I am trying something new tonight – a short recap of each period typed up during the intermissions of the game. Hopefully the facts are still fresh in my mind after 20 minutes. So here goes…
The Devils have come out strong in the first, but looks can be deceiving. The Devils have the “worst lead possible” as dictated by hockey analyst Stan Fischler – 3 to 0. They looked very strong making all the right plays, and taking advantage of each mistake Vancouver made early on. In fact they pulled their initial goaltender after Zach Parise scored the second goal, less than three and a half minutes in to the period.
In fact, the Devils made three times the shots on goal than Vancouver, 12 to 4.
The third goal came from a fumble by new net minder Curtis Sanford. He gave up the puck behind the net and Brian Gionta was able to swing it around quicker than any Canuck could move to block the open net.
Don’t judge the game too quickly. Vancouver was re-energized towards the end of the first and started to get some scoring chances. If they keep up the pressure, they too will eventually get some chances. The crowd tonight, however, is not that optimistic.
This was the period I was afraid of. It was exciting and as I thought at the end of the first, Vancouver came out wheels spinning. Sure enough, they played like you would expect a decent team. They were making good scoring chances, and even out shot the Devils 13 – 10. Both teams also took some penalties; there were none in the first.
Unfortunately even though no Power Play goal was scored against them, a penalty kill always makes the team on their heels and sure enough Vancouver’s Alex Burrows was able to score a goal on a pretty nice play. Ryan Kesler charged down the ice, made a shot on Clemmensen’s right pad, which he saved. The problem was Kesler was also charging down the ice on the opposite side, got the nice big rebound from Clemmensen’s pad, and shot it in the open side of the net.
The Devils didn’t quit, though, which is always a fan’s biggest fear when they go up 3-0. They continued to fight, but unfortunately the bounces and odd plays didn’t go in to the net as easily as they did in the first.
Defense is an important game for the third period. The team broke down a little defensively and they must keep pressure on the forwards. I saw a few times Vancouver plant a forward in front of Clemmensen and the defenseman must clear them out.
The final 20 minutes are on the clock – time to see if the Devils can hold this together. Some insurance goals wouldn’t be a bad idea either!
A whirlwind finish for the Devils, as they give up 2 more goals, and let Vancouver nearly tie the game. The Devils did not play the last 10 minutes well, giving up goals from Pavol Demitra and Steve Bernier. The defense nearly disappeared and the Devils had a good deal of trouble clearing the zone. Offense also seemed to sit on the back burner and the Devils looked to be having the trouble Vancouver was plagued with at the start of the game.
Although the score was close, at 1:30 left Vancouver pulled net minder Chris Sanford. It took several tries, but eventually the Devils were able to score the empty net goal. Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias did some give-and-go passing, and Zubrus shot one towards the front of the net; it was deflected in to the net by Canuck Henrik Sundin.
Brent Sutter stated in his post-game conference that while Clemmensen did let in some goals he would want back, it wasn’t 100% his fault. Sutter was very happy with Clemmensen’s play, and if you look at the game as a whole, the team.
Taking a critical look, it was mentioned by a reporter and I think it may have some merritt, Scott Clemmensen hasn’t been as strong as you’d like near the end of the past few contests. Clemmensen did admit to flubbing some rebounds and looked unhappy with his performance late in the game, but overall he did play well.
There is no secret the Devils have not been playing as well as they were a few weeks ago. Although they won tonight, you could tell nearing certain stages of the game, the Devils were not making the crisp passes nor the sharp plays they have been. I do not want to take anything away from this win, however. They did play well and did a very “old style” Devils moves, such as really capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes, especially early in the game. They are moving back in to their position I believe, but they must continue to work hard as their road trip continues on Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.