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.

Devils Prepare for Playoffs

As the playoffs begin, a lot is running through the players, coaches, and fans’ minds. Sure there is some anticipation of a new arena with a great atmosphere and ticket prices so high even Bill Gates cringes when he sees them. But that won’t be until October.

Right now there is the possibility of 28 grueling games ahead with one goal in mind: Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Recently player injuries, including John Madden, Patrik Elias, and Brian Gionta cause some concern over their reliability and their stamina over the next two months.

Oh, and we should certainly not forget that GM and CEO of the New Jersey Devils who, which we all have faith in, is once again behind the bench of a team he piloted quickly past Round 1 last year and in to a brick wall in Round 2.

I’ve been asked on several occasions what is going on with this team and why would we fire a coach with only 4 games remaining and standing first in the division. There are two possible answers, one Lou-ish and one cynical.

The Lou-ish answer is that he’d been planning this for a month or two and noticed that Coach Julian wasn’t getting the performance out of the players Lou knew they were capable of. So, with good intentions in mind, Lou asked Julian to step down and he would take the reins behind the bench as the team settled in to enter the playoffs.

The cynical answer is that Lou knew he had a lot of young kids on the team and Julian was just the guy to train them. Now that Julian’s job is done training them and molding them in to the Devils team we see today, Lou was finished with him and fired him.

I like to keep the rose-colored glasses on and believe option one.

As of the time of this writing, the Devils have two options for a first round opponent. The first is the Tampa Bay Lightning and the second is the New York Rangers. Against Tampa Bay, the Devils have a 1-2-1 record, and against New York, the Devils have a 5-2-1 record.