Hedberg & Devils Blank League-Leading Capitals

In game two of this season the New Jersey Devils played the Washington Capitals and got smoked in D.C. to the tune of 7-2. In game 21 on Monday night at the Prudential Center, with both teams heading in different directions, the Devils evened the score by shutting out the NHL’s most talented team in a much-needed 5-0 win. It was perhaps their most complete game of the season as four different players tallied goals and Johan Hedberg was rock solid in net to the tune of 30 saves and his first shutout as a Devil.

Jason Arnott scored twice for the winners (bumping his team-leading total to eight) and rookie Mattias Tedenby continued to impress with a penalty shot goal and the primary assist on the winning goal — scored by him and Arnott’s linemate, Patrik Elias. “He said before the game he felt good,” said Elias of the 20-year-old Swede, “he was right.”

With rookie Braden Holtby making his fifth appearance in an NHL game, Elias opened the scoring 5:49 in when it appeared he got the shaft of his stick on a crisp pass from Tedenby during a power play. He admitted to the media that the puck hit Caps’ defenseman Mike Green’s stick and hit off of his pants leg. Arnott doubled the lead at 16:15 when he carried the puck into the zone, fought off Capitals’ defenseman John Erskine and forward Brooks Laich, and then scored on a quick wraparound that had Holtby spinning in his crease.

Tedenby was pulled down by Erskine on a breakaway 1:59 later and he was able to make it 3-0 for his Devils on a penalty shot when he calmly skated in and flipped a backhand shot over the fellow rookie’s glove hand. “I don’t know if it’s good or luck,” he admitted shyly after the game before a media crowd.

Arnott added his second goal of the game 2:43 into the second period, collecting the rebound of Andy Greene’s point shot and sliding it into the net and Dainius Zubrus delivered the final blow when he flicked a rebound into the net after a well-orchestrated 3-on-2 into the Caps’ zone.

To their credit, Washington never quit, and they certainly made Hedberg work for his 15th career shutout. “It felt good,” said the Devils’ netminder. “We needed a win badly and I think the way we played we started something good.” He denied dangerous sniper Alexander Semin’s wrist shot from deep in the slot midway through the second.

The great-eight aka Alex Ovechkin challenged Hedberg 6:10 into the third period with a booming slap shot that loudly bounced off the goalie’s leg pad – right back to the ever-dangerous Ovechkin who quickly fired another shot towards the goal. But his shot rang off the goal post and bounced away, perhaps signaling that this would indeed be the Devils’ night. They’ve now won two in a row at the Rock, a small positive, but something that they can build on, as well as the 5-0 thrashing of the team with the NHL’s best record.

Game Notes: The Devils are honoring their former coach Pat Burns with memorial “PB” patches on their jerseys for the next four home games. Each of the jerseys will then be autographed by the entire team and auctioned off. Proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will be donated in Pat Burns’ memory to La Maison Aube-Lumiere, a cancer hospice in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The team also showed a brief video and held a moment of silence before the game. Elias, Arnott, Tedenby and Greene each had two points in the game; Tedenby led all players with a +3. Ovechkin and Semin led all players with five shots on goal apiece, while Elias and Arnott led New Jersey with four each. Washington defenseman John Carlson led all skaters in ice-time with 27:11, while Henrik Tallinder led New Jersey with 25:23. Ovechkin led all players with five hits, while Devils defensemen Colin White and Anton Volchenkov had a game-high three blocked shots each. New Jersey (6-13-2) is off until Wednesday when they host Calgary (8-11-1) and Washington (14-6-2) is also back in action that same night when they play at Carolina (9-9-2).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Mattias Tedenby (NJ) – goal (3), assist (2)

#2 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 30 saves, win (2), shutout (1)

#3 – Jason Arnott (NJ) – 2 goals (8)

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

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Team Russia Looks as Good as Gold…

The ice hockey tournament begins tomorrow and after long consideration I’ve made my pick for who will win the gold medal. In looking at all of the rosters I feel that the Russian squad is poised to win their first Olympics gold medal in 18 years, mainly because of their firepower and their strength in goaltending.

Up front the Russians can throw two lethal lines at their opponents with any combination between Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin and Maxim Afinogenov. In my mind it doesn’t matter how you combine these six and they are still the scariest two lines in this short tournament.

Finishing out the bottom six forwards will be familar names gone from the NHL, but in active duty for the Russian league — the  KHL: Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Morozov and Alexander Radulov. All players who are capable of taking over a game when they are in a groove.

The Russians will be led on the blueline by the always-steady Sergei Gonchar and the underrated Andrei Markov, with solid depth provided by Fedor Tyutin, Anton Volchenkov, Dmitri Kalinin & Denis Grebeshkov. Gonchar will be the key player here — his passing and work on the power play will go a long way in determining the difference between evenly-matched teams in elimination games.

