Merry X-Mas Devils Fans

The hockey world was stunned last night when the Atlanta Thrashers traded superstar sniper Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils for rookie Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier & NJ’s first round pick in the 2010 NHL draft.

The deal immediately reminded me of one that GM Lou Lamoriello pulled off almost ten years to the day when he swapped Denis Pederson & a young Brendan Morrison to Vancouver for another Russian sniper — Alexander Mogilny — on March 14, 2000.

The Mogilny deal was very successful as the Devils made two consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, beating Dallas in 2000 and losing to Colorado in 2001. Can this deal work the same magic? Given the fact that the Lamoriello didn’t have to gut the team to acquire Kovalchuk and the fact that he can still make another move or two before the trading deadline, I would say this puts New Jersey as strong contender to represent the East in the Finals (along with Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Washington).

Besides the question of is Lamoriello done dealing, another big question will be is Kovalchuk a rental? The 26-year-old turned down an offer of over $100 million over 10 years  from Atlanta, but would he take less to stay with an established Cup-contending team? Time will tell, but I’m glad that Kovalchuk is on our side now.

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Trade Talk [02.03.10]

There’s one month ’til the NHL’s trading deadline and the action should be heating up as we inch closer to the league-wide roster freeze for the Winter Olympics. Already Toronto made separate deals with Anaheim & Calgary, and the Flames completed a four-player deal with the NY Rangers. Not that anyone is keeping score, but — I called Jean-Sebastien Giguere going from the Ducks to the Maple Leafs over the summer; anyways here is a few things that I think we could see transpire between today and March 3:

Last week Atlanta GM Don Waddell took in the Kings-Devils game in New Jersey and was spotted conversing with LA’s GM Dean Lombardi; would a package of Alexander Frolov, Jack Johnson & and a no. 1 pick be enough to lure All-Star sniper Ilya Kovalchuk away from Waddell’s Thrashers?

The NY Islanders placed Brendan Witt on waivers and sent Martin Biron down to the AHL for some conditioning; we could see Witt resurface with one of his old squads — the Washington Capitals — if the Isles try to bring him back through re-entry waivers. As for Biron, none of the teams in serious contention for a playoff berth is in desperate need of net help (at the moment), so i believe GM Garth Snow will wait until the deadline to see what type of value the hard-luck goaltender could bring back.

Rumors have suggested the NJ Devils are looking to add a center and/or defenseman before the deadline, with Anaheim’s Saku Koivu and Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle as possible targets. Perhaps a deal for Koivu would include a package of Jay Pandolfo & Niclas Bergfors or Bergfors and defenseman Mike Mottau. I thought Matt Stajan could have been the center that GM Lou Lamoriello was looking at, but that ended when the Leafs traded him to the Flames in a massive seven-player trade. With Kaberle, I don’t see a deal on the horizon, mainly because he has a no-trade clause in his contract and I can’t see him waiving it to come to New Jersey.

In Boston, enigmatic winger Michael Ryder is supposedly on the trading block and I think Long Island would be a perfect destination — the Isles need another goal-scoring winger and maybe they can acquire him for a minor leaguer or two.

Devils-Penguins Postgame Quotes [12.30.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 2-0  win by the Devils over the Penguins:

Jay Pandolfo:

Was this game played a lot tighter than the previous three matchups?

“It was a big win; I thought we played pretty well as a team. A couple of times they had some pretty good pressure, but they have some pretty good skill over there. Marty played great, again, I thought their goalie played well too. It was a good game, it could’ve went either way, but we found a way to come out on top.”

Did it feel like a playoff game at all?

“A little early for that, but it felt a tight game for sure; playoff game is a stretch.”

They didn’t get any power plays until there was 1:26 left, was that a big key?

“Yeah, that was good; we kept our feet moving and didn’t get in trouble. It was a tough call at the end, to give only one power play to that team is a pretty good (job).”

Martin Brodeur:
Can you tell when you get inside someone’s head, like shutting out Pittsburgh in back-to-back games?

“It’s a fine line; you could be there and one bounce in a game could flip-flop the confidence that they have. I think we respect them, so that’s the reason why we’ve been successful; I think we don’t take anything for granted. We know that if we put our guard down against these guys they’ll take care of us. So we are intense for the full 60 minutes, it was a good game tonight.”

