Brodeur Bests Giguere & Avs 1-0 in a Shootout

DEVILS 1                    COLORADO 0

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was named the game’s first star in his squad’s 1-0 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at the Prudential Center. The losing goalie, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, was named second star — a reversal of what occurred when the two netminders squared off in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals when Brodeur had three shutouts in his four wins in the series and Giguere walked away with the MVP (Conn Smythe Trophy).

Brodeur confirmed, when asked, that he thought about his match-up with Giguere in the Finals during the match tonight. “Yeah, it went through my mind a little bit. We had some good battles in that series, there’s no doubt about that; it’s definitely different circumstances now though. It was a fun game, I’m sure he felt it too. It was a good goaltending battle.”

Both goalies were as sharp as a skate blade in this game — Brodeur finished with 28 saves over the 65 minutes of hockey and Giguere had 33. They also played a close, yet disciplined game as there were only two penalties (both hooking) and each team went 0-for-1 on the power play. “Both goaltender’s were great tonight,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. “That was a playoff-type game; stay out of the box, stick with it, don’t make a mistake. It’s great preparation for playoff hockey.”

One of the highlights of regulation was when Brodeur denied Milan Hejduk’s in-close rebound attempt with his toe, forcing the puck to stray away from the net. “I didn’t expect the guy to shoot, I think it was a 3-on-1 or something,” said Brodeur, recalling the save. “The guy took a shot for a rebound, and that’s what I did (laughs) I gave up a rebound. My balance was good, I was able to stay on my knee and keep my skate there to block the puck. After that he kind of lost it and it hit the side of the net. That was a good one there.”

Ilya Kovalchuk went first again in the shootout as he had eleven previous times and he netted his tenth goal in the tiebreaker after waiting out Giguere before beating him with a wrist shot. Brodeur denied Hejduk’s wrist shot, getting a piece of the Colorado captain’s shot before it rang off the post and caromed away.

Zach Parise also scored on his attempt after faking out the Avs goalie with two moves and then scoring on the third. Peter Mueller needed to score for Colorado to keep the game alive, but his soft wrist shot was gobbled up by Brodeur’s glove, sealing his team’s fifth win over their last six games.

Kovalchuk now has seven game-deciding shootout goals, setting a new NHL record, breaking a tie with Adrian Aucoin (2009-10); he has eleven career shootout winners, two shy of the NHL record of 13 held by Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Toronto’s Phil Kessel.

Game Notes: Both goalies get credited for a shutout, Brodeur’s NHL record is extended to 118; Giguere recorded blanking number 36 of his career. Brodeur now has 651 career wins, 100 more than Patrick Roy’s previous record, which he equaled three years and one day ago. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 25:22, while defenseman Jan Hejda led Colorado with 24:28. Kovalchuk and David Jones of the Avalanche led all players with six shots on goal each. New Jersey (87 points, 6th in East) is back on the ice Saturday afternoon in their retro jerseys when they host Pittsburgh (91 points, 4th in East) and Colorado (81 points, 7th in West) will play at MSG against the NY Rangers (95 points, 1st in East) on Saturday night.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ): 28 saves, win (26), shutout (2)
#2 — J.S. Giguere (Col): 33 saves, ot loss (3), shutout (2)
#3 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): shootout winning goal (7)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Devils Ride Their A-Train Past Flyers

New Jersey Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov is a very likeable guy, he’s got kind of a goofy, yet genuine smile and always puts the team first in sacrificing his body to block shots or using his body in violent collisions against the opposition, so when he contributes offensively everyone smiles a little more after a win. It took the A-Train almost a season and a half (102 games) to register his first goal as a Devil, and his second goal (sixteen games later) was the tie-breaking/game-winning goal in Sunday night’s 4-1 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.

“He saw a spot there, and I was yelling at Kovy (Ilya Kovalchuk) from the bench to shoot it when I realized who was with him,” said coach Pete DeBoer while smiling broadly and laughing. The coach chuckled again and added, “It goes to show you that Kovy is smarter than I am.”

The game was even throughout the first period until the Flyers took a penalty in the dying minutes, setting the stage for New Jersey to grab the lead. David Clarkson and Patrik Elias worked a brilliant give-and-go play (both on their backhands) as they crossed the blue line that resulted in Elias backhanding his 24th goal of the season past Sergei Bobrovsky with 25 seconds left in the period. “Patty made a great play getting me the puck and I just gave it back to him,” said Clarkson describing the scoring play. “He just flipped it upstairs on the goalie; a great play by him and it got us going early.”

