Devils-Flyers Postgame Quotes [04.22.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after the Devils 3-0 Game 5 loss to the Flyers:

Andy Greene:

Can you put your finger on any one thing that went wrong during the series?

“It’s never just one thing when you get beat like that; it’s a combination of things. Special teams were a big factor, they had some big power play goals and some big stops and vice versa — we didn’t get the goals we needed on the PP and we let in a few goals on the PK, this time of year that’s what it’s about.”

The Flyers dominated you all season, beating you in 9 of 11 games this year, can you explain why?

“No, I don’t know; it’s just one of those match-ups. Like you said, for some reason they did and continued to these last two weeks.”

How disappointing is it to come into a must-win game and you can’t get a goal past Brian Boucher?

“It’s frustrating, we had good chances but we didn’t get one.”

Martin Brodeur:

Talking about the Flyers…

“They competed the whole way through, you have to really give them a lot of credit; even though we have to look at ourselves, that’s for sure, but you can’t overlook what they did.”

When you notice the way that they’re playing, in contrast was there something missing from your side?

“Well obviously; I think the urgency, the desperation. We had it in parts of games, but never full games and that came to haunt us. You look at just the second goal, it’s just a one-on-one and we blocked the shot and the next thing you know everybody collapsed and it’s a shot where two guys, my players, screened me and it went in. These things, in the playoffs, usually don’t happen; you fight through them to get a block or do something. It wasn’t in the cards for us this time around.”

The last two years it’s been the same thing pretty much, are the demons still there?

“Well, again, we’re not doing anything to give ourselves a chance to be successful. This playoff series, all throughout, it was tough; it’s bounces. When you don’t get bounces you have to find a way to get them; I think losing in overtime — that was the killer for us.”

How do you look back on 2010, with reaching 600 wins, the Olympics and now this?

“I don’t know, I guess up and down. The regular season has been pretty good, had a great experience in Vancouver; regardless of me not playing. It’s pretty tough to do, for 12 years in a row to be on top of Canada playing goal; sometimes someone might be better and that’s okay with me. I had a great, great time over there; I took my time to rest and I think it paid off for me in the last stretch of the season. Again, it’s all about playoffs — there will be 29 teams feeling exactly the way I’m feeling right now. There will be one team that will be ecstatic this year; you have to put that in perspective. But at the same time, when you have opportunities and you feel that your organization is making moves to get yourself in a position to be successful, and you fold in five (games), it’s just not right.”

Colin White:

Did the early goal just crumble all of your hope?

“No it doesn’t, you’re chasing again, but at the same time, no there’s a lot of hockey to still be played. To win a game you have to score at least one, so one goal really doesn’t matter.”

Are you shocked by the early exit?

“Obviously yeah; it sucks.”

Do you think you had a team that could go deep? I know it’s only been a few minutes, but do you think the team maybe wasn’t as good as you thought?

“You know what I can’t pinpoint one thing; lots of things go wrong to lose four games in a series. Not just one thing, especially that way — four games to one, we didn’t give ourselves much of a chance.”

What do you think the turning point of the series was?

“Like I said, I can’t pinpoint one thing; we aren’t happy with our performance. That’s the bottom line right now, I don’t make up excuses or reasons why, we just didn’t get it done.”

Peter Laviolette:

What decided the series primarily?

“It’s hard just to say one thing. I thought our PK was real good; we had to use it quite a bit. I liked the way we played 5-on-5; it seemed like it was broken up because there were so many penalties, but I liked what we did 5-on-5 defensively and offensively. I thought our goaltender played extremely well.”

How surprised are you, if surprised at all with the way Boucher played?

“I don’t think we’re that surprised about anything with our game down the stretch, including Boucher. I’ve said it before that in order to get to this position to play in the first round we had to play really well down the stretch; there was a lot of games where I thought he and the team played extremely well. We’ve been in playoff-mode for a long-time, a long time. A month really, then we kind of lost our way a little bit and came back in the last two weeks and had to grind out everything that we did. That prepared us probably a little bit.”

Claude Giroux’s game tonight and his play in the series…

“He had a terrific game. We talked to him this morning, I remember back two months ago, we were talking and he told me that he wanted responsibility; we revisited that conversation this morning with some veterans out of the lineup now. I thought that he responded with a tremendous game, in a big situation — he was a very, very good player for us.”

Can you talk about some of the sacrifices that your team made during this series?

“The amount of shots that we blocked in the series and the guys – I’ll guarantee that Lappy (Ian Laperierre) would have been back on the bench if they had been able to get him stitched up in time. He and (Blair) Betts, all of them, but he and Betts do such a tremendous job; they’re the front line in all of those blocks, (Mike) Richards, (Simon) Gagne. Really I said this before, we’ve been successful because our team is committed to it, it’s been a group that’s shown a lot of heart and a lot of character — to get into the playoffs — and then to get through this first round against a very good New Jersey team and those are examples of it.”

This team was fragile mentally earlier this season, but now it seems like nothing fazes them, what changed?

“There was ups and downs, a lot of things went on with the Flyers this year; even when I first got here we went right down to 14th in the conference, so it was an uphill grind and a battle. You lose some goaltenders along the way, you lose some people along the way, we lost our way a little bit at times. But there was a time from before Christmas right up until the time we had lost a couple of key figures in our lineup, where we were probably one of the top two or three teams in the league — for over a two-and-a-half, three-month stretch – we were playing really well. Then we lost (Jeff) Carter, (Michael) Leighton went down and Boosh came in — once he found his game he seemed to get back on track; and he hadn’t played in a while. You have to give him a lot of credit because he hung in there and has played extremely well. Tonight he looked extremely confident in net, like it wasn’t a question; he was in charge of his crease, he was in charge of the puck and I think eventually we found our way, after the first Carter injury. Our team dug in and started to play better hockey down the stretch; we won some big games and carried that into the playoffs.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Can you sum up your feelings about what happened?

“It’s frustrating not to be, in the next few days back on the ice, playing. I felt that we could have played better; we did not play playoff-hockey. Philly did a lot better job in that department. It is a little frustrating because all along I thought that we had a good team; I didn’t see this team play at their best. I don’t think I’ve seen this team play at their best yet for a period of time — a game here and there but not sustain it.”

Brodeur alluded to something like that; do you think there are players who let you down?

