As far as the game itself, there are some nits to pick. Scott Mackie had some complaints about Nicklas Bergfors' and Petr Vrana's ice time at 2MA
and colorful language aside, he's got a point. There was no real reason, that I could tell, that required Brent Sutter to shorten the bench. Amazingly, save for a few shifts, he kept the fourth line of Mike Rupp, Bergfors, and Vrana together instead of his usual mixing up of the lines. Anyway. It's a minor point for Vrana as he's going to continue to play in the foreseeable future. Hopefully Bergfors will continue to get time before his call-up ends. That Matt Halischuk was sent down to Lowell (as reported by Gulitti)
is at least a sign that Bergfors will be at The Rock for a little while longer, I think. Speaking of nits to pick, can someone show Sheldon Brookbank how to defend a 2-on-1? I'm not a hockey player or a coach, but I'm pretty confident the right way is to not stay in the middle and lamely reach for a pass. Colby Armstrong found Slava Kozlov (the good Kozlov) with a pass and Kozlov was patient and cooly slid the puck off Weekes' sliding skate and into the net. The run-and-gun (because defense isn't something they are good at) Atlanta Thrashers upped the tempo as the Devils took their foot off the proverbial pedal in the third and it led to their only tally of the night. That's not to say the Devils took the third period off, but it was a bit sloppy and you could tell they were playing with a 5-6 goal lead. It's forgiveable because, well, it was a 5 goal lead and they kept it that way thanks to Kevin Weekes and a defense that bended a little but not too much.
And so the majority of the game is exactly what I expected to see before the game and from what I read afterwards at places like IPB.
The Devils kicked the snot out of a terrible hockey team. The offense was clearly on point - more then they were back in mid-October
- as Nicklas Bergfors got his first goal from the sideboards - and I think it definitely hit Johan Hedberg's blocker not Dainius Zubrus' stick so it was his goal. This was followed up in the second period when Patrik Elias threw a shot (or a pass to the slot?) from the sideboards with enough vigor that Mathieu Schneider and his stick helpfully deflected right past Hedberg. The remaining 4 goals all came from the slot. Zach Parise got his first off a rebound after Jamie Langenbrunner drove to the net; Parise got his second on the power play by burying an open net in the slot after great passes from Travis Zajac and Paul Martin. Brian Gionta scored just after a power play ended by burying a rebound off an Elias-tip of a Johnny Oduya shot. Jay Pandolfo got his first of the year by burying an Oduya - who was key on a lot of these plays with 3 assists - feed right in the slot.
Saturday's game clearly had this lesson demonstrated by the Devils: GO TO THE NET. It's where the goals have been coming from for New Jersey and with 21 goals being scored in the last 5 games, it's something I'm sure the coaching staff keeps emphasizing to the players. Particularly Brian Gionta, as both of his goals this season came from within 6 feet of the net. Perhaps they should also emphasize other players in joining Parise's Shot Club, as Chere reported on in the Star Ledger this morning.
In all honesty, I regret not seeing this game as it was certainly an exciting blowout by the Devils. They did what good teams should do to poor teams - just outright beat them, and New Jersey clearly outclassed them that night. And, just like many things in life, the Devils really don't get to sit back and enjoy it as they will be without Brodeur against a good Buffalo Sabres squad on Monday night. The offense is clearly hot right now, hopefully they can keep the fire burning
against the Sabres tomorrow.
Labels: 2008-09 Postgame, Devils Issues, Devils Legends, Devils Prospects