You could argue that tonight's game was the opposite of the Devils' first game of this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils were absolutely worked over in the first period. Yes, they scored first - a beautiful John Madden finish off a sweet feed from Aaron Asham - but the Panthers turned it loose on the Devils' defense. They absolutely exposed the defensemen as a collection of guys who have not played a lot together. A lot of desparate plays stopped Florida for capitalizing. All the same, the Panthers held onto the puck for a majority of the first period and put 21 shots on Kevin Weekes. 21 shots! In past years, we have seen opposing teams struggle to get 21 shots! The Panthers did it in 20 minutes! And these weren't weak shots, there were many times where I was absolutely befuddled as to why Florida didn't score. While the Devils stepped up their game - both on offense and at defense - the Panthers still got quality scoring chances.
Clearly, this win would have not been possible without some great goaltending. Kevin Weekes was brought in with the expectation that he could give Martin Brodeur some more nights off because he's considerbly more talented than past back-ups (e.g. Corey Schwab, John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Clemmensen). He definitely proved it tonight. Scrums in front of the net? No problem. A trickling puck about to drift in? Weekes dived for it with all of his heart (and if he missed, the defense did step up there). Long shots from the side or the point? Weekes handled them. Point-blank shots from the slot? Weekes and his glove were definitely there. The one that beat Weekes, he had no chance on it - all the other 32 shots, Weekes got them all. Weekes played absolutely Brodeur-ian goaltending tonight and he had to do so for the Devils to succeed. First star of the game, of course - who else could it possibly be? No one else, that's who.
And for that, this event should be specifically noted. It should also be noted that the Devils really stepped up their game at both ends in the second and third periods to re-take the lead and to expand on it. John Madden had a great game with 2 goals, Brian Gionta didn't finish with any points but he was all over the place as an offensive threat, Patrik Elias made a play to feed Andy Greene for a power play goal, and Mike Mottau showed why he made the team with some sound positional play and a bomb from from the point. They capitalized on the chances Florida gave them - both in penalties and otherwise - and they were able to secure the win as a result.
A win, earned by Kevin Weekes and the Devils - the first for this season. Immediate proof that signing Weekes was a solid move and that the Devils do indeed know what they are doing. For a full account of the game, Patricia at 2 Man Advantage live-blogged the game so you can re-live the moments minute-by-minute.
Is it weird that Brodeur didn't get the first win of the season? A little bit, yes; but I'm sure Marty would agree that it doesn't matter who in net as long as the Devils got the two points. The next game will be tough - the Senators soundly defeated the Rangers tonight.
Regardless, let's hope that Brodeur will get his first win on Monday
Labels: 2008 Postgame, Devils Issues