“Did the players let me down? I know some of the guys they give their heart, they played really hard the whole way; so I’m looking more at these players.”

You said that you thought the team wasn’t consistent, what can you point to as a reason why?

“I think it’s what we’ve been asking, we’ve been asking certain things and it seems it wasn’t done; something else was done. It’s like the PP as an example, we had before the game a certain way to do when you get the puck at the blue line, and we had a few PP’s, we had a few — quite a few. We did it once, at a time I asked a player why are we not doing it? And there was no answer.”

Is it frustrating coming into an elimination game and your team can’t score a goal?

“Especially on the PP; I think we had good chances, we moved the puck well. We didn’t get any bounces, everyone could see that. All along the series, the PP we moved the puck well but couldn’t score and I think today was the closest ones that we could get a goal; and we didn’t. Because the bounces, puck doesn’t go the right way, we miss the open net, things like that. But that happens when you don’t have everyone believing in what you have to do to win; that will happen.”

I know you weren’t here the last two years, but do you think this team can’t reach that level of playoff-hockey to get out of Round 1?

“I can’t speak for the past years, this year I mentioned it’s being able to believe in what we’ll do and play playoff-hockey. There’s not ten ways to play in the playoffs, there’s not; there’s one way to play — that’s how we need to play, otherwise we have no chance to win. We didn’t play that way.”

Your captain was very unproductive, what are your thoughts about the way he led the team; he didn’t seem to be inspiring?

“From your view, because you’re outside; I think Jamie (Langenbrunner) is doing a lot of things inside with the guys that even us coaches are not aware of. He’s been a good captain, from day one, so I don’t know why he would turn the other way.”

How much do you want Ilya Kovalchuk back?

“He’s a big piece of this club, you can see what he does — he’s a threat every time he’s on the ice. This will be up to Lou (Lamoriello) and him as far as what they want to do.”

He said he was very enthused about what he learned from you, he was very happy and said he wanted to come back…

“I like to hear that.”

Were the Flyers better than a 7-seed?

“There was what seven games, seven wins difference between them and us during the season. Both teams had a lot of injuries and seven games out of 82 is not a lot. You look at all of the playoffs (series) the difference is very thin; you only have one or two teams that is supposed to be up top and you could see — look at Washington when the playoff started, they had some questions. San Jose is exactly the same thing, and they’re the top two teams — and not by seven games, by more than that.”

Last year at this time you weren’t coaching, after this is this where you want to be?

“This is something I’ve been doing for a long time and I enjoy to be around the players, try to make them play as well as they can play; try to find ways to make them play as a team. It’s a great life that’s why I love it.”

You said they didn’t play playoff-hockey, were you surprised or did you see this coming?

“Not the first game, not the second game, but there were still things that we weren’t doing in these two (games). I thought as we went on we would correct that, and we didn’t. There are little things — battles here, battles there, the sharpness of the individual, being really positive on everything, when you try do certain things, change certain things you have their look that tells you they understand and they want to do it. It was a little lacking there.”

Devils’ Season Ends with a Thud

Here is my recap of the Devils 3-0 loss to the Flyers in Game 5, ending their season. I will have a season-ending roster report in the coming days:

Philadelphia 3               Devils 0

The New Jersey Devils have officially become the NHL’s version of baseball’s Atlanta Braves: they have one of the best records in the league year in and year out, but haven’t found a way to get even close to the Stanley Cup Finals since 2003. By losing to the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in five games, it became the third consecutive postseason in which the Devils failed to advance at least one round.

The Flyers (picked by no one to win the series) won in convincing fashion in the clinching Game 5 by a score of 3-0, without two of their best players — Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter — who both suffered foot injuries in Game 4. “I can’t speak for the past years,” said Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, “it’s being able to believe in what we’ll do and play playoff-hockey. There’s not ten ways to play in the playoffs, there’s not; there’s one way to play — that’s how we need to play, otherwise we have no chance to win. We didn’t play that way.”

Making matters worse for New Jersey, they were eliminated for the third straight spring in their brand-new, shiny, three-year-old arena, forcing their faithful fans to endure watching another post-game handshake on the Prudential Center ice; they are now 3-7 in ten playoff games at the Rock. When asked if he was shocked by yet another early summer vacation, Devils defenseman Colin White gave a simple explanation that summed it all up, “Obviously yeah; it sucks. Lots of things go wrong to lose four games in a series. Not just one thing, especially that way — four games to one — we didn’t give ourselves much of a chance.”

The Flyers gave the Devils an opportunity to seize control of the game (and perhaps some momentum in the series) when Dan Carcillo took an ill-advised tripping penalty just 43 seconds into the match; but New Jersey’s power play sputtered and 46 seconds after the man-advantage began it was over as captain Jamie Langenbrunner was handed an avoidable tripping minor. After a brief four-on-four, Philadelphia converted on their power play when a pass from Claude Giroux hit Daniel Briere in the skates and slipped between Devils goalie Martin Brodeur’s right skate and the goal post — giving the Flyers all of the offense they would need on this night.

New Jersey still had its chances to even the game, but they were unable to solve third-string goalie Brian Boucher who soundly outplayed Brodeur in four of the five games. In the second period, still down just one goal, the Devils fired nine shots at Boucher and they were rebuffed each time. “Tonight he looked extremely confident in net, like it wasn’t a question,” said coach Peter Laviolette of his goaltender. “He was in charge of his crease; he was in charge of the puck.” In contrast the Flyers were held to only four shots on goal in the middle period — and scored twice on Brodeur in a span of 1:59, both by 2010 Devil-killer Giroux (six points in five games).

The only Devils players who never seemed to give up throughout the night were Ilya Kovalchuk (seven shots on goal) and Dainius Zubrus (four), but they needed more help that never came in a must-win game. Lemaire pretty much admitted after the game that he could tell his players weren’t ready to battle like the Flyers were. “There are little things — battles here, battles there, the sharpness of the individual, being really positive on everything, when you try do certain things, change certain things you have their look that tells you they understand and they want to do it. It was a little lacking there.”

Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac had horrible series, Zach Parise might as well been invisible because he never could get around the imposing Chris Pronger, and Patrik Elias never found his scoring touch (four assists, no goals, -2) in any of the five games. “It’s never just one thing when you get beat like that; it’s a combination of things,” explained disappointed Devils defenseman Andy Greene. “Special teams were a big factor, they had some big power play goals and some big stops and vice versa — we didn’t get the goals we needed on the PP and we let in a few goals on the PK, this time of year that’s what it’s about.”

