Monday, April 30, 2007


April 2007 in Review & Devil of the Month

Tonight's Game 3 was the final game of a really eventful month for the Devils. Let's quickly recap all of the highlights of the month:
Overall, not a bad month at all. Now, who is the Devil of the Month of April 2007? After Game 3, I really don't want to pick anyone except Martin Brodeur, but the month consisted a lot more than just tonight's game. While Brodeur has reached a historic milestone and is almost always a a candidate, he hasn't been that consistent in the playoffs so I really can't pick him. Zach Parise, Scott Gomez, and Patrik Elias all have stepped up their production in the playoffs; however, they don't produce when the team isn't playing well - which has happened a number of times this April. Richard Matvichuk has played only 8 games, so it's not him. I'm going off the board here, but in my opinion, he's been the most consistently good Devil of the last month:

Brian Rafalski is the April 2007 In Lou We Trust Devil of the Month. In the last four regular season games, Rafalski has brought 3 assists, at least 21 minutes of ice time a night, and sound positional work to the proverbial table. In the playoffs, his first pass and work at the point continued to be a part of goals. Rafalski scored 2 goals and assisted on 5 others, while playing against a high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning offense. Against Ottawa, he had an assist in the first game, and compiled 31 minutes of ice time against Ottawa's deeper and more potent forwards. He's been solid, he's been consistent, and he's only made one really bad turnover for a goal (Game 1 against Ottawa). However, that's one mistake among a lot of good plays that he made this past month. The Devils are known for their defense, and he's the top man on defense as well as the point. I think he's worthy by virtue of being consistently good in all but two games (Games 1 and 3 against Ottawa) this month. Again, Brian Rafalski is the April 2007 ILWT Devil of the Month. Feel free to disagree or discuss on something else about the month in the comments.


Rd. 2, Game 3: Ottawa 2 - Devils 0

The Ottawa Senators soundly defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-0 in Game 3. As always, has the official scoresheet and the official super stats of that game, linked respectively.

Martin Brodeur showed up to play.

The rest of the team, I'm not so sure.

Where do I start here? OK, bright side: Martin Brodeur was excellent all game long and you can not blame him for the loss at all. If you do, it is evident that you did not see this game.

Not so bright side: Everything else. Before I get into the game, I'll admit my error in thinking both teams were tired: the Senators were definitely not tired in this one. Oh no, they did what they had to win - they earned this one. Not that it was much of a challenge from my vantage point (watching the game on TV). Let's start at a popular source of complaint: special teams. No, not the penalty killers; they did well, holding Ottawa 0 for 4 with the man advantage. Of course, I'm referring to the power play units. Five power plays for the Devils, all of them wasted. When the other team literally hands you two power plays in the third period and you're down by one, show some urgency and fire the puck on net! I must say, though, Ottawa did a great job on the penalty kill. Makes me wonder whether it was the Devils doing so poor on attack with the man advantage or whether Ottawa was so good: likely both.

More worryingly was that was also the offense for most of the game. Very unaggressive, and the Devils had trouble getting into their zone all night long with very few sustained offensive possessions. They really didn't get Ray Emery working, the Devils tried too many blind passes and shots with Senators right in front. The Senators defense, Anton Volchenkov in particular with his eight blocked shots, performed very well tonight - they did well. The Devils offense was very nonthreatening both as a result of the Senators' defense and their own inaction and lack of energy.

Even worse was the defense. It's been a while since I've seen the Devils play so passively. OK, they were in position, I'll give them that. But most of the time, they had no issue with Ottawa moving the puck around both with passes and possession - seemingly standing around as if they were waiting for a turnover to present itself. This resulted in Martin Brodeur facing a barrage of shots and scoring chances. Again, Brodeur showed up, but the defense certainly did not.

What we saw was not Devils hockey - and as a result of all of these things, they lost.

Nothing is over with respect to this series. The Devils didn't do well in Game 3 in Round 1 against Tampa Bay and they managed to win three straight to win the series. Will they do it again? I hope so, but I'm not confident right at this moment.

OTHER REACTIONS (UPDATED): Patricia (not Joe, sorry Patricia...and Joe) at 2 Man Advantage is less kind, and I don't blame him - the picture of Emery he has is not too far off the mark. Schnookie (Schnookie?) at Interchangable Parts also live-blogged the game as well.

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Rd. 2, Game 3: Devils @ Ottawa

With the series tied at 1 a piece, the New Jersey Devils will travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators to break this playoff deadlock.

National TV: Versus (HD)
Local Radio: 92.3 FM, FREE FM
The Series is Tied at 1 Preview

I feel good about this game tonight for three reasons. The first is that the Devils beat the Senators in double overtime in Game 2, obviously providing a huge lift for the Devils in terms of momentum and confidence. If you don't believe me, check out Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger - the win was clearly huge. The second is inherent in the headline for the game preview at Senators: Devils' timekeepers had slow hand. For Ottawa's sake, I hope those are old quotes. Otherwise it's proof that they are still dwelling on Game 2, complaining about Sergei Brylin's last second shot on the first going in - conveniently ignoring Jamie Langenbrunner sneaking behind the Ottawa defense in the neutral zone which led to the breakaway en route to the game winning goal. In any case, any sign of the Senators still stuck in the past with Game 2 is definitely good for the Devils.

The third reason is that the Devils are on the road. That may sound a little puzzling, but consider Game 2 for a moment (and ignore my own hypocrisy about not dwelling on the past as well). The Devils were excellent in the first period: they constantly threatened Ottawa on offense, they forced turnovers, and they made Ottawa play on the heels of their skates for most of the period. Then the Devils tried to sit on the lead for the next forty minutes, the Senators worked through the Devils' defense and if it wasn't for Martin Brodeur being himself, the Devils would have blown the lead. Actually, even with Brodeur making huge save after huge save, the Senators tied up the game - blowing the lead anyhow.

My point is this: now that the Devils are on the road, they should be less inclined to play with a completely defensive mentality. This was the thesis of Ken Daneyko's comments after Game 2 and I certainly hope he's right. Hey, I got not problem with defensive hockey - Devils hockey, as it were - I certainly not question the success the Devils have had. There is a difference however between a defensive style and a defensive mentality. You can play a defensive style without sacrificing the offense or just sitting on a lead - the Devils have done this very well. However, in the playoffs against a team as offensively powerful as the Ottawa Senators, trying to sit on a lead for a period or so is very difficult. I know the defense has come through in the clutch and that Martin Brodeur is Martin Brodeur; but trying to turn a 2 goal lead into a 3 goal lead does wonders for protecting a win than just playing defense only with the 2 goal lead.

Tonight should be interesting in that it's a tied series and both teams are considerably tired. The Devils didn't practice yesterday, according to Tom Gulitti at his blog Fire & Ice, and the preview stated that Cristoph Schubert was the only Ottawa regular who did practice yesterday. Hopefully both teams will be rested enough to give us another great hockey game. Hopefully the Devils remember what they did in period 1 in Game 2 and do those things to great success tonight. I'm confident that if they do those things, they will likely be the winners of Game 3. GO DEVILS!

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Saturday, April 28, 2007


Rd. 2, Game 2: Devils 3 - Ottawa 2, 2OT

The New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators went the distance and the Devils ultimately won in double overtime. As always, has the official scoresheet and official super stats of the game, linked respectively.

Wow. That was a very exciting game. When you hear hockey fans talk about how great playoff hockey is, they are talking about games like this one. I must say, it had great action and was very entertaining to watch.

The Devils did exactly what I wanted in the first period. They came out strong, the return of Patrik Elias really energized the EGG unit (they were flying all night), they scored first, Brian Gionta scored on the Devils' first shot on goal in the game on a power play, and the Devils kept pressing the Senators all period long. 16 shots for the Devils and the Senators were too busy playing defense, only managing 5 shots. Sergei Brylin made the game 2-0 literally less than a second before the end of the first period when he got a loose puck off the faceoff and pounded it home off the post and in to convert on the power play there. The Devils were looking good, playing well, and I was feeling good.

