The New Jersey Devils defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 3 to 2. NHL.com has the recap here
, which has all the links to the box score, super stats, and all sort of other information about the game.
Now, the reason why tonight's win was a good one is not obvious. All wins in their own way are good - the team we all want to succeed actually suceeded. In the long run, that's all that matters. That's what the standings count. It doesn't matter if it was a 6-5 barn-burner or a 6-1 blowout or a shootout win. Wins are wins. But tonight's is of particular note.
The Devils were not the better team on the ice for much of the night, but they won anyway. The reverse of what we have seen so many times this season.
The Maple Leafs looked better than the Devils for the first two periods. They were better at hustling for the puck, they did a better job at defusing the Devils' attack, they were tougher along the boards at times, they put more shots on net, and they executed their passes and shots much better than the Devils. In contrast, the Devils looked to be in a haze for stretches in those first two periods, with their forechecking not being really effective and their passing to be randomly horrible all not long. Furthermore, the Devils' gameplan was apparent from halfway the first period onwards. The Devils went forward with either A) lateral, cross-ice passing going into the zone, B) long passes along the boards that the Devils chased for, or C) dumping and chasing the puck in the corners. The Devils found some success with this, but Sutter did not adjust or modify the strategy when Toronto started playing just as wide as New Jersey did. In short, the Leafs were the better team on the ice considering the entire game.
Yet, the Devils succeeded. Why? First and foremost, Martin Brodeur kept the team in it. When Toronto was putting up some difficult shots, Brodeur was there. And he was definitely there tonight, only being beaten by Alexander Steen finishing off a video-game like move (seriously it was great except he did it against the Devils, but I can't not respect the skill) and Mats Sundin getting a good bounce on a desperate late-game 6-on-4 (maybe 3.5 since Sergei Brylin lost his stick) power play. If that's what it takes to beat a goaltender, then the goaltender has played well. Brodeur was even better, holding the Leafs to Steen's tally in a rough, Toronto-dominated second period.
Second and almost as important, the Devils capitalized on enough opportunities. Obvious, but important to note. The Maple Leafs coughed up the puck more than a few times and sometimes those long passes were enough for the Devils to beat the defense. That's how David Clarkson broke through for his goal ad that's how John Madden powered down the rink on a shorthanded beauty of a goal. If the team can make the most of what few chances they get and get goals, their chances of winning clearly (and obviously) go up. Madden's shorthanded goal was crucial as was Zach Parise's lamplighter. Which leads me to point three: the Devils didn't completely give up on the game and showed up in the third period. The Devils looked a lot more lively in the third period, outshot the Leafs in that period, and put more pressure on the Leafs' defense and their goaltender, Vesa Toskala. Tonight was the reverse of the Devils not playing well after some good periods; because the Devils didn't give up, they took whatever chances they got and succeeded. Parise had 3 to 4 shot attempts, but he didn't give up on the play - he pressed forward and eventually was rewarded. I didn't think Parise played particularly well before the third period, but he turned it up in the third period like the rest of the team.
It's a cliche in sports - which I wish I could avoid but I can't, sorry - but good teams win games they probably shouldn't be winning. Again, the Leafs were the better team for much of the game; but the Devils capitalized and didn't give up on the game. That's how they got tonight's win and that's why I feel tonight's is especially good. This time, the Devils were on the right side of the team not playing 60 minutes. Do they need to improve? Of course. Sutter needs to be more willing to adjust his strategies as he is with his line-up and the Devils have to execute much better when passing and dumping the puck. But that can happen for the next game - tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, Devils Issues