For New Jersey, it was another Cup-dream shattered as reality smacked them in the face and sent them packing before May 1 for the third consecutive season. “There will be 29 teams feeling exactly the way I’m feeling right now,” said Brodeur. “There will be one team that will be ecstatic this year; you have to put that in perspective. But at the same time, when you have opportunities and you feel that your organization is making moves to get yourself in a position to be successful, and you fold in five (games), it’s just not right.”

Game 5 Hero: Claude Giroux

Game 5 Goat: Martin Brodeur

Game Notes: After winning the World Series in 1995, the Atlanta Braves were eliminated ten straight years without a title, losing five times in the first round; they’ve now failed to qualify for the postseason over the last four seasons after a 14-year run of playoff appearances. The Devils have made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, won nine Atlantic Division titles, 12 100-point seasons, three Stanley Cups; they have failed to get past the second round since 2003, with three straight first round exits (2008-Rangers, 2009-Hurricanes, 2010-Flyers) and their record in postseason games since 2003 is 16-26, 6-16 over their last 22. Elias has just two even-strength goals over his last 27 postseason games. New Jersey finished the series 4-for-32 on the PP (12.5%) and Philadelphia was 8-for-29 (27.6%). Pronger led all skaters in ice-time with 28:49 and Kovalchuk led the Devils with 24:45; Pronger also had a game-high six blocked shots, New Jersey only had five total as a team. Kovalchuk led all players with seven shots on goal and Giroux led Philadelphia with four. Flyers captain Mike Richards led all players in the series with eight points (2g-6a) and Kovalchuk led the Devils with six points (2g-4a). Philadelphia is the first team to advance to the second round this postseason and will likely play the top-seeded Washington Capitals.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Claude Giroux (Phil) – 2 goals (4), assist (2)

#2 – Daniel Briere (Phil) – gw/pp goal (2), assist (3)

#3 – Mike Richards (Phil) – 2 assists (6)

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com and IslesNation.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Game 3/Game 4 …

Here’s how I saw Game 3 of the New Jersey Devils-Philadelphia Flyers series and what I expect for Game 4 on Tuesday night:

Game 3:
-Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk had two assists, but no shots on goal (!) & led the team in ice-time with 27:30.
-New Jersey sat defenseman Martin Skoula (who had a shaky 1st 2 games) in favor of rookie Mark Fraser and the move didn’t work; Fraser was responsible for Philly’s second goal when he allowed Simon Gagne to muscle him off the puck behind the net. Coach Jacques Lemaire said after the game that Skoula will return to the lineup in Game 4.
-With the loss, the Devils are now 0-4 in the Wachovia Center this season and Martin Brodeur hasn’t won a game there since January 22, 2008.
-With the loss coming in overtime, Brodeur’s career record is 12-21 in playoff overtime; the most OT losses in NHL history.
-Flyers captain Mike Richards has six points (2g,4a) in three games; Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner has only one assist in the first three games. Just saying maybe Jamie should have played that night in Carolina, because he hasn’t been the same since.
-Philly’s duo of Daniel Briere and Jeff Carter have fired a combined 19 shots on Brodeur over the first three games and have a total of 0 points in the series.
-Game 3 Hero: Dan Carcillo, right place +right time = OT winner
-Game 3 Goat: David Clarkson, no matter how lame the penalty was, it never should have happened; ESPECIALLY IN OVERTIME!
-Devils wasted a solid performance by Brodeur (31 saves), but they can tie the series with a win Tuesday night.

Game 4
-Expect better games from Patrik Elias and Zach Parise, who weren’t really a factor in Game 3 where New Jersey only mustered 19 shots on goal; they both responded with great Game 2’s after sub-par Game 1’s.
-Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger will lead his team in ice-time and will probably get at least one point.
-Look for Devils defenseman Paul Martin and Philly winger Scott Hartnell to have an impact in Game 4, Martin will assist on the game-winning goal.

Devils-Flyers Postgame Quotes [04.16.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after the Devils 5-3 Game 2 win over the Flyers:

Dainius Zubrus:
What about playing with Zach and Patrik, something you haven’t done too much of?

“Well it’s not exactly a new line because in the past couple of weeks, we’ve played quite a few games together. We had some success, me and Zach, and our centers were switched every now and then — sometimes it’s Travis (Zajac), sometimes it’s Patrik; we try to get on the pucks, try to play in their end as much as we can and not give them too many easy shifts against us. He (Zach) is obviously a great player, he’s on the puck all the time; it’s kind of easy to read him because he goes so hard every single time. So I try to not be too far from him so I can help him out to recover some pucks and try to get some shots.”

Zach Parise:

After you get the shorthanded goal early, is your confidence soaring?

“Yeah, when you get that early, first one, you’re more comfortable with the puck; you’re more comfortable to make plays, the game kind of slows down a bit for you. I think that was the case tonight.”

Did you guys learn you can’t take penalties against them tonight?

“Well I think that’s how it is this time of year no matter what; they have a good power play. It just seemed like every time we turned around for some reason, we were in the box. It really can take a toll on individual players, and it can really kill momentum too. We did a good job on our PK and we got the shorthanded goal too, so we did fine.”

Can you talk about the pass that Patrik made to you on your goal?

“Great pass. He saw me with a step on (Chris) Pronger and he was able to get it through (Matt) Carle; it was a great play. He sent me in alone on a breakaway.”

Talking about the play at the end of the game where the winning goal was scored…

“Zubie made a really good power move to the net and that’s what he brings to our line, what he brings to this team; he was able to chip it over the goalie’s shoulder there.”

Matthew Corrente:

How do you feel after your first playoff game?

“I was waiting for someone to come over to talk to me. It was awesome, it’s great to get a win and it was really intense out there; fortunately we came out on top.”

So that means you were the secret ingredient? Game 1 you don’t play, they lose, Game 2 you play they win…

“I’d like to think I contributed to the win, but everyone played well. It was a good team effort and we played solid for 60 minutes and got the win.”

The PK was sharp tonight and Marty was there to clean up anything else right?

“Guys stepped up when they needed to and that’s what it’s going to win playoff games. You find that out pretty quick, it feels good, but there’s a lot of work ahead of us.”

