Sunday, May 06, 2007


Rd. 2, Game 5: Ottawa 3 - Devils 2

The 2006-2007 season ended last night with a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils by the hands of the Ottawa Senators. As always, has the official score sheet and the official super stats of the game, linked respectively.

I apologize for the delay in this recap as I actually went to Game 5 and saw it all live and in person. If you heard someone yelling rather loudly in section 236 around row 21, congratulations, you heard my increasingly hoarse voice. Not that it means much now, it's over. The playoffs for the Devils, the Devils' season, and professional hockey at the Continental Airlines Arena. Good on the folks of Interchangeable Parts for live-blogging Game 5, by the way.

The loss was disappointing to say the least. The first period displayed the Devils doing everything that I and probably you wanted them to do. They skated hard, they took it to the Ottawa defense on offense, they scored first, they were aggressive on defense, and they played better than Ottawa in those first 20 minutes. They even exploited Ray Emery's penchant for rebounds, with Scott Gomez powering one home for the early 1-0 lead. Only downside would be the poor power play. But that's OK considering they did so well after two poor performances in Game 3 and Game 4. I was pleased, you - the Devil fan - was also likely pleased.

And we were both pleased how the Devils started the second period. They forechecked the Senators defense so well, forcing turnovers in their own end. If it wasn't for some unfortunate bounces and last-ditch defensive work, the Devils could have easily extended their lead. However, Ottawa decided to wake up in this period and the whole game changed with their game-tying goal. Tom Preissing took advantage of a terrible clearance (I believe by Brad Lukowich) that was thrown behind the net and bounced to the other side. Preissing was wide open and figures that he should shoot it in the traffic that has gathered in front of Brodeur. Antoine Vermette tips it in for the game tying goal and the entire game took a 180 spin. As the period went on, the Devils played worse and worse with the Senators moving from strength to strength. The Senators capitalized on a rare Jay Pandolfo call (goaltender interference) with Jason Spezza making good use of a screen for the leading goal. Things did not improve at all for the Devils. Before the period was over, the Devils defensemen resembled moving cones and Daniel Alfredsson walked right in and beat Brodeur for a back-breaking third goal.

The Devils started by continuing the good work they did in period 1 and collectively forgot what they did earlier after 5:19 into the second period. The defense being the most exposed, with the Senators putting 19 shots in that period alone. 19! In a period! Horrible, just horrible - it reminded me of Game 3. As did most of the crowd, booing heavily at the end of the period. The third period was equally frustrating. OK, the Senators did not play as heavily on offense, looking to protect their lead. The defense wasn't so miserable, but the forwards (and the defense on the point) needed at least 5 minutes for a shot on goal in the third. I understand that rushing the offense could lead to costly turnovers, but when you're down by 2 with time running out - urgency is not only expected, it is necessary. The Devils did not take advantage of their speed and the Senators defense had no trouble setting up to clog passing and shooting lanes. The effort finally broke through at the end when Gomez put home a rebound near the end of the game and kept possibilities of a miracle last-minute comeback alove. It was too little, too late, unfortunately.

I spent a lot of words getting to my overall summary of the team's performance in Game 5: It is as exactly as I described in the game preview, the Devils needed to step up collectively and give a strong performance and they only did that for one period and a 3 minutes into the second. They went up early and looked good early due to the fact they played like a team that wanted to win and was willing to work as hard as possible to do so. After Vermette's tip-in goal, the Devils looked listless as they did in the last two games and the ultimate result reflects that: a loss.

I must echo the thoughts of Patricia at 2 Man Advantage. The Ottawa Senators are a very good team with depth and talent in all four key areas: offense, defense, goaltending, and special teams. The Senators played very well and took it to the Devils for the majority of the series. Obviously, their four wins were all deserved and I congratulate them for moving on into the Eastern Conference Finals.

It'll be an important off season of change. First and foremost, as stated in Tom Gulitti's initial post after the loss: the Devils are on their way to Newark to a brand new arena. A new home, a new start, and a new city (and an actual city) for the Devils. There's more to it than that. As Gulitti notes in an earlier post two days ago, Lou Lamoriello will not be the coach of the team next season. At the least, there will be a brand new head coach. A number of key Devils like Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski will enter unrestricted free agency; while Zach Parise will enter restricted free agency. Given that situation in conjunction with the salary cap (which has been an issue at times this past season), this off season will clearly be crucial in terms of who to keep and who to sign. Given that the Devils are moving to a new home, the Devils clearly want to have their first season be as successful as possible. The off season will obviously have a big impact on that. Throw in the NHL entry draft and there's plenty to do for the Devils to re-load for next season.

I wish the Devils won last night, obviously. Even if they lost Game 6, the East Ruthersford era would have ended on a high note. As I stated earlier though, the Devils did not do enough as a team do it and the Senators deservedly got the win they wanted. Now the Devils have to move on without playing until preseason begins in September.

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