Kings Send Jack Johnson to Columbus for Jeff Carter

With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching (Monday, February 27) the LA Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off the first significant trade — unless you consider New Jersey’s acquisition of Alexei Ponikarovsky: 10 points (4g-6a) in 13 games. Columbus acquired 25-year-old defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round pick from Los Angeles for former 40-goal scorer Jeff Carter. Current King Mike Richards and Carter were traded exactly eight months ago from Philadelphia and will now reunite in Hollywood hoping to save the goal-starved Kings season.

Carter, 27, has struggled this season in Columbus (who hasn’t), but the previous three seasons he netted 46, 33 and 36 goals; once you score 40 goals in a season in this league, you are always expected to reach that plateau and are held to high expectations — making Carter’s 15 goals this season an aberration.

Johnson is a steady two-way defenseman that should help the Jackets improve on the back end, and I always believe a team should build its foundation from the goaltender out. With linchpins Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski already on the blueline in Ohio, Johnson will help solidify that group and also possibly provide some help for floundering goalie Steve Mason (who may also be traded by Monday).

So who’s next to be traded….Rick Nash? Derek Roy? Ales Hemsky? Luke Schenn? Someone unexpected perhaps?

Expect Detroit to make a move, seeing as they have a nice chunk of space to reach the salary cap thanks to Brian Rafalski’s retirement. Los Angeles could still make another move, or two, possibly shipping goalie Jonathan Bernier to a team where he can be a no. 1 starter.

What will Washington do as they sit on the outside of the playoff picture after entering the season as a favorite to win the Stanley Cup? Will the NY Rangers be tempted to add an impact player such as Nash despite their success and risk messing with the chemistry of mostly homegrown players on their roster?

By 3pm Monday afternoon, we will know which teams improved and which teams are giving up hope on winning the 2012 Stanley Cup.

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.

Hedberg Stands Tall as Devils Outlast Flyers

Devils 2 Philadelphia 1 — shootout

Despite losing to the New York Islanders 2-0 at the Nassau Coliseum on Black Friday (snapping their modest two-game winning streak) the New Jersey Devils were able to rebound and beat the division-leading Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 2-1 in a shootout 24 hours later at Prudential Center. The Devils have now won four in a row at home and the last three of those can directly be attributed to the play in goal by Johan Hedberg who has surrendered only two goals in the three games, stopping 83 of the 85 shots he has faced. “He’s been incredible. It seems like he’s a goalie that the more shots he gets, the better he is,” said New Jersey’s Travis Zajac. “Today, they got a lucky one on him, other than that he’s been making key saves for us in key situations of games.”

Just 1:52 into the game the Flyers found themselves shorthanded for four minutes when Scott Hartnell smacked Brian Rolston in the head with his stick. Although the Devils didn’t score on the power play they gained some early territorial momentum and had seven shots on goal before Philly had registered its first of the day. Adam Mair scored his first goal of the season at 11:49, snapping a wrist shot past Flyers goalie Brian Boucher’s stick hand to give New Jersey the early 1-0 lead. “It feels great; I’ve had some chances,” said Mair afterwards. “As a hockey player, you always like to score; you always like to help contribute offensively.”

Philadelphia out-shot the Devils 41-18 for the game after the first eight minutes but they were never able to solve Hedberg until Daniel Briere scored the tying goal from behind the goal line 8:38 into the third period, his 12th of the season. “He just shot it at me,” said Hedberg. “I think he shot it from the side of the net, it bounced up and hit my thigh and went in. It’s just one of those things.”

After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout where the first two shooters on each team were turned aside without a goal — Ilya Kovalchuk and Mattias Tedenby for New Jersey, Claude Giroux and Briere for Philly. Nikolay Zherdev beat Hedberg through his five-hole, putting pressure on Jason Arnott to keep the game alive for his fellow Devils. “I just had it in my head what I was going to do all along and it helps when you have it in your head what you are going to do,” confessed Arnott. “I knew Boucher was going down a little bit early, and I wanted to go (top) shelf; I wanted to make sure I got it off quick and hard…and it went in.”

Flyers’ captain Mike Richards rang a wrist shot off the post in round 4 before Zajac clinched the win with his sharp wrist shot that went by Boucher so fast it hit the back of the twine and popped right back out past the Flyers netminder. “I said to myself if I got a chance I would just fake a shot, and then try to go upstairs,” said Zajac. “To be able to come back today (after Friday’s loss) and get the two points against a very good hockey team, that was important for us.”

Game Notes: Devils winger Patrik Elias missed the game because his wife Petra was giving birth to their first child, Sophia Gabriella. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 26:31, while Matt Carle led Philadelphia with 25:40. Jeff Carter, who assisted on Briere’s goal, led all players with nine shots on goal; Kovalchuk led New Jersey with eight. Flyers d-man Kimmo Timonen led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (8-14-2) is off until Thursday when they host Montreal (15-8-1) and Philadelphia (15-6-4) is back in action on Wednesday when they host Boston (12-7-2).