Can you talk about the save on Sidney Crosby’s backhand shot while he was shorthanded?

“He came in and he got pretty good wood on it, I kind of, with the way he was going he had to go towards my glove, so I read it pretty good. After that I was able to bat it out (of the zone) to try and get a break(away) there, and we got a 5-on-3 out of it; but it didn’t pay off.”

Is it mentally draining to play all of these top teams (Pittsburgh, Washington, Pittsburgh and Chicago) in a row?

“It’s not, I think its fun. I think it’s a grind in between sometimes, that’s what is tougher mentally. When you do play top teams I think in your head it is easier to get ready for them, because every athlete, every player in here has a lot of pride; so when we do play against top teams, we want to show what we can do. Again, we have to get focused on playing like that against everybody, and so far this season we’ve been pretty good.”

Are you playing tomorrow?

“If they don’t tell me anything, that means I’m playing (laughs).”

Is 600 wins a possibility by the end of this season?

“Well, there are enough games left (chuckles), so we’ll see.”

Niclas Bergfors:

What did you see on that play that you scored the goal on?

“I don’t know. There was a lot of traffic in front of the net and I just tried to put it on net, to get a rebound.”

Brian Rolston:

Your thoughts on the game tonight?

“It was a good hockey game, a playoff-atmosphere, and our fans were great tonight; it was an exciting game to be in the building.”

It seemed a lot tighter than the previous three games against them…

“It was real tight and we did a great job at the end. They had their opportunities and we had our opportunities and we got that goal early — their goalie played well tonight too, but obviously Marty was the difference in the game tonight.”

Are you surprised anymore with anything Marty does?

“Not really; and you know what it’s almost taken for granted that he’s as good as he is, and as calm as he is in there.”

Will it be special for you going back to Minnesota on Saturday night?

“Yeah, it’s going to be fun. I really enjoyed my time there, it was fabulous. I have nothing bad to say about the organization and the fans were great to me. It’ll be fun to go back and play in that building; it’s always fun playing in there.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Best game of the season?

“I would say close to it. I think we skated well, were aggressive, good with the puck and great in our end. Even though we feel that they had around 11 (scoring) chances, but you know they will get some chances. It’s a good team; they have good shooters, good passers. We felt that we did a tremendous job against them.”

Was this Marty’s best game?

“Definitely; he was controlled, managed to see the shots. Sometimes you get people in front of you and some nights you don’t see them. Other nights you manage to see it and that’s what makes the difference between a great goalie and a good goalie.”

How is (David) Clarkson?

“We’ll get more information tomorrow.”

When you beat a team like Pittsburgh four times in a row, do you have a psychological advantage over them?

“I don’t think that way. I think when you look afterwards, maybe you could say that. I think our players knew they would come out and play a good game; I think it was their best game tonight — they played good, played hard. They could have gotten goals at anytime when they were in our end, the chances they had. Maybe because we feel good about our past outcomes with them, we played like we did. But you still have to work, and I thought our work ethic was more important than anything else.”

Will Clarkson or Bryce Salvador go to Chicago?

“We’ll know tomorrow; well tonight after this.”

What can you say about Bergfors?

“Bergy, well Bergy he’s the same kid playing hard and he’s doing good things with the puck; I think he’s getting better as a player. I think he’s more in control when he has the puck; I still want him to try and find Zach (Parise) or Travis (Zajac) at different times in the offensive zone so he can make that play, so they can get some scoring chances. But he’s learning and getting better — I’m pleased with his progress.”

How do you compare Parise with Crosby?

“Well two hard workers, two good players; myself, I find them very similar.”

Did you see Crosby whack him from behind?

“No, I didn’t see that. I heard it after the game. One of the comments in the coach’s room that they say he could’ve gotten a penalty for that because he whacked him with a two-hander. I didn’t see it.”

Your top four d-men played a lot tonight and the team as a whole only took one penalty, is this something your pleased with?

“This is a good question, I’m glad that you talked about our defenseman because the four guys they played a lot and they played great; very good. Not that (Mark) Fraser and (Matthew) Corrente didn’t play well, but they had less ice-time.”

What do you think about Chicago or is that too soon?

“I’m going to think about this just when I wake up.”

Are you the best team in the league?

“I think we’re among the good teams and there’s a lot of them; about 25 of them.”

