Thursday, February 15, 2007


Postgame: Devils 5 - Montreal 2

The New Jersey Devils completed their season series sweep of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 win last night. As always, has the official score sheet and the official super stats, respectively linked.

What a win, what a win, what a win! The Canadiens were floundering and despite their aggressiveness and scoring the first goal, the Devils did so many of the right things to convincingly win this game.

First and foremost, my contention that the Devils had to get a fairly large lead early was off the mark. That said, they came out strong, played through the second strong, and won the game, uh, strong. They did it without John Madden (which I knew), defenseman Colin White (which I knew just as the game started and not beforehand), and - unfortunately - winger Brian Gionta (which was the result of either Mike Komisarek's trip). I'll get to the latter in a moment.

Tim Mo at RaReMaDev beats me to it by expounding the following:
Wait a minute, the Devils scored THREE GOALS on the Power Play? Since when? Since what? Well, if you keep in mind that 66.66% of those goals scored were on a 5-on-3, it's not quite as great.
Well, I disagree with the 5-on-3 assertion. Those are situations where you should score on the power play with all that extra space and fewer defenders. That said, the fact that the Devils scored 3 power play goals out of the 7 power plays Montreal given up to New Jersey is worthy of praise. It ultimately decided the game. Bra-vo Devils power play units. Note to Les Habs: Taking incredibly undisciplined calls such as interference (by way of hitting people into the boards from behind), clearing the puck over the glass, and hooking is a great way to add your recent playing woes.

The offense as a whole did what they needed to do to score 5 goals in a game: the pounded Montreal with shots. 3 goals out of 20 shots on Cristobal Huet before he tore a hamstring and had to leave the game. His replacement David Aebischer fared better by only giving up one goal out of 20 shots; but all the same the Devils put 41 shots on Montreal. That's proof of a great effort from the offense. What's more is that NJ kept firing on net in the second and third periods, even after taking the lead and even after Brian Gionta's injury meant Mike Rupp had to play on the top line with Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez. Mike Rupp deserves extra credit for doing a great job emulating Brian Gionta, going to the net and not afraid to take the big shot up the wing (one of which Elias drove to the net and scored on an ensuing rebound). Jim Dowd did a good job filling in for John Madden. My only complaint on the offense is for Jamie Langenbrunner: When you have the empty net, DON'T HIT THE POST. Fortunately, Langenbrunner redeemed himself by recovering the puck behind the net afterwards and dished it to Sergei Brylin, who got the easy and fifth goal of the night. All the same, I think Langenbrunner could use some practice to help his shooting accuracy.

Defense was strong even without Colin White. Mark Fraser was an emergency call up to take up that sixth spot on the blueline and looked OK. He even had a shot on net. David Hale got serious minutes - 16:37 of ice time - and also looked real good with four blocked shots. A couple weeks ago, we saw Hale get less than five minutes of ice time. Hopefully coach Claude Julien will reward Hale with more ice time in the future; he certainly showed he can play well against Montreal. The best defenseman of the night was clearly Brian Rafalski: he scored two of the three power play goals by coming in at the right time to take a well-placed shot. Great job by Rafalski, he only made one mistake last night. Trying to clear the puck away from a fallen Martin Brodeur from behind sent the puck up the middle to Sheldon Souray who put the puck right past Brodeur just enough to beat him for the game's first goal. He certainly made up for that gaffe, that's for sure.

Brodeur was solid except for the Samsonov goal, Montreal's second goal. I felt Brodeur should have had it. Nevertheless, he made the saves he had to make to keep the Devils in it, which is exactly what Brodeur does. The defense really helped him out by limiting Montreal to 21 shots. Yes, the Devils outshot the Canadiens 41-21. They were that good last night. Good win for him, and a good win for the Devils.

The win did come at a cost. Rich Chere's recap of the game in today's Star Ledger focuses much on the injury to Brian Gionta and with good reason. Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek tripped Gionta up and Gionta then crashed into the boards elbow first followed shortly by his shoulder. He was slow to get up and while he skated off the ice under his own power, he stayed on the bench in pain, went to the locker room, and never returned. The Devils say it's a minor groin pull, which is a possible result from the trip. For all we know, that's the official story and it's really Gionta's arm that's hurt from the collision. I don't know and it doesn't matter much as he's injured all the same. Given that the Devils will play Pittsburgh tomorrow and the Islanders on Saturday, the injury comes at a bad time. A team-leading goal scorer would be nice for those games. Hopefully, Madden returns and gives the Devils some stability there and 12 forwards to work with. Since the Devils are so close to the cap, I don't think Nicklas Bergfors can be called up to take Gionta's shifts on the top line. I guess we'll try to cheer on Mike Rupp and hope he continues playing like Gionta.

Nevertheless, it's a good win by the Devils and I'll end it with this fantastic line from the second intermission by former Devils captain Don Lever:
It used to be a race back to the locker room after the game to see Chico [Resch] lift up his weave and blow dry it.
What I wouldn't do for a picture of that. Heh.


"Well, I disagree with the 5-on-3 assertion. Those are situations where you should score on the power play with all that extra space and fewer defenders."

I think we're making the same point, John. That's why I didn't consider it very impressive.
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