Friday, January 11, 2008


That's What I'm Talking About!

Last night, the New Jersey Devils opened it up on the Carolina Hurricanes and their superior finishing was rewarded with a 4-1 win. Prior to last night's game, I stated that the Devils really need to shut down their centers and the left side while taking it to Carolina offensively. They actually succeeded in doing both and it was a big factor in their win over Carolina.

Defensively, the game was a gem. The Hurricanes were held to 21 shots on their ice and their most prolific shooter was defenseman Tim Gleason with 4 shots. Rod Brind'Amour had a good game, winning the majority of his faceoffs (the only Cane center who did) and generally being as solid as he was. However, Eric Staal was quiet, Cory Stillman didn't do much, and the formerly-waivered Sergei Samsonov was held to little outside of one decent shot on net. I understand the Hurricanes are fighting a number of injuries - most notably Ray Whitney - but the Devils did a great job in dulling the Hurricanes' attack. None of the defenders committed penalties, the penalty killers killed what few infractions the Devils were called on, and they blocked an amazing 18 shots. 18 shots! 5 by Mike Mottau of all people! A simply great job by the defense! Anything that got through was easily handled by Martin Brodeur. The only goal against was Keith Aucoin hitting a rebound in mid-air just past Marty; not a whole lot one could do there. Just great defense overall.

The offense was not as excellent, but they did excel. I wanted to see the Devils attack the Hurricanes on offense and they did just that. The fourth line of Mike Rupp, Aaron Asham, and David Clarkson continued to bring the pain and force turnovers among the team as their forecheck worked quite well. The Devils managed 14 takeaways in the game (3 by Zajac) and the Devils, well, did something with it. Kind of. The Devils, in particular that fourth line, sort of squandered some of those turnovers. And some of their puck possession: the Devils took 54 attempts on net. Before you think that's a good thing, they only hit the net 24 times. Yes, the Devils missed more often than hitting it - 16 missed shots, 14 blocked shots.

But while the accuracy wasn't there, the finishing definitely was. Most amazingly, it came on the power play - twice even! Travis Zajac continues heating up with a power play goal, his goal and assist are his 4th and 5th points in the last 5 games. Brian Gionta, an experienced player when it comes to power plays, potted in the Devils' second goal. This is exciting stuff - actual results on the power play! But those weren't even the best goals. Vitaly Vishnevski played off the boards a puck to Zach Parise at the blue line who tipped it to Jamie Langenbrunner who touched it off to Patrik Elias. Elias just fired a rocket of a shot that no one in the world could have stopped and I think it's safe to say that Elias has "awakened" so to speak. It was the eventual game winning goal (Elias' 6th) and it definitely stemmed any momentum Carolina built up that period Sergei Brylin rounds out the score with a late third period goal where he managed to tap the puck off a rebound away from Cam Ward and over to Eric Staal - who put it into his own net, if I recall it correctly. Own goals, so horrible on your end, but so fun when done by the other team.

Still, my point is that while the Devils' accuracy was poor, the team actually took advantage on a number of its chances and the finishing was much better than their accuracy belies. The result? Two power play goals in a 4-1 win over the top team in the Southeast division. Devils keep on rolling with a win and must feel rather confident going into Buffalo for tomorrow's game. Perhaps they can find the scoring touch again, but given that Ryan Miller is really, really good (and much, much better than Cam Ward), it won't necessarily be easy.

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