Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Devils 4 - Toronto 1

Well, so much for the Devils' apparent demise. They roared in spite of being heavily shot against; defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on the road. Tom Gulitti's headline at Fire & Ice is sort of apt: the offense woke up. It's a good summary of the game. But I have to disagree a bit with the headline.

The Devils were dominated in puck possession, which explains why Toronto compiled 42 shots on Martin Brodeur. Many times, especially in the first period, the Devils would obtain the puck but then either A) needlessly give it away with an errant dump or B) needlessly give it away with an errant pass. The Maple Leafs won the battle of the neutral zone in terms of possession. It made generating offense more than a bit difficult for New Jersey, as evidenced by New Jersey's own 25 shots on net. So how did New Jersey succeed?

Well, as usual, it begins with Brodeur. If I were a goaltender, I'd look to this game as a perfect example of rebound control. The Leafs took many shots from the outside and from bad angles - evidenced by 15 shots coming from Tomas Kaberle, Anton Stralman, and Ian White - and Brodeur did an excellent job in controlling where the rebounds went. In the first period, Brodeur pretty much played all 14 shots perfectly for a Devil skater to easily to get the puck and make a play. Excellent stuff. Brodeur was only beaten on, of all things, a rebound goal from Nik Antropov. There wasn't much Marty or the Devils to do on it. Colin White was right on Antropov and Brodeur did his best with the initial shot. But the puck just bounced right to Antropov, who was just in the right place and right time for the goal. Not a whole lot you can blame. However, despite all the shots, Brodeur put out another great effort. I wish the Devils closed down on the Maple Leafs more to prevent that many shots, also related to the disparity of possession.

Regardless, the Devils got 4 goals. In the beginning of the game, Chico made the point that the Devils should shoot low and shoot hard. This way rebounds would be generated and the Devils can pot one in for some goals. Not a bad idea, especially with the Devils' production dropping as of late. Actually, that appeared to be Toronto's approach on offense - only succeeding once, however. However, they didn't do that and they didn't need to because they finished their chances off the rush. Zach Parise picked up a brace first with a wonderful turnaround shot that fooled both Vesa Toskala and myself. I certainly didn't expect it; I'm sure Toskala didn't either. Parise's second goal was off a wonderful move by Patrik Elias. Three times, Elias had open ice in front of him on the wing with the puck. Three times, he tried to move to the center. The first time, the Leafs defense easily picked it up. The second time, Elias lost control and Gionta made the most of it with a diving shot. The third time, Elias did it with ease, drew Pavel Kubina away from Parise, and dished it to him. Zach was wide open and it was an easy play. David Clarkson also scored, applying the perfect finish from a John Madden pass off an odd-man rush. Of the four goals, only one was scored off the rebound - Brian Gionta picked one up off the power play. Toskala got Sheldon Brookbank's shot, but he could not possibly get to the rebound and Gionta easily put it home.

So much for a listless offense. The difference between tonight and the past few games is that while the Devils could have done better with the puck in terms of possession and applying offensive pressure - seriously, only 25 shots? I know Toronto was hot recently, but come on; the Devils finished the chances they did generate. A good, clear, and more welcome change than getting quite a few shots and being owned by the goalie. Which, interestingly, happened to Toronto. Poor them. Obviously, it's a good win - not perfect - and now the team gets to rest for a bit before Tampa Bay arrives on Friday at The Rock. As far as the Leafs go, well, James Mirtle appeared to think their playoff hopes are done for prior to last night's game. I guess the 4-1 loss provides further evidence. For a different take, check out Interchangeable Parts and Devils Daily.


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