Friday, March 30, 2007


Postgame: Devils 3 - Flyers 1

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 to snap a 5 game losing streak at the Continental Airlines Arena. As always, has the official score sheet and the official super stats of that game, linked respectively.

The three stars of this game was Mike Rupp, Travis Zajac, and Simon Gagne. While all three did well in the game, especially Rupp but I'll get to him in a minute. I must say that Martin Brodeur had a great game. He was vital in the first and second periods when it seemed that he was the only one to show up to play, deflecting pucks and making saves to prevent glorious scoring chances for the Flyers early on. To be fair, Brian Rafalski provided two crucial blocks in front of an open net after Brodeur moved out of the crease off a minor injury early on. It looked to be a strained leg, there's no worry, he played the rest of the game and played it well; just seemed to move it funny. All the same, while the Flyers didn't put a lot of shots on Brodeur in total, they clearly looked a lot better in the first two periods. Brodeur came up big en route to his 45th win this season. I just think he should have been named one of the stars; but those three are good enough.

I must reiterate this: The Devils were horrible in the first and second periods. OK, they were successful on their 3 penalty kills; but Brodeur factored big on that as well. More than halfway through the game, the Devils had a whopping 10 shots on Flyers goaltender Martin Biron. 10. Patrik Elias setting up a few - and I do mean a few - scoring chances the Devils had. Overall, for the first 38 minutes of the game, the Devils skated in slow motion, played way passive on defense, and did very poorly on offense. The crowd was booing at the Devils poor performance after PZL did little with a turnover deep in the Flyers' zone, as an example. And I did not blame them. I wanted to yell "MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!" at the TV, I wanted to convey to the Devils not named Brodeur to wake up, as the game actually meant something to NJ's playoff seeding. Sadly, I could not, for obvious reasons.

Fortunately, Mike Rupp of all people came through. Scott Gomez got injured during the first period and saw only 5:39 of ice time. The broadcasters on FSNY (Doc Emerick and Chico Resch) said it was a bruised thigh. With all the other Devils seemingly ready to return, I hope Gomez heals quickly. That said, it led to a first line of Mike Rupp and Patrik Elias with Sergei Brylin at center. Believe it or not, it actually worked. The Devils first goal started with another disappointment: a Patrik Elias slapshot goes nowhere near the net thanks to the stick breaking. But the puck goes into the corner, so Elias can skate back to the bench to get a stick. While that was happening, Rupp moves the puck along behind the net and it gets out to the point. Brad Lukowich gets the puck at the point while Rupp peals into the slot and fires a hard shot. Rupp deflects the shot in for the Devils first goal just as Elias gets his stick. Goal aside, Rupp was skating pretty hard with Elias (who also was hustling) and he played well filling in on the first line. It was amazing that the Devils scored first considering how putrid their entire performance was until that point. That goal led to more offense, however.

Mike York takes a hooking call late in the second, leading to a Devils power play. All right, the Devils scored one goal; but this is a power play and I'll be honest - I wasn't expecting much. Yet, the Devils actually did well on the power play and they did something even better: they scored. Elias along the boards won the fight for the puck, moved it up to Rafalski at the point, who fired a low shot at Biron. Parise tries to poke it in, fails, but it moves to Travis Zajac who puts it home and the Devils enter the third period with early two periods worth of bad performance and a two goal lead.

The Devils would really turn it on the third. The Devils put 10 shots on Biron in that period alone, looked good (but was not successful) on two power plays, and came close a number of times to extend that lead. The defense also stepped up and really shut the Flyers down, holding them to only 2 shots in that period (a total of 15 shots). John Madden did return to the line up and became more noticeable in this period on defense. David Clarkson was sent down to Lowell as a result (salary cap reasons as well, I believe); but I'm glad Madden returned and looked good (in the third mainly) with 20:11 of ice time. The defense did hang Martin Brodeur out to dry as Simon Gagne - the guy I was concerned about in my preview of the game - was wide open at the top of the slot. Gagne fired a laser up high to beat Brodeur and dash any hopes of a shutout. Fortunately, the Devils would close the Flyers down and ice the game with a backhand shot by Jay Pandolfo reaching the empty net.

Strong third period makes up for a crappy first two periods and the Devils retake the Atlantic Division lead with the win. The cliche states that good teams find ways to win games despite poor performances and unfortunate circumstances (losing Gomez to injury during the game is certainly unfortunate). Tonight's game is evidence supporting that cliche. Four games left for the Devils and Boston is next on Sunday, we should see Brian Gionta return for that home game. Hopefully Gomez will not be injured for too long and the Devils can close out this season with wins and a healthy team.


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