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.
Labels: 2007 Playoffs, Devils Postgame