But the Devils did not maintain. I wish I could take a picture of an entire period (or two periods in this case) to show clearly and concisely show that hanging back, playing primarly defensively, "turtling" on a lead for over a period against Ottawa is a bad idea. The Devils put 8 shots on net in both the second and third periods and what I'm talking about is more than just shots. The team's mentality was too defensive and too passive. When the Devils did have an offensive rush, the players made too many passes. I understand why the forwards did so, had some of those passes connected to the intended Devil, the receiver of the pass would have an excellent chance to score. But the Senators stopped the pass, or the pass bounced over the stick or it didn't go all the way through or something else. Often times a good shooting opportunity was literally passed up - to make one more pass.

Overall, however, the Devils really should have pushed for a third goal instead of trying to defend the lead. Martin Brodeur was fantastic, literally robbing the Senators of goals several times; and the penalty killers did a great job holding Ottawa to only one power play goal. However, even Brodeur needs offensive help and as a result the Senators crashed the net late and were rewarded when Heatley pounded it in for the equalizer deep in the slot. Why Paul Martin or Sergei Brylin didn't stop Heatley is beyond me. I understand that taking a penalty is a bad idea, but if it's a one goal lead with less than 30 seconds left; take the penalty if it'll prevent a goal being scored. Naturally, after the equalizer, Gionta hooks somebody.

However, in overtime, the Devils decide that offense is a good idea and showed a lot more of it in the first overtime. While Brodeur was stoning Senators left and right, Ray Emery was showing a lot of net on his glove side - so the Devils forwards shot there. Unfortunately, Emery was up to the task with his fast glove hand so the Devils did not convert on a decent number of scoring chances the Devils actually pushed for. Especially on the Devils' power play in overtime. As an aside, I'd like to note how the Devils got their power plays. The Devils got an abbreviated one due to Ottawa putting too many men on the ice during their own power play. The second one was the result of defenseman Anton Volchenkov catching a puck in mid-air and closing his hand on it (and it's not the first time Volchenkov did that in this playoffs I believe). The Senators took two really dumb penalties in the first overtime and they should thank Ray Emery that the Devils didn't end it on those power plays.

Fortunately, the Devils caught a huge break when Jamie Langenbrunner found himself behind the Ottawa Senators defense at the blueline. He got the pass, he went in on a breakaway, Joe Corvo tried to hook him (he did, it would have been a penalty call), and Langenbrunner just puts it in past the post before Emery's left leg could stop it. Despite turtling for two periods, despite going 2 for 7 on the power play, and despite Emery getting hot in the first overtime, Jamie Langenbrunner was the hero and won the game with his breakaway goal. A great looking goal to end an up-and-down game by the Devils.

Glad that the return of Elias was good, Martin Brodeur is definitely in his groove, that the Devils responded in overtime - showing no signs of being disheartened by the late equalizer by Ottawa, and that Langenbrunner came through the clutch. I would really like to see the Devils cut down on the unnecessary passes and, more importantly, try not to sit on leads for extended periods of time (especially against a team like Ottawa). I'm telling you, the way the Devils played in the first period was great; if they are looking for what they should emulate to win this series, you can't do much better than that performance. That said, the Devils won an important Game 2 and the series now goes to Ottawa tied up at 1. Good job, overall.

COMMENTER UPDATE: Ethan notes in the comments that Barry Melrose has said that the Devils are fun to watch now. If you saw any pigs fly this morning, it probably had something to do with that.

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Rd. 2, Game 2: Ottawa @ Devils

The New Jersey Devils will attempt to strike back and tie up the series against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 tonight in New Jersey.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
National TV: Versus (HD)
Local Radio: 92.3 FM, FREE FM
The Ottawa Senators Lead the Series 1-0 Preview

The preview tells the story and Bridget Wentworth at the Star Ledger confirms it, as does the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti at his new blog, Fire & Ice.

Captain and top left-winger Patrik Elias will return to the Devils line up tonight and I couldn't be happier. While the Devils fought valiantly to salvage what was once a blowout seemed to be a foregone conclusion, they still gave up 4 unanswered goals in the first period. You can be sure captain Elias (or any of the coaching staff) won't allow that to happen again.

What do the Devils need tonight? They need to win the first period. Not do well and get behind early due to a fluke. Not do well but end the period at 0-0. Not rely on Martin Brodeur to bail out the entire team via standing on his head from minute 1. I want the Devils to score first and send the message to Ottawa that what happened in Game 1 will not be repeated. The Devils need be calmer with the puck, be smarter in their clearance attempts (e.g. not blindly firing the puck away in your own zone, Rafalski), more direct and simple with their passes (e.g. cut down on the number of no-look passes), and take it to Ray Emery right from the start. The return of Elias should definitely bolster the offense just by virtue of the EGG unit being re-united.

If the Devils can do that and maintain a strong level of effort from such a first period, I believe they got a good chance to win this one. Obviously, I hope they do. GO DEVILS!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


Rd. 2, Game 1: Ottawa 5 - Devils 4

The New Jersey Devils have battled back valiantly but ultimately lost Game 1 to the Ottawa Senators by a score of 5 to 4. As always, has the official scoresheet and official super stats of that game, linked respectively.

To do something a little bit different (and something more like Tim Mo at RaReMaDev) I'd like to break this game down period-by-period.

Period 1: The Senators beat the Devils down. The Devils looked completely out of place, they gave up an early goal, they made crucial turnovers in their own end, Martin Brodeur was shaky, the Senators physically pounded the Devils, I saw Mike Rupp way too much for my liking, and the Devils were robbed of what few scoring chances (despite the number of shots they totalled) they had save for one. Travis Zajac's goal late in the period is the lone bright spot in what was an awful and brutal period played by the New Jersey Devils. Anytime you give up 4 goals to begin a game, you can bank on the team losing.

Period 2: And amazingly, the Devils nearly turn the game completely around. They outplayed the Senators. They got more quality scoring chances, they looked stronger in their own end, and they came close to tying it up after going down 4-1 after the first period. The PZL unit started looking really good, Brian Gionta got revenge for being robbed by Ray Emery's skate and stick respectively in the first period with a goal, and Martin Brodeur made a big save. Things were looking bright for the Devils and I was confused: the first period even now left a bitter taste in my mouth, but this second period was great stuff for NJ. Unfortunately, Erik Rasmussen took a hooking call late in the period, leaving the Devils shorthanded at the end. But they killed off

Period 3: Unfortunately, the Senators took advantage of that call by scoring really early in the third period to make that shaky one-goal lead into a much more solid two-goal lead. This period played out more like what I expected to see all series long. Close, intense, and defensive hockey with both teams making sure they don't let the other get a lot of open ice when they have the puck. Good stuff, but unfortunately the Devils could not crack the Senators on defense nor Ray Emery late. Less than a minute left, Zach Parise put home a sweet pass while the Devils had the extra attacker. Heartening that the Devils didn't give up despite being down two goals with less than a minute left; but the Devils did not get lucky and score an equalizer afterwards.

Needless to say, the Senators were the stronger team overall. They were solid to a T in that first period and made the Devils pay dearly for the amazingly bad mistakes they made. 3 of their 5 goals were on special teams: 2 on the power play (Rupp and Rasmussen really shouldn't have taken their interference and hooking calls, respectively) and 1 shorthanded - which is always unacceptable, especially this one given that it doesn't happen had Rafalski not try to blindly clear it while skating away from the blueline. The Devils need to improve on their own power play and they need to improve how they start the game. They looked flat, they were bad, and it showed. The Devils cannot, in my opinion, afford to lose Game 2 and go to Ottawa down 2-0 in the series. Not in a close matchup like this.

I'm glad that the Devils certainly did not give up on the game, but the main lesson is that they should have done better right from the start. Who knows, maybe they would have ultimately won the game had they done that. Would have, should have, could have, but they did not, so it's onto Game 2. Let's not dwell on this, hopefully the Devils will learn from the (many) errors made in Game 1 and come out as the better team on Saturday.

One final note: I really hope Patrik Elias is healthy for Game 2. I feel that things would have been different tonight had Elias play on the first line instead of Erik Rasmussen (not a decision I would have made, but I'm not the coach). The Devils could use - and may need - two full scoring lines instead of one and two-thirds.

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Rd. 2, Game 1: Ottawa @ Devils

The New Jersey Devils begin the second round of the playoffs by hosting the Ottawa Senators tonight.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN Game Preview

An excellent hockey series will begin tonight and bad luck has hit the the Devils hard for Game 1. (among others) are reporting that captain Patrik Elias will not play tonight, he is out with a bad cold. Elias did not practice yesterday because of this cold. Given that it's the playoffs, public reporting of injuries gets murky at best. Understandably so, the team does not want to reveal any possible weaknesses to their opposition. Is it a cold? Maybe, it is spring, after all. But it may not be. All the same, I hope he recovers as soon as possible.