A scoreless second period ensued as both teams squandered two power plays apiece over the twenty minutes, setting up an interesting final period between two evenly matched teams. It took all of sixteen seconds for Philadelphia to even the score as Claude Giroux converted Jaromir Jagr’s nifty pass from behind the net over Martin Brodeur’s right shoulder.

Jut over two minutes later the Devils retook a one-goal lead when Volchenkov and Kovalchuk completed a two-on-one that saw the 398 career goal scorer pass to the 18-goal scorer. “I did the same thing as the first time,” said a grinning Volchenkov. “He made a great pass to me. I play a lot of defense, and PK, but when there’s a chance to help offense, I try.” Kovalchuk held onto the puck as long as he could, drawing the defender’s attention towards him and then threaded a perfect pass that his fellow countryman buried into the Flyers net.

“That was a big goal by Volchie,” said a smiling Kovalchuk. “he was looking like a forward there. He never gave up, he moved up on the play and he scored a big goal.” When I asked if he knew it was Volchenkov with him on the rush he responded, “Yeah definitely. He’s one of a kind; you’re never gonna mistake him for someone else, you know?”

Kovalchuk netted his 399th career goal, and 30th of the season at 8:08, wiring a redirection pass from Marek Zidlicky past a helpless Bobrovsky, giving New Jersey a two-goal lead against their suddenly-struggling to score division rivals. “That’s my job to go and make plays for my teammates,” said Kovalchuk, “and score goals if I can”

Captain Zach Parise salted the game away when he tallied a power play goal at 14:19, leaving the only drama remaining whether or not the Devils would surrender more than one goal for the first time since March 1 in Boston (six games). Brodeur stood his ground and gave the Flyers nothing, sending his squad into Philadelphia on Tuesday riding a four-game winning streak.

“It’s a big win,” said Brodeur afterwards. “If we want to do well in the playoffs we are going to have to face different types of teams, and the Flyers are one of them. We’re starting to play a little better on home ice and that’s a good thing; we played three solid games in a row (at home) against big rivals. Guys are playing well and we aren’t getting into (as many) shootouts as we were earlier.”

Game Notes: The win for Brodeur was career win number 650; not counting the 99 playoff victories he has. Kovalchuk now has 43 points in 44 career games against the Flyers; Elias has 75 points in 75 games vs Philly. Clarkson, Parise and Kovalchuk all extended their point-streaks to four games. Flyers forward Daniel Briere is without a goal since January 7 — 23 games. Zidlicky led all skaters in ice-time with 24:05; Braydon Coburn led Philadelphia with 22:36. Elias, Clarkson and Coburn led all players with four shots on goal apiece. New Jersey (85 points, 5th in East) plays at Philadelphia (85 points, 6th in East) on Tuesday night in the final game of the season series.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): goal (30), 2 assists (41)
#2 — Patrik Elias (NJ): pp goal (24), assist (43)
#3 — Anton Volchenkov (NJ): gw goal (2), 2 hits (151)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Brodeur Turns Back the Clock as Devils Nip Ducks

Devils — 3                Anaheim — 2

The Anaheim Ducks that invaded the Prudential Center on Friday night were no longer mighty as they were in 2003, and New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is now 39, not 30, but he was the best player on the ice (36 saves) in his team’s 3-2 shootout win, just as he was in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. “He was great, he was our best player,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer after his team’s second win in a row. “They are a difficult team to play against right now and he was our best player tonight and that’s why we won.”

New Jersey squandered a 2-0 lead on the resilient Californians, who have been burning up the NHL lately after a shaky start that cost their coach his job, culminating with ex-Devil Sheldon Brookbank scoring the game-tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation.

After a scoreless opening period, rookie Adam Henrique gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 85 seconds into the second period when he collected a rebound off of Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller’s pad and slid the puck past his outstretched toe for his 15th goal of the season. Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a lot of energy during the match, fired the initial shot after some strong forechecking by Henrique and Zach Parise. “Zach took the puck away from the guy and found me in the middle of the slot,” said Kovalchuk, “I shot it and it went right to Henny; he has great hands and he put it in.”

Alexei Ponikarovsky made it 2-0 for New Jersey at 10:56 after shoveling a nifty pass from Dainius Zubrus past Hiller for his 3rd goal in 11 games since being acquired from Carolina. “Zubie is a pretty skilled guy,” said Ponikarovsky, “a guy of his caliber compliments my game well, and that’s why we scored.” Just over five minutes later Corey Perry got the Ducks on the board with his 29th, a backhanded rebound shot of Ryan Getzlaf’s one-timer echoing blast off of Brodeur’s leg pad.

