Devils Burn Flames with Shootout Win

Devils 2 Calgary 1       —          shootout

It took 22 games, but the New Jersey Devils finally won consecutive games on Wednesday night and they may be on the right path to correcting their wretched start. It took a shootout, but a win is a win is a win — as the Devils topped the Calgary Flames 2-1 at Prudential Center behind the stellar goaltending of Johan Hedberg, who finished with 26 saves. Ilya Kovalchuk, whose last appearance in a shootout was forgettable (the puck slid off his stick before he could get a shot off on November 10) scored the only goal of the tiebreaker as New Jersey’s first shooter and Hedberg denied all three Calgary shooters. “Moose deserved to be the first star tonight; he’s the guy who’s really helping us win right now, he’s playing unbelievable,” said Kovalchuk afterwards. “The way he played gives us so much confidence.”

David Clarkson opened the scoring 13:06 into the opening period when Mattias Tedenby’s wrist shot from the slot deflected off of his skate and past Flames’ rookie goalie Henrik Karlsson. “I was just standing in front of the net and Teddy (Tedenby) shot it; I was just standing there and it went off my shin pad,” Clarkson explained. “I think the refs thought I kicked it, that’s why they reviewed it, but it just nicked off my shin pad and went in.” On the scoring play New Jersey had kept the puck in the offensive zone after a power play expired, and Matt Corrente’s blue line shot found its way to the back of the net after it was blocked; Tedenby found the loose disc and immediately shot it — hitting Clarkson at the right time. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said.

The Devils carried the 1-0 lead into the third period and Hedberg had stopped all 18 of Calgary’s shots to that point. But the Flames scored as their power play ended when Rene Bourque deflected Matt Giordano’s point shot into the back of the net 1:18 into the frame for his tenth goal of the season. “Even when you look at the one goal he gave up, I’m pretty sure it was a tip-in right? So, when somebody tips it, probably six feet in front of you, he can’t do anything about it,” said Devils’ winger Dainius Zubrus. “To me he was real good — again nothing really went by him; it’s huge.”

Hedberg and Karlsson continued to stop everything they saw as the game moved to a five-minute overtime, and the Flames rookie goalie saved his biggest stops for a Devils’ 4-on-3 two-minute advantage. New Jersey mustered five shots on their power play, two more than they managed in the twenty minute third period, but Karlsson stopped them all until he met Kovalchuk in the shootout. “It’s all about the two points. Both teams were desperate; those games are usually down to the end. I wish it wasn’t going to be shootout,” said Kovalchuk, “we should’ve won in overtime, but listen what are you going to do? One team has to win.”

Hedberg meanwhile, denied Niklas Hagman, Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison in succession during the shootout — sending his teammates’ home happy and ready to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinners. “I don’t know how much turkey we’re going to have,” said Zubrus, “but yeah it will taste better because we won for sure.”

Game Notes: New Jersey has now won three in a row at home after dropping their first seven home contests. Tedenby now has points in three straight games and six (3g-3a) in seven games since he made his NHL debut. Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester played in his 445th consecutive game, which leads all active players. Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder led all skaters in ice-time, logging 27:12 and Giordano led the Flames with 23:33. Bourque led all players with five shots on goal, while Patrik Elias led the Devils with four. New Jersey (7-13-2) is off until Friday afternoon when they play at the New York Islanders (4-12-5) and Calgary (8-11-2) also plays Friday afternoon when they visit Philadelphia (16-6-2)

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 26 saves, win (3)

#2 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – g/w shootout goal

#3 – Henrik Karlsson (Cgy) – 20 saves, shootout loss (1)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Advertisements

Waiting For Kovalchuk…

A lot has happened since Ilya Kovalchuk (642 points in 621 NHL games) became the most talented free-agent in NHL history to hit the open market on July 1, but here we sit on July 18 and the Russian sniper (338 career goals) still hasn’t found a new home. New Jersey, which acquired him in a trade last season is still in the mix, and so are the in, out, in, out, in the Kovy-sweepstakes LA Kings. A third option could be the Russian KHL League, but a talented player in his prime like Kovalchuk needs to play in the league with the most talent and best competition — the NHL.

There are still very valuable players on the market besides Kovalchuk and it seems that the are all waiting for him to sign, before they decide where to go or maybe the other GMs are waiting to see where he lands — making for a very boring two weeks in July devoid of any substantial hockey news.  So, here’s what I am thinking about as we wait for Kovalchuk’s ‘decision’ to be made:

-The NY Islanders have made some solid, off the radar moves to shore up their blue line (Mark Eaton & Milan Jurcina), but more work needs to be done if they are to contend for a playoff spot out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. They should look to sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to play in the top-six and bring back two former Islanders to add more grit to their game — Andy Sutton & Raffi Torres. Sutton has said he would welcome a return to the Island and Torres would be a perfect fit on the third line alongside either Frans Nielsen or Doug Weight.

-What in the freaking world is going on in Calgary?!? They signed two ex-Flames, who both had less than stellar tenures the first time around. Alex Tanguay is a shell of the player he was in 2001 with Colorado and Olli Jokinen was traded away for Ales Kotalik and his ridiculous contract and then they re-sign Jokinen who never looked comfortable in Calgary alongside Jarome Iginla. A few days later ex-Tampa GM Jay Feaster as assistant to the GM who will be probably soon be fired in Darryl Sutter.