The TSN article notes that Colin White says he's ready to come back from a back injury; but Devils head coach/GM/President/CEO Lou Lamoriello has stated that he is a game-time decision. I don't expect the Devils to go with seven defensemen and eleven forwards tonight; Elias is an important part of the team on offense not to mention the team's leadership. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see who will replace Elias' spot on the EGG line. In my opinion, it'll probably be Zach Parise. He plays left wing, he's a scorer, and he's been playing well. I know he plays real well with Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner, but the first line could really benefit from his scoring ability. As far as to who to replace Parise's spot on the first line; there are third options - both involving David Clarkson. The first is to slot utility forward Sergei Brylin up to the second line at left wing, and David Clarkson can play his natural position on the right wing on the third line. The second option is to move Brylin up to the second line, move Langenbrunner to the third line and move Clarkson up into a scoring position on the second line at right wing. The third option is to have Clarkson play on the off-wing on the left wing in Parise's spot.

In any case, the Devils have every reason to do their best tonight. The first game in a series is important in establishing momentum, establishing an early lead, and establishing the tone for the rest of the series. The Devils are at home and they know what they need to do to get this one (namely, what they did in Games 5 and 6 against Tampa Bay would suffice in my view). Without Elias, it will be tougher but not impossible. All the same, shoot hard at Ray Emery's glove side and GO DEVILS!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Rd. 2 Preview: Devils vs. Ottawa

I apologize for the lack of updates, I've been busy with things for last few days and things look to stay busy until Tuesday night. In any case, I'll try my best to get something up with respect to a preview.

And there are plenty of previews: Tom Lycan has rounded up a ton of varying opinions from varying sources about this series at Devils Due here and here. I highly suggest you go there and check those previews and articles out. The front page of the official Devils website has a schedule of the series complete with television information for the for the series, and radio information for 5 of the 7 games. There are no back-to-back games here, which is probably for the best; something I'll get to in a moment.

As an aside, Jared Ramsden has a summary of each of the Devils' major junior prospects' seasons at Hockey's Future. While they only have four, three of them are worth keeping your eye on: Matthew Corrente, Kirill Tulupov, and Sean Zimmerman.

Anyway, back to the series. For the first round match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning, I looked at both teams from an offense and defense point of view. However, I will not do that here. One thing about the playoffs is that you can basically throw out what happened in the regular season after a round or so. Weaknesses may become strengths and vice versa; and how each team did in the prior round is more deserving of consideration.

Ottawa Senators After Round 1
Team Stats (NHL Ranking in parentheses)
3.6 Goals For/Game (#2)
2.0 Goals Against/Game (#6)
1.83 5-on-5 For/Against Ratio (#3)
25% Power Play Effectiveness Rate (tied-#2)
85.7% Penalty Killing Success Rate (#9)
30.2 Shots For/Game (#7)
22.0 Shots Against/Game (#2)

Top 5 Scorers: Daniel Alfredsson (3 G, 3 A), Chris Kelly (3 G, 1 A), Jason Spezza (2 G, 2 A), Dany Heatley (2 G, 2 A), Anton Volchenkov (1 G, 3 A) (Note: Joe Corvo had 4 assists and is tied with Kelly, Spezza, Heatley, Volchenkov)

Top 5 Ice Time/Game: Anton Volchenkov (21:15), Daniel Alfredsson (21:12), Chris Phillips (21:12), Wade Redden (20:25), Dany Heatley (19:33)

Top Goalie: Ray Emery (4-1, 2.01 GAA, 90.9 Sv%, 1 SO)

This Ottawa Senators squad looked real good in a 4-1 series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. Their defense was strong, Ray Emery was good, and the Senators displayed that their offense is much more than just Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson. Only three Senators failed to register a point in those 5 games (Phillips, Christopher Schubert, Oleg Saprykin); providing evidence that the Senators have a lot of depth to go with that scoring. Mike Comrie, in particular, looked threatening on offense despite the lack of points all series long. Their defense stepped up big with Redden, Phillips and Volchenkov (big with a lot of pain for opposing forwards in Volchenkov's case) and showed that they will not be intimidated by an offensive-heavy squad such as the Penguins. They definitely won't be intimidated by New Jersey's offense.

I think it's fair to say that the Senators are a more dangerous squad than the Lightning. They have an excellent first line like Tampa Bay. However, even if the Madden unit stops the Cash Line (I believe that is the nickname for Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson), the Senators still can attack effectively with Mike Comrie, Dean McAmmond, Antoine Vermette, Mike Fisher, and Chris Kelly among others. At least, more effectively than Tampa Bay's other three lines. What's more is that the Senators are a more physical team, especially on defense. Phillips, Volchenkov, Redden, and Corvo are part of a vastly superior top two defense pairing than Tampa Bay's top two. You can be sure the Ottawa defense will be more patient and not have moments where they seemingly forget to cover Devils wingers (Zach Parise, in particular). Ray Emery has made the saves when necessary and he'll give the Devils shooters more of a challenge than Johan Holmqvist, who was no slouch in the first round.

Most importantly, these are not the 2003 Ottawa Senators. When I saw them (thanks Versus), they did not look like prior Senators squads that would do really well in the regular season, look dangerous on paper, and then have something(s) go awry and crash out of the playoffs in the first or second round. The coaching staff and captain Daniel Alfredsson has seemingly done a good job in keeping this team focused on playing a balanced, complete game for 60 minutes.

New Jersey Devils After Round 1
Team Stats (NHL Ranking in parentheses)
3.17 Goals For/Game (#5)
2.33 Goals Against/Game (#8)
1.38 5-on-5 For/Against Ratio (#6)
25% Power Play Effectiveness Rate (tied-#2)
84.6% Penalty Killing Success Rate (#10)
28.2 Shots For/Game (#10)
28.0 Shots Against/Game (#6)

Top 5 Scorers: Scott Gomez (2 G, 7 A), Brian Rafalski (2 G, 5 A), Patrik Elias (1 G, 6 A), Zach Parise (6 G), Brian Gionta (5 G, 1 A)

Top 5 Ice Time/Game: Paul Martin (25:38), Richard Matvichuk (22:44), Colin White (22:29), Brian Rafalski (21:32), John Madden (21:08)

Top Goalie: Martin Brodeur (4-2, 2.26 GAA, 91.7 Sv%, 1 SO)

If you look at the team stats, nothing wows you except for two things. The first is the incredibly effective power play rate they managed against Tampa Bay, which clearly was crucial for the Devils to have a shot at winning the series, much less actually winning it. The second is the 3+ goals scored per game average. Gomez leads the NHL in assists and points in the playoffs after one round of play, Parise leads the NHL in goals in the playoffs, and Rafalski is only one point behind commanding defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom among points by defensemen. Offensive production and the power play has not been something to cheer much about from the Devils this season. You could say it was a weakness, but against Tampa Bay, the Devils showed that they can play run-and-gun hockey, they can score goals against back-up caliber goaltenders, and they can win with offense against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ottawa may have a much better defense than Tampa Bay and Emery, I think, is certainly much better than Holmqvist; but those who doubt the Devils' potential for goal production does so at their own peril. The Senators would be wise to keep that in mind.

Not that the Devils have ignored or given up what has earned them so much success in the past 13 years: defense and Martin Brodeur. Second part first, Brodeur has gotten better and better as the series went on against Tampa Bay and I can proudly say that he remains in his groove. A good number of the goals Tampa Bay did get past Brodeur were flukes and can be attributed to poor defensive moments, anyway; so it's not as if Brodeur could be considered to be garbage at any point.

Now, the defense also came up big as the series against Tampa Bay went on. Whether it was fatigue to Tampa Bay's top players or not, the defense became much more dominant against Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis - the two of whom just played with the Devils defenders in the first three games as if they were toys. They can handle big scoring lines (e.g. Ottawa's Cash Line) and it will take a Lecavalier-ian effort from a Senator to really break the Devils on defense and in net. That is not a dis at any of the Senators, but Lecavalier played out of his mind in that first round and the Devils still prevailed. In Colin White's absence (back problems), Richard Matvichuk has stepped up in a huge way and shutted doubters like myself right up. He's been a physical presence, he's been playing big minutes, he's played against the Lightning's best players and survived, and in four games he leads the NHL with 24 blocked shots. Willie Mitchell blocked 23, but it took him 7 games to do just that. Much respect should also be shown to Paul Martin, who has quietly shown that he can be effective for a majority of the game on defense as well; as well as Brian Rafalski, who has stayed cool and calm at the point as well as in his own end. The defense may allow Brodeur to see a lot of shots, but they have been adept at preventing shots from rebounds and other second-chance opportunities. The Senators will provide a big challenge, but I think they can be up to it.