Brodeur Blanks Penguins (Again) for Shutout No. 105

Here is the link to my recap of the Devils’ 2-0 win against the Penguins on Wednesday night:

Brodeur Blanks Penguins (Again) for Shutout no. 105

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Martin Brodeur (NJ) – 32 saves, win (25-9-1), shutout (4)

#2 – Brent Johnson (Pitt) – 32 saves, loss (4-3-0)

#3 – Niclas Bergfors (NJ) – gw goal (13)

line combos/d-pairings

New Jersey:
Parise-Zajac-Bergfors
Elias-Niedermayer-Rolston
Pandolfo-McAmmond-Langenbrunner
Zharkov-Pelley-Clarkson

Greene-Oduya
Mottau-White
Fraser-Corrente

Pittsburgh:
Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis
Fedotenko-Malkin-Guerin
Cooke-J.Staal-Kennedy
Talbot-Rupp-C.Adams

Orpik-Letang
Gonchar-Goligoski
Eaton-Skoula

Devils-Thrashers Postgame Quotes

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Monday’s 3-2  win by the Devils over the Thrashers:

Zach Parise:

Is it a weight off your shoulders (that you scored a goal tonight)?

“Yeah, it definitely feels good. It feels good that something finally went in, it’s definitely a good feeling.”

The goal that they gave credit to Colin White, did you touch it at all on the way in?

“I don’t know; we’ll have to watch it on video I guess.”

Can you talk about the first goal?

“It was a good play by Bergy to keep the puck in the zone there. He found me going in front of the net and I got a couple of whacks at it.”

Were you just waiting for David Clarkson to come back into the lineup to score a goal?

“(Smiling) Yeah that was the secret, that’s what I was waiting for.”

Were you surprised to see Niclas Bergfors get up from that hit before his assist?

“Yeah, you have to give him a lot of credit for making that play; I saw the video and he got hit pretty hard, but he got back up and made a good play. He was talking about it afterwards (on the bench) and he was a little shaken up after the hit.”

The lines were jumbled up after Andrew Peters was tossed in the opening two minutes; did that have any affect tonight?

“I guess we’re kind of used to it by now. I warmed up with Travis (Zajac) and Jamie (Langenbrunner) and then I started (the game) with Dean (McAmmond) and Patty, and then I didn’t see them the rest of the night, so (laughs). You have to make adjustments to how they’re playing and then when Petey got thrown out of the game, we had to mix and match all night.”

Martin Brodeur:

They’ve played you tough in three games this season…

“It’s just one shot that makes a difference; they have two good goalies over there that will make key saves at the right time. When they play us, I’ve seen some of the games they’ve played and it gets pretty wild sometimes, but today they looked pretty sound defensively. Their defenseman were carrying the puck and they made good plays; I thought we just stayed the course all game long.”

What happened to (Bryce) Salvador?

“I don’t know. I didn’t see, sorry I cant help you guys.”

What did you see on that first goal?

“Kovalchuk? It was a bomb. I went across and tried to get as big as I could because I know he was there; (the pass) got tipped and it threw me off a bit. My angle, because I knew exactly where he was, but when it got tipped he changed so I was a little too close to my post and he just hit it as hard as he could in the top of the net.”

The second goal went off of one of your players?

“Yeah it went off of both sticks (in the lane) and it kind of caught me a bit – the way it came up. It kind of handcuffed me (between my glove and my side), it threw me off a bit.”

How did you like the overall performance of the team coming off of a loss?

“A different opponent, playing at home; not as chaotic a day; I think we did what Jacques wanted us to do against that team. It was nice to see Clarkie back out there, getting into a fight, getting himself going. This is the way we have to bounce back after a bad game, with a win.”

After giving up four goals Saturday, how did you feel out there?

“Yeah I felt pretty good; I felt really good in Washington, it’s just that their firepower kind of overwhelmed us. I haven’t played really well against these guys this year in two games — one I got pulled, one I lost — so I just wanted to make sure I was good tonight.”

Patrik Elias:

Is it important for the team to get Zach out of his drought?

“Its good for him, he didn’t have any pressure from anybody because he was giving his best effort every night; it was just a matter of time (before he scored). I told him you only got halfway to what I had — a few years back, 18 games or something, so we kidded about that. He’s so good around the net, he gets himself opportunities, its going to go for him, sooner than later.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Thoughts on the win…what worked and why?