How long before you settled down during the game, if at all?

“There were a couple of butterflies I guess, at the start, but I played in a couple of games with these guys (12 games). After the first couple of shifts were out of the way, I felt good, I felt like I was in the game.”

When did you find out you were going to be in the lineup?

“I found out this morning at the pre-game skate; I was pretty pumped to hear that.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Talking about his penalties…

“Today I took a couple, especially the third penalty, maybe I should stay away from it; but we won the game, so who cares.”

It was the end of your shift right?

“Yeah we were leading by a goal, so I should’ve…but should’ve, would’ve; you know. But we got the win and who cares.”

Will you be a little more relaxed because you got the empty net goal?

“You know I would be relaxed if we won 4-3; I just got a chance, crossed the red line and shoot for the empty net. I saw (Jeff) Carter broke his stick so, it was nice to get a two-goal lead.”

What happened with Mike Richards on your second penalty?

“He was slashing and stuff, but its okay, its part of the game. He’s a tough player to play against and we have to watch him.”

Were you trying to get him to fight?

“Well, you never know (smiles).”

Patrik Elias:

Talking about playing on the PK with Parise…

“It was the first time, maybe all season, that me and Zach were out there on the PK together. So we kind of stayed on top of them, forced them to make mistakes. I had a great opportunity in the second period, we read off of each other real well tonight.”

Was the second period you team’s best period this series?

“I don’t know; I thought we played well in the first and third periods last game, we just didn’t score. Same thing today, we had a couple of goals, but at the same time we had a lot more opportunities. We just have to stay with it; it’s up and down throughout the games, throughout the playoffs, we just have to stay the course.”

What do you expect for Game 3 when you go to Philly?

“A lot of excitement, a lot of energy from their side and we just have to match it. We have to go in there and just play; focus on the job. They’ll be feeding off of their crowd, it will be loud — we just have to stay in control and play our game.”

Martin Brodeur:

Your thoughts on your team’s PK tonight…

“Gutsy, I think that’s the bottom line. We showed a lot of character, a lot of poise; we blocked shots, surviving — that’s playoff hockey. I think we really showed that we’re able to do that and I think we showed each other a little more than maybe anybody else. When you play intense, good things will happen.”

Down 2-0 would not be a good position to be in…

“For sure, especially going to Philly, it would’ve made our lives a little more difficult, but we’re really happy that it’s 1-1. We have to put our work boots on have a great performance in Philly over the next four days.”

Did you guys as a group recognize that Kovalchuk hadn’t won a (playoff) game and that it might’ve been in the back of his mind?

“Well we knew because he had only four games experience and if you have only four games experience (laughs) you didn’t win too many games, usually. It means a lot for him to be here; it’s funny, you almost want to talk to him like a little kid, but he’s not. He’s a guy that has a lot of experience; he’s scored a lot of goals, played a lot of minutes and was responsible for a whole organization for eight years or so. Now he comes in (here) and it’s a different step in his career. Definitely for him to get that monkey off his back, people talk about it all the time when you don’t perform in the playoffs or you’re not on the winning side. So I’m sure he’s really excited to get it out of the way and he showed what type of player he is — he was all over the ice, he was aggressive, such a big guy. It looks good for us when you see a top player getting himself involved like that.”

Were you surprised by his aggressiveness today?

“Well we’ve played him in the past and he was really aggressive. When things are not going your way, you have to find a way to make it happen, I think by playing physical, with his size, he’s going to create some havoc around and people will try to go after him and that’s how he’s going to excel; he gets himself in the game.”

Jacques Lemaire:

You got your big goal-scorer going tonight, Colin White

“(smiles) It’s funny that you talk about this, but in the playoffs you need that type of goals from different people, different players that you don’t expect. He’s one of them.”

What was the difference from tonight and Game 1?

“Well definitely the PK that we had; six out of seven penalties. I think we did a pretty good job considering that they scored on too many men, and PP. We scored one on the PP and one shorthanded; I think the guys battled well. We got too many penalties at different times, the whole game, but these type of games will happen.”

Did Zubrus score his goal because of his reach?

“I know he reached, but I thought Zach had that goal. But I thought he made a good move in bringing the puck to the front of the net.”

What did you think about Marty in the third period?

“He gave us a chance to win by making that huge save in the slot; the one-timer that I think was from (Ian) Laperierre that shot it. That was a huge save; otherwise they would’ve taken the lead.”

How would you describe Kovalchuk’s game tonight?

“I like Kovy, he might do some weird things according you guys; to me, he just lacks some experience in the playoffs, that’s all that he’s missing. There’s certain things he needs to watch — you can’t get tangled with a guy that plays ten minutes and have to sit out for two. Not when you’re one of the top players, so you have to stay away from that.”

Did you like what you saw from Elias tonight with his 3-assist performance?

“Patrik is playing really well, especially tonight there — moves the puck, controls the puck. When you’re looking at the players he’s playing against, he did a tremendous job.”

Your thoughts on how Corrente played tonight?

“I think he played fine; I just wanted to see, I had really a good memory what he did when he was with us during the season; I always talk to Lou (Lamoriello) about him, when he’s going to come up and so on. I said I’d like to try him and see what he can do on the wing, and that was why he played. His game, he played fine — he got even a scoring chance, which is nice from a guy like this.”

Were you okay with the all of the penalties called tonight?

“Uhhhhhh. Uhhhhhh. I can’t talk about it; I would love to, but I can not talk about this.”

Devils Even Series With 5-3 Win Over Flyers

Here is my recap of the Devils 5-3 Game 2 win against Philadelphia on Friday night:

Devils Even Series With 5-3 Win Over Flyers

Devils 5 Philadelphia 3

If a team expects to make a long postseason run with dreams of winning a Stanley Cup, they need to get goals from their stars — and the unexpected hero needs to score every now and then. Sure it was huge for New Jersey that Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk scored their first goals of the series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night at Prudential Center, but the first question Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was asked after his squad’s 5-3 Game 2 win wasn’t about either one of them.

Q: You got your big goal-scorer going tonight, Colin White. “It’s funny that you talk about this,” said Lemaire with a grin, “but in the playoffs you need that type of goals from different people, different players that you don’t expect. He’s one of them.”