In any case, to sum all this up, the two teams match well against each other in the sense that both teams can put up quite a few goals on offense, clamp down hard on defense to prevent goals, and both goaltenders can be difference-makers. This guarantees three things, in my view:
  1. A really great hockey series.
  2. A low-scoring hockey series.
  3. A really long hockey series.
As I mentioned earlier, there are no back-to-back games in this one and it is for the best. Both teams will come at each other hard and play hard in their own end to stop the other team from scoring first and taking advantage. Fatigue and the like will already be a big factor without back-to-back games. Fortunately, the schedule allows something resembling a break between games.

Both the Devils and Senators can win with defense and goaltending, we may see that for seven games. It'll be a hard-fought, close series. Naturally, I believe the Devils will win in seven games; by virtue of being a Devils fan and wanting my team to ultimately succeed. However, provided both teams play to their level in each game, I can't really begrudge Ottawa with the series victory should they win it. The winner of this second round series will truly have earned it in likely every way possible. GO DEVILS!


Sunday, April 22, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 6: Devils 3 - Tampa Bay 2

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 to win Game 6 and the series between the two clubs. As always, has the official score sheet and the official super stats of the game, linked respectively.

Tibbs at Beast of the East has links to updated news articles after the Devils triumph this afternoon. Tom Lycan at Devils Due has a recap of the last few games, noting that the Devils won three straight to win the series - an impressive effort indeed. Chris Wassel at The NHL Arena Program has live-blogged the game, check out the whole thing right here.

The New Jersey Devils did what a lot of what was necessary to win. They scored first, they were effective on the power play (2 for 4), Martin Brodeur played very well, they exploited the Tampa Bay defense and put quality shots on Johan Holmqvist, and the defense didn't make it easy for the Lightning to move about on offense (Martin St. Louis was held pointless, Vincent Lecavalier only had an assist). Not that the Devils were flawless. They took far too many penalties in the first two periods: a total of 9 in the first forty minutes - most of them being unnecessary calls (too many men on the ice, hooking, jaw-jacking to the refs resulting in unsportsmanlike conduct). Only the Zajac "dive" was a weak call on New Jersey. Tampa Bay scored both of their goals on the power play, so the Devils paid the price to a degree. Brad Richards fired both goals through screens, so there's another aspect of their game the defense improve on - clearing the front of the net. Brodeur's brilliant, but even he needs to see where the shot is coming from. However, the Devils did very well to win the game and the series on the road. Well done, Devils.

As an aside, I must say that NBC needs to improve their TV picture. Most of the Tampa Bay-Devils game here in NJ resulted in the audio going out from time to time and the picture being messed up on their HD and SD channel. Maybe it was just my own TV connection, but then again their commercials didn't have that problem. That said, I'm pretty sure it's just a problem I had and everyone else was fine - so feel free to ignore this gripe.

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't make things easy for the Devils; they scored 3 goals in each of the first four games and were constantly attacking the Devils. Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in particular were brilliant on offense. St. Louis compiled 3 goals and 5 assists, and Lecavalier had 5 goals and 2 assists. The two-some could not be contained for the first 5 games by the Madden unit or the defense despite the heavy minutes they picked up. Brad Richards also performed well with 3 goals and 5 assists, also giving the Devils problems. After Game 1, Johan Holmqvist played very well despite his poor regular season numbers - proving again that what's on paper might as well be ignored. The Tampa Bay defense did play well at times during the series, stopping Devils' breakouts and attempts at puck possession on offense; and their penalty killers did do well at times to make the Devils look incredibly inept with a man advantage. Tampa Bay is a good team and they gave the Devils a good challenge in an entertaining 6-game series. Thank you, Tampa Bay.

The Devils did turn it up and did win - even with offense - to ultimately win the whole series. They will move on to the second round, the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The second round for the East has been decided already. The Buffalo Sabres will take on the New York Rangers, and the Devils will get another tough opponent in the Ottawa Senators. I believe the second round starts later this week; so posts in the coming days will be a preview of that series. Great job Devils for clinching the series in well-played Game 6 and moving on towards the Stanley Cup.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 6: Devils @ Tampa Bay

The New Jersey Devils have a chance to win the series as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a national TV audience.

Local TV: NBC
Local Radio: 770 AM, WABC
Devils Lead the Series 3-2 Preview


I could sit here and type of the same things over and over again. Limit Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis as much as possible. Score first and don't sit on the lead. Actually utilize the extra space a power play usually results in. Don't take shots if there is an opposing player literally right in front of you, especially at the point. So on and so forth. It all comes down to one thing that the Devils must do.


The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a must-win situation and the conditions for this one favor them. The Devils, for some reason, don't do as well in matinee games this season. More important than that, the game is in Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg Times Forum will be full, it will be loud, and it will give the Lightning players the very definition of a "lift" when necessary. It is imperative that the Devils take the crowd out of this game ASAP. It is imperative to pour as much misery on the Lightning as possible and quickly. The Lightning need to win this game and a tied-up series will give them a new hope to win the series. All the good work of Game 5, a decisive victory by the Devils, would go to waste and the Lightning would go straight into Game 7 with momentum should the Devils fail to do one thing.


At this point, Martin Brodeur has got his playoff groove back and should perform very well in Game 6. Richard Matvichuk continues to play incredibly well, with an amazing 12 blocked shots over the last two games. Andy Greene has stepped it up both from the point and in his own end. The EGG unit seems to have found their scoring touch and Zach Parise remains a dominant forward for the Devils so far this postseason. The tools are there, the momentum is in New Jersey's favor by virtue of winning the last two games, the players have the skill and have proven they can beat the Lightning, and the confidence is there by all indications. Now is the time take that hope away. Now is the time to nail the proverbial coffin. Now is the time to just do one thing.


DUAL ASIDES: It has come to my attention that The NHL Arena Program blog will be doing a live-blogging of Game 6. I suggest you check it out tomorrow if you are near a computer for the game.

Also, it has come to my attention that In Lou We Trust had our 10,000th visitor sometime last week. I believe someone from British Columbia if I'm reading my own SiteMeter correctly. Thanks everyone.

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Friday, April 20, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 5: Devils 3 - Tampa Bay 0

The New Jersey Devils soundly defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a margin of 3-0. As always, has the official score sheet and official super stats of that game, linked respectively.

Martin Brodeur stopped them all for what I believe his 22nd shutout in his playoff career. Obviously he played big and provided a boost for the Devils on his own. The Devils were solid in their own end, making sure the Lightning did not get many rebounds and coming up big at times when the Lightning looked particularly dangerous. Just as importantly, the Devils scored first, they capitalized on what few offensive chances they did get.

While the Devils played a solid game, they were heavily out-shot. Just from what I saw in the third period, I felt that if the Devils put many more of their shots on net, it would not be so lopsided. The Devils, I think, were not outplayed; they just missed many shots and with 10 minutes left to play, the Devils reverted to a ultra-defensive style and settled for clears. In my opinion, the Devils really should have kept pressing the Lightning on offense as opposed to simply dumping it in. During their terrible fourth power play of the night, the Devils surrendered the puck to Vincent Lecavalier who hit the post. If Lecavalier had scored, the Lightning would have been the ones making NJ play for their reserved style. But he didn't, so it didn't cost the Devils here. I just think sitting back and just trying to defend against Tampa Bay is not a good idea if only because we have seen the Lightning score two goals quite quickly in this series before.

All the same, what the Devils did clearly worked tonight and all that would need improving is the power play and their shot accuracy from what I saw. Good on the Devils for their efforts and now they can clinch the series and move on in the playoffs on Sunday. Game 6 certainly won't be easy; expect Tampa Bay head coach John Tortorella to get his team extra-motivated for that one.

