Friday, May 04, 2007


Rd. 2, Game 5: Ottawa @ Devils

The New Jersey Devils are in a must-win situation on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 92.3 FM, FREE FM
The Ottawa Senators Lead the Series 3-1 Preview

Everything that is done in the game of hockey is done as a team.

I need to repeat this in bold and italics.

Everything that is done in the game of hockey is done as a team.

The Devils have represented this axiom: they have done everything this season as a team. They had excellent months, poor games by the definition of the word poor, incredible comebacks, and it all ended with 49 wins, the most this franchise has ever had in one season and a once-seemingly unbreakable NHL record broken.

They have faced the Tampa Bay Lightning as a team. They have beaten the Lightning as a team, fought closely with the Lightning as a team, and lost to the Lightning as a team.

If there has been one thing apparent in this series so far, is that the results have reflected how the Devils have played as a team. In Game 1, they collectively played one of their worst hockey games in one period and collectively scrapped to try and complete a comeback. In Game 2, they collectively played much better and won. In Game 3, everyone not named Martin Brodeur played average at best and easily lost. In Game 4, they collectively gave too little too late.

There are many other things I could cover for this game. For example, Ray Emery's poor rebound control should easily lead the Devils to crash the net like college students going after free things. As a second example, the Devils have yet to use their speed to their advantage, something they used to throw Tampa Bay off and helped in winning in the first round - and now is clearly the time to at least try that. A third example could be to be more aggressive on the power play; taking advantage of the Senators' poor discipline. The Senators have given New Jersey 3, 7, 5, and 5 power plays respectively in each game of the series, after all.

But above all this the most important thing for the team, and I think the fans as well, is that the Devils must collectively raise their game to new heights. It's not a matter of whether the Devils have the talent or not. This is the team that beat the Buffalo Sabres strongly back in February. Hell, this is a team that beat a loaded Sabres squad with 16 active skaters back in March; they definitely have the talent. It's effort and desire, two things that the Devils did not have enough of (and in the case of Game 3, none at all, excepting Brodeur) in the past two games. The Devils will need to leave it all out on the ice and play like the end is nigh. Otherwise, it obviously will be the end - the Devils' playoff run will be over and they move to a brand new arena.

I must emphasize that this must be a team effort. This includes Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta - to be the fearsome force that they can collectively be when they are "on." This includes Zach Parise, who has been invisible as of late. This includes the third line of Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, and Sergei Brylin - who have not been the shutdown line they have been all season this playoffs. This includes guys firing pucks from the point and taking lead passes, such as Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin, and Andy Greene. This includes defensemen who are expected to block shots, throw hits, and win pucks along the boards, such as Richard Matvichuk and Colin White. This includes Martin Brodeur to be himself. This even includes the fourth line to provide some energy in what little ice time they will get. Everyone needs to do it.

For the Devils to have any semblence of a possibility of a chance of winning Game 5, the team must give a firey and committed team performance. If they falter, if they flounder, if they fail and lose Game 5 and the series with it, it will be because of the team effort - the loss will be the fault not of Elias or Brodeur or Gomez or some other scapegoat, it would be a team loss.

I must make a confession: I don't want to talk about the off season. Writing an entire season-in-review post does not interest me at this point. I don't feel like looking ahead to a new coach, the NHL Draft, free agency, and Newark. I want to do all these things in June, not May. I don't believe you want to read that yet. Most importantly, I'm sure the Devils aren't particularly enthused with the idea of not playing past this week.

The Devils need to win to avoid all this. The Devils need to win to continue playing hockey. The Devils need to win. They must do so collectively as a team. Just like they did all season.

Go Devils.

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I am a long time reader of your blog and love it. I just wanted to say that this post is your best to date. It sums up everything in a perfect way and nothing more needed to be said. Excellent post. Go Devils!

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