New Jersey had five different goal-scorers in the win as they evened the series at one game apiece and now they head to Philadelphia for the next two games. “We have to go in there and just play; focus on the job,” said Patrik Elias, who had a great game with three assists. “They’ll be feeding off of their crowd, it will be loud — we just have to stay in control and play our game.”

Parise started the scoring 2:45 into the game when he converted a perfect pass from Elias on a shorthanded breakaway, beating Flyers goalie Brian Boucher with a rising backhand shot. “It was a great pass,” said Parise. “He saw me with a step on (Chris) Pronger and he was able to get it through (Matt) Carle; great play. He sent me in alone on a breakaway.” The 1-0 Devils lead lasted until 9:33 when ex-Devil Arron Asham beat Martin Brodeur after a cross-ice pass from Claude Giroux.

It was Giroux almost six minutes later that gave Philly its first lead of the night when he deflected Carle’s shot from the circle through Brodeur’s legs on the power play. The Flyers carried the 2-1 lead into the second period despite being out-shot (11-7) for the third time in four periods of the series. White evened the game again 3:44 into the middle period when his long shot found its way through a maze of players and past Boucher for his first goal in 101 playoff games.

Another defenseman, this time Andy Greene, scored at 13:25 to restore the one-goal lead for the Devils, when he redirected Elias’ centering pass into the net on a power play. “Patrik is playing really well, especially tonight there — moves the puck, controls the puck,” said Lemaire. “When you’re looking at the players he’s playing against, he did a tremendous job.” Philadelphia battled back and tied it at 3-3 with a power play goal when Pronger deflected Kimmo Timonen’s past Brodeur with 1:12 left in the period.

The Flyers controlled the play for most of the third period and could’ve taken a lead if not for Brodeur’s save on Ian Laperierre’s one-timer from the slot with 8:40 remaining. “He gave us a chance to win by making that huge save in the slot,” said Lemaire. “Otherwise they would’ve taken the lead.”

The game seemed destined for overtime until Dainius Zubrus used his big body (6’5”, 225 lbs.) to force his way to the front of the net with the puck. “Zubie made a really good power move to the net and that’s what he brings to our line, what he brings to this team,” said Parise. “He was able to chip it over the goalie’s shoulder there.” The replays show Parise and Zubrus simultaneously hitting the puck with their sticks, but both players admitted afterwards they didn’t care who scored the goal — just that the goal was scored.

Kovalchuk finished off a three-point performance (and a night that saw him take three minor penalties) when he deposited a shot from center-ice into the empty Flyers net with 32.9 seconds left, sealing the Game 2 win for his team; his first playoff win in six career games. “I’m sure he’s really excited to get it out of the way and he showed what type of player he is — he was all over the ice, he was aggressive, such a big guy,” said Brodeur.

Lemaire shared the same sentiments about Kovalchuk, saying, “I like Kovy, he might do some weird things according you guys; to me, he just lacks some experience in the playoffs, that’s all that he’s missing.” But coach Lemaire didn’t like the fact that one of his stars was getting tangled with a part-time player (Darroll Powe) on the opposition. “There’s certain things he needs to watch — you can’t get tangled with a guy that plays ten minutes and have to sit out for two. Not when you’re one of the top players, so you have to stay away from that.”

Game Notes: Rookie defenseman Matthew Corrente made his postseason debut for New Jersey and played forward on the fourth line; he had one shot on goal in 5:14. Pronger led all skaters in ice-time with 27:26 and Travis Zajac led the Devils with 22:41. Parise led all players with six shots on goal and Jeff Carter led the Flyers with five, but was a -3; Only six skaters in the game did not record a shot on goal (Blair Betts and Oskars Bartulis for Philly/ Pierre-Luc Leblond, Bryce Salvador, Mike Mottau and Martin Skoula for New Jersey). Boucher finished with 28 saves and Brodeur made 26 saves in his 99th career playoff win. Game 3 is Sunday night at 6pm in Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center.

Game 2 Hero: Patrik Elias

Game 2 Goat: Jeff Carter

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Patrik Elias (NJ) – 3 assists (3)

#2 – Dainius Zubrus (NJ) – gw goal (1)

#3 – Zach Parise (NJ) – sh goal (1), assist (2)

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com, & contributes to IslesNation.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Devils-Flyers Postgame Quotes [04.14.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes from Game 1 of the Devils-Flyers series:

Jamie Langenbrunner:

Were you guys tight at all?

“Maybe, maybe grabbing out sticks (tight) a little bit; we made some mistakes with the puck that guys normally won’t. Pucks were jumping over sticks, missed opportunities that way, but it’s somewhat to be expected. They didn’t do a whole lot more – we did a very good job eliminating their chances, we just didn’t finish.”

Were you surprised by the line combinations and the number of times they changed?

“Me, Nieds and Rollie? We tried a lot of different combinations tonight.”

Do you think they should they have been set by now?

“I don’t think that’s the way we play; I think we switch depending on the situation and what he (coach Jacques Lemaire) sees and we continued to do that again tonight.”

You guys didn’t generate much on the double-minor…

“We didn’t generate much on the power play at all; we did a good job of entering the zone, but after that they did a good job of keeping us to the outside. We didn’t get enough shots, we made a few blunders we didn’t need to — turn the puck over, puck bouncing over some sticks, but we have to be better on the PP obviously. We controlled the five-on-five play for the most part, we did a pretty good job limiting their chances; our power play just didn’t score a goal.”

Martin Brodeur:

Did you get a piece of that second goal?

“Yeah; it hit the top of my pad (over my toe) and it went in and hit the underside of the crossbar and came back.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Talking about the loss…

“It takes four games to win a series; they got the first one and we have to find a way to fight through them.”

Ian Laperierre:

You guys aren’t the favorites in this series…

“Underdog, you can call it like it is.”

Do you feel like there are no expectations?

“Less pressure for sure. You go out there and nobody’s sees us winning against Jersey, and they’ll come back. Everybody knows around the league with the parity you never know what can happen and we believe in that, we believe in ourselves. We’ve touched rock bottom, we played the worst hockey that this team can play, and we’ve played good hockey. It was (just) one game tonight; we played okay with room for improvement and hopefully next game we can play better.”

Talking about his assist on Mike Richards’ goal…

“I looked over my shoulder and I saw Richie there; I told him on the bench if I missed that pass I don’t think I’ll see the ice again, but you take chances and it worked.”

