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