Perry nearly netted his second of the game on a shorthanded breakaway with 6:30 left in the third period, but Brodeur denied him with a sprawling save to momentarily preserve his squad’s one-goal lead. That was a key save when Brookbank scored only his second career goal (ending a 166 games goalless drought) four minutes later to send the game into sudden-death overtime.

Getzlaf appeared to end the game 1:10 into the tiebreaker when the puck went off his skate and past Brodeur’s goal line, setting off a celebration with all of his teammates mobbing him in the corner. But the Devils requested and got the play reviewed, and eventually reversed as the league ruled that the Anaheim captain directed the puck into the net intentionally with his skate.

Still undecided after five minutes of overtime, the shootout began with Kovalchuk racing in and beating Hiller with a quick wrist shot through the five-hole; Teemu Selanne responded for the Ducks as he deked and flipped a shot past a sliding Brodeur to even the score. “Selanne,” admitted Brodeur, “after six hundred and something goals I should know his moves, I guess I didn’t do my homework on him.”

Parise’s wrist shot was denied by Hiller in round two, and Perry’s shot rang off the post and sailed wide, sending the teams still tied into round three. Patrik Elias snapped a shot through Hiller for New Jersey and Getzlaf was denied on his attempt by Brodeur’s leg pad, clinching the victory for the Devils. “I don’t see these guys (Perry and Getzlaf) too often, but I played with them in the Olympics,” said Brodeur. “I have a little bit of a book on them, I know they like to get close to you and shoot it, they are so skilled and so quick; I just tried to time myself with them on those.”

Game Notes: Perry, last year’s Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals) winner, now has goals/points in each of his last four games. Every player on Anaheim had at least one shot on goal, led by Perry’s five; Kovalchuk led all players with six shots on goal and only three players on New Jersey failed to record a shot (Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov). Salvador led all skaters in ice-time with 26:28 and Ducks d-man Francois Beauchemin led his team with 25:42. Devils winger David Clarkson led all players with five hits and Volchenkov led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (33-20-4) is off until Sunday when they play in Montreal (24-25-10) and Anaheim (24-24-10) will also be in action that day in Florida (27-19-11).

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ) — 36 saves, win (20-13-2)
#2 — Jonas Hiller (Ana) — 25 saves, ot loss (21-19-10)
#3 — Corey Perry (Ana) — goal (29)

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

Devils End 2011 with Win Over Pittsburgh

Devils 3            Pittsburgh 1

The New Jersey Devils closed out another successful month and ended 2011 with a bang, topping the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday afternoon at Prudential Center. The win ensured that New Jersey would begin 2012 in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a big change after starting 2011 near the bottom of the standings and it also pulled them three points behind the Penguins.

Martin Brodeur brought his ‘A’ game and stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, while Ilya Kovalchuk led the Devils offense with a penalty shot goal and two assists. The loss for Pittsburgh was their second in a row and the game was their tenth in a row without the concussed-again Sidney Crosby. But the Pens did have Evgeni Malkin, who entered the game on a nine-game point streak and was named the number one star of the NHL for the month of December.

“As a unit, we look like we feel a lot more comfortable with each other in knowing what to expect,” said Brodeur afterwards. “A big change, I think we cut our losses defensively if it’s going a little chaotic in our zone — we aren’t afraid to take an icing or just throw the puck off the glass and out of the zone. Early on we were always trying to make plays and plays and plays; sometimes that last play ends up in the back of our net. Lately we’ve been just a little more careful about these things, and I think it shows in the result of the way we’ve played lately.”

The game was 0-0 until 5:17 remained in the opening period when Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was penalized for covering the puck in the crease with his hand, awarding the Devils with a penalty shot. Kovalchuk was chosen to shoot by New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer; he skated in towards Marc-Andre Fleury, made a few fakes and then fired a shot into the back of the net through teh goalie’s legs for his 12th goal of the season. “You get to shoot from an angle where you can do some (different) things,” said Kovalchuk who has now scored on two of his three career penalty shot attempts. “You can shoot top left, you can go five-hole, or you can shoot from your backhand; you have to make the goalie try to think about what you are going to do. ”

Just under five minutes later with two Penguins in the penalty box the Devils doubled their lead to 2-0 when David Clarkson pushed Patrik Elias’ wrist shot over the goal line behind Fleury at 19:36. On the play Kovalchuk’s original shot deflected to Elias who fired a strong shot that his the goal post, then Fleury’s butt and then Clarkson found the disc along the goal line for his 13th goal of the season.

One of the Penguins best chances to score came with just over eight minutes left to play in the second period when Brodeur robbed Tyler Kennedy with a sliding two-pad glove save.