As a related aside, I would like to say that if you want a reason why fighting should be curbed from the sport of hockey, the end of tonight's game provides a good reason. The Devils clinch the win with an empty net goal so what does Tampa Bay do? What does Mr. Safe Is Death, John Tortorella decide now that his team is down 3-0 late in the third period? Put Brad Richards out there with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis and let them bring massive offense? Does he put out the checking line and just end the game? Of course not, you put out the tough guys to salvage some "pride." Andre Roy and Nolan Pratt fought and in the latter case I imagine if Pratt gave more effort on defense as he does in his fighting, he'd be more than just a depth defenseman. The fights served no purpose and even if the Lightning players did win, they didn't win anything of actual value - the Lightning lost Game 5 and are down 3-2 in the series. Again, just stupid and unnecessary; and it shows that the Lightning are not committed to winning as they should be.

Meaning that I'm now really looking forward to a Devils win in Game 6, should it happen.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 5: Tampa Bay @ Devils

The series returns to New Jersey, where the Devils will host the Lightning in a crucial Game 5 match up.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 92.3 FM, FREE
The Series is Tied, 2-2 Preview
Review of Game 4: Trendon Lynch at On Fire
Breakdown of Game 4: Joe Bechtel at 2 Man Advantage
Review of Game 4: Tim Mo at RaReMaDev

In my opinion, the winner of this game will have a great chance to win the entire series in Game 6. A Lightning win means the series returns to Tampa Bay, where the Bolts can end it with the home crowd of 20,900+ screaming their heads off in rooting for the Lightning. However, a Devils win would really put the Lightning back on their heels in a chance to clinch the series for New Jersey. Needless to say, this game is crucial in terms of momentum and in terms of the series as well.

The Devils clearly did a number of things right to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime 4-3. They scored first, they attacked Johan Holmqvist with more dangerous shots on net as opposed to firing directly to his chest, they exploited the Tampa Bay defense with simple but excellent passes to wide-open teammates, they took fewer penalties, and they didn't fall completely flat as Tampa Bay came back to tie up the game. Continuing how the Devils played in the second half of the third period and overtime would be wise for the Devils' sake in order to win.

The Devils, however, can improve in some regards. Before I get to that, I'm not going to criticize Martin Brodeur here: goal against #1 was off a screen that wouldn't have happened if Elias cleared the puck more effectively, goal against #2 was a tip in front by Martin St. Louis, and goal against #3 came from a wide-open (I'm looking at you Brad Lukowich), as in left uncovered, Vincent Lecavalier on Brodeur's flank. Brodeur made a lot of big saves on Wednesday, he's not the issue. That said, the Devils have to shape up in two regards:

1. Defense. Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have made this series their own. They both played over 30 minutes in Game 4 and expect another 25+ minute night from the two of them. John Madden and Jay Pandolfo alone can't contain them. Richard Matvichuk had a big night on defense; but Brad Lukowich was less than optimal against the terrible two-some. All the same, the Devils have to keep close tabs on both of them at all times. I know that's easier said than done, but the effort must be there. At the same time, the Devils can't let up against the other Lightning players - Vaclav Prospal nor Eric Perrin should be flying around in the zone like they own it even if Lecavalier and St. Louis has. I'm just saying. Just stay strong on defense. above all don't mess with Martin Brodeur with a screen or not covering the NHL's leading goal scorer of the recent regular season when he's right by the goalie (Lukowich).

2. Power play. The Devils have ran the gamut of successful power plays, dangerous but unsuccessful power plays, and incredibly ineffective and terribly-played power plays in Game 4. I've seen the Devils cough up the puck in their own end to Lightning forecheckers and give up shorthanded shots. I've seen the Devils not cough it up, but show an inability to penetrate the zone. And I've seen the Devils actually make the most of their power play. All of this in Game 4. It is an improvement over Game 3, but I want some consistent power play efforts. Specifically consistent strong power plays that lead to goals for the Devils (and absolutely no risk of shorthanded goals).

The Devils showed in Game 4 that they can hang with the Lightning's run-and-gun style and skate as hard if not harder than the Bolts on their home ice. Now that the series is tied up, the Devils should continue the hard work they showed and used to win the in Game 4 to take Game 5. It's a new series and it's time to start it with a big win. GO DEVILS.

UPDATE: Take a quick look at the New Jersey Devils' roster on their website. Notice a greyed-out name that reads "David Clarkson."

Clarkson, as you know, impressed me and many others when called up to the New Jersey Devils earlier this season. He's big, he's strong, he's got a nose for the net, he hustles, and he can bring the pain in multiple facets of the game. He's a power forward and he could make that fourth line a lot more usable for tonight's game or give one of the top three lines an added dimension. I think this is a good call up, indeed if it is a call up from Lowell, and I think he could definitely help out right away in Game 5 tonight. All the same, GO DEVILS.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 4: Devils 4 - Tampa Bay 3, OT

The New Jersey Devils tied up the series in a thrilling 4-3 OT victory. As always, has the official scoresheet and official super stats for the game, linked respectively.

The Devils had a two goal lead and it was good.

The Lightning struck back with a tip-in and a lucky break (in the sense that Vincent Lecavalier was completely wide open on Martin Brodeur's flank - YOU MISSED YOUR COVERAGE, LUKOWICH) to tie it up and it was bad.

Then the Devils started working, getting brilliant chances with Devils alone with the puck in front of Holmqvist. Bouncing pucks, missed shots, last-ditch saves and defensive blocks prevented at least 7 strong scoring stances. Johan Holmqvist was challenged constantly and he rose to the task.

In OT, power plays were blown by both sides, the Devils and Lightning were robbed of opportunities. But Cory Sarich made the problem of shooting into Scott Gomez' shin pads. The puck luckily bounced off the shins ahead of Gomez, and a two-on-one presented itself. Gomez had other opportunities this game, this series, this season where Gomez would pass it and the resulting shot would go wide or be robbed by the goalie or the defenseman would dive to block the pass - ultimately killing it.

Scott Gomez shot it and shot it high.

Top left corner and in.

The series is now tied as it goes back to New Jersey for Game 5.

Nothing is over. Not by a long shot.

Go Devils.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 4: Devils @ Tampa Bay

The New Jersey Devils have a chance to tie up the series with the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY2
Local Radio: 970 AM, WWDJ
Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-1 Preview

I didn't have Internet access for the past day or so, so I'm not going to go into recapping Game 3. I'm not too sure what I can say about it: the game was decided by weird bounces and fluke goals. For additional views:'s Recap of Game 3
Tim Mo's despondent response to Game 3 at RaReMaDev
Tom Lycan is also not feeling good after the loss at Devils Due

Trendon Lynch at On Fire has an extensive breakdown of Game 3 and ideas for Game 4
Joe at 2 Man Advantage also has a breakdown of Game 3, says it's gut-check time

And Joe is absolutely right (I'm sure he'll appreciate reading that). It truly is gut-check time. We can reminisce all we want about 2000, about how the Devils came down 3-1 in the series to the Philadelphia Flyers and winning 3 straight. It's 2007 and the Devils are playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. More specifically, the Vincent Lecavalier show with guest stars Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards - with the Johan Holmqvist & Scrappy Defense Orchestra. John Madden and Jay Pandolfo have been shutting down the best forwards the NHL has to offer all season; but right now, they are being worked to the bone. It doesn't help when the defense is spotty at the worst times: such as Brad Lukowich deciding to pokecheck instead of swarm Brad Richards, who was wide open in the slot, before Tampa Bay's second goal. I guess my calling for a shadow would be a bit silly - if John Madden can't seemingly slow him down, who can?

Trendon has called for some pain to be brought into the line up. OK, maybe not pain; but a return of Cam Janssen and David Clarkson. I don't know how much Janssen can contribute given that all season he's had to have done two things: hit and fight. Not appropriate here, especially in a must-win game. I'm surprised Clarkson hasn't been called right up and get a spot on the line up. With the Tampa Bay defense clogging passing and shooting lanes so well, a power forward-type player would be incredibly useful in terms of plowing right through the defense. Some physiciality wouldn't hurt either, as Tampa Bay has fed off the energy generated with their own hits in the past two games.

