Awful Eurohousegymnastics routine music played for the New Jersey Devils during warm-ups. Whatever happened to ACDC?

SECOND PERIOD:

1) One shot on net for Ilya Kovalchuk through two periods of play. Two giveaways, two missed shots and one that was blocked. He looks very passive when he gets the puck and every skating stride looks extremely labored. The word is that its some kind of back problem, and if thats the case Devils are in extreme trouble if he doesnt start feeling better.

2) Jonathan Quick is very, very good. The Kings were a little more helter-skelter dealing with New Jerseys forecheck in the second period, but Quick was able to make another nine saves in the middle 20 minutes. According to NHL.com compadre Shawn ORourke Quick has given up one goal in his last 149:32 dating back to the Western Conference Finals. He doesnt look like hes prone to break down any time soon either.

3) Martin Brodeur looked much better in the second period, and made a couple of flashy glove saves that appeared to get him back into the flow of the game. The angry, dismissive glove save on Justin Williams appeared to be the turning point.

4) Four shots on goal for Mike Richards leads. Both teams. The depth on the Los Angeles Kings is something to be reckoned with along their front lines.

5) Kings have done a very good job roughing up Zach Parise in the first two games of this series. One shot in 12:10 of ice time and he was jacked up by Trevor Lewis at the end of the second period. Appeared a little dazed when he finally got up and off the ice.
THIRD PERIOD:

1) The Devils are going to be hard-pressed in this Stanley Cup Final if they dont start getting some production from Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Kings are effectively shutting them both down.

2) No shots on net in 21:28 tonight for Dustin Brown. Three hits but hes been largely quiet. Kings could use a lot more out of their tone-setter than theyve received thus far, and his ill-conceived pass to the front of the net at the end of the third almost turned into an Ilya Kovalchuk goal. Kings are very casual throwing the puck in front of the net and will get burned at some point because of that.

3) Devils fourth line has been keeping then in these games. Ryan Carter high tip on a Marek Zidlicky point shot beats Jonathan Quick. Thats the only line that Pete DeBoer didnt mess around with between second and third period, and with good reason.

4) Not a lot separating these two teams when the Kings are on the road, but that makes you think Los Angeles might just blow Jerseys doors off at the Staples Center. Doesnt it?

5) The 25th overtime game of the playoffs, and the second straight in the Finals for the Devils and Kings.

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

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Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was not in any mood to start revealing his behind-the-scenes pre-kickoff routine on game-days. The air of focus he's exhibited during his media-availability periods this week continued on Friday, particularly when he was asked about his Sunday rituals. 

When a reporter wondered if there was anything in particular Belichick does before a game, he initially said simply, "No."

A follow-up about superstitions was tossed Belichick's way next. He swatted that aside as well.

"Try to play and coach good," he explained. "Goes a long way."

There you have it. An easy-step-by-step guide on how to approach a game like a future Hall-of-Famer.