Brodeur lost his bid for his first shutout of the season when Chris Kunitz collected a wide shot and stuffed it into the net with 10:35 left in regulation. He was able to keep the score 2-1 though when he denied Matt Cooke’s point-blank one-timer from the slot with 4:30 left to play in the game. “I had a really good angle on Kennedy’s shot, but Cooke made a really good play when he shoveled the puck right towards me and I was able to get my glove up.”

New Jersey captain Zach Parise netted his 13th goal of the season into an empty net with 49.5 seconds left to secure the year-ending win for the Devils, who improved to 21-15-1 — a huge turnaround from where they were one calendar year ago. “I love those empty-netters,” said Kovalchuk with a smile. “When you score them, that means you win the game.”

“Marty made some huge saves tonight,” said Parise afterwards, “more importantly, he made them at some pretty critical times of the game; breakaways, two-on-ones, big saves late in the game. He was outstanding today.”

Game Notes: Kovalchuk now has 41 points in 38 career games against Pittsburgh; Elias had two assists and leads the with 21 assists and 34 points. Devils defenseman Mark Fayne led all skaters in ice-time with 24:23 while Malkin led Pittsburgh with 23:59. Malkin led all players with six shots on goal, Kovalchuk led New Jersey with five; rookie Adam Larsson led all players with three hits and two blocked shots.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:

#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ) — 29 saves, win (11-9-0)
#2 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) — goal (12), 2 assists (18)
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ) — 2 assists (21)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Off the Ice with Bryce Salvador

The New Jersey Devils have always been built around defense and goaltending, and after the departures of defensemen Scott Stevens (retirement), Ken Daneyko (retirement), Scott Niedermayer (free agency) and Brian Rafalski (free agency) many wondered how the team could lose so many linchpins and still stay competitive. GM Lou Lamoriello has tried to rebuild the defense and drafted a key piece in Adam Larsson at this past June’s NHL Entry Draft, but one player who could anchor the new-age Devils defense is Bryce Salvador who was acquired from St. Louis on February 26, 2008.

Salvador, a ten-year NHL veteran, missed all of last season with post-concussion syndrome but has returned in 2011-12 to solidify New Jersey’s defense corps (along with oft-injured Anton Volchenkov). The 35-year-old has played in 645 games over his career, compiling 97 points (23g-74a) and now in his fourth season with the Devils, he seems to have found a niche under new coach Pete DeBoer as he is routinely among the ice-time leaders for the team.

Recently I sat down with Salvador to talk about his career, his interests away from the game and some of his memories:

Dan Rice: I’m assuming that you have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season after what you went through last season?

Bryce Salvador: Definitely, it’s a great feeling to be back after missing the whole season, I feel fortunate to be back and playing in the NHL.

DR: Does a year off from hockey extend your playing career another year?

BS: Hopefully a few more years (smiles). My body is definitely rested after a whole year of no hockey games.

DR: What do you remember about your draft day?

BS: That I was the first guy not to be there (laughs)! It was pretty exciting just to be drafted, getting that call from Tampa Bay; it was a great feeling.

DR: What do you remember about your first goal?

BS: It was one of those plays where the puck came to me at the blueline, I believe it was against Chicago; Pierre Turgeon passed it back to me, I walked in and fired a shot that went in top shelf.

DR: Do you still have that puck?

BS: Yup. I have it at home, framed and everything.

DR: Who is your best friend in the NHL?

BS: There’s a lot of guys over the years that I’ve made pretty good acquaintances with, right now David Clarkson and I are pretty close, but I wouldn’t say one player more than another.

DR: Who is the funniest guy on the Devils?

BS: For the most part the guys are pretty quiet; (big smile) Dainius Zubrus is just funny…funny-looking maybe. He’s a pretty lively guy in our room.

DR: Is there any player in the league that you don’t look forward to playing against?

BS: Oh geez, the other teams all usually have two solid lines. But obviously guys like (Alex) Ovechkin, (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Martin) St. Louis, (Steven) Stamkos and (Rick) Nash — just to name a few. There are a lot of great players and each one poses a unique threat in their own way.

DR: What was it like playing in St. Louis?

BS: It was a great time; that organization took a chance on me, signing me as an unrestricted free agent out of juniors and gave me an opportunity. I was pretty fortunate to play the beginning of my career with Hall-of-Famer Al MacInnis for a couple of years; it was a pretty nice start to my career.

DR: Do you have a favorite TV show?

BS: Modern Family.

DR: Favorite movie?

BS: Memento.

DR: What’s on your iPod these days?

BS: Whatever my wife puts on it (laughs)!
Thanks for reading, if there is a player you would like read an interview with submit your suggestions and also questions:

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