I will be at attendance tonight to watch Game 1 of the Devils push through the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Plain and simple, this game is perhaps the most important game of the round. Sure that may change if the series is tied 3-3 and the teams get ready to play game 7. But this game will portray the Devils mindset, ability, and stamina and stick in the back of the minds of fans and players as the rule to go by when determining the outcome of the series.
Looking in on net, Martin Brodeur has to be focused and believe in himself. There’s no question that in the back of everyone’s mind Martin Brodeur is the key to the Devils success for so long and when he’s on top of his game, the whole team plays better. He’s had a great deal of rest this season, which puts him in better shape now than previous playoff runs.
On the flip side of that, we have to admit that Brodeur’s play has gone down as his ability decreases with age. He’s still a great goalie, but we can’t rule out the possibility that we may need backup Scott Clemmensen in net to take the reigns every now and again. Kevin Weekes did this for Carolina back when he played for them – and beat the Devils.
Defense, the team’s main personality, must play tight. We are no longer in the days of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, and Ken Daneyko. The Devils D must step up and play confidently and without hesitation. All too often we see the Devils defensemen fall back and not take the chance to challenge the oncoming rush or pass, and then they get stuck in their own zone. The defense needs to push and play like they know what their opponents are thinking before they think it.
Looking at the front lines, I’m not as concerned about their ability to score, as long as they take shots and look for the rebounds. Not too many shots go in on the first try. It’s nice when they do, but the Devils offensive lines need to get in down low by the net and look for the rebounds. They also need to be mobile and have enough elbow room to go after rebounds when they squib wide.
Lastly, involvement is key to having four lines working towards winning. The defensive pairs must be at the points when the offensive players are down low digging out the puck. They also need to alert to getting the puck in the middle of the zone and keep it away from opponents – and do not get caught out of position without someone behind you to back you up.
The same holds true for the offense in that they must be able to rush back and help out in their own zone. In fact, so many scoring opportunities occur when the offense gets the puck at their own blue line and can either rush down the ice on their own or get a pass to a teammate further down.
That’s it for now. I will try to post today or tomorrow and recap what I saw tonight at the Rock. If the Devils play nicely, maybe I’ll post some photos as well…