Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Eastern Conference predictions

Round 1:

(1) Washington over (8) NY Rangers

(7) Buffalo over (2) Philadelphia

(3) Boston over (6) Montreal

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Tampa Bay

Round 2:

(1) Washington over (7) Buffalo

(3) Boston over (4) Pittsburgh

Round 3:

(3) Boston over (1) Washington

Washington (1)      vs.    NY Rangers (8)

Last Cup Win: Washington (never), NY Rangers (1994)

Why the Capitals will win: They aren’t intimidated by the Rangers or their goaltender whom has been known to get in some of his opponents’ heads (see: New Jersey Devils). Washington is also one of the deepest teams in the league and they will wear their undermanned first round opponent down.

Why the Rangers will win: They spanked Washington twice this season (6-0, 7-0) and when they are on their game, the Blueshirts have all of the necessary components to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league; solid goaltending, timely scoring and team defense will lead New York to the upset win over the Caps.

Washington’s most important player: Tempted to say Alex Ovechkin, but it’s Mike Green; if he is healthy and has fresh legs he could bury the Rangers (a team that has taken a penalty or two) with his power play prowess.

New York’s most important player: The soul of the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist, if he falters, they are cooked. He’s only won two playoff series in his career, but his league-leading 11 shutouts this season tell you that he is capable of shutting down any team in the NHL.

Washington’s biggest question mark: It has to be the goaltending, despite the fact that they won the East with three goaltenders — two of them rookies. Michal Neuvirth will get the nod to begin the series, and that’s probably the right call. He won back-to-back Calder Cups for the Hershey Bears and was victorious in 27 of his 48 starts with the Caps this season.

New York’s biggest question mark: Which version of Marian Gaborik will show up in this series? Will it be the same Gaborik that had only 48 points (22 goals) in 62 games this season or will he become the two-time 40-goal scorer that the Rangers are paying for?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Washington (Jason Arnott, Mike Knuble), New York (Chris Drury, Ruslan Fedotenko)

PREDICTION: CAPITALS IN 6 — Gaborik and Lundqvist will show up and the Rangers will put up a fight, but Ovechkin will eliminate them with a hat trick in Game 6.

Philadelphia (2)     vs. Buffalo (7)

Last Cup Win: Philadelphia (1975), Buffalo (never)

Why the Flyers will win: Since the start of last season’s playoffs Philadelphia has probably been the best team in the NHL. With the talent on this roster they should walk all over the Sabres, but only if their power play finds itself. This season they ranked 19th in the NHL out of 30 teams, with a putrid 16.6%. Offensive juggernauts that were ranked ahead of them: Buffalo, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota and Ottawa.

Why the Sabres will win: They have Ryan Miller and the Flyers don’t; it’s as simple as that. He has won playoff series as the favorite and the underdog in his career, and Buffalo is the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs. If Miller is at less than 100%, then the Sabres will be in trouble.

Philadelphia’s most important player: Chris Pronger’s presence alone will make a difference in the series, but only if he’s healthy enough to be there. His absence over the final weeks of the season is the reason the Flyers crashed and stumbled out of the East’s top spot.

Buffalo’s most important player: Aside from Miller, it’s Thomas Vanek who very quietly had a solid season — 73 points (32g-41a) in 80 games. If Drew Stafford can get into one of his hot streaks it will make a big difference in the series.

Philadelphia’s biggest question mark: As always since Ron Hextall left, it’s goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky will start Game 1, but lurking behind him are somewhat proven veterans in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.

Buffalo’s biggest question mark: Can Tyler Myers and the Sabres’ defensive corps stop the flock of talented Flyers forwards is a good place to start; also how will smallish rookie Tyler Ennis (who had a real nice season) hold up in a seven-game series against the rugged Philadelphians?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Philadelphia (Nick Boynton, Sean O’Donnell, Pronger, Kris Versteeg), Buffalo (Rob Niedermayer)

PREDICTION: SABRES IN 7 — Miller shines as Buffalo wins a l-e-n-g-t-h-y Game 7 in Philadelphia.

