Saturday, January 05, 2008


The Past Few Days

Apologies for a lack of any content over the last few days. With a game in Boston looming tonight and a Kevin Weekes watch in effect according to Tom Gulitti, let's quickly go over what happened the past few days.

First, an Elias-less (in addition to already being Rachunek-less, Pandolfo-less, and Brookbank-less) Devils had an odd game against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. The Devils beat Florida 3-2, amazingly thanks to an amazingly well set up power play goal. I mean, it was a flowing move that found Brian Gionta all alone at the net who just had to tap it in. Great job to all involved. The game also featured the Devils cracking their first period scoring drought thanks to Jamie Langenbrunner and Lowell Devils call-up Noah Clarke getting his first NHL goal. But the game also featured the Panthers making a game of it off some rebounds, putting more shots on net than the Devils (33 to 27), and making the Devils a bit listless at times. Jay Bouwmeester showed off that he is a stud defenseman (at least in my eyes), and the rest of the team weren't the doormats that one would traditionally associate with Florida hockey. The Devils won, I guess that's good enough. But I still I find it hard to determine how good a win it was even after thinking about it for a few days.

Second, Patrik Elias returned for last night's game with the Philadelphia Flyers. Let's get the criticisms out of the way first. As much as I happily yelled about "Philadelphia Discipline" (stretch it out like you were saying "S-E-C SPEED") at the game, a quick look at the boxscore shows the Devils took just as many penalties as the Flyers did. Granted a number of them were coincidental, but taking 8 penalties is unacceptable. The other main criticism is that the Devils basically were pinned back in their own end for much of the third period, with the Flyers throwing everything they could at Martin Brodeur. The Flyers outshot the Devils 15-4 in the third period and obviously had more scoring chances. Granted, the best Flyers chances came in the second period where they had the puck in a prime position right outside the crease 5 times. Martin Brodeur made one ridiculous, "Where in the hell did that leg come from!?" save and the defense held them off the other 4 times. The Devils didn't play a full effort and are fortunate to have come away with a shutout.

Now that that's done, let's begin the effusive praise! The Devils faced 36 shots, they faced 5 penalty kills, seemingly countless counts of physical play, and they come out of it with a strong 3-0 win. Why? Because they didn't panic when they were shorthanded and when the Flyers had the offensive momentum. Because the Devils were lethal with the puck in attacking, obviously doing more with less shots. Because Martin Brodeur is the best damn goalie in the league and clearly a living legend. The second most fortunate thing that I saw at the game was from seeing at least four incidents of the Flyers falling down on their own. The most fortunate was seeing Travis Zajac take advantage of a turnover caused by that and pound it through Martin Biron for his first goal since December 7.

Among the forwards, the best one was once again Patrik Elias. Elias was hustling, going after the Flyers' defense, and making plays all night long, he was rewarded with an assist and a power play goal. Among all the skaters, Paul Martin had the best game. I don't know what Brent Sutter said to him before the game, but it worked. Martin played with an extra gear, he joined the offensive attack when necessary, his decisions in shooting were wise with only one missed shot and nothing blocked, and he was a big part of the successful power play - a power play goal equals success for this team - and penalty kill. Martin was great and you could tell by watching the game. That all said, Martin Brodeur's 36 saves clearly earned him the first star of the game. All that and further proof the Flyers are the most classless team in the league: Derian Hatcher bit through Zajac's glove and cut his middle finger. Gulitti has plenty of quotes and it is a very strange story. Will the league drop a suspension on Hatcher? Probably not.

Third, the U.S. is out at the World Junior Tournament, losing to Canada 4-1 (link to IIHF story). Canada will go to their fourth straight gold medal game. Devils prospect Matt Halischuk picked up an assist on Shawn Matthias' goal. Russia fell to Sweden in overtime, so Russia and the United States are battling it out for the bronze medal as we speak. As I type this, it's not looking good for the U.S. because Russia is dominating the game. I suppose it's revenge for the 3-2 win the United States had over Russia in the group stages. Canada and Sweden will play for the gold medal later today. Will Sweden do what no one else has been able to do this tournament a second time? Will they beat Canada again? And how will Matt Halischuk perform? All these and more answered, um, later, I guess.

Enjoy tonight's game!

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Actually, Noah Clarke had two goals with the Kings last year, from what I understand, making his goal merely his first with the Devils, not in the NHL. It was awesome nonetheless, though.
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