Well the way Game 3 opened up was just as I expected it to be. The Flyers came out looking for blood right off the bat and consequently they took penalties as only the Flyers know how. But, the Devils were unable to capitalize as only they can. They were given plenty of chances to open this game wide open and make it an early night, playoff wise. Philly took 5 penalties half way through the first period of the game and Jersey could only put the biscuit in on one occasion. In order to beat the Flyers at home, its pretty simple you have to take advantage of their weaknesses – that being the amount of penalties they take. But, as usual Philly had a pretty easy time killing off their penalties and the Devils made their power play look like it was as difficult as pulling a tooth out of a hungry Lion. That’s all over now though and they have to play Game 4 as if it were their last because if they lose tonight, it’s all over.
Yea, a long time ago Jersey came back against Philly from a 3-1 series deficit, but this Devil team is far different than that Devil team. They lack that physical dominance that they would just impose upon you through out a series. I know he has been retired for a little while now, but this is where Scott Stevens is missed more than anything, or at least the kind of player Stevens represented. The Devils don’t have that guy that will get in your face, smack you in the mouth and then score on you to make you feel even worse. They have players with those skills, but all spread out – no guy is on the roster like Stevens and when we need someone like him the most, it is quite evident they don’t have him. They are soft defensively would be putting it kindly. In front of Broduer, Flyer players just park in front of him and they hardly get moved. In the corners, it’s very similar, the Flyers hardly ever get crushed into the glass and knocked off the puck like they should be, they just take a little bump and keep on skating. Among many other things the Devils need to start hitting harder and clearing out the crease, this soft play would never have happened under the tutelage of Scott Stevens or Ken Daneyko.
On the bright side, Martin Brodeur played another good game the other night. All three Flyer goals were not his fault, especially the Mark Fraser blow up behind the net. As for the OT winner, it was a wide open net, Carcillo isn’t talented – in fact if it wasn’t wide open he would’ve shot it right into Marty’s chest. The OT winner can be pinned on the D having a break down, simple as that.
No more time for finger pointing though. The time to get it together is now and the world will see what kind of team New Jersey really is with the performance they put together tonight. Martin Brodeur (who has played in plenty of these situations before) discusses what a Game 4 means for a team that is trailing with Devils beat writer Tom Gulitti.
“These Game 4s, there’s always one team that’s going to be up and one is going be down, so definitely it makes a big difference, the outcome of a Game 4, where the series is going to go,” Brodeur said. “So, it is definitely a must-win for us.”
Marty went on to say more regarding the passion the Devils need to bring to tonight’s game, something they seemed to be lacking after Game 1.
“We have to feel pretty good,” Brodeur said. “We go out there and compete and it’s not like we’re getting outplayed or anything. There’s just little things in our game that need to be better;. We need to be a little more intense. If you don’t feel it in a situation like that, we’ll never feel it. So, it’s going to say a lot about our team after this game.”
I can go on about what the Devils need to do to win tonight’s game, but at this point it’s obvious in what they need to do to win. The series is off and running, blood has spilled, tempers have flared – both teams know what they need to bring to move on to the next round. I am just curious to see what this Devil team has that last years didn’t – if they are any different at all. Heading into Game 4 of last year’s first round game with the Hurricanes, Jersey was actually up 2-1 as opposed to where they are sitting this year. Being up 2-1 last year didn’t favor them in the least as we all know how the series ended. Remember the Game 4 that ensued last year though? Devils trailed 3-0 and rallied all the way back to make it 3-3, than lost with 0.2 seconds left. I assure you Devil players have had that briefly cross their mind today as they prepare for tonight. It is important to remember the past in sports but also not to dwell on it. I hope remembering some of last year’s misfortunes can make this years Devil team get past that proverbial first round “hump”.
But, back to this years series and tonight’s game. What can New Jersey do to make tonight’s game different than the previous three, maybe create some space in the game between them and Philly – meaning a substantial lead. Not counting the empty net goal in Game 2 that made it a two goal difference, the Devils have never had more than a one goal lead through out an entire game. It speaks about how closely contested these two teams have been as well as how much of a rivalry it is. So what can the Devils do to get that two or three goal lead tonight? Well, go to NHL.com and watch last night’s Kings/Canucks game and if Jersey plays like LA, than they will be in good shape. That includes getting those power play goals, winning battles down low, not being afraid to get physical when you need to and above all else…not give a damn about who it is you are playing. You think the Kings think they are too young for the playoffs or that they have no chance to beat the great Roberto Luongo? Not from what I saw last night because the Kings played that game last night like they were the ones who have been to the playoffs the last 13 years in a row – and Vancouver is a hell of a lot better than Philadelphia.
Why they haven’t been able to play as well as a team like the Kings is beyond me. I don’t want to say its a sense of desperation thing because all these players know what is at stake, perhaps they are just snake bitten and are a team destined a fate similar to that of San Jose. I hate to say something like that but the truth hurts. Like Martin Brodeur said, tonight’s game is going to say a lot of this team. If they are able to play as well as the talent on that roster indicates, they will finally break through and get that two or three goal lead they need in order to secure a win, but they could just as easily come out flat, letting Philly jump all over them, burying their Cup hopes.
Check out Eugene Markman from a Flyer perspective at BroadstreetBuzz