Boston (3)       vs. Montreal (6)

Last Cup Win: Boston (1972), Montreal (1993)

Why the Bruins will win: Boston’s depth is only matched by Washington in the East as far as I’m concerned, especially when your top three centers are Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Rich Peverley. The addition of Tomas Kaberle really balanced out the defense in Beantown too.

Why the Canadiens will win: If I had to pick one team in the East that would give Boston the biggest challenge, I’d say Montreal. These two teams know each other inside and out with all of their legendary battles throughout time. Also how will Boston react after blowing a three games-to-none lead in last year’s East semi-finals.

Boston’s most important player: Tim Thomas is the easy choice here, if he continues playing the way he did during the season (35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 save %, 9 shutouts), the Bruins should be able to choke-out the sometimes offensively challenged Habs.

Montreal’s most important player: Where were you this season Scott Gomez? Horrible season (7g-31a, minus-15 in 80 games) from one of the veterans on the Canadiens, but during last spring’s run to the East Finals he put up 14 points in 19 games. If he can get on that type of run it would be much appreciated in Montreal.

Boston’s biggest question mark: The Bruins had a great year, but after choking away last season’s opportunity to beat the Flyers in the semis, anything less than a trip to the East Finals would be a failure. It will be interesting to see how they react if they get Montreal into an elimination game.

Montreal’s biggest question mark: Last season’s dramatic run was led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who is now with the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Carey Price’s turn and judging from the season he just had (38-28-6, 8 shutouts) he could be a difference maker, not only this season but for many, many more to come.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Boston (Mark Recchi (2), Shawn Thornton), Montreal (Gomez (2), Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel)

PREDICTION: BRUINS IN 7 – Boston will bend, but won’t break as they hold off the Habs; Nathan Horton, playing in his first playoffs, will have a monster series.

Pittsburgh (4)                vs. Tampa Bay (5)

Last Cup Win: Pittsburgh (2009), Tampa Bay (2004)

Why the Penguins will win: They have an elite goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal will not only shut down Steven Stamkos, but he’ll also chip in a few big goals.

Why the Lightning will win: Without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the Lightning can focus their attention on solid team defense and timely goals. Whether or not Stamkos and Simon Gagne can score multiple times will be determining factors in the series.

Pittsburgh’s most important player: It will be all of their penalty killers; they led the league killing off penalties at an 86.2% clip and if they can shut down Tampa’s powerful power play the series could be a quick one.

Tampa Bay’s most important player: If he becomes a playoff-beast once again, it will be the league’s second leading point getter Martin St. Louis (99 points). He’s a proven playoff performer (48 pts in 45 games) and if he gets hot the Pens will become postseason spectators.

Pittsburgh’s biggest question mark: If there is a small chance he can play, does Pittsburgh risk everything and put Crosby out there? If Crosby doesn’t play, who else besides Staal is going to contribute offensively?

Tampa Bay’s biggest question mark: In the 2006 playoffs, Dwayne Roloson led the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and then blew out his knee in Game 1. That was the last time he played in a playoff game, so five years later it’s hard to tell what you are going to get from the veteran netminder.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Pittsburgh (Chris Kunitz (2), Craig Adams (2), Fleury, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Michael Rupp, Max Talbot, Eric Godard), Tampa Bay (Vincent Lecavalier, St. Louis, Pavel Kubina)

PREDICTION: PENGUINS IN 7 — The Lightning prove to be a valiant opponent but Fleury will top Roloson in a wild Game 7

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

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Off the Ice with…Martin Biron

Recently I was able to screen New York Rangers goaltender Martin Biron long enough to ask him a few questions about the life of an NHL goalie, as well as his favorite movie, TV shows and what he brings with him on road trips. Biron is a 33-year-old from Lac St. Charles, Quebec, who was originally drafted by Buffalo in the first round (16th overall) in 1995. Over his 13 NHL seasons his record is 212-178-49 in 469 games, with 26 shutouts, a 2.63 GAA and a .910 save pct. He is considered one of the ‘good guys’ of the NHL, always a good interview and trust me — he has never met a microphone he didn’t like. His best season to date was probably in 2001-02 when he won 31 of the 72 games he appeared in for the Sabres and posted a stellar 2.22 GAA.

