In the Stands: April 28 versus the Ottawa Senators

Finally the Devils have their first sellout of the hockey year, and the place was loud! So from section 235, row 9, seat 3, here are some observations from in the stands:

Jamie Langenbrunner didn’t have the best of nights, and the fans made sure he was well aware of their displeasure. Especially a kind old man sitting in the next section over which fans close by started to worry if he should be medicated. Thankfully Langenburnner regrouped to score the OT winning goal and redeemed himself of a bad night.

Game attendees, when you hear the whistling that typically ends in “Lets Go Devs” (or some other one syllable team name), the appropriate response is “Rangers Suck.” This will happen at least 5 or 6 times a game and is perfectly normal, even when playing against teams other than the Rangers. Don’t ask why we do this, although the reasons should be obvious. No matter what, I always sit next to people confused by this tradition.

Waving towels in playoff games is fine, but please be aware people are sitting in front of and behind you (unless you have really good or really bad seats) and can be hit if you don’t wave your towel directly above you.

The Devils need to learn to continue fighting throughout the entire game, and a two goal lead does not mean you can now lock down and play defense for the remainder of the game. Especially when you have 40 minutes left to play!

And to all opposing team fans: the fact that you want to watch your team in our venue is fine. Really, I have no problem you giving my team money through ticket sales. But don’t act like an idiot because you know you’ll get a reaction out of the home team fans. Really, that’s what Flyers fans do – and do you want to be like Flyers fans? I didn’t think so.

Elias and Devils Return, Devils Tie Up Series

The Devils managed to tie the series up at one game apiece thanks to a second overtime goal by Jamie Langenbrunner.

Langenbrunner had a very rough game where nothing was going right for him. Passes weren’t getting through, pucks wouldn’t settle down, shots missed the net, and his stick just wouldn’t cooperate.

In fact very little was going right at the Continental Airlines Arena for the Devils. The Devils, between the second and third period, had a combined shots on goal of 8, half of the shots they made in the first. But the Devils were still in good standing because of two goals scored in the first.

Normally the make-or-break of a period is goals scored early and late. They typically set the tone of the period or the intermission. Devils had both in the first, but for the remainder of regulation time, the Devils found themselves trailing play and trying to keep Ottawa from getting good scoring opportunities.

The EGG Line (Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta) was reunited with Elias returning from flu-like symptoms and tallied first not more than two minutes in to the game.

Then, with 2.7 seconds remaining in the period, the puck was dropped for a faceoff in Ottawa’s zone and Sergei Brylin made a diving play to get the puck past goaltender Ray Emery. The green light had lit indicating the period was over, but after a short review, it was obvious the puck crossed the goal line with .2 seconds remaining.

A number of fantastic saves were made by Martin Brodeur, but mostly the Devils found themselves on the penalty kill during the second and third period. In the third, the Ottawa Senators pulled net minder Ray Emery and Danny Heatley scored to tie the game up at 2.

The first nerve-wracking overtime ended with Ottawa continuing to out-play the Devils, but Martin Brodeur came up big to keep the score tied.

The second overtime was delayed five minutes due to Zamboni problems. The first Zamboni left the ice with smoke bellowing out of the right side. The second one had its ice shavings being dumped out to the ice and it looked as if they were having difficulties getting things cleaned up.

Eventual, the next twenty minutes appeared on the jumbotron and period number five was underway.

As always, the Devils find a way to capitalize on a mistake, and in this case, it took 82 minutes before Ottawa made theirs. Finding Jamie Langenbrunner up ice and ahead of Ottawa’s defenders, Travis Zajac passes up the middle to Jamie and – on the breakaway – managed to squeeze the puck past Emery’s left pad and in the net.

Elias Expected to Return from Flu

Thanks to the gag order Lou has on the entire Devils organization, Patrik Elias’s status was questioned but no real details were given to the severity of the “cold” he had.

Apparently Elias has been recovering from the Flu which started last Saturday. He is expected to return for this Saturday’s game, game two against the Ottawa Senators.

