Thursday, February 22, 2007


Postgame: Devils 3 - Rangers 2, SO

The New Jersey Devils win a home-and-home against the Rangers for the first time in a long while with a 3-2 shootout win. As always, has the official score sheet and the official super stats from that game, linked respectively.

In some ways, the Devils shouldn't have won this game at all. The Rangers came out flying with three quick shots, whilst the Devils floundered. The low light of that being Marek Malik hitting Marcel Hossa with a pass for a clear breakaway, who beat Brodeur cleanly for the first goal of the game. Where the other Devils? Caught in a line change. The Devils stabilized later on, but it wasn't until the later parts of the first period that the Devils showed some level of strength in the game. The Rangers had to be pleased with their first period performance, the Devils not so much.

The one highlight for the Devils was that they would begin the second with a two man advantage; which they squandered. In fact, the Devils squandered all of their power plays. All five of them. The power play for the Devils was pathetic. The second Rangers goal came from Petr Prucha jamming a puck in after a save on the power play. Brad Lukowich was right there, but he could not keep the puck under Martin Brodeur's left leg pad - nor did he try and block Prucha who was on the post without a man on him. The Devils made quite a few errors in their own zone, with poor clearances, attempts to clear the puck haphazardly, poor passes, and off positioning. Martin Brodeur had to be big and he was big in net.

Overall, the Devils were sloppy in passing and a number of scoring chances went unfinished or not even realized due to passes not hitting sticks, bouncing off sticks, or (worst of all) going to the other team. Yet, past halfway through the second period, Brian Rafalski's slap shot was tipped by Marek Malik just enough to beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the Devils pulled within one. The third period featured more close play, but Zach Parise made the difference by being in the right place at the right time to put home a rebound off Travis Zajac's shot to tie the game.

The Devils, despite their poor passing, despite their defensive miscues, despite their pathetic power play, and they took the Rangers - who needed two points in a very bad way tonight - to overtime. In overtime, Jaromir Jagr decides that sticking out his elbow while driving to the net would be a good idea. Naturally, he hit Martin Brodeur and got a goaltender interference call. The sort of call you'd hear about that for the next few days from some bitter Rangers fans. While Jagr couldn't slow down in driving to the net - in the middle of his "move" - he certainly could have not extended his elbow into Brodeur. But you won't hear much because nothing came as a result of it due to the Devils' absolute ineffectiveness on the power play.

So we come to a shootout. I have to say, I really enjoy the shootout. It's enjoyable, it provides a lot of excitement if only for the pressure, and (most importantly) it determines a winner and a loser. Some may say that a tie would have been fair result in this game; but sports are all about putting together squads of people to see who is better at what they do - decisiveness is desirable, in my opinion. And in the shootout, Jamie Langenbrunner reminded everyone that the goaltender should make sure he has it before cheering. Yes, the initial shot was saved, but it careened up and over Lundqvist for what became the game deciding goal. Patricia Greuter at 2 Man Advantage has a more succinct summary of the shootout here.

So while the Devils certainly can improve upon this performance, it was great to see them not give up, fight back from a two goal deficit on the road against a team who really needed the win to tie the game up, and win it in the shootout. The cliche is true: really good teams find ways to win games in bad situations.

I'll leave you with this fun stat: the Devils have 21 games remaining and Martin Brodeur picked up his 38th win tonight. While I'm sure the shootout makes it a bit easier, it's entirely possible that Brodeur can catch Bernie Parent's single season record for wins - 47. (P.S. Yes, the Devils are now 5-2-1 against the Rangers this season, I messed up my game preview in that regard, sorry about that).


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