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, NHL.com 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.DISCIPLINE.
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.
Labels: 2007 Playoffs, Devils Postgame