“I think it was a hard fought game, both teams played hard. There was a lot of hitting and not a lot of room to play. This is a team, the way they play with their wingers is tight; they play man-on-man. To get away from this you have to skate, you have to beat people. Otherwise there is always somebody on you if you are not skating.”

Parise came through…

“It’s been a couple of practices now that I feel he has been skating better; maybe his mind is more clear. To me, the biggest difference, Travis played really well, he helped him. On the second goal, Patrik made a great pass to him. Zach, he is always skating, but when he is open and waiting for the puck, somebody has to give it to him — tonight he had people give it to him.”

Was Clarkson too reckless?

“Well I think its only being a part of games and knowing your position in the defensive zone, knowing what to do. I don’t know if you saw the replay (of the first goal), he was wondering where he should go at that time before the goal. He was in front of the net, he didn’t know if he was going to stay down low or go back to his position. When you don’t play for a while, this is what’s going to happen to you. Besides that I thought he was skating fine and on the PP he was good, he missed one chance.”

What can you tell us about Salvador?

“Sal, nothing. He left the game and we won’t know more until later.”

How worried were you when Ilya Kovalchuk had the puck late in the game?

“When he shoots, everybody worries.”

Are you upset with Andrew Peters?

“I don’t want to think about this; I have other stuff on my mind.”

Did his loss screw up your game plan, as far as how you wanted to roll your lines?

“Well we end up playing three lines there in the third period, for sure. I don’t know how it would have turned out had he stayed in the game, but anyway, it’s done.”

Parise Scores Twice as Devils Top Thrashers

Here is the link to my recap of the Devils’ 3-2 win against the Thrashers on Monday night:

Parise Scores Twice as Devils Top Thrashers

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Zach Parise (NJ) – 2 goals, gw (17)

#2 – Niclas Bergfors (NJ) – 2 assists (13)

#3 – Marty Reasoner (Atl) – goal (4), assist (10)

Line combos/d-pairings

New Jersey:
Parise-Zajac-Bergfors
Elias-McAmmond-Rolston
Pandolfo-Niedermayer-Langenbrunner
Peters-Pelley-Clarkson

Greene-Salvador
Oduya-White
Mottau-Fraser

Atlanta:
Kovalchuk-Antropov-Afinogenov
E.Kane-White-Armstrong
Kozlov-Peverley-Little
Boulton-Reasoner-Thorburn

Bogosian-Hainsey
Kubina-Enstrom
Schubert-Valabik

Devils-Flyers Postgame Quotes [12.12.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Saturday’s 4-1  win by the Devils over the Flyers:

Martin Brodeur:

What was the best thing about tonight’s win?

“I think how we started the game, we took advantage of some penalties they took and got two goals on the power play early on. We really dictated the game. I thought we played a fast game, high-tempo; we didn’t have any offisides, not many icings and there was a lot of momentum to the game. Everybody who touched the ice was on a lot, all four lines participated in the game. It’s one of the good wins we’ve had this year.”

A milestone for Elias, you’ve seen a lot of Patrik; what is it that makes him tick?

“Well he’s a good player, skilled. It’s all about skill with him, his work habits is coming now. The injuries are kind of getting away from him, I think it’s tough to play through so many injuries he’s had the last few years. But he’s a skill player, he’s a big-time player for us for through the years and hopefully it continues.”

You made a lot of big-time saves tonight, how about your game?

“I felt good, I was right on it. It was a slow start, I didn’t get many shots in the first period; but I got real busy in the second there. I made the saves I needed to make, and the plays I needed to make; the pokecheck I made on Carter doesn’t count as a save, but it made a difference and kept the game at 3-1. We were able to score another one after.”

How surprised are you where the team is?

“Well you know what, you could be a little bit surprised but I think when you go through the games that we’ve been playing, I think it’s just normal. Guys are doing well and paying attention to details, feeling good about themselves; and we’re well-coached. I think when we slack in certain areas it’s pinpointed to us all the time and guys want to learn; and want to be as good as we can.”

You saw a lot of Jeff Carter shorthanded tonight; talk a little about that…

“He’s a skill player, he’s a big dude — he can skate and has a big shot. I was ready for him, especially in the first period; he came in and let it go — blocker save the second time. I respect him so much, that’s probably why I went really far on him and I was able to keep my ground and pokecheck him when he ran out of room there. He’s a player, even (Mike) Richards too, they’re dangerous even when they’re killing penalties.”

