Monday, December 24, 2007
Devils 1 - Calgary 0, OT
Before I get into the game from a Devils-standpoint, I have to say that this was an excellent hockey game to watch. It was physical, both teams skated hard, and both teams truly gave a hard effort on the ice. Anyone who says the NHL needs more scoring or need rule changes to make the game more exciting clearly did not see this game. In fact, were I in the proper authority in the NHL, I would have recorded a copy of this whole game and send it out to all the critics. Hockey is still the best game in the world because in the middle of the regular season, right before a holiday break, you still have two teams go at it with intensity and vigor.
Now, that all said, this was not such a great win for New Jersey as it was for Martin Brodeur. The Devils were horrific in discipline in the first two periods: conceeding 6 penalties to Calgary. When you're on the road against a hot team like Calgary - no pun, the team is 7-0-3 even with this loss in their last 10 games, handing them 6 power plays is a terrible idea. A big reason why NJ was dominated in the second period, being out-shot 14-4, was due to the 4 penalties they took. Why didn't Calgary capitalize, how were they not able to make the Devils pay the price? Martin Brodeur. Brodeur didn't get the first star of the game, but he should have in stopping all 30 of Calgary's shots - earning his 95th all-time shutout. Some were weak, some came right in the slot, and Brodeur even stopped any other errant shots after the whistle. Brodeur was a shot-killer out there, Calgary was a mess when it came to finishing. I can't really say that the defense was totally weak - it's not as if Calgary just boogied into the Devils' turf at will for 60 minutes. Nevertheless, the penalty killing units definitely had a lot of work and have to thank Brodeur for saving their bacon many times.
Fortunately for NJ, Calgary couldn't be the better team for all 60 minutes. In the third period, the Devils clearly played better despite being outshot again. They didn't concede any penalties and as the game opened up, the Devils took it to the Flames more often. All game, the Devils have found success in forechecking the Flames as well as taking the puck away - 12 times to Calgary's 6. The Devils didn't succeed in capitalizing on any big turnovers; but John Madden in particular was a force. The checking center had 3 takeaways, won 16 faceoffs, and 23:18 of ice time - with 7:12 coming on the penalty kill. Madden had a good game; personally I would have named him the third star of the game for what defensive efforts he brought to the table.
However, the hero of the day was to be Patrik Elias again. Where Brodeur kept the team in it, the offense couldn't crack the impregnable goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff was great, but he made one crucial mistake after a Flame made another one. As the game went into overtime, Craig Conroy lost control of the puck at the point. Patrik Elias zoomed onto the puck, kept his balance after Conroy's stick his legs, and dished it off to Brian Gionta. The play became a two-on-one, Gionta masterfully slid the puck below the defender's stick to Elias. Elias was brave as you could get, driving to the net as another Flame was in the midst of taking him down. Elias did what he could and successfully took Gionta's pass and shot it as a one-timer. There, Kiprusoff made his big mistake.
He did not close his legs as he went down.
The puck went off with the necessary velocity at the necessary angle to slide underneath Kiprusoff, ending the game less than a minute into overtime. It was a great goal, a great way to end a great game, and once again Elias was the man who put a point on it. The Devils will have to avoid taking so many penalties, be more aggressive on offense, and play a more complete game. However, on the road against a tough team like Calgary, their effort was sufficient - with a fantastic end. Considering the Devils currently are #1 in the Atlantic with a 5 point lead, I can't complain.