-There are still two solid goalies available — one via free agency (Marty Turco) and one via trade (Tim Thomas). It’s not every day you have these types of quality goalies available, so stop being cheap and give your team a decent chance to succeed next year (this means you Columbus, Toronto, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Montreal, Minnesota, LA, San Jose, Dallas).

-There are two enigmatic, but talented wingers available in Max Afinogenov and Alex Frolov and i haven’t heard peep about either yet. It’s possible that one of these two could wind up in the KHL, but in the right situation they can still be solid NHLers.

-Two talented centers are available for trade, but both have almost unmovable  contracts — Boston’s Marc Savard and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. Hey, maybe they should just be traded for each other?

-It seemed odd to me that: Pittsburgh signed defenseman Paul Martin from New Jersey, New Jersey signed Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa and Ottawa signed Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh. This is just my opinion but, a three-way trade during the season would have been soooooo much cooler!

-If the Devils don’t sign Kovalchuk, they should take a hard look at Miroslav Satan, and not just because of the name. Miro proved in the playoffs that he can still produce and help a winning team go deep into the spring.

-Four solid long-time NHL vets are still on the market. Would Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne & Bill Guerin have lasted this long on the open market ten summers ago in 2000? I think not. Modano may go to Detroit, which makes sense in a lot of ways. What if Kariya and Selanne sign one-year deals in Pittsburgh like they did in Colorado? Apparently Sidney Crosby felt he didn’t need Guerin’s leadership, so maybe Guerin could ride shotgun with AO in DC?

-Finally where in the world is Petr Sykora? The rest of your buddies from 2000 are in NJ…..A-LINE, ASSEMBLE!!!!

Who’s left?

It has been one month and one day since free agency started and there are still some notable unrestricted free agent names who have yet to find a home. These are serviceable players, who if they find the right situation (i.e., linemate, coach, system), they can be a valuable asset to any hockey team and I’d be shocked if they are still not signed with a club…be it in the NHL or in Russia, Sweden, wherever…by September 1.
Here’s the best of who’s left:

PLAYER — OLD TEAM — THE LOW DOWN

Maxim Afinogenov — Buffalo — Could be headed to KHL, thought he’d fit well with Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta.
Marc-Andre Bergeron — Minnesota — Has one of the NHL’s hardest shots, but his defensive abilities are questionable at best.
Todd Bertuzzi — Calgary — Big Bert hasn’t gotten an offer from Calgary yet, and won’t. His size could be useful to a team like Detroit, for the right price.
Mike Comrie — Ottawa — After a midseason trade to the Sens, Comrie didn’t do much. Still, a few teams looking for a center could sign the 28-year-old to a one-year deal; he could work out in New Jersey if signed.
Manny Fernandez — Boston — Proved last season he can still tend goal in the NHL, but will he accept another backup role?
Mike Grier — San Jose — Solid, checking line, penalty killing forward is a hard worker who should be signed soon; preferably with the Devils, but could also help the Islanders or Toronto as well.
Robert Lang — Montreal — A risk coming off of a torn achilles at the age of 38, but most teams are in the market for a dependable center. Would Ottawa have enough cash to sign him to play on line two with AK-27?
Manny Malhotra — Columbus — I’m shocked he didn’t end up back in Columbus, as he seemed to really mature and develop under Ken Hitchcock there, but they also signed Sammy Pahlsson, who plays the same role. Would love for him to join the Devils though, Tampa could be an option too.
Miroslav Satan — Pittsburgh — His agent Twitted (or tweeted, whatever) that the Isles are interested, but not buying it. I say he goes to either Vancouver or the KHL. I’ve given up on the dream that Satan would join the Devils (for now).
Mats Sundin — Vancouver — Will he play, or won’t he? At 38, what does Sundin have left? If he isn’t going to give a full season, no one will want him after performing so poorly last season with the Canucks.
Petr Sykora — Pittsburgh — Has bounced around too much for a guy that can score when motivated or in the right situation. I’m thinking he lands in Minnesota or St. Louis.
Alex Tanguay — Montreal — The best of what’s left as far as I’m concerned. Will hate him less for his two-goal performance in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals if he signs with New Jersey. He’s only 29 and still has some productive years left. Join the Devils Legion Alex, join us.

Hopefully in the coming weeks, some of these guys find work, preferably with the Devils!

New Coach is an Old Friend

The New Jersey Devils have announced that Jacques Lemaire, who led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 1995, (and coached the team from 1993-98) will return as he successor to Brent “quitter” Sutter. Personally, I like the move, because I feel it will give the team some stability — after about 5 coaches in the last six seasons. Maybe he can fix whatever was wrong with Brian Rolston last season — Rolston enjoyed some of his best seasons playing for Lemaire’s Wild in Minnesota, but struggled mightily under Sutter, providing zero offense. John MacLean was passed over again for the head coach job, and now he will be the head coach for their AHL affiliate in Lowell. Good job Lou Lamoriello, now start adding some players!  Alex Tanguay is still out there, Mike Grier, Manny Malhotra, and Robert Lang are available too as unrestricted free agents….or swing a trade with Boston for Phil Kessel