 

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 40 saves, win (4)

#2 – Travis Zajac (NJ) – g/w shootout goal

#3 – Daniel Briere (Phil) – pp goal (12)

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

Chicago vs. Philadelphia for the 2010 Stanley Cup

Here is the schedule for the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers, beginning with Game 1 in Chicago on Saturday night:

Game 1 Saturday, May 29 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC

Game 2 Monday, May 31 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC

Game 3 Wednesday, June 2 at Philadelphia 8 p.m. ET VERSUS, CBC, RDS

Game 4 Friday, June 4 at Philadelphia 8 p.m. ET VERSUS, CBC, RDS

*Game 5 Sunday, June 6 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS

*Game 6 Wednesday, June 9 at Philadelphia 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS

*Game 7 Friday, June 11 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS

*if necessary

Just think, there was a very realistic possibility that Philly wasn’t even going to qualify for the playoffs.
All the NY Rangers had to do was win the last regular season game at Wachovia Center.
Then again all Martin Brodeur and the Devils had to do was not fall flat on their faces in the opening round;
and all Boston had to do was not choke away a 3 games to none lead in round two;
and all Montreal had to do was not get shutout by a journeyman, neophyte  goalie in the Conference Finals.

One might think the Flyers are a team of destiny, but even with all of that I still think that Chicago will win the Cup in six games and end the NHL’s longest current championship drought. The ‘Hawks last won the Stanley Cup in 1961; Philly’s last championship was 1975.
Marian Hossa and Dustin Byfuglien will be the keys for the ‘Hawks in the series; sure Chris Pronger has looked dominating during their run through the East, but now he will have to pick on someone his own size in Byfuglien — so we’ll see what transpires. Hossa makes it back to the Finals for the 3rd year in a row — with his 3rd different team — and this time he will leave a winner, in fact, I predict he will net the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 at Philadelphia.

Chicago enters the Finals having won its last seven  games on the road during this postseason, but they haven’t won a game in Philadelphia in their last eight trips; November 9, 1996 was the last Blackhawk victory.

This season in the only matchup between the Flyers and Blackhawks, Philadelphia won 3-2 on March 13 at Wachovia Center.

Both captains lead their teams in points scored during the playoffs and they rank 1 & 2 in the NHL postseason points race: Chicago’s Jonathan Toews has 26 points: 7g-19a (currently on a 13-game point streak) and Philadelphia’s Mike Richards has 21 points: 6g-15a.

Philadelphia (7-1) is the best home team in the playoffs; the ‘Hawks (7-1) are the best road team.

So yeah there’s no way I’m rooting for the Flyers, Go Blackhawks!

IRON MEN

In honor of the kick-ass IronMan 2 movie, here are the 88 NHL players that played in all 82 of their teams games this past season.
Quick Hits: Calgary had 7 players appear in every game, including defenseman Ian White (traded midseason from Toronto) who played in a league-high 83 games. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin led all Iron Men in points with 112 and Toronto’s Colton Orr had the fewest points (six) among those who played in every game. Colorado was the only team that didn’t have at least one player suit up for all 82 games. Only three rookies survived to play in every game — NY Isles’ center John Tavares, Dallas winger Jamie Benn and Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers.

Anaheim: Jason Blake, Corey Perry
Atlanta: Maxim Afinogenov, Tobias Enstrom, Rich Peverley
Boston: Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler
Buffalo: Tyler Myers, Jason Pominville, Henrik Tallinder
Calgary: Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Niklas Hagman, Jarome Iginla, Eric Nystrom, Matt Stajan, Ian White
Carolina: Tom Kostopoulos
Chicago: Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Andrew Ladd, Patrick Sharp
Colorado: none
Columbus: RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette
Dallas: Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Stephane Robidas
Detroit: Todd Bertuzzi, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart
Edmonton: Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Dustin Penner
Florida: Keith Ballard, Michael Frolik, Bryan McCabe, Steven Reinprecht
Los Angeles: Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar
Minnesota: Kyle Brodziak, Andrew Brunette
Montreal: Josh Gorges, Tomas Plekanec
Nashville: David Legwand, Steve Sullivan, Ryan Suter
New Jersey: Travis Zajac
NY Islanders: Matt Moulson, Mark Streit, John Tavares
NY Rangers: Artem Anisimov, Dan Girardi, Olli Jokinen, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal
Ottawa: Chris Phillips, Jarko Ruutu
Philadelphia: Claude Giroux, Ian Laperierre, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Kimmo Timonen
Phoenix: Adrian Aucoin, Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Keith Yandle
Pittsburgh: Craig Adams, Jordan Staal
San Jose: Ryane Clowe, Dany Heatley, Kent Huskins, Patrick Marleau
St. Louis: Brad Boyes, Jay McClement, David Perron
Tampa: Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Toronto: Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle, Colton Orr
Vancouver: Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Henrik Sedin
Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

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-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.”