You guys did a great job with the aggressive PK, especially in the third period…

“Yeah we did, but we can’t take that many penalties. With as much skill as they have on their team, we have to learn from that for next game. We talked about before the game that we have to be smarter, because they have too many skilled players.”

Peter Laviolette:

What would you say was decisive for your team in turning the game in your favor?

“I would say probably the way we played the second period; I think our goaltender gave us an opportunity to win that game. We weren’t at our best early on; I thought we got a lot more competitive in the second period. The PK, we had some big kills in the third period, obviously the double-minor, not the way you want to start the period when you’re up 2-0 and having to kill off four minutes of the first five minutes. I thought the penalty killers did a real good job.”

Jacques Lemaire:

What do you have to fix for Game 2?

“I think we played a pretty good game, we had some chances that, the puck didn’t go in. We limited them to a certain number of chances, which, that’s what we were looking for. Again, they’re a good team that plays well defensively and it was a 2-1 game. We were looking for a goal earlier than when we got ours, that would’ve helped. I guess we have to work a little more on our power play; I’d like to get some goals on the power play. Special teams in the playoffs are really important — if you get scored on shorthanded or you don’t score on the PP, it could cost you the game.”

Is Game 2 a must-win?

“They’re all important; definitely we’re home and there’s no doubt we’re looking to win the second game to stay even. This is the playoffs and playoffs is the first team that wins four (games) out of seven; it hasn’t changed.”

Was Kovalchuk trying too hard this game?

“Well he tried a lot, maybe a little too hard; sometimes looking for people, sometimes carrying the puck. He still is a threat and he’s good for us, he had numerous chances tonight but couldn’t get a goal. We’ll be looking for that.”

Pronger & Flyers Take Game 1 from Devils

Here is my recap of the Devils 2-1 Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night:

Pronger & Flyers Take Game 1 from Devils

Philadelphia 2               Devils 1

The Philadelphia Flyers won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal 2-1 over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, thanks in large part to the only player on their roster with a Stanley Cup ring — Chris Pronger. The veteran defenseman played a large role in his team’s series opening win, scoring the first goal of the game (via the power play) and he was on the ice for literally half of the game — 30:01. The Devils had some chances to score sporadically throughout the game, but they never sustained any pressure, particularly on the power play, thanks in large part to Pronger and friends.

New Jersey held Philadelphia to just 14 shots on net, but that was all they needed to take the home-ice advantage away from their rivals. “We have to be better on the PP obviously,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said afterwards. “We controlled the five-on-five play for the most part and we did a pretty good job limiting their chances; our power play just didn’t score a goal.”

“I think we played a pretty good game,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We had some chances that, the puck didn’t go in. We limited them to a certain number of chances, which, that’s what we were looking for.” Both teams squandered first period power plays as the game remained scoreless heading into the decisive second period. Flyers’ winger Simon Gagne snapped a sharp angle shot that Martin Brodeur initially saved, but Pronger slid the puck into the net from just outside the crease at 9:25 to give Philly a 1-0 lead.

A short time later the Devils best scoring chance of the game came when Ilya Kovalchuk brought the crowd to its feet with an amazing rush up ice that saw him slice through four Flyers like a hot knife through butter — before Brian Boucher eventually stifled his wrist shot and made the fans sit back down with a nice save. “He had numerous chances tonight but couldn’t get a goal,” Lemaire said of Kovalchuk.

Philadelphia’s captain Mike Richards doubled the lead when he converted a nifty spin-o-rama pass from Ian Laperierre and blasted a shot past Brodeur at 16:27. “It hit the top of my pad (over my toe) and it went in,” said Brodeur, “it hit the underside of the crossbar and came back out.” Laperierre knew he took a big risk with his dazzling pass, but was happy with the result. “I looked over my shoulder and I saw Richie there; I told him on the bench if I missed that pass I don’t think I’ll see the ice again,” explained Laperierre, “but you take chances and it worked.”

New Jersey was given multiple opportunities to climb back into the contest during the third period, as the Flyers took two penalties — including a high-sticking double minor. “We didn’t generate much on the power play at all; we did a good job of entering the zone, but after that they did a good job of keeping us to the outside. We didn’t get enough shots,” Langenbrunner said.

But the penalty killers were outstanding for coach Peter Laviolette’s squad and eventually killed off all five Devil power plays in the game. “The PK, we had some big kills in the third period, obviously the double-minor, not the way you want to start the period when you’re up 2-0 and having to kill off four minutes of the first five minutes,” said the Flyers coach. “I thought the penalty killers did a real good job.”

Finally, with 2:43 left in the game Travis Zajac gave the home crowd something to cheer about when his long shot slipped past Boucher, thanks to a double screen of the goaltender by Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus. “We were looking for a goal earlier than when we got ours,” said Lemairthat would’ve helped.

The Flyers held on, despite having only two shots on goal during the final twenty minutes, as Pronger and Boucher were as strong as they were all game long during the last 163 seconds. “I felt pretty calm,” said Boucher afterwards, “for me, there’s nothing to lose.” Kovalchuk may have been frustrated in his first playoff game with the Devils, but he didn’t sound like it after the game. “It takes four games to win a series,” said Kovalchuk, “they got the first one and we have to find a way to fight through them.”

Game Notes: The Devils looked out-of-sync from the opening face-off and had numerous sloppy line changes throughout the evening. Philadelphia is now 29-32 all-time in Game 1’s, New Jersey is 19-10. Defenseman Paul Martin led the Devils in ice-time with 24:46; Flyers blueliner Matt Carle led all players with four blocked shots. Parise led all players with five shots on goal; Laperierre and Carle led all players with four hits apiece. Game 2 will be Friday night at 7:30pm at Prudential Center.

Game 1 Hero: Chris Pronger

Game 1 Goat: Devils Power Play

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Brian Boucher (Phil) – 23 saves, win (1-0)

#2 – Chris Pronger (Phil) – pp goal (1)

#3 – Mike Richards (Phil) – gw goal (1), assist (1)

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com, & contributes to IslesNation.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Devils-Flyers Preview

The New Jersey Devils will square off against their division-rivals the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning on Wednesday night at Prudential Center. The two teams have met three prior times in the postseason: New Jersey beat Philadelphia in the 1995 (six games) and 2000 Eastern Conference Finals (seven games) and the Flyers bested the Devils in five games in 2004’s opening round.

