Three More Weeks Until Hockey is Back…

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote, so I will try to cover a variety of topics here:

Congrats to the Boston Bruins who won the Stanley Cup in a Game 7 @ Vancouver. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were off the charts in that series, and Tim Thomas’ performance was legendary. That Claude Julien guy that coaches the B’s is pretty good, it’d be nice if the Devils had a coach like that…

The Atlanta Thrashers (and their fugly uniforms) are gone and the Winnipeg Jets are back! It’s a shame they won’t be wearing the old uniforms, but a new beginning does deserve a new look and I think I like what I saw from the logo and the uniform scheme.

My sincere and deepest condolences to the families of all of the hockey players that passed away this summer. I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened in Russia with the plane crash and I still cannot erase the images of Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek and Alexander Vasyunov’s faces from my mind; hopefully they didn’t suffer. They will all be missed and never, ever forgotten.

So the Philadelphia Flyers brought in Ilya Bryzgalov to play goal this season, making him the 500th goalie they have employed since Martin Brodeur became a New Jersey Devil and the 1,000th netminder since they last won the Cup in 1975. They also traded their two best players — Jeff Carter and Mike Richards — in separate deals that did not bring back equal value and signed 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr. Good luck with that.

It seems certain that Sidney Crosby won’t be ready for the start of the season, but could suit up at some point in 2011-12. Concussions are a delicate issue and Crosby’s career could be derailed like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya before him. Intentional head shots must be eliminated from the game, but certain players (ahem Criesby…) are also responsible for protecting themselves and need to stop admiring their passes.

Don’t be surprised if the New York Islanders (that’s right, I said it) make the playoffs this season. IF they can stay healthy! John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson seem primed to have big seasons and hopefully Evgeni Nabokov can add some stability to what has been a blue cross and blue shield crease the last few seasons.

The Rangers added the biggest fish in the free-agent pool in Brad Richards, but have we not learned anything over the past six seasons — the team that signs the top free agent never wins the Cup. They did make one right move this summer — naming Ryan Callahan their new captain.

The Devils had a semi-quiet offseason after selecting Adam Larsson with the 4th pick in the NHL Entry Draft. They were able to rid themselves of Colin White and Brian Rolston’s ridiculous contracts, and they were able to re-sign Andy Greene and Johan ‘Moose’ Hedberg. Both Bryce Salvador and Zach Parise have been cleared to start the season, but Travis Zajac may not be back until December after tearing his achilles tendon during an off-ice workout; Zajac’s team record consecutive games streak will end at 401. Cam Janssen is back with NJ and Petr Sykora could be too — he will be in training camp on a tryout basis. The new coach is Peter DeBoer who was fired from the Florida Panthers, the same DeBoer who helped the Cats reach 94 points a few years back — a remarkable feat in itself with the roster he was given. I predict Mattias Tedenby will net at least 20 goals this season and Jacob Josefson will have 30 assists as they help lead the Devs back to the playoffs after last season’s hiccup.

Boston begins defense of it’s Championship on opening night (October 6); the Rangers open in Sweden against the LA Kings the following day (October 7); the Islanders (vs. Florida) and Devils (vs. Philly) both begin their seasons on Saturday October 8; and the new Winnipeg/old Atlanta team makes it’s debut on Sunday October 9 vs. Montreal.

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Devils-Bruins Postgame Quotes (10.16.10)

Dainius Zubrus:

Talking about a disappointing game…

“It was frustrating; I thought we had a decent start, we were playing okay and then it seemed every mistake that we made, they just…If you look at the goals that they got, it was something where we turned it over or lose a battle or some other thing; a lot of the goals that we get scored on, we have the puck on our stick and then we lose it or whatever happens. We’re just not being good enough really.”

Coach switched you and Ilya tonight on the lines, how did that work out for you?

“It was fun, I obviously enjoy playing with those two guys (Zach Parise and Travis Zajac), they work really hard and I try to match their intensity and the pace of their game. I just try to work hard and I think at times we got the puck back on the forecheck just because we work hard and support each other; it’s fun playing with those two guys. It seemed like we got some chances and we could’ve gotten more than just one goal — Travis hit the post and maybe a few rebounds didn’t go our way, but that’s how it is. We have to still play better and earn those things.”

