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.
GAMETIME: 7:00 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 770 AM, WABC
Series Tied: 1-1NHL.com PreviewOn 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 NHL.com 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!
Labels: 2007 Playoffs, Devils Game