Biron finally made the Sabres roster as a regular during the 1999-2000 season, as the backup to future Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek and finished the year with a 19-18-2 record and five shutouts. In total he played parts of nine seasons in Buffalo, but never really had a hold on the number one goalie job. After finally taking over when Hasek left to play in Detroit, Biron broke his thumb and the Sabres called up Ryan Miller, who is still the starting netminder in Buffalo’s crease today (see: 2010 Vezina Trophy, 2010 Silver Medal for Team USA). During the 2006-07 season, Biron was dealt to Philadelphia and the following season he helped lead the Flyers to the East Finals before losing against Pittsburgh. He stayed in the Philly for a total of two and a half seasons and in 2009-10 he served as Dwayne Roloson’s backup with the New York Islanders, but he had only signed a one-year contract there. This past summer, he inked a two-year deal with the Rangers, to give All-Star Henrik Lundqvist (who has been overplayed) some more games off.

So far this season he has done exactly what the Rangers have asked of him — in seven games he is 4-2-0 with a save percentage of .907 and a 2.33 GAA. So just who is Martin Biron off the ice? Read on:

Dan Rice: What do you remember about your first win in the NHL?

Martin Biron: “Oh, I remember I got called up from Rochester (AHL) to play against Dallas at home, in Buffalo; I was having a pretty good year in Rochester, (my second year there). A bunch of my buddies from Pee-Wee hockey and Bantam hockey from Quebec City decided to drive up, so they were at the game. I remember Rob Ray made a joke, a funny comment before the game, between warm-ups and the start of the game, he said: ‘Don’t worry Marty, if it doesn’t go well, you’ll get over it; we all do.’ It was a subtle comment, but relaxed me before I had to play against the defending champion Dallas Stars. I played a solid game, we won 2-1; it was one of those days where I don’t remember what happened in the game. It was so crazy and I’ve played so many games between now and then, but I remember little things like that. At the end of the game — the excitement of having your first NHL win was incredible. Then we had a huge snowstorm, so the next day we got snowed in and didn’t have practice; so I got to sleep in and enjoy the first win a little bit more! A couple of days later we played Philadelphia and tied 1-1, so I had a really good week my first week in the NHL.”

DR: Do you have the puck from that first win?

MB: “I do. It’s at my parents’ place right now on a plaque in the basement. I’ve got a picture that my sister-in-law got me in a frame, and it’s engraved: first NHL win, Dallas 1, Buffalo 2 with the date. It’s kind of funny because I have my arms up and I’m on one leg celebrating the win (smiles).”

DR: What are your memories from the day you were drafted?

MB: “It was so exciting. It was in Edmonton in 1995, there was a lot of excitement in not knowing where you were going to be drafted. Was I going to go in the first round or not? I had talked to a lot of teams, but funny enough I hadn’t talked to Buffalo at all. Four picks before Buffalo was to pick made a trade — they traded (Alexander) Mogilny to Vancouver and in exchange they got (Mike) Peca and an extra first round pick. They picked Jay McKee with that pick and then about three picks later it was their time again and I was sitting there and saw the NHL people coming over to my section, cameras starting to get ready; I kind of had an idea that they may take me with that second, first round pick. I heard my name and when I went on stage I remember posing with the team’s personnel, just standing there and one of the guys said to me ‘You can wave to the crowd.’ I kind of just waved my hand and was shy, didn’t know what to do really. It was a very fun day — my whole family was there, it was a lot of excitement.”

DR: Do you have a best friend in the NHL?