In goal Evgeni Nabokov, the backbone of San Jose’s great regular season success over the last three seasons, will begin as the starter, but if he should falter they can still turn to Washington’s Semyon Varlamov (who proved last postseason that big games don’t faze him) or Ilya Bryzgalov, who has pulled Phoenix from the ashes of the NHL to fourth in the West with 19 games left. Between the three of them, most likely Bryzgalov or Nabokov, they have the ability to shut down an explosive, high-powered team a tad more than some of the other goalies in the tournament — including Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist.

I think the gold medal game will be Russia vs. Team USA, final score 5-2 Russia.

Canada will win the bronze medal game 4-3 in ot against Sweden.

Hope that I am wrong…but I won’t be…

Devils-Caps Postgame Quotes [11.14.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Saturday’s 5-2 Devils win over the Washington Capitals:

Dainius Zubrus:
Your thoughts on the game…
“Well the start wasn’t obviously very good, with the penalty that they (the refs) gave them and the quick goal they scored. We don’t want to give that up, but sometimes that happens. But more than anything, its how we reacted afterwards; we started skating, we were much better with the puck, winning battles — definitely for the last 40 minutes and parts of the first period as well.”

I thought you had a strong game (10-4, 71% on face-offs) and you were active when you had the puck; did you feel good out there?
“Yeah I felt good. You play against good players; our line and Travis Zajac’s line, sort of matched up against their two top lines. They’re a good team and their top guys play a lot, that’s where they get most of their goals from, so you want to be skating and play well against them. At the same time, by playing alot, you get in the game and you have to be moving and get your legs going, so I felt pretty good.”

Next game is in Philadelphia, how do you continue the winning streak?
“Well, the same way we played tonight for the last 40 minutes, when we are skating, when we are strong on the puck, winning battles, we can be successful. We’ve done that for the last nine games on the road, and some here at home too. I don’t think we’ll change much; honestly I don’t think about how many games we’ve won on the road. It’s just a big game because it’s a division rivalry and they’re doing well too, winning a lot of games. I don’t know stats-wise, but I know they aren’t too far from us in the standings.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:
What did you change after they scored the first two goals?
“Get our feet moving, we stood around and watched them for the first 10 minutes of the period and they took it to us. You watch that much skill and you don’t move your feet and you don’t battle; Jacques (Lemaire) talked about intensity and we didn’t have intensity for the first part of the game, and we got it back”

How different of a team are they without Alex Ovechkin?
“They’re still a talented team…everybody’s missing players. Obviously, he’s a big part of their team, but they’re missing four other players too; and we’re missing five. That’s part of playing in the NHL.”

Do you remember your first NHL goal?
“Yup (smirking), it was a while ago.”

How special is it to see Matt score his first NHL goal?
“He tried to play it cool and stuff, but you could tell he was excited. I think he has some people in town too, so that makes it that much more special. You couldn’t ask for a better goal, it was a good shot. Usually it’s a sloppy one, but that was a great shot.”

Nicklas Bergfors:
Coach changed the lines after the first period again, is it a big deal to you, or do you just play your game no matter what line you are on?
“We didn’t really do too much in the beginning (of the game), so I didn’t mind it; whatever is best for the team — he knows that. It (changing the lines) has worked before, it’s not the first time, so you just have to go out and play harder.”

Do you have to change your game at all, when you play with different linemates?

“I just try to play my game, try to be more simple because things didn’t work out in the beginning of the game.”

Describe the play that Matt scored on, you had a big part in it with the primary assist…

“We had a 3-on-2 and that’s something that we have practiced, the middle guy drives to the net. He got open, I gave him the puck and he made a good shot. It was a nice goal.”

Zach Parise:
How did you shut the Caps down after they scored the first two goals?

“We started to be a little better as a team and we didn’t give (Nicklas) Backstrom and (Alexander) Semin a lot of room out there, so it was a good job by our defense.”

You can set a record in Philly for longest road winning streak to start a season. Do you guys even look at that, or is it just a game in Philly?
“We don’t look at that, that’s something that you guys (the media) looks at. We don’t pay attention to that, we’re having fun, we’re playing smart, we’re playing well. We know it’s going to be a tough game, it’s never easy going into Philadelphia; they have a good team and they are playing well right now. We want to do the same things we did tonight — play good smart hockey.”

Matt Halischuk:
Walk me through your goal and how did you feel afterwards?
“It was a great play by my linemates there Timmy (Sestito) did a great job driving to the net and I got a nice pass from Nicklas, so I just tried to get it on net as quick as I could and fortunately it went in, so it was a pretty special feeling for sure.”

I know you’ve scored some big goals playing in Junior Tournaments, how big is this one?
“Oh, well this is right up there, it’s pretty special, and it feels great to contribute. It was a great team effort for the win.”

Do you have to change your game at all when Coach Lemaire changes your linemates?

“I don’t think so, I think you just have to go out there and take responsibility and play your best. We have a bunch of great players here, so it’s always nice to get to play with these guys.”

When you got sent down to Lowell earlier in the season and then got called back up, did you play any different so as to not get sent back down?
“Yeah, it’s never fun getting sent down, but you always want to play as hard as you can to get called back up. Fortunately, it was a quick turnaround (3 days) and I was able to get back up. I just try to take it game-to-game and keep going.”