Saturday, February 17, 2007


Postgame: Pittsburgh 5 - Devils 4

The Pittsburgh Penguins remain on their current hot streak via holding on for the win by a score of 5 to 4. As always, has the official score sheet and official super stats from the game, linked respectively.

Well, the Devils at least came back close enough to keep it close when it could have easily been a rout. The first period was one of the worst first periods the Devils have had all season. Three goals given up, all of them stoppable, and they came from the likes of agitator Jarkko Ruutu, pylon Rob Scuderi, and sniper Jordan Staal. OK, the last one doesn't feel as bad. Though, I was surprised to learn that was his 24th goal of the season. My, the Penguins do well when they draft high. All the same, the Devils seemed sloppy in passing, in their shots, and especially (and obviously) on defense. For all three goals, I didn't know whether to blame the poor positioning by the defensemen or blame Martin Brodeur for not stopping them. I will collectively blame them both. I know Brodeur has been aces all season long, but 3 goals out of 10 shots is symbolic of a poor game no matter who you are. Even on penalties the Devils were sloppy. David Hale knows better than to hook somebody's hands and Cam Janssen knows better to skate at full speed from 10 feet away and jump into the boards for a check. Poor period all around.

In the second period the Devils showed some life with maintained possession on offense and putting some quality chances on net. Brian Rafalski finishes a good play to put the Devils up one. But then a few minutes later Mark Fraser stupidly roughs up who I think was Eric Christensen. 6 seconds later, Fraser's mistake is paid for, signed for, and delivered by Sidney Crosby. Patrik Elias responds with a sweet backhand going high on Marc-Andre Fleury to respond. However, whilst the Devils were gaining momentum looking to pull within one, Pittsburgh's fourth line continued to shine. Jarkko Ruttu pounds the net and a loose puck home to make it 5-2. Jarkko. Ruutu. Scored. Two. Goals. On. Martin. Brodeur. Amazingly, it was that line more than any other that gave the Devils fits. I can't explain it and I hate it. At the behest of their performance and my good friend Andrew (whom I went to the game with) I'll give Ruutu, Ronald Petrovicky, and Dominic Moore (with four shots!) their due. Begrudgingly, I give them their due. Argh.

In the third period, the Devils made sure there wouldn't be much of the proverbial bad taste in Devils' fans mouths by mounting a comeback. Of the four power plays the Devils got against Pittsburgh, they were bad on three of them. But they made the most of a Jarkko Ruutu (him again!) hooking call, as Zach Parise made it 5-3 on the rebound. Travis Zajac took a long shot that Fleury just couldn't handle to make it 5-4. Seriously, it just bounced off his glove and in. Penguins fans were stunned, Devils fans like me were thinking: it could happen! A comeback could happen! Well, despite their best efforts, the Penguins increased their efforts in protecting their lead with a good use of the 1-4 formation on defense. The Devils pulled Brodeur late and tried to make something happen, but it was not to be despite the havok the six Devils created.

To be fair, the Devils fighting back to only lose by one goal is a bit heartning, especially given how poor they were in the first period and how poor they were on defense overall. I have no problem with the offense or the forwards save for their power play efforts. John Madden didn't think he played well as Rich Chere reported in today's Star Ledger; I disagree somewhat. One giveaway and no takeaways hurts, as does his -1 in the game. But he wasn't a liability on the ice for the 17:33 he did play and he did get 5 shots on net. Yes, the one they scored on was good; but the others included a lot of time in their own end - which is obviously not good. Seriously, Jarkko Ruutu scoring two goals - including the - out of five given up is not a good sign. They limited Crosby and Evgeni Malkin somewhat (Crosby did have a goal and an assist, Malkin with an assist); but Brodeur clearly needs a rest and the defense really needs to perform better. Only allowing 24 shots from Pittsburgh would normally be considered a good thing, but not when 5 of those go in the net.

In summary, the Devils did exert their physical game (21 hits to the Penguins' 12), they did put quite a few shots on Fleury, and they did expose the defense when they could. However, the defense and Brodeur did not bring their A games (more like their C- games) and that ultimately created a deficit that was just a little too much to overcome. An exciting game, yes; and I did enjoy going to the game. I really liked my view in Section 213, though the fans (I'm looking in your direction 223 and 218) really need to stop doing the "Rangers Suck" chant at games where the Devils are not playing the Rangers. They were playing the Penguins, guys; at least say Penguins suck or something. Otherwise, it makes Devils fans seem real stupid. In any case, I hope the team shapes up in time for tonight's game in Long Island.


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