Sunday, January 07, 2007
Postgame: Devils 3 - Senators 2, Game: Devils @ Montreal, 3 of 4
I only saw the first 50 minutes of the game, so the Devils getting a third goal prior to the Senators scoring is a good thing. Tim Mo of RaReMaDev has a more complete (and concise!) review of the game right here. Brodeur played incredibly well in those 50 minutes, making a number of big saves on various Senators scoring chances. He faced 35 shots in the game, so he got quite a bit of work.
The sixth defenseman for the Devils yesterday afternoon was Mark Fraser. A third round pick from the 2005 draft, Fraser played in his first NHL game and looked OK. He is a defensive defenseman, who is not afraid of making the big hit or dropping the gloves. While he didn't have to fight, he did have a memorable big check on Patrick Eaves behind the net in the second period. The game was back-and-forth for much of the first two period. As time went on, when momentum shifted to the Senators, Ottawa really swarmed the Devils zone - peppering Brodeur with a lot of shots and the Devils having trouble clearing the zone. There were a number of times I thought Ottawa was certain to score, but thankfully Martin Brodeur denied them. The difference in this game ultimately came down to finishing scoring chances, and the Devils clearly outdid the Senators in that department. Zach Parise pounded a Travis Zajac rebound in for the first goal, Brian Gionta tipped a David Hale slap shot for the second, and Gionta scored on a good feed from Scott Gomez.
The defense was an issue last night for obvious reasons. Coach Claude Julien decided to employ a collapsing system on defense to take away the close shot. While I think that was a good idea, it left the Senators wide open to take shots from the outside. I think most of those 35 shots were from that range, but even then the Devils had trouble at times in clearing the puck and denying extended possession by the Senators. Clearly, Julien decided David Hale wasn't going to get a lot of minutes. Which is fine, since there some shifts wherein he looked good and others where he was lost (e.g. giving away the puck whilst looking for that first pass left two Senators - Christopher Schubert and Pat Eaves - wide open and left Brad Lukowich and Martin Brodeur out to dry. That was how the first Senators goal was scored). However, that meant Brian Rafalski to play 30:53, Paul Martin to play 31:05 and Lukowich to play 29:33. That's a lot of work on their shoulders and I wonder how fatigued they will be tonight against Montreal. Also worrying is the fact that the Devils were outhit 26-16. Someone tell coach Julien that hockey is a physical game and that sometimes body checking a guy is as effective as poke checking their stick.
Regardless, the Devils won on the road against a tough opponent. They get to do it again tonight. Check that, the Devils travel to Montreal to play this afternoon!
GAMETIME: 3 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 92.3, FREE FM
Devils Record Vs. Montreal, 2-0-0
The Devils may be tired in their match up against Montreal today, having played a close Ottawa Senators squad. Fortunately, the Canadiens may also be tired, having hosted the New York Rangers last night in a 4-3 loss. The Montreal Canadiens are hurting both physically and in the hockey department. Captain Saku Koivu, Guillaume Latendresse, and Garth Murray are all sick with the flu; and the Montreal Canadiens team has lost 4 of their last 5 games. What's more, they're going to face a Devils team who has only lost one game (in a shootout) in their last 5 games, featuring an incredibly hot Zach Parise (7 G, 6 A in his last 10 games) and Patrik Elias (11 G, 14 A in his last 18 games) and a goaltender who has been nothing but brilliant against the Montreal Canadiens - Martin Brodeur with a lifetime record of 31-12-5, 6 shutouts, a goals against average of 1.77, and a save percentage of 93.2% against the team.
The Devils, however, must not take this game lightly. The Canadiens are a team who are strong on special teams. Les Habs boast the second best power play unit (23.9% efficiency) and penalty killing (87.4%) in the NHL. Therefore, the Devils cannot give up too many penalties otherwise Montreal will make them pay. What's more, the Devils cannot show signs of fatigue in this contest. The Canadiens will be at home, looking to right the ship so to speak, and will likely come out flying. If NJ starts skating in a fog, it's going to be tough for the Devils to pull out a win this afternoon. This is especially true on defense. The top three defensemen for have gotten a lot more shifts than usual in the last two Devils games. If they start huffing and puffing and do not seem that they have come to play, Montreal will take advantage. Sure, their leading scorer Saku Koivu may be out; but Sheldon Souray (14 G, 21 A), Alexei Kovalev (10 G, 21 A), and Michael Ryder (11 G, 16 A) are offensive threats. Needless to say, above all, the Devils forwards need to sustain pressure on Montreal. There were good stretches where they did this against Ray Emery, but keeping it up was an issue. Against Cristobel Huet - a goaltender who is 0-4-0 against NJ in his career - putting a lot of pucks on him will ensure that a number of them will go in.
Anyway, despite all of my concerns, the Devils should be aiming for a win today and then enjoy a nice short break before playing St. Louis in this coming week. GO DEVILS!