“Must Win” for the Devils

Although its not immediate elimination, Wednesday night’s game has turned in to a “must win” situation for the New Jersey Devils. After an inspiring Game 1, the Devils have fallen short in two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and now trail the series 2-1.

Of course the Lightning need two wins in order to eliminate the Devils, a 3-1 deficit, although not impossible, would be tough to overcome in their present state.

Colin White remains out of the lineup with back problems, and Richard Matvichuk is slated to continue to take his place.

Matvichuk played one game in the regular season after coming off of the long-term injury list.

In Monday night’s game, Matvichuk logged 15:34 minutes of ice time, 4 minutes in penalties, but had the most blocked shots out of any player in the game with 6. In the end, however, it didn’t help as Tampa Bay still made 24 shots on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, 3 of which went in to the net.

Cam Janssen, however, is still not slated to be in the lineup even after the Devils were outplayed in every aspect, including physically, in the past two games.

Game time tonight is at 7:00 PM ET at the St. Pete Times Forum. The game will be broadcasted on FSN NY 2 and WWDJ 970 AM. To lookup what channel FSN NY 2 is in your area, please visit http://njdevils.info/schedule/tvoverflow

Devils Get Struck By Lightning Twice

On Saturday I had the honor of going to the Devils game and watch in horror as everything that could go wrong went wrong. I hate you Murphy…

Monday night’s game didn’t start out much better. The first period was just bad, and the Devils were being outplayed by the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were being beaten to the puck, out played, out muscled, out maneuvered, and out face-offed.

By the end of the first period, Tampa Bay had a 1-0 lead and a pretty strong grasp of a game that still had two-thirds left to play.

I was reminded of a chant I heard in front of me on Saturday: “We want Janssen… We want Janssen.”

Cam Janssen, the Devils official scrapper and resident payback guy, has been scratched by the great and powerful Lou, probably because he feels he can get more out of the fourth line without Janssen sitting in the penalty box for ten minutes a game.

Previously, scratching Cam didn’t seem like such a bad idea, because he was a good guy to pump energy in to the team and the Devils at Game 2 and now 3 of the playoffs shouldn’t need energy at this point.

Wrong. They need to turn the tables against Tampa Bay and get things straightened out soon or else they are in danger of finding themselves down 3 games to 1 and in such a big hole mentally you should start getting your golf clubs polished.

Interestingly enough, the Devils had some wiggle room in the roster tonight due to a back spasm Colin White was suffering from and thus scratched 25 minutes from the start of the game. Devils coach Lou Lamoriello decided to write in Richard Matvichuk, and player who played 1 game, the last game, during the season, and who showed even he could find a way to sit in the penalty box and put the Devils behind at crucial times.

In any event, the Devils managed to dig themselves out of their miserable play and tied things up in the second period.

Scoring and offense really came from the Z. Z. Pops line (coined by “Doc” Emrick for the Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner), which has been the case during the past three games. Tampa Bay has been able to pretty much shut down and eliminate the Gomez, Gionta, Elias line since Game 1.

The third period, however, didn’t bring much joy as crazy plays and referee missed calls and bad calls continued, as they did in Game 2. The Lightning broke the lead early in the third. Zach Parise tied it up at two, getting his fourth playoff goal in three games minutes later. But the clinching goal for Tampa Bay came from Vaclav Prospal on a shot which fluttered over Devils net minder Martin Brodeur’s right shoulder.

The Devils played stronger in the second and third, better than the entire game on Saturday. Nevertheless, they could not come back after the late goal by Tampa Bay, and the late penalty by Richard Matvichuk pretty much sealed the deal to put the Lightning ahead in the series 2-1.

The Devils must come out strong in Game 4 and push Tampa Bay around like they did to the Devils in the first period. They must come out strong and continue strong for 60 minutes if they wish to tie the series up.

The next match-up will be on Wednesday when the Devils and Lightning meet up for Game 4. The game will start at 7:00 PM ET and again be broadcasted on FSN NY 2 and WWDJ 970 AM.

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.