But more importantly than that, the Devils' offense needs to show up. The power play in Game 3 was so putrid, I half expected to see Igor Larionov bring up the puck. Which leads me to breakouts and rushes in general; the Devils are not getting through. The Tampa Bay defense has been adept at staying patient, waiting for the Devils (usually Scott Gomez) to make the first move and then respond. This puts them in a good position for pokechecking it or intercepting a poor pass (which the Devils do far too much of doing). I don't know whether it's a mental issue or a tactical issue; but whatever it is, it needs to be resolved ASAP. It won't matter if the Devils literally shutdown Tampa Bay's offense, they need to score first in this one, actually threaten Holmqvist with decent scoring chances, and actually threaten Tampa Bay on the power play. If the Devils don't improve on the offensive side of things, forget about it.

In general, the Devils should be - and better be - extra motivated for this one. Going back to the first few sentences, this is the time to step it up. If the Devils drop Game 4, then their chances of winning the first round will drop to an incredibly small likelihood. If the Devils do not win Game 4 and ultimately lose the series, it will be a big disappointment to say the least. I will remain confident and hopeful that the Devils get it done tomorrow and make this a three-game series.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 3: Devils @ Tampa Bay

The first round continues with the New Jersey Devils now traveling to Tampa Bay for the next two games in this series. Monday night will feature Game 3 of the series.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 770 AM, WABC
Series Tied: 1-1 Preview
On Fire's 5 Wishes for Game 3

With respect to what occurred in Game 2, I believe what the Devils mostly need to change in Game 3 are is all coach-able, tactical matters. In Period 3, the Devils kept rushing the puck, directing it through the zone as fast as they could to try and "catch" the TB defense unaware. Needless to say, the TB defense responded by hanging back and blocking/deflecting fancy passes made by the Devils to kill any offense. What it led to was up-and-down hockey the Devils are not particularly adept at. Even when the Devils forced a turnover or found an open man, the only clear shot seemingly went into Holmqvist's chest every time.

The Devils got their two goals last night after maintaining possession in the offensive zone, moving the puck around for and open shot was there, and the Devils pouncing on the rebound. They forgot to try that in periods 1 and 3 because they were more concerned in hustling for the puck. In my opinion, the Devils should focus on that in Game 3. If the transition offense is sputtering and rushing the puck up on the break out yields little, then the Devils should stop doing either for a while. Taking their time with the puck, trying to maintain possession on offense should be encouraged if only to change things up and force the Tampa Bay defense to do more than just sit back and wait for the Devils to come at them. With the Devils being on the road, they may do that regardless. As far as Holmqvist goes, the Devils got a lot of shots on him in Game 2, but not a lot of threatening ones. Shooting high on him worked in Game 1, shooting hard and forcing him to give up big rebounds also worked (and worked in Game 2 to a degree). The Devils' shooters from the point or down low should keep that in mind when they have the puck.

As far as defense, the only forwards really burning NJ here are Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. While I know and expect the Devils to line-match the Madden unit against #4, the Devils could really step it up and shadow Lecavalier. We all know that Vinny has a temper and enough agitation will cause him to be thrown off his game. This is a series where a Claude Lemieux type would be most beneficial. Claude's not here; he's not coming here, so let's not expect him to show up. No, David Clarkson isn't Claude Lemieux. But I don't think we need Claude; just a shadow. Throw Lecavalier off his game, make sure St. Louis and Richards don't roam freely, and the Devils should be fine for the most part. Now, who should be the shadow?

In my opinion, it should be John Madden. As it is, the third line sees Lecavalier and St. Louis' line pretty much all the time as it is. Lou has been and I expect will continue to match up Lecavalier's unit with Madden's unit. What's more, it wouldn't split up the third line since the third line is usually out there with Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Vaclav Prospal. The main checking unit would still be Pandolfo-Madden-Brylin, which would make more sense since Pandolfo can work on trying to keep up with St. Louis. Not much would need to change with respect to New Jersey's lines.

Of course, if Tortorella gets wise to the shadowing, he'll either move Lecavalier or St. Louis to a different line and force Lou to have a non-checking line or make changes in his own lines to counter act that. Given that Tortorella didn't seem fazed by Madden's line being out there against Lecavalier's for a majority of Lecavalier's shifts; I don't expect him to do that. Then again, he does have the last line change in the next two games, so it's possible.

Most importantly, and the preview at notes this in it's title, the Devils cannot dwell on the Game 2 loss. Nothing has been decided in this series, there is no need to press the panic button. What defeated the Devils in Game 2, among other things, was the fact that the Devils did not come out strong in the first period, and played the third period less than well. The Lightning are too good of a team to beat with only good period of hockey. That said, the Devils should just focus on this game - not the crowd, not being on the road, not anything else - and look to get off to a good start and play with more consistency. That alone would go a long way into re-taking the series lead. No, it won't guarantee a win, but I think it's the first step towards victory. GO DEVILS!

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


Rd. 1, Post Game 2: Tampa Bay 3 - Devils 2

The Tampa Bay Lightning evened up the series by winning tonight 3-2. As always, has the official scoresheet and official super stats of the game, linked respectively.

I could go into depth about the game, discuss what the Devils did right (and they did some things right) and what they did wrong (obviously they did some things wrong). I could go into how much better Johnny Oduya was, their continued success on the power play, or how improved the Devils were on their discipline. I could go into how poor the Devils were on the first power play in giving up a shorthanded goal to start the game, how Martin Brodeur should have had that shot late in the second that tied it up at 2, or how the Devils really should have calmed down in the third period and focused on getting solid shots on Johan Holmqvist as opposed to rushing the puck up and getting a shot on Holmqvist's chest whenever they are not offsides. You may say that I already have done that; but I say I could elaborate further on all of those things. However, I will be brief for a change:

The New Jersey Devils played exactly one good period of hockey (the second). Teams who only play well for one period will not win in the playoffs.

Needless to say, the Devils need to play much better overall for the entire game for Game 3 on Monday. The series now goes to Tampa Bay, but unfortunately for the Lightning, the Devils are pretty good on the road (24-14-3 record this season, third most road wins in the NHL). Of course, if the Devils give a performance similar to this in Game 3, the chances of victory will be significantly lowered for New Jersey.

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Friday, April 13, 2007


Rd. 1, Game 2: Tampa Bay @ Devils

This Saturday evening brings the second game in the first round match up between the New Jersey Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Lead The Series, 1-0 Preview Preview

Again, I'm keeping these previews brief but I have three comments on what I think the Devils have to do to win Game 2.
  1. Score early and shoot often. The Devils scored first and set the tempo of the game early and in their favor. Clearly, this turned out well for the Devils. Johan Holmqvist succumbed to strong shots on net by giving up 4 (and the fifth he gift-wrapped for the EGG line). The preview pretty much states that Holmqvist will start again; hopefully the Devils pick him apart like they did on Thursday.
  2. Take fewer penalties. The fact that Tampa Bay only scored on one of the six power plays they had speaks well of the defense, Martin Brodeur, and the penalty killers. However, the Devils should obviously not hand an offensively powered team that many chances with the man advantage. The refs said they'd call these playoff games tightly; ergo, stop grabbing people with your free hand (Oduya), tripping players right in front of the ref (Zajac), and slashing players on the wrist (Parise).
  3. Send out some other checkers against Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. John Madden and Jay Pandolfo are excellent defensive forwards. However, they do not regularly play as many minutes as Lecavalier and St. Louis, who averaged 22:36 and 24:09 of ice time respectively. Considerably less than the 18:52 and 18:36 of ice time Madden and Pandolfo respectively average. Lecavalier and St. Louis both played over 26 minutes in Game 1 and Madden and Pandolfo saw them for at least 21 of those minutes. The two Lightning players can handle big minutes, but I'm worried that big minutes will tire Madden and Pandolfo out and have them be less effective late in the game. Ergo, I think coach/GM/President/CEO/Man of the Hour/Tower of Power/Too Sweet to Be Sour Lou Lamoriello try matching a different line against Lecavalier and St. Louis at times and give the third line some rest.
Other than that, the Devils should build on what they did right in Game 1 and look to take a strong lead in this series before going to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4. As far as other posts I've seen, I'd like to disagree with Trendon Lynch at On Fire, I don't think Richard Matvichuk should be put back into the line up. A guy who has played just under 12 minutes is likely going to be big sign for the Lightning to send out their top players when Matvichuk takes the ice, challenging his side at all times. I think for that reason alone, I don't think Matvichuk should replace Oduya or anyone else in the lineup. Yes, Johnny Oduya played poorly, but I think he should be given a chance to turn it around - it's not like Oduya cost the Devils game 1. Feel free to make any comments about the game or even during the game. GO DEVILS!