Any type of adjustment for you, you were playing left wing and tonight shifted to right wing?

“Not so much really; you play with these guys, I want to be in motion as much as I can, especially coming through the neutral zone from our end. I try to come across and support Zach all the time to maybe back off the D or if they step up on him we kind of keep going forward all the time. We don’t want to do too many drop passes or criss-crosses through the neutral zone, we just try to simplify it and get the puck down in their end. Once we’re there we talk a lot, we support each other and try to cycle it. That’s how I think we got our chances and that’s when we had our good shifts; it just wasn’t good enough tonight though.”

Can you talk about your goal tonight and if it felt good to finally get on the board?

“Well yeah it felt good, yesterday I had some good chances that I didn’t put in; now it’s five or six games in and I was feeling a little pressure (to finally get a goal). I don’t know, I felt like I was getting some chances, I don’t want to say it was a matter of time, but I just have to stay with it and bear down. Today’s goal was a good shot on net, a battle in front of the net — I think Zach got a piece of it — and it popped out right to my backhand. I saw (Tim) Thomas was down and I tried to get it over the top of him and I was able to do that. It felt good obviously, because it gave our team some energy and we haven’t been scoring that much; I thought the spirit of the team came up a bit. Then they scored right away to even it out and we weren’t too good after that.”

Tim Thomas:

Talking about being injured last year and healthy this year…

“Like last year when you don’t do something and you don’t even realize why you didn’t do it, your body’s not letting you; and you’re like ‘c’mon, what’s going on here? I know I’m better than this.’ Not to have that restriction, to be able to play in a loosey-goosey manner — it’s great.”

You feel like a young guy again?

“Yeah, yeah exactly, it’s refreshing. Hopefully it lasts all year (laughs).”

Can you just talk about you team’s effort tonight?

“It was a great effort up and down (the lineup). Every person in the lineup, you can think of a lot of good things that they did.”


Claude Julien:

How did you like your team’s effort tonight?

“I thought everybody was able to contribute and we had some nice goals. This is probably one of the games where I’ve seen our team generate the most offense in this building in a long time; we scored four goals and we had a lot of other quality chances. I thought we got better as the game went on, maybe a little bit of rust early in the first — which was a normal thing when you haven’t played in a week and we came back from Europe, but what we wanted to do was get better as the game went on and we did that.”

It seemed like in the third period you kept the pedal to the metal there…

“Well I think it was important for us because this was their third game in four nights and we had to make sure that we didn’t hold back because we were a fresh team. We wanted to make sure we played a full 60 minutes, we didn’t want to give them too many opportunities and let them back in the game.”

Can you talk about the solid coaching strategy playing Tim Thomas two games in a row?

“He played well, he had the shutout (in Prague) and I thought he really deserved it. We talked about that this morning that it would be fair and making our decisions tougher as we go along. We have to consider two things — the goalie who is playing really well and a good goalie who can’t sit forever either. So we have lots of games, three games in five nights next week, so I’m sure we’ll see both of them. Timmy did good tonight; he challenged everything, when he’s on top of his game, that’s what he does. He challenges (the shooters); he doesn’t over think, he just does the job. I thought he did a great job in close, they had some shots, some rebounds and he battled through those.”

How big was killing off the 5-on-3 against you at the end of the first period?

“Yeah that could have been a turning point right there; the second call was a tough one on (Brad) Marchand, but you have to kill those off. I thought our guys did a good job – they have a couple of guys that can shoot from the back end: (Jason) Arnott and obviously Kovalchuk. We wanted to make sure that we took away those opportunities and make the big save when we needed it – our guys did a pretty good job of killing that. It seemed to give us some momentum heading into the second period.”

John MacLean:

What did you tell the team after the game?

“What did I tell them? I’m not going to share that with you. It’s pretty simple, we had a couple of lines that battled the whole game and we had some passengers.”

Why did you change two of the lines?

“To get some energy and it worked for one of the lines. I had been thinking about it for a while and I thought that lined played really well; I thought Zubie and Travis and Zach worked really hard. They had a lot of chances and they battled the whole game. I thought that line was good.”

When things are going bad like this is it kind of a snowball effect?