MB: “Yeah, me being a goalie it’s kind of funny because a lot of guys are usually good friends with their D-partner or their linemate; for me as a goalie, you play with so many guys and you get to be good friends with your goaltending partner. Over the years I’ve gotten to be really good friends with JP Dumont, in Buffalo we were roommates together. I am really, really good friends with Danny Briere, we were roommates together in Buffalo after JP left for Nashville and then we played together in Philly for a couple of years. Some of the guys I have played with I stay close with in the summer like Jay McKee, Michael Peca — those are guys that in the summertime in Buffalo we do the family thing, going out together and always keep in touch; text or talk once in a while during the year. Those are probably the closest group of friends I have around the league right now.

DR: Do you have a favorite sport other than hockey?

MB: “I do, I’m a big golf fan; I like to play, but I don’t play as much as I used to. My little guy is six now and he wants to play, so it’s fun. We go to the range and go to the course a little bit. I love baseball; I’ve always been a big fan of the game. I loved it growing up; I still play slo-pitch during the summer. That’s so much fun during a nice summer day. I’d say those are my two top sports outside of hockey.”

DR: What’s your favorite movie?

MB: “Movies kind of change, they come and go. It depends on what kind of mood you catch me in. One of my favorite movies would be The Negotiator with Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Every time that movie is on I get drawn to it, I like the excitement of it and the mental aspect of it; I think it’s a really well done movie. It’s one of those you pop into the DVD player once in a while just to watch it again.”

DR: What’s your favorite TV show?

MB: “I love The Office, my wife and I watch it all the time. Now she’s gotten me into Modern Family, that show is so funny; definitely one of my favorites. Another one that I like is Entourage, I got to meet the guy that plays E (Kevin Connolly) being in Long Island last year and he’s a huge Islanders’ fan. It’s kind of fun when you get to meet somebody and see them on the TV. Those are my favorite TV shows right now.”

DR: Typically, what do you bring on a road trip?

MB: “Typically I bring my iPad, my Kindle and I will bring a change of clothes depending on how long the trip is. My iPhone, my iPad, my Kindle are usually the things that I bring with me everywhere. I never liked to read much, and my wife got me a Kindle a few years back and now I’ve read so many books on that thing. I don’t know, I’m just a gadgety kind of guy, so I think that thing is kind of cool. I always have that with me and I always carry my Bible with me, we are a Christian family and with the kids; it’s always something I like to go back to. Those are the things that always stay in my bag and the rest of the things, they change around depending where we go and how long I am gone for.”

I hope everyone enjoyed learning about Martin Biron and if there is a player you’d like to read about in a future column or have a question you’d like to see a player asked, let me know:

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Sabres Crush Devils 6-1 in Latest Home Debacle

Buffalo 6         Devils 1

Not only did the New Jersey Devils lose badly to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, but rookie coach John MacLean may have lost one of his superstars — making Ilya Kovalchuk and his $100 million dollar contract a healthy scratch. Kovalchuk was not made available to the media after the game, but MacLean was — and the only explanation for the odd move was, “I’m not going to get into it. That’s between him and I. That was my decision.”

The Devils’ players that did play in the 6-1 thrashing, didn’t show any signs of life after the first five minutes of the game and fell to a disappointing 0-4-1 at the Prudential Center this season. “Early on the Devils were the team that was rested and they came hard,” said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, “but we settled into an organized game and got the pucks where we needed them.”

When asked if he welcomed the team’s upcoming six-game road trip that begins Sunday night at MSG, New Jersey’s David Clarkson didn’t hold back, stating: “It couldn’t get any better. I think it’s an opportunity for us to get to know each other better; a chance to get on the road and do some team bonding, go out together. I think just a thing where you get to know everybody; that’s something that will help us out a lot.”

Miller was his usual stingy self in nets for the winners, turning aside 26 of the 27 shots he faced; his only error of the night was when his US Olympic teammate Zach Parise ended the netminder’s shutout bid with 8:35 left in the game. Offensively the Sabres seemed to score at will against Johan Hedberg, who was making his Devils debut — and it was an ugly one as he was pulled after surrendering four goals on 13 shots.