Vladimir Zharkov:

What did you like about the game tonight?

“The game was good, the first period was very nice; it was good to be up 3-0. We tried to play the second period like it was 0-0; we just go, go, go.”

You had a nice assist on the third goal where you muscled (Arron) Asham off the puck along the boards, can you talk about it?

“Yeah, I wait (to score my own); I’m happy for Patrik. I wait, wait, wait; maybe next game I’ll get a goal. With my line-partners Brian (Rolston) and Patrik, they tell me relax Zharky, it’s no problem; it’s only your first year in NHL.”


Zach Parise:

You had some words there with Chris Pronger in the third…

“Yeah” (smiles)

Were you wishing each other a Merry Christmas?

“Yeah, something like that.”

How much did the early goal help the team tonight?

“It was good for us to get that early lead, it’s always better to play with the lead. We were pretty solid in all areas tonight.”

How close do you think Patrik is to being 100%?

“I think he’s been 100% for a while now; he’s been playing well for us. I think he’s healthy and fine.”

Niclas Bergfors:

You scored two goals, were you thinking about getting a third?

“I just tried to play a strong game after that, and then you never know. It’s like when you start the game, you’re not thinking about that.”

Talk about the first goal, where you went through almost every Flyer on the ice…

“Well I came with good speed on the PP; they kind of backed up pretty far. I thought I saw some space and tried to get through there; I made a try and it worked out.”

Is it nice to beat these guys after two losses to them earlier in the season?

“Absolutely, they’re in our division so I think we play them six times. So you have to beat them and I think we really showed that we wanted it more tonight.”

Patrik Elias:

Does 300 goals mean a lot to you?

“Yeah, it’s a nice little mark, a nice achievement. To do it all with one organization, it’s even more special.”

Are you disappointed it didn’t happen when Marty got his 104th shutout?

“Somebody said that to me actually at home, asking if I was waiting for Marty to get that shutout and share another night with him.”

Can you talk about the play that Zharkov made on your first goal?

“It was just a great play by Zharky there — not to give up on that one. He’s playing great, he’s playing really good hockey, he’s battling; and that was exactly a perfect example. He never gives up on a play, wins the battle and just keeps his head up all the time, sees the guys open. It was a nice little pass there and a quick shot (by me).”

You had a couple of chances in the third period where you could’ve shot and passed (instead), why?

“I don’t know maybe once or twice there I tried to pass back to Rollie at the end, and he tried to look for me again. It’s all right, if it (a hat trick) happens, it happens, but you don’t want to force that.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Was there a key to the win?

“I think we were ready for the game, our first period was probably the best, by far; I mean puck control, power play, everything worked good, we were skating well. Overall, every player played well.”

How much better is Bergfors than his first month?

“I would say the last month he’s been, you know, about the same — playing well; I’m just hoping to even get more so he can go on with the top players and play as well as the top players. But it might take a little more time, he’s got the tools to do it, he’s got the talent, he’s good with the puck.”

Milestone goal for Elias, what makes him tick?

“I think he started the game pretty much the same way and now as soon as he got the goal you could see he was more excited and he was going harder; and he got another one. It could be a good sign for us, because we need him.”

Was it important to bounce back tonight after last night’s loss?

“Yeah, I knew the players would play hard, as good as they can play. But I was still afraid of the game, because I have a lot of respect for the Flyers.”

How disappointed do you get when Marty gives up a goal that maybe he should have had?

“Well when you’re leading by a few, it’s not that bad. It’s when the game is tied and then your goaltender gives a bad goal, then you say ‘we don’t need this.’”

Is there somebody we should be talking about tonight besides the goal scorers?

Rob Niedermayer.”

Why?

“He was good. He was skating well; he played against Richards, which he’s not an easy player to play against. He played the power play, and did well there. He got no points or goals, but it’s just what he’s doing — very solid in our end. He played well tonight.”

Your team is 7-0 in the second game of back-to-backs, any explanation for that?

“I didn’t know that. But you know what maybe it’s the days off that we give in between and on the second game we’re better than the first. I would have to look how many times we gave them a day off before that first game. And then you get to the second game, you always play better. We played good last night, but we played better tonight. We were better with the puck.”