“Well it can happen, but you also have to battle through that.”

Is chemistry or a lack of it your biggest problem right now?

“Chemistry, yeah, I guess to a certain extent. That’s the easy way out. Hard work and battle, you could still do that and win one-on-one battles.”

You have a few days off before Thursday in Montreal

“We’ll take a break and then we’ll start working on things from the defensive zone out, work on some starts and stops, some battles, start winning some battles, and getting our mind focused.”

You mentioned passengers, are you worried about the leadership of this team?

“I’m worried about guys not focused enough for 60 minutes; sometimes I think we read how we are on paper and the other teams don’t really care. For this team to win it’s not going to take one or two guys, it’s going to take all 20 guys, night in and night out. That’s no different than any other team in the NHL. The leadership that comes with the 20 guys being ready to play; we have some guys in there that are veterans and everybody knows what’s expected of them. They need to come and be ready to compete.”

Did you consider pulling Martin Brodeur after the second period?

“No, I thought Marty played fine. Some of the breakdowns are not his fault; it’s not his fault if the breakdown happens in their zone.”

Are you shocked at your record through six games?

“I wouldn’t say shocked but maybe a little bit surprised.”

No Doubting Thomas as Bruins Bash Devils

Boston 4         Devils 1

Through the first four home games this season the New Jersey Devils have perfected only one thing — the art of losing. Saturday night at Prudential Center they dropped a bomb against the Boston Bruins, falling by a 4-1 score with all goals coming in the second period. Tim Thomas played a strong game in net for the Bruins, turning aside 31 of 32 Devils’ shots as he picked up his second win of the season. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur also made 31 saves, but the four he surrendered in 16 second period Bruins’ shots were the difference in the game as his team fell to a disappointing 0-3-1 at home. “Timmy did good tonight; he challenged everything,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. “When he’s on top of his game, that’s what he does. He challenges (the shooters); he doesn’t over think, he just does the job. I thought he did a great job in close, they had some shots, some rebounds and he battled through those.”

In the final two minutes of the scoreless opening period the Devils had a 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to capitalize as the road-weary Bruins began to find their game legs. “Yeah that could have been a turning point right there; the second call was a tough one on (Brad) Marchand, but you have to kill those off,” the ex-Devils coach said afterwards. “They have a couple of guys that can shoot from the back end: (Jason) Arnott and obviously (Ilya) Kovalchuk. We wanted to make sure that we took away those opportunities and make the big save when we needed it – our guys did a pretty good job of killing that. It seemed to give us some momentum heading into the second period.” Boston played their first two games this season in Prague, Czech Republic against the Phoenix Coyotes and won’t play their home opener until Thursday when they host Washington.

At the start of the second period New Jersey coach John MacLean altered his line combinations, switching Dainius Zubrus with Kovalchuk. Zubrus’ addition to the duo of Travis Zajac and Zach Parise paid almost immediate dividends as the trio accounted for the team’s only goal. On the scoring play Zubrus collected the rebound of Andy Greene’s point shot and flipped a backhanded shot past a lunging Thomas at 3:45. “The goal was a good shot on net, a battle in front of the net — I think Zach got a piece of it — and it popped out right to my backhand,” said Zubrus. “I saw Thomas was down and I tried to get it over the top of him and I was able to do that. It felt good obviously, because it gave our team some energy and we haven’t been scoring that much.”

Unfortunately Kovalchuk was relegated to the third line and managed only one shot on goal each period skating with David Clarkson and rookie center Jacob Josefson. “I thought Zubie and Travis and Zach worked really hard. They had a lot of chances and they battled the whole game. I thought that line was good,” said MacLean. “We had a couple of lines that battled the whole game and we had some passengers.”

The Devils lead lasted only 1:53 as the Bruins evened the score when rookie Jordan Caron netted his first career NHL goal by sliding a rebound past Brodeur, sparking his team’s goal explosion. Michael Ryder gave Boston the lead permanently when his slapper from the slot beat Brodeur’s glove hand at 10:44, followed by Shawn Thornton’s tally at 16:43 and Milan Lucic’s at 18:09. “It was frustrating,” admitted Zubrus. “I thought we had a decent start, we were playing okay and then it seemed every mistake that we made, they just…if you look at the goals that they got, it was something where we turned it over or lose a battle; a lot of the goals that we get scored on (lately), we have the puck on our stick and then we lose it.”