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Thursday, April 12, 2007


Rd. 1, Post Game 1: Devils 5 - Tampa Bay 3

The New Jersey Devils win the first game of the first round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-3 score against the Tampa Bay Lightning. As always, has the official scoresheet and official super stats of that game, linked respectively.

Don't let the score fool you, the Devils were the better team in this one. I'm very happy with how the Devils played tonight with respect to offense. They scored first, they scored second, they scored twice on the power play (nearly three times), they pressured the porous Tampa Bay defense and Johan Holmqvist, and they took advantage of giveaways and loose pucks. The Devils scored 5 goals and I'm very happy and proud to say that tonight was all about the EGG line. Patrik Elias was hustling and bustling, moving and grooving, zigging and zagging, and showing that he is most definitely a good player. A goal and an assist, a sweet slapshot one-timer on the Devils' second power play that really put TB on edge early. Scott Gomez did very well, hustling as well, and making plays all game - he ended up with three assists. Brian Gionta put the nail in the coffin with the Devils' fifth goal; capitalizing on Gomez' capitalizing on a Johan Holmqvist error. Gionta (and Elias) helpfully screened Holmqvist on Brian Rafalski's power play goal, so he helped as well.

Not to take away anything from the second and third lines. Jay Pandolfo and John Madden caused problems for the Lightning for the most part, even getting some chances themselves. The PZL unit also shown, with Zach Parise scoring the game's first goal and ultimately the game winner. Why the Tampa Bay defense didn't have a man on #9 for that last goal was beyond me. The Devils were ultimately out shot 26-24, thanks to the Lightning's 13 shot flurry in the third period; but the Devils exerted their strength on offense, responding right away with a goal after Vincent Lecavalier got his second goal of the game to then tie it up at 3. I nor anyone else can complain about the offense when it scored five goals and went 2/3 on the power play. Great job there.

There are two aspects that the Devils must shore up on. The first is simple: defensive lapses. The Lightning put 13 shots on net in the third period and the Lightning did tie it up that period, looking to take the game back into their own hands. Early on, the Devils did well on defense, but they started playing a little bit too loose at times. It didn't hurt them too badly tonight; however, it is something they can improve on for game 2. However, the second aspect must be improved.


I must repeat this word in a bold, italic font in capital letters to emphasize this.


I do not want to hear one word about the refs and how they are horrible and how it's a conspiracy that they call the games the way they do and how they are killing hockey and all that hogwash. Just like last year's playoffs; the NHL told every team in the playoffs that the referees will call everything tightly. The Devils did not pay attention, handing Tampa Bay six power plays. That's not a typo, they gave up six of them. I shouldn't have to say it but I will: six power plays to the Tampa Bay Lightning which feature Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Dan Boyle is never a good idea. Ever. Even worse, the Devils gave up two two-man advantages - one of which the Lightning converted. Both two-man advantages given by Johnny Oduya. Oduya did better after that first period, calmed down and didn't take any more penalties, so I won't be desiring Richard Matvichuk (who was scratched) to take his place. Worst of all is that all of those penalties were obvious calls; stupid things like holds, trips, and slashes on the wrist. Those are penalties at any other time in the season, to committ them and in that amount that blatantly is terrible discipline.

Fortunately, Martin Brodeur came up big when necessary, the penalty killers stepped up for the most part, and the Lightning were limited to one power play goal (a laser by St. Louis). However, the Devils need to improve on that because you can be sure Tampa Bay won't be so un-ruthless on power plays.

Again, those are two areas the Devils can improve on. However, the Devils showed that they can produce a fairly high number of goals and win. The first game in a playoff series is crucial and now the Devils can use the momentum of this game to build on in Game 2, this Saturday. Not perfect, but a pretty dang good win all the same.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Round 1, Game 1: Tampa Bay @ Devils

The New Jersey Devils' first game of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs will take place Thursday night by hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is game 1 of a 7 game series.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 770 AM, WABC
Devils Record Vs. Tampa Bay This Season: 1-2-1

Series Previews: Series Preview
Preview at New Jersey Devils' official website.
Tom Lycan's Devils Due has two preview round-ups: Part 1 and Part 2
ILWT (that would be the blog you're currently reading): Offense & Defense
2 Man Advantage: The Calm Before the Storm
On Fire: Reviewing the Previews (links and thoughts on mainstream media predictions)
Beast of the East: Series Preview

Now, I'm not going to go into depth for every game at this point. We've seen Tampa Bay before in 4 games this season. Much ado has been made about the series with previews, predictions, and other analyses. I think it's apparent that this is a team that is strong on defense and in net taking on a team that is strong on offense.

It is also blindingly obvious that this first game is crucial for both teams. As I mentioned in my review of each team's offenses; the Devils have a brilliant record when they score first and when they out-shoot their opponents. Considering that Tampa Bay will likely start Johan Holmqvist, the Devils should take every opportunity to put a lot of rubber on net. Even if the shots make Holmqvist look like Dominik Hasek circa 1998 or Martin Brodeur circa, well, now, they will eventually go in if enough pucks are put on net. Momentum is absolutely vital in the playoffs and scoring first on your home ice, where you have the fan support and the last line change, is a great way to get some early. Not that the Lightning won't battle back, but it's easier to protect a lead than to mount and complete a comeback in the playoffs. The Devils worked hard to secure the home ice advantage this season, and like their power plays, they should attempt to take full advantage of it. Hopefully it will be unlike their power plays and actually take full advantage.

The Devils have played in and won a lot of close hockey games in this past season, they should be used to playoff-style hockey, where the defenses and the goaltending become much tighter. Therefore, that is all I have to say to the Devils for this first game: score first, shoot a lot. Yes, you still need to win four to move on; which makes this first game quite an important one.


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Round 1: The Offenses

With the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the New Jersey Devils beginning tomorrow, now is as good as time to analyze both teams. Yesterday, we took a look at defense. I made one crucial error in assuming that the Tampa Bay Lightning do not trap. However, this incredibly insightful article by Tom Gulitti in the Bergen Record really smashes that perception with quotes from Martin Brodeur and the Lightning's Tim Taylor. Thanks to Trendon at On Fire for pointing this out on his own blog. I apologize for the oversight.

In any case, I want to touch on the offense for both teams today; since it is obviously necessary to score goals to win games.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Goals For Average: 2.96/game (12th in NHL)
Power Play Success Rate: 18.4% (9th in NHL)
Shots For Average: 29.5/game (14th in NHL)
Winning Percentage when Scoring First: 63.8% (15th in NHL)
Winning Percentage when Outshooting: 60.4% (12th in NHL)
Winning Percentage when Outshot: 42.4% (20th in NHL)

Top 5 Scorers (by points): Vincent Lecavalier (52 G, 56 A), Martin St. Louis (43 G, 59 A), Brad Richards (25 G, 45 A), Dan Boyle (20 G, 43 A), Vaclav Prospal (14 G, 41 A)
Leading Goal Scorer: Vincent Lecavalier (52)
Leading Assister: Martin St. Louis (59)

Two words can describe the Tampa Bay offense: top heavy. Granted, Tampa Bay's top forwards are incredibly productive, with not just one but two 100+ point scorers in Lecavalier and St. Louis. While Brad Richards production has dropped this season, 70 points is nothing to sneeze at - it is not as if he suddenly lost is playmaking talents or anything. Dan Boyle is one of the top defensemen in the entire league in scoring, so he brings an additional dimension to the Tampa Bay offense. Beyond those four there's nobody that really sticks out. OK, Vaclav Prospal has at least 50 points, but he's not a feature forward by any means. This is the playoffs, so to ignore, say, Eric Perrin when he could explode and get hot just like anyone else. The Second Season has that effect on some people. Nonetheless, the Lightning has had a lot of success when they do score quite a few goals: all of their wins featured them scoring at least 2 goals. They have a good average number of shots per game - Vincent Lecavalier leading the team with 339 shots this season -and their power play is quite effective, being ranked in the top ten in the NHL. Needless to say, the offense is going to be led by Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards. Because Lecavalier and Richards are centers, Tortorella can stick St. Louis with either one of them and still be productive. It is my understanding that the Lightning head coach is not above mixing up lines in game, so the Devils defense will constantly need to be made aware of when one or more of those three are on the ice at the same time. If the Devils can limit Lecavalier, Richards, and St. Louis; they got a good chance of winning. Overall, the Devils need to limit Tampa Bay from making it rain with shots from anybody - something the Lightning should do as their chances of winning go up when they lead in shots - because I do remember games where Eric Perrin made life difficult for New Jersey.

