Sunday, June 10, 2012

Parise Always Gives a Second- and Third-Effort

By Larry Wigge

What made Zach Parise move so fast that he beat goaltender Jonathan Quick to the far side of the net? What gave Parise the energy, the drive to score his first goal, first point, in five games?

They call them quick twitch muscles. Faster speed, quicker movements. And the drive ...

"I made a not-so-great pass across the ice," Parise explained. "I wasn't looking. Just saw Quick leave the net. I just went on the normal forecheck route that I've gone on a thousand times this year. He just happened to misplay it and put it on my stick. You got to get lucky sometimes."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And right.

What Parise meant to say is he made a marvelously unconscious play to beat Quick to the net and jab it into the net.

"I go into every game expecting Zach to do something big," said coach Peter DeBoer.

The something big was New Jersey's first power-play goal of the series ... it was Parise's awakening in the series ... it was his putting his imprint of hard work first and skill and talent second.

"Zach's game is so much more than the stat line," DeBoer continued. "He's the heartbeat of our team. He's the identity of our team. He forechecks, he back checks, he kills penalties. He plays in all situations.

"He really is our barometer. He's the guy that makes us go, whether he's scoring or not. I don't measure his game on goals and assists. He's creating opportunities. They're eventually going to go in." 

Parise did not take part in the Devils' optional morning skate. Instead, he took a bucket of pucks into the ice early, took some shots and left early. More contemplating the position he had helped put the Devils in or trying to coax more out of him.

"I didn't really feel like skating," he said, refusing to admit what was eating at him.

What was wrong with this self-motivated player so keyed up.

"I just wanted to get on the ice and try out a couple of sticks," he said. "I didn't want to skate and waste some energy."

No, he would save his energy for his dash with Quick at 12:45 of the first period when 
Zach gave the Devils the spark they needed. The quick twitch spark. 

You try not to over-analyze.

"As a young guy I've watched him all year," center Adam Henrique said. "I don't think there is a better guy to learn from. The way he handles himself on and off the ice in different situations. I try to put part of his game into mine and I think over the year it's one of the big reasons why my game has progressed.

"He's been there all year for us. Guys feed off his energy on the ice. It really gets guys going. Guys rally behind him. There is a reason why he is our leader. Guys look to him in these situations."

Parise can blame the 0-3 hole on himself. But he has a way to get out of this. Zach can ask his father how a comeback from an 0-3 playoff deficit is possible.

J.P. Parise did it three times ... in a way.

His New York Islanders rallied from 0-3 down to win a second-round series against Pittsburgh in 1975 -- and then nearly did it again in the next round against Philadelphia, winning three straight before losing Game 7.

The elder Parise also was on the Canadian national team that won the final three games of the famed 1972 Summit Series against Russia.

Zach hear from his father on a daily basis. Tips. Good-natured jab. And real advice.

"He said him and Chico Resch are living proof that it can happen," said Zach Parise. "He said they did it twice in the one season.

"He said with Team Canada, they went into Russia, had to win three games, won three games there. He said it can happen."

Parise also said his father realizes how close the Devils have been to turning around the series.

"He said just from watching the games, the margin for error right now is really, really slim," Zach Parise said. "All three of the games, we felt like we could have won. He just said, 'You've got to start with the one tonight and then see what happens.' "

Now there's some real fatherly advice that Zach and the Devils are following.

To some he just where the captain's 'C' for the New Jersey Devils. To others Zach Parise is built of relentless hard work ... something he says he gained a little insight into that from his dad.

"My dad wasn't flashy as a player, he wasn't a superstar, he just played hard every night and I think I kind of inherited that trait from him," Zach said. "He always told me you have to work harder than the next guy ... and then show how hard you work the next time and the next time."

J.P. Parise was a pretty smart man, who for starred for 14 seasons in the NHL and played a gritty, hard-working style. 

"If you see the way he deflects pucks and picks up garbage goals, these are all things he practices on his own and it really pays off for him," the elder Parise said. "But I did tell him, 'One of the things you can always control is to be one of the hardest-working players on the team.' "

Blood and sweat are keynotes to Zach Parise's game. When he isn't a good night, he works harder. Something his New Jersey Devils teammates pick up on. 

Now, you clearly get the picture of this left winger from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is more than just a run-of-the-mill player. He has topped out at 45 goals and 49 assists for 94 points in 2008-09. In his seven-year NHL career, Parise had also scored 30 goals or more four times, including this year when he had 31 goals and 38 assists.

But in his first extended stay in the playoffs, Zach has had eight goals and seven assists in 23 games.

Parise says patience with the puck and maturity have come along with experience.

"Year by year, I think I'm a little more patient with the puck," he said. "I think I'm making better decisions, and that goes with being more comfortable. Your first couple of years, you don't want to make mistakes, but then you get more comfortable, want to try different things, different moves."

He is a graduate of the famous Shattuck St. Mary's program in Minnesota and two years at North Dakota before he was chosen with the 17th overall selection in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Don't let the fact that he is just 5-ll, 195 pounds fool you -- he is a true NHL power forward by any sense of the word. Just like his father, he is a gritty heart and soul player.

It was at Shattuck St. Mary's that he agrees his career took it biggest step -- playing there with Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews.

Crosby (with Pittsburgh in 2009) and Toews (with Chicago in 2010) has won Stanley Cup. Parise ... he has none.

"That's an unfair question," Parise shot back. "I'm working on it."

If he can rally the Devils from an 0-3 deficit against Los Angeles, Zach Parise will have etched his name in the memories of all.

And it all started with those quick twitch muscles and the race to the front of the net with Jonathan Quick.

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