Saturday, March 29, 2008


Devils 5 - Philadelphia 4, SO

The New Jersey Devils broke their winless streak and their drop in offense with a 5-4 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Four goals were scored in regulation, and the shootout sealed 2 points for the Devils who really needed them after the last week or so. This has been delayed because I was at this game. Let me tell you, I felt this was definitely an up-and-down game. The recap at states that the Devils "bent, but did not break." Overall, yes, they did not break. However, the team - specifically the defense - was broken many times in the run of play.

To give an overall feel of the game, the Flyers were the better team in the first 15 minutes and picked up a goal that Martin Brodeur wished he had another shot at. Then, as the period was dying down and you're thinking whether this is going to be the same old story, the Devils took control of the game. More amazingly, the Devils scored on a power play goal when Johnny Oduya's shot bounced off Zach Parise's body and got in. Most amazingly, a few minutes later, the crowd yelled for Oduya to shoot - he did, and it not only was on target, but it went in. For the first time that I can remember, the crowd actually was right in this case. Oduya with a brace, the Devils leading after the first, things are good. And they continued to be good by controlling the first 10 minutes of the second period, involving a fantastic penalty kill of a stupid penalty by Sheldon Brookbank and Jamie Langenbrunner scoring off of a rebound. Jamie's got his first goal since March 15, the Devils are up 3-1, you're feeling pretty good about this one.

Then things turn for the worse. The Devils take their foot off the pedal; the Flyers roar back with some good pressure and ex-Devil Jim Dowd potting a deflected shot. And there lies my problem with the Devils against Philly. In addition to not finishing off the Flyers when they did, the defense was far too much of the "bend, not break" variety. Coverages were missed; clearances varied between decent and poor; and they ultimately let the other team back into this one. This continued into the third period and nearly doomed New Jersey when Brookbank poorly cleared it along the boards right to one Randy Jones. Jones threw up a floater that found it's way right off the post and in - another goal Brodeur would have liked to have another crack at it. You're feeling real nervous at this point, calling for the Devils to wake up. And they do; with about 6 minutes left, Brian Gionta finally did something of value and easily finished a John Madden pass for goal #4. You're thinking - "OK. This should be it. These are the Devils. If anyone can hold onto a one-goal lead for 6 minutes, it's them. Let's see some defense."

Yet, not tonight. The fabled "hockey-killing, offense-stifiling, stop-getting" defense of the New Jersey Devils hockey club did not appear and with less than a minute, the Flyers got an equalizer. Despite the extra man, the Devils seemingly weren't covering anyone particularly tightly and that allowed Mike Richards to slide a pass to Mike Knuble for a quick one-timer. At this point, you're crushed. You're beside yourself. You're awaiting and dreading overtime. Overtime passes and it goes to a shootout. Where you witness the Devils scoring three times and the Flyers only twice. Parise, Patrik Elias, and Langenbrunner came through and got the win.

And at that point, your mind is racing. That the Devils can't possibly play like this in their last four games. That the Devils took too many stupid penalties including two delay of game calls. That the team has a way of sometimes having a strong, productive offense but only when the defense falters. That you can't fathom why Sheldon Brookbank continues getting minutes given how poor he has played in recent games. Yet, overall, you're just glad it was a win. Tom Gulitti's recap of the game reflect this and you're glad you aren't the only one.

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