Even Martin Brodeur (who shutout the Sabres 1-0 last week) was unable to stop the barrage of goals and was touched up for two goals by Thomas Vanek. The Austrian sniper almost completed the hat trick, if not for Brodeur’s glove save with 2:27 left in the game. “Great save; great goaltender,” said Vanek afterwards. “I thought that was one of my better shots of the game — he just made an unbelievable save on it.”

Buffalo got goals from four different goal scorers — Drew Stafford 6:57 of the first period, Tyler Myers at 16:33, Tyler Ennis at 3:10 of the second and Patrick Kaleta at 8:17 — before Vanek netted his pair to seal the victory. “I don’t think I played as well as I did some of the other nights where I didn’t score,” said Vanek humbly, “but I got two tonight. Obviously I’ll take it and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Even his teammates had no clue that Kovalchuk wasn’t playing until they arrived in the late afternoon and they didn’t know why he wasn’t playing, but didn’t use it as an excuse for the dreadful performance. “I had no idea until I got here this afternoon, so I’m not sure what happened or what’s going on,” said Clarkson in the somber Devils locker room. “We’re all professionals no matter who’s in or who’s out; we just have to go out there and still play our game. Kovy’s obviously an unbelievable player and adds so much to this team, but we have to still go out there and play better than we did tonight.”

We may never get an explanation as to why Kovalchuk was scratched from the game (for the first time in his career), but MacLean may be playing with fire (and his job) if he decides to bench one of the league’s premier goal scorers on Sunday night against the rival-Rangers.

Game Notes: Kevin Boss from the New York football Giants, a frequent visitor at the Rock, was in attendance among the announced crowd of 14,228. Hedberg’s career record against Buffalo entering the game was 12-2-2. Five different Sabres had two-point nights: Jordan Leopold, Derek Roy, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier, Vanek and Ennis. Ex-Sabre Henrik Tallinder was a game-worst -3; Three Sabres (Leopold, Ennis and Steve Montador) were a +3. Leopold led all skaters in ice-time with 24:50 and Andy Greene led New Jersey with 23:08. Vanek led all players with seven shots on goal, while Clarkson led the Devils with six. Buffalo (3-5-1) is off until Tuesday when they play at Philadelphia (3-3-1) and New Jersey (2-5-1) next plays at the New York Rangers (3-2-1) Sunday night.

 

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Thomas Vanek (Buf) – 2 goals (3)

#2 – Ryan Miller (Buf) – 26 saves, win (3-4-1)

#3 – Tyler Ennis (Buf) – goal (2), assist (5)

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

Devils-Sabres Postgame Quotes [10.23.10]

Thomas Vanek:

Your team’s first goal changed the game around…

“Yeah, early on they came with some good pressure, but once we scored I think we kind of relaxed and played our game; just played really a patient game. We finally capitalized on our chances.”

You were going against a guy in (Johan) Hedberg that hadn’t been in nets for a while and it can’t hurt to get any type of shot on him right?

“Well especially because usually against Jersey we can’t generate much, so our main focus was just drive the net, get pucks there and see what happens.”

You have three goals now in the last three games now, that has to feel good for you?

“It’s nice; I don’t think I played as well as I did some of the other nights where I didn’t score, but I got two tonight. Obviously I’ll take it and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Last night I thought your line was flying the last two periods and didn’t get anything out of it…

“I thought last night we were better. We generated more (scoring chances) than I thought we did tonight, got quality chances and just didn’t bury them. Tonight we got a few and hopefully we can continue it.”

 

Your team is so good on the road and not so good at home, can you figure this out?

“It’s hard. Like I said, I thought we played well yesterday. Every time we tied it up, we had good chances to get the lead. One breakdown or two breakdowns and we were playing from behind again.”

The second goal in the first period helped your team’s confidence tonight, right?

