Sunday, December 31, 2006
Postgame: Devils 2 - Islanders 0
First, the game was truly a goaltender's dual. Rick DiPietro and Martin Brodeur played very well. Both faced quite a bit of work, with Brodeur saving all 29 of the Islanders' shots and DiPietro stopping 34 of 35 of the Devils' shots he was in net for. They both had to come up big at times and they both had tough saves to make. If you wanted to see some great goaltending, this was a marquee match up. It's a shame that the game was decided on a fluke goal: Rafalski's shot was tipped by an Islanders' stick and a defenseman's hand (up to knock it away) up and over DiPietro. Brodeur had a milestone night: he broke the 50,000 minute plateau whilst getting his 6th shutout of the season, his 86th shutout in his career, and yet another win.
This leads me to my second point, the Devils' defense played very well tonight. Paul Martin slid on the ice to stop a sure two-on-one. I saw Brian Rafalski make many strong clearances and first passes out of his own zone to start rushes. I saw Brad Lukowich getting physical with 4 hits. I saw the checking unit pretty much shutdown their top line. I saw Devils picking up and beating the Islanders to loose pucks as well as making a number of interceptions. I saw the entire defensive unit hold the Islanders to less than 30 shots and blocking 25 shots in a very open, up-tempo, end-to-end game. 29 shots isn't a small amount, but it was in this game. Good job to the defense.
I can not stress enough how up tempo this game was, as both teams were skating hard for pretty much all 60 minutes. For the first two periods, the Devils had a number of interesting offensive opportunities thwarted by the Islanders' blocking their shots - Tom Poti had 5 blocked shots, the team had 18. However, they did not give up; the Devils kept swarming and ultimately put a lot of pressure on the Islanders in the third period. Fortunately for them, DiPietro was as hot as he was, the Devils put up 17 shots in that third period alone. Brian Gionta, in particular, had a number of good opportunities but saw 7 of his shots all stopped. Patrik Elias was robbed on what could have been a highlight-reel backhand goal. While they only scored on a fluke and an empty net goal, it's very heartening to know the Devils can hustle as they did and be that aggressive on offense in the second game of a back-to-back series against a difficult opponent.
If the Devils were soundly beaten in any one area, I'd say it was in the physical game. The Devils were out hit 20 to 12. That may not be a surprise as the Islanders are a physical team with guys like Trent Hunter (3 hits), Brendan Witt (5 hits), and Arron Asham (5 hits). It would have been nice if Cam Janssen set the tempo in that regard, but it was not to be. Speaking of physical, good on Sergei Brylin for not backing down from Chris Campoli.
Overall, the Devils played very well against a team who have gave them problems last season and earlier this season. The game was exciting to watch and the Devils winning their last game of the year was solid. They now have a 5 point lead in the Atlantic Division with the Rangers coming up on Tuesday. Good job, Devils.
Labels: Devils Postgame