The Devils will have four days off before their next game and clearly have some things to work on if they are to get back to their winning ways. “We’ll take a break and then we’ll start working on things from the defensive zone out, work on some starts and stops, some battles,” said a surprised, but not shocked MacLean, “start winning some battles, and getting our mind focused (on playing 60 minutes).”

Game Notes: Nathan Horton’s assist on the fourth Boston goal was his 300th NHL point (145g-155a). Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara led all skaters in ice-time with 23:55 and Greene led New Jersey with 23:36; Arnott was a game-worst -3. Parise and Horton led all players with five shots on goal apiece; only two Bruins (Gregory Campbell and Blake Wheeler) failed to register a shot on goal. Both teams won 21 face-offs and both power plays were empty: NJ 0-4, BOS 0-3. New Jersey (1-4-1) is off until Thursday when they play at Montreal (3-1-1); Boston (2-1-0) will continue their early-season trek in Washington (4-1-0) on Tuesday night.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Tim Thomas (Bos) – 31 saves, win (2-0-0)

#2 – Michael Ryder (Bos) – gw goal (1)

#3 – Milan Lucic (Bos) – goal (2)

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

Devils-Bruins Postgame Quotes [03.15.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after the Devils 3-2 win over the Bruins on Monday night:

Martin Brodeur:

How’d you feel out there tonight?

“I felt good; I faced a lot of shots so it kept me busy for most of the night. The boys played pretty well even though we allowed a lot of shots, I was able to see the puck a lot; it was good.”

They had a power play at the end of the game, you had a lot of saves, but you were able to see most of them?

“Yeah, exactly; they had a little traffic there but nothing crazy and I was able to cover a few pucks and kick a few away. But it was a big kill — when you leave a team hanging around you never know what’s going to happen and it took us the full 60 (minutes) to win that game.”

Is the team starting to show a little more consistency right now?

“I think so, we definitely are playing (especially here) we had a tough time on the Island the other night; we’ve been playing well — I think more of knowing what the other guy is going to do instead of being surprised all the time by some plays. I think we are supporting each other real well, a lot better anyway than we were maybe a couple of weeks ago. We just have to keep going, I think we have to get up for every team; tonight was a big game especially with the standings — them being in the eighth spot — it kind of gave us a little leeway here. We have a big game coming up next game (too).”

Nice to get the assist?

“Yeah, it’s always nice to contribute a little bit offensively — usually they’re not nice like that (grins). We’ll take that one.”

Fourth straight win on home-ice, how nice is it to get goal support like you have been?

“The thing is you need to score goals to be successful, because teams will score goals; this game is quick, a lot of bounces everywhere. If you’re not sharp offensively, it’s going to get tough; you have to get the goals when you can. Right now at home we’ve been doing well scoring goals — we have to keep it up.”

Did you look up and look for Clarkson on that breakaway?

“Since the trapezoid, I don’t really look anymore. It’s so hard for me to turn my body, this time I was able to get the puck before the goal line and for me, that was a big opening when I saw him. I knew I just needed to get it there up in the air in case somebody tried to bat it down and that was it.”

Do you think without the trapezoid you would have more assists?

“Oh definitely; especially with no red line, no trapezoid — definitely my game would be a lot different as far as my offensive (laughs) game.”

It’s kept your offensive stats down…

“Yeah I know, they’re trying to shut me down (laughs).”

You’re getting closer to Tom Barasso’s record, you’re only 14 assists away…

“Is that what it is? Eh. If Kovy (Ilya Kovalchuk) stays with us for a few more years I’ll be able to tee it up for him a few times and I’ll get more (laughs).”

Zach Parise:

What happened on the play you scored on?

“Motts (Mike Mottau) made a good play on the point, I think he pump-faked and went around the guy and then just the puck was bouncing around and I found the rebound in front of the net.”

The team has been pretty consistent the last few games at home, any secret to the success?

“Not at all; we’re playing well at home and that’s important. The road hasn’t been as great as we need it to be, but we’re playing better and we have to make sure we’re even better for Pittsburgh (Wednesday), that’ll be a tough game.”