“Yeah sure; once you get that 1-0 lead, you have to stay patient but obviously when you have that chance you have to go get that second, third one, fourth one just like we did tonight. We have to start putting teams away.”

Talk about your first goal tonight…

“It was just a perfect cross-ice pass (by Derek Roy), it finally didn’t hit a skate or a stick or anything and just a real, clean pass. It was a pass from the side and I just jammed it in, a great pass by Derek.”

You almost got the hat trick with 2:27 left in the game with your shot from the slot…

“Yeah, great save; great goaltender (Martin Brodeur). I thought that was one of my better shots, of the game — he just made an unbelievable save on it.”

You scored your second goal 26 seconds after they scored, how big was that?

“It was nice, obviously up 5-1, we have a pretty good lead, but we have the mentality: if we get scored on, let’s just come right back and score on them. On the play, I came in and tried going low glove, he made a great save; just a lucky bounce that it came right back to my stick and I put it in.”

Ryan Miller:

Do you think the way you are playing on the road means that the home problems will be able to be fixed?

“Yeah, it’s just patience with our game; the other night (against New Jersey) it was a chess match out there. A lot of times it’s dictated by who scores first — we scored first (tonight) and its who can hold on and be willing not to make that mistake or turnover. You have to get the puck in and work the other team, establish some speed in the neutral zone and things were better tonight than the night before.”

Nice to see some offense from guys like (Mike) Grier and (Rob) Niedermayer tonight?

“Eventually they were going to chip in. Tonight was a great example of getting around the net, creating more and guys scored from in tight.”

Do your early season struggles get pushed away when you have a game like this?

“We hope its something we can build off of; it’s how you react now. I think last night, losing a tough one at home, against a division rival — you want to see how you react. I thought tonight we came out and I thought we did a good job of getting established. Early on the Devils were the team that was rested and they came hard, but we settled into an organized game and got the pucks where we needed them.”

David Clarkson:

When did you find out Ilya Kovalchuk wasn’t playing tonight and how did that factor into the game?

“I had no idea until I got here this afternoon, so I’m not sure what happened or what’s going on. But we’re all professionals no matter who’s in or who’s out, we just have to go out there and still play our game. Kovy’s obviously an unbelievable player and adds so much to this team, but we have to still go out there and play better than we did tonight.”

Upcoming is the longest road trip of the season, is it coming at a good time?

“It couldn’t get any better. I think it’s an opportunity for us to get to know each other better; a chance to get on the road and do some team bonding, go out together. I think just a thing where you get to know everybody; that’s something that will help us out a lot.”

Is it good that it’s the Rangers tomorrow where the antenna is always usually up when you cross the (Hudson) River?

“No matter what the score was in the third period tonight, we had to get ready for tomorrow. We have to come out and play that first period tomorrow as hard as we can and the way the Devils play or else we’ll be in trouble. We have to go out there and get back to our game.”

John MacLean:

Why was Kovalchuk scratched?

“That’s between him and I; it was my decision.”

It was your decision, not management’s decision?

“It was my decision.”

Any regrets?

“No, I take responsibility for all of my decisions that I make — including responsibilities for games.”

Will he play tomorrow?

“I’ll make that decision in the morning.”

He could have played? Is he healthy enough to play?

“I’m not getting into it one way or another. I told you it was the coach’s decision, it was my decision.”

So was it a non-hockey matter or hockey related?

“As I said I’m not discussing it. It’s my decision, I made it. He knows, I spoke with him and that’s where it’s going to stay.”

Was it a distraction for the other players?

“I hope not.”

Then how do you explain 6-1?

“I’m still having trouble finding the answers for that myself. Ultimately it falls on my responsibility to get these guys prepared to play.”

Devils-Sabres Postgame Quotes [04.11.10]

I will have my Devils-Flyers preview tomorrow, but for now…

Here are some of the postgame quotes following the Devils 2-1 win over the Sabres Sunday night:

Martin Brodeur:

Where is the confidence level at, the way you finished up the last two games?

