I wish I could have come back and posted after the Devils Game 1 loss – not because I was excited or anything, obviously – but I am in the Orlando, FL area right now and WiFi isn’t exactly running rampant around here as I thought it would be. Regardless, I had posted before the game and noted that the Flyers were a sloppy, undisciplined team. Well, based on what I saw in Game 1 I was 100% correct, however, I also said that the Devils would need to connect on their power play in order to take advantage of that “typical” Flyer game-play. They most certainly did not, going 0-5 through the game including nothing on a double minor, 4 minute power play in the third period. The Flyers also only had 14 shots on us, yes a mere 14 shots, while Jersey had 24 shots on Boucher.
I’ll give it to Boucher, he came up big in Game 1, but he is not that good, and the Devils have to know that. They can’t let his solid play get into their heads, they just have to keep chipping away at him and eventually – like the last game – something will go in. Marty made some good saves but he did not lose the game by any means, he was solid. The first goal was a tricky deflection and the next was because of a turn over, he has played worse in playoff games, we all know that. The bottom line for the Devils in Game 2 is their sense of play. They need to be more desperate. I understand they clinched a playoff spot weeks ago and were only battling for positioning, so they weren’t a team of “desperation” like say, the Flyers were – that’s an advantage they have over us right now. Regarding this issue, struggling Captain Jamie Langenbrunner commented on this topic earlier today to Devils beat writer Tom Gulitti.
So, is this a game the Devils have to win?
“I think we’ve got to go with that mentality,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “Definitely, we have to do certain things that allow you to win. You can’t always control that. But we have to put (their best) game out there. We played a pretty cautious game in Game 1. We played extremely well defensively. We limited their chances, but we weren’t as desperate as we needed to be to win hockey games in the playoffs. We need to bring that effort (tonight).
Let’s talk about another issue from Game 1 and a clear one at that. The play of Ilya Kovalchuk was all over the place. He was skating very hard and had the passion in him that any player in the playoffs should have, but he made turnovers, was rushing plays, and was trying to do a little too much on his own which is what created those bad plays. I love Kovy, but he has to relax himself a bit, not get so frustrated and let his game come to him naturally as if it were any other. I know it is not just another game – we all know that – but his erratic nature was too much in Game 1 and he has to calm himself, let his natural talent come out and I know it will be rewarding in the end. He isn’t the only superstar who has seen playoff struggles early on (Ovechkin, Thornton, Marleau) so it’s not uncommon, but a great playoff performance is measured by a lot of factors, one of them is how you overcome things. We will see tonight how the Rad Russian will answer his performance from Game 1. Although I may think he was trying a little too much, his teammates think otherwise.
“I don’t have that feeling,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “Definitely, looking at certain things he did on the ice, people can say maybe he’s trying too much. It’s normal for people to have that feeling. Kovy is Kovy. He’s going to go out there and try to take everything on his shoulder. He had to do it for so many years in Atlanta and here he’s just gotta relax and blend in and his skill will take over. We’re definitely happy to have him. It’s a matter of feeling it. A guy like that can get streaky.”
Now, we must address the elephant in the room, that being the TERRIBLE performance of the power play unit the other night. To put it simply, it was abysmal. I can understand a 2 minute minor going 0-fer when you get shots on goal and the goalie stops everything he sees, that is acceptable. But, when you are trailing in the third period by two goals and you get an opportunity like a 4 minute double minor, you absolutely must capitalize on that in order to win in these playoff games. This correlates to the Devils lack of passion, desperation, what have you from the previous game. It was interesting to note, the announcer on TSN (forgive me I could not catch his name, I was watching it on a computer) said that in Atlanta while on the power play, Kovalchuk would be all over the ice and the power play would revolve around him. In Jersey, he has been in one set place, taking his shots when he gets the chance, making it much easier to defend him. Whether or not moving him around more would help out is unseen, but I am willing to see it in action if it could get a jump start on this PP unit – anything would help.
The Devils did take to the ice at the Prudential Center today in an optional team skate (Kovalchuk, Elias, White, Langenbrunner and McAmmond skipped it) but yesterday they held a team practice and worked on the power play. Coach Jaques Lemaire spoke to the media after the practice, voicing his opinions on the struggling unit.
“We have to get better shots on the power play,” Lemaire said. “We have to get pucks at the net. We moved the puck. At times, it looks good, but it’s not consistent. I have to agree that (the Flyers) are doing a heck of a job. You have to give credit to the one that deserve it. They’ve been great, from what I’ve seen, the last 15, 20, 25 games. They’ve been really good on the penalty kill. But we have to find a way to score.”
Yes, that is a fair assessment, the Flyers are a very aggressive penalty killing squad, but the biggest thing to look at in regards to that analysis is that the Devils have better talent on their power play, they just aren’t getting anything through with how they are going about it. I know, what I just said sounds like a double negative, but it’s the truth. The Devils have players on the point with blistering shots on the PP unit, but with no where to shoot how can they get anything done, what can be done about this? For one, they can start rotating everyone around, making the Flyers constantly move. If they can make the Flyers skate around more, eventually they will get tired and something will open up. Remember, the Devils are the ones on the power play, they are the ones in the Flyers zone, Philly can’t change it up in their zone when they get tired. Another way to improve the power play would be to have an unusual name down low to create screens, perhaps someone like Dainius Zubrus who is 6 foot 4. That presence of a big body like Zuby could create those lanes that the point men would need, he would also shield the eyes of Boucher and that would make deflections go right in
I seem to be rambling at this point, but these are all the points the Devils need to address in order to win tonight’s game. As for the Flyers, they would like to get a little more pressure on Brodeur I’m sure, because they did not have much last game, as the Devils did play very well defensively – but that is expected at this point with them. I have talked about how well they kill a power play, which they will look to do more of tonight – but in that same regard they are going to try to keep their PIM’s down of course. Brian Boucher doesn’t have to improve on much of anything, as he played brilliantly last game. Can he keep it up? We shall see tonight at 7:30 from The Rock. GO DEVILS!
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