New Jersey Devils
Goals For Average: 2.51/game (27th in NHL)
Power Play Success Rate: 17.7% (tied-15th in NHL)
Shots For Average: 28.7/game (20th in NHL)
Winning Percentage when Scoring First: 73.9% (7th in NHL)
Winning Percentage when Outshooting: 71.1% (2nd in NHL)
Winning Percentage when Outshot: 53.8% (tied-9th in NHL)

Top 5 Scorers (by points): Patrik Elias (21 G, 48 A), Zach Parise (31 G, 31 A), Jamie Langenbrunner (23 G, 37 A), Scott Gomez (13 G, 47 A), Brian Rafalski (8 G, 47 A)
Leading Goal Scorer: Zach Parise (31)
Leading Assister: Patrik Elias (48)

On the other side of the coin we have the New Jersey Devils. Before we go into players, look at those team stats. There's a big reason I make a big deal about scoring first and shooting often. The Devils mostly win the games wherein they do score first and/or when they outshoot the other team. Yet, they have one of the lowest goal scoring averages in the NHL and they are in between the middle and bottom third in terms of shot averages in the league. So I repeat it as much as I can: the Devils should be doing whatever they can to score first and out-shoot the opponent, the chances of winning will greatly favor them if they do.
Now, back to the players. The Devils have a more balanced scoring lineup, albeit collectively they do not score as much as the Lightning. With the emergence of Parise as well as Travis Zajac's excellent rookie season at center, the Devils finally have a legitimite second scoring line. The production Parise, Zajac, and Langenbrunner (the PZL unit) has brought is acceptable for a second line. Unfortunately, the top line of Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta has not performed as well nor up to expectations. The EGG unit has been cracked often due to injuries and many times opposing defenses (or plain bad luck) knew how to keep these three from hatching goal scoring opportunities. Elias at least finds a way to be involved in the play, but Gionta hasn't been as effective in front of the net and Gomez seemingly forgot the good shot he discovered he had last season. In today's Rich Chere article in the Star-Ledger, they realize they need to step up their production and they may need to in case Tampa Bay does break the Devils defense. Even if Brodeur stands on his head and the defense plays a near-perfect game, the offense still needs to come through with goals to help the Devils out. A wildly inconsistent power play combined with a general reluctance to fire the puck on net at times (this is true for all Devils, not just EGG) has made many games much more difficult for NJ. Hopefully, things will open up in the playoffs now that the entire team has that extra motivation to do well in the Second Season. For their own sake.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Round 1: The Defenses

With the first round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs looming in the distance, now would be as good as time as any as to take a closer look at each team. The New Jersey Devils will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round starting this Thursday at the Continental Airlines Arena. Today, let's look at the defenses of both teams as well as what each team needs to do in order to win the series on defense. I apologize in advance if I make a mistake with respect to the opposition or the Devils.

The Tampa Bay Lightning
Goals Against Average: 3.16/game (24th in NHL)
5-on-5 For/Against Ratio: 0.85 (19th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 78.4% (28th in NHL)
Times Shorthanded: 305 (2nd in NHL)
Shots Against Average: 27.2/game (4th in NHL)
Faceoff Win%: 48.9% (21st in NHL)

Top 6 (by icetime): Dan Boyle, Paul Ranger, Filip Kuba, Cory Sarich, Nolan Pratt, Shane O'Brian
Top Goaltender: Johan Holmqvist (27-15-3, 2.85 GAA, 89.3 Sv%, 1 SO)

I'm really impressed that a defensive unit like Tampa Bay's that is seemingly Dan Boyle and bunch of guys only allow an average of 27 shots per game. Whatever schemes head coach John Tortorella has been coming up with, they've been working. Discipline is good too, as the Lightning as a whole don't take a lot of penalties. However, while those two stats are quite good, there are two related states that are quite bad. Despite the relatively low number of shots they allow, they give quite a few goals on average. Whilst they don't take a relatively lot of penalties, their penalty killing leaves a lot to be desired.

The biggest question the Lightning has isn't whether the defense can hold up; it's in net. Holmqvist has the better numbers, so it's likely that he's going to be Tampa Bay's starter. However, this means better numbers than Marc Denis; so Holmqvist isn't particularly impressive on paper. While the Devils have a tendency to make mediocre, backup-caliber goaltenders look brilliant, the mentality of opposing offenses are going to be different now in the playoffs than in the regular season. They're going to look for more open holes, they're going to take full advantage of turnovers, and they're going to go hard at the goaltender if the opportunity presents itself.

The most important key for the Lightning on defense, in my opinion, is that Holmqvist must get hot. Tortorella doesn't do line matching to slow down the opposition's scoring lines as I understand it. Nor does he employ any trapping schemes - this is the man who came up with "safe is death" as a coaching strategy. Even if the Lightning outscore the Devils out of the playoffs, Holmqvist will likely face even stronger and more threatening offenses. If he doesn't get hot, forget about Tampa Bay. Especially if the defense commits too many turnovers (fun fact: the Lightning top 6 I mentioned combine for 306 giveaways this season). Aside from that, the Lightning would do well to improve their penalty killing - but they don't go to the penalty box all that much as it is.

The New Jersey Devils
Goals Against Average: 2.35/game (tied-3rd in NHL)
5-on-5 For/Against Ratio: 0.95 (18th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 85.2% (4th in NHL)
Times Shorthanded: 271 (1st in NHL)
Shots Against Average: 28.4/game (8th in NHL)
Faceoff Win%: 49.0% (20th in NHL)

Top 6 (by ice time): Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin, Colin White, Brad Lukowich, Johnny Oduya, Andy Greene
Top Goaltender: Martin Brodeur (48-23-7, 2.18 GAA, 92.2 Sv%, 12 SO)

The Devils are known for their defense. One of the top checking lines in the league with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo? Check. A strong set of defenseman who handle the puck relatively well (267 giveaways combined this season) who are used to taking on top offenses? Check. The best goaltender in the NHL? Check. A style of play that turns mistakes by the opposition in the Devils' zone into potential scoring opportunities by the Devils? Check.

I'd say the Devils have the edge on defense here: They're in the top 10 in most defensive categories on team stats (I include faceoff win percentage on defense because draws in your own end are crucial) and the team gives up far fewer goals than Tampa Bay (and a lot of other teams). The 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio is telling in that the Devils are significantly better 5-on-5 this season than Tampa Bay and a lot of that has to do with the defense pouncing on loose pucks and the like, the penalty killers stopping penalties cold, and Martin Brodeur stopping opposing forwards cold.

In this series, the Devils do have a high-octane offense to try and get a handle on; however, the Devils have been doing that all season in the higher-scoring Eastern Conference. The one concern I have and the one problem the Devils must address are coverage assignments. Specifically, missed assignments. Most of the time, as evidenced by how the Devils play and these stats, the Devils do a good job in covering offensive players. When a defenseman forgets to pick up a guy in the high slot or a backchecker decides to not knock a guy in front down, that is usually when the other team finally beats Brodeur. With the Lightning being able to create a lot of havoc on offense, the Devils defenders will need to be on point throughout the game.

On paper and from what I've seen of both teams, it's the Devils who have the edge on defense. New Jersey has the better goaltender and the better defensive unit. This isn't to say Tampa Bay's defense is not worth considering, as the Devils will need to challenge them with aggression in order to have any success. If the Devils need any inspiration, I offer the following fun fact:

The Lightning has never won a game where they don't score 2 or more goals this season.

With Brodeur in net and the Devils being strong on defense, limiting Tampa Bay is possible. Difficult, but possible - and perhaps even necessary.

LINK UPDATE ASIDE: Playoff Beard is a well put-together and well-designed site that was formed last season discussing, well, playoff beards. However, Capt. Bosh has kept close track of the season (and facial hair) and is more than ready for this year's playoffs. It even has a section for the Devils, not to mention the Chuck Norris Trophy. Finally, a Chuck Norris reference that has little to do with those now more-than-lame "TOTALLY TRUE FACTS" about Norris. Thank you, Captain Bosh.


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