Taking Four Steps Backwards

On Thursday night I had the pleasure to go to see the Devils open up the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Although Devils Captain Patrik Elias was out with the sniffles, defenseman and the regular physical player the Devils typically have Colin White returned from injury.

In addition, David Clarkson entered the lineup to replace Elias and John Oduya sat out to make room for White.

So after about 10 minutes, fans sat in horror as the Devils slowly but steadily dug a hole so deep lava started pouring out. Yes I said it, now let’s move on.

Okay, one more and I’ll stop. To come back in the game, the Devils would have to perform some magic so good, it would be like pulling a Volkswagen Rabbit from their hats.

Moving on, after a debacle of a first period, the Devils slowly but steadily came back, scoring four goals in the next two periods. Unfortunately, Mike Rupp took a penalty in the beginning of the third and Ottawa scored to give them the 5-4 win.

Everything broke down for the Devils in the first period. Defense, goaltending, and offense didn’t exist. Like games 2 and 3 of the last round, the Devils just weren’t playing coherent hockey.

Thankfully the game wasn’t a complete blowout and the Devils made a dent into Ottawa, setting a tone that they will not be a pushover in this series.

Game two on Saturday will be played at 8:00 on Versus.

Scratch Elias: Cold

Early reports indicated that Devils forward and captain Patrik Elias may be a scratch for tonight’s match up, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators.

Elias, who hasn’t missed many games this year, has what is being described as a severe cold. No other word has been given as to the duration he may be out, or how ill he actually is.

Patrik Elias is an obvious contributor to the Devils playing on the number one line and accruing a goal and six assists.

Devils Gomez and Parise Key to Offense

Unless you’ve been underground during Round 1, you know who you need to rely on to get the job done offensively for the New Jersey Devils.

On a recent perusal of the http://www.nhl.com stats section, I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see that Devils lead the league (in the playoffs) for Points, Goals, and Assists. Not to mention two more Devils in the top 3 for Goals and Assists.

Of course now that you know that, picking the 5 players that meet such criteria come in to your mind.

For Points, Scott Gomez actually leads the playoffs with 9.

In the Goals category, Zach Parise leads with 6 goals. Brian Gionta is actually tied for second with 5, tied with the now-eliminated Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And last but not least, the Assist leader of the playoffs is Scott Gomez with 7. Patrick Elias is in a three-way tie with Nicklas Lidstrom for Detroit and Joe Thornton for San Jose with 6 assist.

Pretty interesting stats for a team whose defensive style is the gripe of hockey fans league wide…

Next Round Set; Devils take on Senators

As the schedule has been set by the NHL for Round 2, you cannot take anything as a sure thing. The Devils had a pretty good record against the Ottawa Senators during the regular season, winning three games out of four. But Ottawa is coming off of a pretty decisive victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been playing strong.

First, it’s worth pointing out that three of the four games were played during the first half of the season, and that fourth game the Devils won in a shootout, an aspect of the game that doesn’t exist in the playoffs.

Secondly, Ottawa has had a much better second half of the season than first half. Granted this could be due to scheduling abnormalities, but when just looking at the numbers, the first half of the season they had a 21-18-2 record. The second half they had a 27-7-7 record, less than half the number of losses.

Even Ottawa’s backup net minder, Martin Gerber, had a 17-9-3 record, while their chief goaltender, Ray Emery, had a 36-16-6 record, and has only lost one game in the postseason.

Chances are we are going to see yet another round where the goaltenders play an important role in the success of the team that moves on to round three. Comparing the two is tough, mostly because their stats are very similar. Devils net minder Martin Brodeur has a slightly higher Save Percentage where as Ottawa’s Ray Emery has a slightly lower Goals Against Average.

Brodeur has let up 4 more goals than Emery, but Brodeur has also seen an extra game, 72 extra minutes, and 58 more shots than Emery.

Defensemen are also going to be key, but not just in their defensive role. We have already seen that the defensemen’s ability to spark offense has been a deciding factor in games. While both teams defensemen have score three goals as a whole, Devils defensemen only have 9 assist while Ottawa’s have 12.

