Thursday, December 06, 2007


Elias, Eight, and a Concern

Last night, the New Jersey Devils completed a fantastic comeback effort in the second and third periods to tie up the Boston Bruins at 3. Then in overtime, the Devils put the nail in the coffin and defeated the Claude Julien-coached Bruins 4-3 with Patrik Elias' shot beating Tuukka Rask high. The recap at is here, live caps were done by 2 Man Advantage and Interchangeable Parts (warning: language), and Tom Gulitti has the word that Aaron Asham's hand is sore and the explanation as to why Patrik Elias didn't come out after being named the first star (I thought he was in the bathroom, but I guess that was a silly guess).

The game itself was fantastic - it's a 3 goal comeback in regulation and with the game-winner coming in overtime from Elias. Zach Parise finished the night with a brace and 2 assists, but Elias was truly the best player tonight. Now that Jamie Langenbrunner has the 'C,' Paul Martin and Colin White have 'A's (link goes to Gulitti's blog), Elias just went out there and had a monster game. Elias was taking shots all night long with a whopping 8 on net. Elias was on the ice and threatning all night long with 22:05 of ice time. Elias got the game-winner and the first Devils goal of the game in addition to an assist. He deftly deflected in Brian Gionta's shot from the half boards to give the Devils some light at the end of the tunnel. Elias made moves which led to some slick passes - including a spin move that led to a pass that I am still amazed that Parise didn't put it home. Parise had the points and don't get me wrong, Parise played great. But last night was the Patrik Elias show featuring his linemates: Parise and Gionta. I don't want to say it has anything to do with a letter that is stitched above the heart, it was just one game. But it was a fantastic performance.

Last night also indicated the big difference in coaches. Last season, Claude Julien would still be line-matching throughout the entire game even when the Devils were down 3-0. Sutter noted that the Bruins' forecheck got weaker and weaker as the game went on and he had the Devils change their attack accordingly. Sutter realized how hot the Elias line was, so he kept sending them out and sending out the forwards to attack. Defensemen were allowed to join the attack. As far as the Bruins go, after they went up by three, the Bruins attacked with less aggression and fell back into a trap. A trap the Devils were able to exploit and claw their way back from a giant hole. After the second period, with the score being 3-2, one would expect the visiting opposition to push real hard for an insurance goal. Not Julien. The Bruins kept the same game plan, came close a handful of times, but they let the Devils back into it. The Devils were able to adjust. That's the difference.

And for the Devils, they needed to adjust. They were absolutely putrid in the first period. Brodeur got beat, the defense was paper thin, and the best shots on offense came from the point and didn't seriously challenge Tim Thomas - who did play well prior to injury - at all. This needs to change. Well, OK, it did change. The Devils got their heads together, checked their guts, went out there, and fought back from 3 goals down to force an overtime - where they won. The Devils won their eighth game in a row and when a team is in a streak, they find ways to win games from poor starts. But this is the third time in the last four wins where the Devils didn't do well in the first period. They not only conceded the first goal in all three, but in the Dallas game they gave up 2 to start, the Devils were lucky to tie it up against Atlanta, and last night they let up 3. They were dominated in those three games and it took a better team effort for the Devils to come out of them with a win. However, those superb comebacks aren't always going to happen - streak or no streak. The Devils need to improve their recent performances in the first period and play a strong 60 minutes of hockey to continue their successes. The streak will not last, but it would make winning hockey games a hell of a lot easier.

Will the streak continue on Friday? Given it will be Scott Stevens Hall of Fame Tribute Night, I would expect the players to be pumped up. Also consider the opponent: the Washington Capitals have the worst record in the league and the fewest amount of wins with 9. Guarantees aren't appropriate, but a nine game winning streak for the Devils is, well, let's say it's definitely possible.

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