This past season, Philly dominated the Devils during the six-game season series with a 5-1 edge (outscoring them 20-13), but struggled to make the postseason — qualifying on the season’s final day. “For us it means nothing, for them it means everything; that’s the way you look at those things,” said New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner of the one-sided season series. “They obviously had our number during the regular season, they did things that took us off our game — we’re going to have to address that, we’re going to have to understand the way they play and play accordingly.

Offense: Both teams are filled with goal-scorers who can get hot and carry their teams to a series win. New Jersey’s top two lines will contain any combination of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dainius Zubrus, while Philadelphia will roll out the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Simon Gagne and Claude Giroux. Both teams also have valuable grinders who could turn out to be the unsung heroes in this series – look for David Clarkson (Devils) and Ian Laperierre (Flyers) to both have an impact at some point during the series.

Edge: Even. As I stated, both teams have some serious firepower when clicking on all cylinders so it will be interesting to see which team (if any) struggles to find their goal scoring touch.

Defense: The Devils have played with a so-called ‘no-name’ defense corps since Brian Rafalski departed for Detroit, but this season they allowed the fewest goals in the entire NHL (191) and they did while their best defenseman (Paul Martin) missed 59 games. The Flyers have a collection of nasty blueliners (Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn) and talented (Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle) that are all tough to play against. “It’s going to be tough, it doesn’t matter who you play; it’s going to be a tough series,” said Clarkson after learning his Devils would tangle with the Flyers. “A team like that, you know you’re going into war and that’s what we’re going to do in here. We’re going to play team hockey, play great defensively and give everything we have every night.”

The biggest questions facing each squad will be what kind of impact will Andy Greene and Martin Skoula have for New Jersey and will Pronger be able to stay out of the penalty box for the Flyers.

Edge: Philly. Even if the Devils survive this round, chances are that Parise, Kovalchuk and Elias may be worn down from having to deal with Pronger for possibly seven games.

Goaltending: Martin Brodeur and Brian Boucher last met in the playoffs in 2000 when the Devils rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Boucher and the Flyers at Philadelphia in Game 7. Since then Brodeur has appeared in 92 playoff contests and Boucher has only been in four. Brodeur comes into the series maybe as hot as he’s ever been to close a regular season — surrendering only seven goals over seven games, including back-to-back shutouts. Boucher (4-6-1 in last eleven starts) is basically the only goalie left standing in Philly’s crease after injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton, so if he goes down the Flyers will be in deep trouble.

Edge: New Jersey. Brodeur is hot and Boucher, despite winning two of the final three games, is not.

Intangibles: The Flyers come into the series with the NHL’s third best power play (21.5%) and their penalty killers ranked 11th (83.0%). The Devils finished 11th on the PP (18.7%) and the least-penalized team in the league finished 13th on the PK (82.8%). Both coaches — Jacques Lemaire (1995 with NJ) and Peter Laviolette (2006 with Carolina) — have won a Stanley Cup, so they both know what it is going to take to guide their teams to the where they want to be. New Jersey has more experience as far as rings go, but Philadelphia has had more recent success during the postseason.

Edge: Even. The specialty teams will be a wash, but if the Flyers take reckless penalties (as they are known to do) the Devils will have to capitalize to take control of the series.

Prediction: New Jersey in 6. This will be a hard-hitting, nasty series that will leave many players on both sides battered and bruised. “It’s going to be very intense games. I know it’s a big rivalry and the rivalry is going to continue,” said Kovalchuk. I believe Brodeur will steal a game (for the first time since ‘03) in Philly and avoid sending the series back to the Rock for a Game 7.

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Evander Kane KO’s Matt Cooke

Ninety-nine percent of the hockey world wants to give Atlanta rookie Evander Kane a big thank you after his one-punch knockout of Pittsburgh’s pest Matt Cooke which you can see here:

Kane KO’s Cooke

With all of the interest Kane has garnered this weekend, I figured it would be a good chance to revisit the interview that I did with the 18-year-old Kane back on October 16:

Getting to Know… Evander Kane

Dan Rice – Columnist

Recently I was able to catch up with Atlanta Thrashers rookie Evander Kane and ask him a few questions about how his first month in the NHL has been. Kane is an 18-year-old center from Vancouver, British Columbia that the Thrashers selected 4th overall in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. In eight games the 6’2”, 190 lb., Kane has not looked out of place at all, tallying five points (3g-2a) and he is averaging 13:53 of ice-time per game, a number that has slowly increased as the season moves on. And yes, he is named after the boxer Evander Holyfield and got to meet the pugilist before the season started: http://thrashers.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?catid=656&id=

So just who is Evander Kane? Read

Dan Rice: What do you remember about your draft day?

Evander Kane: I remember I was pretty nervous, and I didn’t think I was going to be too nervous, but after the first two picks I started getting really nervous. After the third pick was done I was sweating pretty badly (chuckles); I remember Dan Marr (Atlanta’s Director of Amateur Scouting & Player Development) winking at me from the stage up there and I knew I was going to Atlanta. It was a pretty special moment and something I’ll never forget.

DR: What do you remember about your first goal? (Kane’s first goal was scored in his second NHL game in St. Louis against goaltender Chris Mason).

EK: I remember Kovy (Ilya Kovalchuk) and Pevs (Rich Peverley) making some good plays, and I remember them trying to get me the puck; it was probably the best pass I’ve gotten since being in the NHL. I just wanted to put it away and I was really excited (when I did). It was good to get it out of the way early, a lot of excitement.

DR: Do you have the puck?

EK: Yeah, I think Bogo (Zach Bogosian) picked up the puck for me and the Thrashers are framing it for me; nice job on their part.

DR: Are you superstitious or do you have a pre-game routine?

EK: No, not really. I’m not a big superstitious guy; I have a routine, but nothing major.

DR: Who’s been your roommate on the road so far and how has it been?

EK: I’m paired with defenseman Mark Popovic. He’s a great guy; he’s fun to hang out with — so it’s been going good. I’ve enjoyed spending time with him.

DR: Favorite TV show?

EK: TV show would probably have to be “Two and a Half Men.”

DR: Favorite movie?

EK: I’m a big fan of “Rush Hour 2”, “Happy Gilmore”, “Dumb and Dumber”. I like goofy comedy movies I guess (smiling).