“Guys look like they’re feeling pretty good; we’re making a lot of good plays, the chemistry with players is getting there. Special teams are doing well, we definitely wanted to come into the playoffs playing well and I think we’re playing well, so we’ll see.”

An unusual way to win a game?

“A little bit; we’ll take it (laughs). They don’t ask you how you win them, but definitely something that — I’ve played almost 1100 games in this league and this is the first time I think in a tie game with a pulled goalie we won a hockey game, but we’ll take it.”

You won the Jennings Trophy with this win too…

“Yeah, it’s exciting; this is my fifth one and definitely (for) the players that play in front of me, everyday they go out and pay attention defensively. Especially for Yann (Danis), being his first year here and be able to be a part of it is kind of nice also because he played a big part.”

Are you surprised that Ryan Miller didn’t play?

“Well, I don’t know what their intentions were, but I don’t think you could’ve done any better than what (Patrick) Lalime did, that’s for sure. He was pretty good out there.”

Zach Parise:

Do you feel good about the way the team is playing heading into the playoffs?

“Yeah, we’re playing well and we’re not giving up too much defensively. We’re playing smart hockey and we’re getting some scoring right now; so we like how we’re playing.”

Your thoughts on the match-up with Philadelphia?

“They’ll be tough, there’s no question, but we’ll make sure we’re prepared for them.”

David Clarkson:

How do you feel about the way the team is playing heading into the playoffs?

“I feel good. We’re playing great defensively, doing well in offensive zone, going to the net. The power play, we’re getting guys around the front of the net and that’s the key thing right now. I’m really excited — I think we’ve played great the last three games and we have to continue on.”

Your thoughts about seeing Philly for possibly another seven games?

“It’s going to be tough, it doesn’t matter who you play; it’s going to be a tough series. A team like that, you know you’re going into war and that’s what we’re going to do in here. We’re going to play team hockey, play great defensively and give everything we have every night.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

You went 1-4-1 against Philly this year, does that have any meaning going into a series with them?

“For us it means nothing, for them it means everything; that’s the way you look at those things. They obviously had our number during the regular season, they did things that took us off our game — we’re going to have to address that, we’re going to have to understand the way they play and play accordingly. Our power play is going to have to deliver; they’re going to take some penalties and they play that style. We have to stay disciplined, stay smart and take advantage of our opportunities.”

Marty gets another Jennings, what does that say about the way he’s playing and the team concept?

“I wouldn’t say its one of our goals at the start of the year, but in a way it kind of is. We want to play well defensively as a team and obviously it starts with him, but you need a whole team to win that award. It’s great for him; it’s good for this team. We pride ourselves on playing well in our own end and playing good defensive hockey — that’s a sign that we did a pretty good job this year.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Are you happy with the way the team finished the season?

“Great; I think we have a great team. I think we finished the right way, the way we wanted to finish it. We’ve played really solid the last couple of weeks and I think we are ready for the playoffs.”

What do you like best about the team?

“I think the way we work; you know we work for each other, we work together — that’s the key.”

Philadelphia is not a fun team to play against…

“That’s good; it’s going to be very intense games. I know it’s a big rivalry and the rivalry is going to continue.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Your thoughts on playing the Flyers in the first round…

“Well, as you can tell we don’t pick the teams, we just wanted to win and that’s what happened tonight. It’s going to be a battle because we struggled against them all year; it’s a good team, they proved it, well-balanced. Definitely we’ll have to play better than we did during the season to be able to beat them.”

In what areas?

“To me, everywhere. Our power play didn’t go well, our penalty kill, not as good that it could be. Even the forechecking, and our chances — we have to get more chances.”

How important was it to get the number two seed in your mind?

“You can tell when you look at the two teams that this was a good game tonight. You look at the two teams, they both wanted to win, you could tell — there was a lot of energy. I thought we played really good; we didn’t give them a lot, maybe seven scoring chances, which is great. They had a few guys out, I thought it was a good game.”

What do you like about your team?