Don’t forget that the Devils key to success – always – is their ability to shut down their opponent’s offense. Tampa Bay, the Devils opponent in the Conference Quarterfinals, scored 288 goals in the regular season, where as Tampa Bay only had 253.

Devils Take out Tampa, Tortorella

Perhaps it took them longer than it should, but the Devils were able to finally eliminate the Tampa Bay Lightning and move on to Round 2.

The Devils must remain cautious as they progress in the playoffs. Tampa Bay showed us that the Devils and their last line of defense, Martin Brodeur, can be beat. But after games 2 and 3, the Devils defense and skillful goaltending by Brodeur stopped Tampa Bay and gave the Devils offense a chance to win the game.

The swells of the game, the offensive pressure applied by one team, seem to sway much easier when a team becomes desperate, but even with consistent pressure from Tampa for the last half of the third period of game 6 couldn’t penetrate the goal line.

But you cannot deny the fact that Tampa had some pretty decisive games where they pretty much eliminated the Devils in the first period. They were not able to get many offensive chances, let alone complete a pass. Tampa Bay shut down the Devils and did it early in games 2 and 3.

It could certainly be an emotional thing, and the Devils are certainly feeling really good about themselves right about now. But as history has shown us, even after a four game sweep of an opponent, you are still vulnerable in the next round. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Clarkson and Zajac and White, Oh My!

Lowell Devils David Clarkson (or Kelly Clarkson as he’s known to the Providence Bruins fans) was called up to the Devils for the first time in the postseason but was a scratch for Friday night’s game.

Colin White has missed his third consecutive game of the series with a reoccurring back injury. He has skated but was not ready to play in Game 5. He may try to play on Sunday but he remains questionable.

Travis Zajac needs one more assist to tie the New Jersey Devils playoff record of assists by a rookie, currently held by Jon Morris in the 1990-91 Patrick Division Semifinals.

Brodeur Kicks It Up a Notch, Devils Pull Ahead 3-2 in Series

In their best game of the postseason this year, the Devils won Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals match up with a shutout, 3-0.

Devils net minder Martin Brodeur made 31 saves to shut out the Lightning in his 22nd career playoff shutout, one behind Patrick Roy’s record.

Essentially what made the team play so well was their consistency for all 60 minutes of play and their ability to make uninterrupted passes, strong defense, and enough offense to win in the new era of the NHL.

Goals scored by Andy Greene – his first postseason goal, Brian Gionta – his third goal in the series, and Scott Gomez – who got two assists in the previous goals, gave the Devils the 3-0 victory.

Not everything was perfect during the match up. Lightning did get a few shorthanded attempts but every goaltender’s best friend – the goal post – came up big with the save.

At the beginning of the second, Richard Matvichuk came up big with a blocked shot from Andreas Karlsson. In an exchange where the Lightning were surrounding the net, Brodeur dove to his right to stop one shot, and the rebound came out to the left where the net was wide open. Karlsson got to the puck first and a diving play by Matvichuk prevented Karlsson from getting the shot to the net.

Plays like that kept both the crowd and the Devils believing in the game, and continued to discourage the Lightning.

At the end of the third, Tampa Bay obviously frustrated, began to start picking fights. Andre Roy searched three Devils before finding Mike Rupp who was happy to drop the gloves and Roy. Roy received an additional Misconduct.

Not more than 30 seconds later, Andreas Karlsson, Ryan Craig, and Nolan Pratt got in to a disagreement with Jamie Langenbrunner and a few other Devils. Langenbrunner and Pratt wound up dropping the gloves for a fight that could barely be called one.

While the pushing and shoving continued on the ice, Devils assistant coach John MacLean and Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella began yelling at each other across the walkway.

The Devils had a record low for shots made in a postseason game with 14. The third period the Devils only got 2 shots that reached Lightning net minder Johan Holmqvist. Obviously it didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but the Devils need to continue to put shots on net.