DR: Favorite sport besides hockey?

EK: I used to be really big into soccer — I like the World Cup. I like football and basketball too, those would be my two other main sports.

DR: I know you’ve only been on the team for a few months, but who is the biggest prankster or joker on the team?

EK: I’d have to say Eric Boulton.

DR: What’s the best advice someone gave you coming into this season?

EK: Probably my Dad; he said, ‘Just don’t change your game, play your game and good things will happen.’ I think so far I’ve tried to do that and I’ve been successful, so I want to continue that.

DR: Has there been any one player that has helped you the most through this first month?

EK: Yeah I think a guy like Colby Armstrong, who’s a real vocal guy, he’s somebody that’s real easy to talk to; he’s been a big help — for me — trying to get used to the group. Guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, anytime they give you a boost it makes you feel good. Definitely those two guys and the (whole) team have been great.

I hope everyone enjoyed learning more about Evander Kane and if there is a player you’d like to read about in a future column or have a question you want asked, feel free to let me know:

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Devils-Sabres Postgame Quotes [04.11.10]

I will have my Devils-Flyers preview tomorrow, but for now…

Here are some of the postgame quotes following the Devils 2-1 win over the Sabres Sunday night:

Martin Brodeur:

Where is the confidence level at, the way you finished up the last two games?

“Guys look like they’re feeling pretty good; we’re making a lot of good plays, the chemistry with players is getting there. Special teams are doing well, we definitely wanted to come into the playoffs playing well and I think we’re playing well, so we’ll see.”

An unusual way to win a game?

“A little bit; we’ll take it (laughs). They don’t ask you how you win them, but definitely something that — I’ve played almost 1100 games in this league and this is the first time I think in a tie game with a pulled goalie we won a hockey game, but we’ll take it.”

You won the Jennings Trophy with this win too…

“Yeah, it’s exciting; this is my fifth one and definitely (for) the players that play in front of me, everyday they go out and pay attention defensively. Especially for Yann (Danis), being his first year here and be able to be a part of it is kind of nice also because he played a big part.”

Are you surprised that Ryan Miller didn’t play?

“Well, I don’t know what their intentions were, but I don’t think you could’ve done any better than what (Patrick) Lalime did, that’s for sure. He was pretty good out there.”

Zach Parise:

Do you feel good about the way the team is playing heading into the playoffs?

“Yeah, we’re playing well and we’re not giving up too much defensively. We’re playing smart hockey and we’re getting some scoring right now; so we like how we’re playing.”

Your thoughts on the match-up with Philadelphia?

“They’ll be tough, there’s no question, but we’ll make sure we’re prepared for them.”

David Clarkson:

How do you feel about the way the team is playing heading into the playoffs?

“I feel good. We’re playing great defensively, doing well in offensive zone, going to the net. The power play, we’re getting guys around the front of the net and that’s the key thing right now. I’m really excited — I think we’ve played great the last three games and we have to continue on.”

Your thoughts about seeing Philly for possibly another seven games?

“It’s going to be tough, it doesn’t matter who you play; it’s going to be a tough series. A team like that, you know you’re going into war and that’s what we’re going to do in here. We’re going to play team hockey, play great defensively and give everything we have every night.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

You went 1-4-1 against Philly this year, does that have any meaning going into a series with them?

“For us it means nothing, for them it means everything; that’s the way you look at those things. They obviously had our number during the regular season, they did things that took us off our game — we’re going to have to address that, we’re going to have to understand the way they play and play accordingly. Our power play is going to have to deliver; they’re going to take some penalties and they play that style. We have to stay disciplined, stay smart and take advantage of our opportunities.”

Marty gets another Jennings, what does that say about the way he’s playing and the team concept?

“I wouldn’t say its one of our goals at the start of the year, but in a way it kind of is. We want to play well defensively as a team and obviously it starts with him, but you need a whole team to win that award. It’s great for him; it’s good for this team. We pride ourselves on playing well in our own end and playing good defensive hockey — that’s a sign that we did a pretty good job this year.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Are you happy with the way the team finished the season?

“Great; I think we have a great team. I think we finished the right way, the way we wanted to finish it. We’ve played really solid the last couple of weeks and I think we are ready for the playoffs.”

What do you like best about the team?

“I think the way we work; you know we work for each other, we work together — that’s the key.”

Philadelphia is not a fun team to play against…

“That’s good; it’s going to be very intense games. I know it’s a big rivalry and the rivalry is going to continue.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Your thoughts on playing the Flyers in the first round…

“Well, as you can tell we don’t pick the teams, we just wanted to win and that’s what happened tonight. It’s going to be a battle because we struggled against them all year; it’s a good team, they proved it, well-balanced. Definitely we’ll have to play better than we did during the season to be able to beat them.”

In what areas?

“To me, everywhere. Our power play didn’t go well, our penalty kill, not as good that it could be. Even the forechecking, and our chances — we have to get more chances.”

How important was it to get the number two seed in your mind?

“You can tell when you look at the two teams that this was a good game tonight. You look at the two teams, they both wanted to win, you could tell — there was a lot of energy. I thought we played really good; we didn’t give them a lot, maybe seven scoring chances, which is great. They had a few guys out, I thought it was a good game.”

What do you like about your team?

“Right now I think we’re playing hard, we’re playing to win, playing as a group, which we didn’t do all year. But I can’t criticize too much, because we finished second.”

Did you watch the Flyers-Rangers shootout during your first intermission?

“Yes I did.”

A year ago you stepped down as coach of Minnesota, and here you are a year later atop the Atlantic Division. Are you surprised, happy, what are you feeling today?

“I’m relieved, happy, it’s a good feeling. You come back to a city in which a lot of people appreciate what I did and still remember. Coming back and getting the division title, it’s great; I’m very happy.”

With all the adversity that the team went through, what made your team carry through and finish with more than 100 points?

“I think the guys have good character, they want to win. They do their best every night and I think we have a decent team — starting in nets, you look at our defense this year; I was really impressed with the way our defenseman played all year. Our top line was great all year, then we got Kovalchuk and he brings some more offense.”

Have you ever seen a regular season end like that?

“No, I was even surprised myself. I wasn’t looking there and then when Jamie got the puck and I saw him shoot…’where’s the goalie?’ I thought. Then I looked up and I knew why, they pulled the goalie.”