The New Jersey Devils earned a rugged victory by the score of 4-3 in overtime last night against the Anaheim Ducks. It was a promising result for New Jersey and their fans because, as I reported previously, the Ducks were undefeated at home coming into the game last night.
The Devils made some very positive strides in this game and they continue to play well (5-1-1) in their last seven games (www.si.com). Meanwhile, the Ducks continue to struggle with a record of (0-4-1) in their last five games.
This victory did not come about easily as New Jersey had to come from behind to tie the game at 3-3, with about one minute remaining in regulation (www.nhl.com).
This 2013-14 season is one quarter of the way to completion, and if nothing else, this edition of the New Jersey Devils has demonstrated repeatedly that they will not go down without a fight. They were losing this game last night on the road, after travelling across the country, and they kept pressing to force overtime.
The Devils in several spots in this game last night, even though they were adjusting to the time change, had more energy than the Ducks did. It was a gritty performance by the Devils to come back and to win this game in overtime. This win last night is a great way to start this road trip, which continues tonight against the Los Angeles Kings.
New Jersey did have some problems last night that they need to address and tighten up before the game tonight against the Kings:
- The Ducks had entirely too many breakouts last night, especially odd-man rushes where they had a numbers advantage on the Devils
- The Ducks were outshooting the Devils by a wide margin at one point in this game because of all the breakouts. The Kings are a faster team than the Ducks and their offense is predicated on odd-man breakaways and set plays resulting from opposition puck turnovers.
- The Ducks outplayed the Devils on the 2 power plays that they converted last night. New Jersey has to maintain their discipline on the penalty kill and not over- pursue their opponent.
- The Ducks controlled the puck movement at even strength and held the puck in the New Jersey defensive third of the ice at several different stretches of the game. This includes a full minute of puck control in the closing minutes of regulation when Anaheim still had a 3-2 lead. The Devils were finally able to clear the zone and get Martin Brodeur out for the extra skater and tied the game.
- The line of Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac, and Dainius Zubrus continued their strong play together last night including the game tying goal (Jagr) and the game winning goal (Zajac) this line continues to lead the team (www.si.com)
- Brodeur looked very good and made some outstanding saves against a very good Ducks offensive team
- The Devils passed the puck well at points and moved around very well to find open spots in the ice and the seams in the Anaheim defense
- The forecheck (which I wrote yesterday would be key) was executed very well by New Jersey last night
- The resilient nature to come back at two different points after being down in this game bodes well for the rest of the road trip and for the weeks to come.
Fixing and moving ahead
This was a very good win for the Devils, without question, but they did have some issues they need to address, and I think they will do so, to prepare for the rest of the trip.
Heading into the game tonight, the Devils have to pass the puck well in order to keep possession, and to keep the Kings from capitalizing on a breakout from an errant pass.
The Devils have to remain disciplined on defense and not allow the Kings to get pucks in deep in the New Jersey defensive third of the ice. They also need to maintain their positioning on the ice and not chase the Kings around and allow themselves to get stretched out of position.
The Devils have an excellent opportunity to have another winning performance on this difficult road trip tonight because the issues they had last night can be easily fixed. Overall, they played well, but, more importantly, they demonstrated a resolve and a toughness that will serve them well as this long season continues.