How do you continue your dominance against the Penguins?

“Just for whatever reason we match-up well against them and just keep doing the same things we’ve done. We’ve done a good job at containing (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, we haven’t given them too much when we’ve played them so we have to do that again Wednesday.”

David Clarkson:

Your shot when you were coming across the slot on the first goal, did that hit somebody?

“I’m not sure, I have no idea. He (Rob Niedermayer) said it didn’t, but I don’t know. I just turned and shot, you’d have to look at that yourself; I’m not sure. The bottom line is we played well and got the two points.”

What did you see on the pass that Marty made to you?

“To be honest, I couldn’t believe he made it and I knew if I didn’t score he’d make fun of me, so (laughs) when I got the puck and saw the opening, I took off and thankfully I was all alone. I thought someone was close to me, but it was just an unbelievable play by him and I think he’d probably be the only guy that could make that play — I was impressed with how nice of a pass it was.”

You scored on your backhand there…

“I saw him backing up and I figured I had room to go to my backhand and that’s kind of why I did; but like I said I was more in awe that the puck was on my stick and by the time I got to the net I knew I had to get rid of it.”

Was this one of your best games since returning from injury?

“I think it’s up there; I think San Jose I felt pretty well and against the Rangers. It’s starting to come around; when you miss three months of playing hockey, it’s not fun. It’s the most mental toughness you’ll ever have to go through as a competitor and someone that’s never been hurt before. That was the hardest thing I went through; I think I’m starting to put it behind me a bit.”
Any more significance since it was a Bruins game that you got hurt in originally?

“I wasn’t trying to think that (Zdeno) Chara was the guy that hurt me but if I had a chance to finish him I was going to try and finish him. It wasn’t his fault that he broke my leg, it was just a fluke thing, but I wasn’t really thinking about him being out there or shooting another one because that would really suck.”

Was there any point where he had the puck and you were out there with him looking like he was ready to shoot?

“No, I tried to stay closer to him. I think last game the biggest mistake I made was I was 10-15 feet away from him. You let a guy like that, that big and has the hardest shot in the league, shoot from 15 feet away something’s going to either crack or break. That was the biggest thing I did wrong last time, I gave him too much space and ended up paying the price for it.”

Did you have any flashbacks?

“No, if I did I would have been lifting my leg or playing a soft game and I can’t do that, or else I won’t be playing. I knew I had to play the same way, and not flamingo.”

I saw that you made sure to thank Marty after the pass…

“I did, I told him that I knew he’d make fun of me if I didn’t score (laughs). Like I said it was an amazing pass — I don’t know how he does that stuff, but I don’t even think he saw me in the beginning so it was just impressive that he ended up putting it on my stick.”

Big showdown coming up on Wednesday…

“Yeah Wednesday is huge; we’ve got to come out and play the same way we did tonight — with that intensity, with that physical play. It’ll be exciting to wear the red and green jerseys, to have those on. I’m excited and it’s just another game for us, but we have to start playing playoff-hockey every night; hard-nosed because this is pretty much playoffs. We’re trying to figure out where we’re going to fit in and where we’re going to sit (in the standings).”

Claude Julien:

Were you pleased with how your team responded after you made the goalie change to start the second period?

“Yeah, but the damage was done unfortunately; we dug ourselves a hole that we just couldn’t get out of.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Clarkson had a good game, do you agree?

“Yeah, he played much better, especially with the puck — he made two good moves on the first two goals. When he does skate, he has good hands, so he can do a lot of good things offensively.”

Is this the best effort you’ve seen from your team in a while?

“We played good; in the second (period) we stopped doing certain things, we slowed down just a little bit. But the first and third, I thought we played really well. Even though they came close at the end there, they had a power play and after they started to get some chances. But that team was desperate tonight, they have to win games too; I felt that we came out in the third to play to win.”

Martin Skoula picked up an assist tonight, his first with the team; how do you think he played?

“That was for his kid, his newborn baby. He played good; Skoula’s been steady since he’s been here. He makes the first pass, he’s safe — good around the net, strong along the boards. I like the way he played; as long as he keeps playing like this, if he doesn’t turn the puck over, I know he’s going to play well.”