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
NHL.com 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:
NHL.com'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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