“Right now I think we’re playing hard, we’re playing to win, playing as a group, which we didn’t do all year. But I can’t criticize too much, because we finished second.”

Did you watch the Flyers-Rangers shootout during your first intermission?

“Yes I did.”

A year ago you stepped down as coach of Minnesota, and here you are a year later atop the Atlantic Division. Are you surprised, happy, what are you feeling today?

“I’m relieved, happy, it’s a good feeling. You come back to a city in which a lot of people appreciate what I did and still remember. Coming back and getting the division title, it’s great; I’m very happy.”

With all the adversity that the team went through, what made your team carry through and finish with more than 100 points?

“I think the guys have good character, they want to win. They do their best every night and I think we have a decent team — starting in nets, you look at our defense this year; I was really impressed with the way our defenseman played all year. Our top line was great all year, then we got Kovalchuk and he brings some more offense.”

Have you ever seen a regular season end like that?

“No, I was even surprised myself. I wasn’t looking there and then when Jamie got the puck and I saw him shoot…’where’s the goalie?’ I thought. Then I looked up and I knew why, they pulled the goalie.”

If You’re Not First, You’re Last; but…

Normally that’s how I see things: ‘If You Ain’t First, You’re Last’ — Ricky Bobby; but after seeing how Team USA played at the Winter Olympics, a silver medal isn’t too bad for a group that no one was too familiar with and no one gave a chance to medal in the tournament filled with powerhouses.

So I felt I should thank the 23 players that made me not only proud to be an American, but proud to be a fan of American hockey. Thank you guys for giving us a scintillating two weeks of hockey and hope you can bring home the gold in 2014.

Team USA 2010:
Goalies
Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas & Jonathan Quick

Defenseman:
Tim Gleason, Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter & Ryan Whitney

Forwards:
David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Patrik Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan & Paul Stastny

Devils-Sabres Postgame Quotes [10.28.09]

Here are the transcripts of postgame after Wednesday’s 4–1 Devils loss vs. Buffalo:

Jason Pominville:

Ryan Miller tonight…

“He’s a huge part of the team and he’s been playing extremely well for us. I think he’s a guy that takes a lot of pride in his job and he puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well. He’s been playing amazing for us, like you said, again tonight he stood on his head a bit; made some huge saves. That’s what we expect from him because he’s an elite goalie.”

Talk about your goal…

“It was kind of a frustrating night for us on the power play and we ended up switching sides and moving around pretty good – I just put it on net and it ends up kind of having eyes; it found a way in the net.”

You finally got one through, been getting shots but they don’t make it through…

“Yeah definitely, I got one tonight that I broke a stick on; I take a hundred one-timers a day and never break a stick. I come in the game and break a stick, it ends up getting blocked and going the other way; so those are ones that are frustrating a bit. But we have to do a better job on the power play, find a way to score like we did on the last one.”

You seem to play well in New Jersey, any explanation?

“It could be a little bit of coincidence, but when we play them we know that their reputation is that they are so solid defensively. For us to be able to get that first goal and make them kind of open up the play; and then we get another one, they have to open up even more — that’s when we’ll get our scoring chances. When they get the lead, they’re a tough team to play against; especially with (Martin) Brodeur back there.”

Ryan Miller:

The team’s performance tonight…

“We did a good job getting a good start and that’s what we want; a good start can always carry you through (the game). It’s good to see the guys get off to a good jump and we were skating really well in that first period. They made some adjustments and clogged up some outlets that we were hitting in the first period, so it changed the game for a little while there. But once we made some adjustments, we started pushing them.”

One guy that had a lot of chances was Parise; you saw a lot of him…

“Yeah, I’m going to see a lot more of him too, as we move forward (in our careers). He’s a talented guy, quick; he puts everything on net. I was kind of looking for him, when he was on the ice, he makes some smart plays.”

It’s only ten games into the season but is it nice to win three straight on the road…

“Yeah, we’re happy. I don’t want to give people the impression that we’re not happy. We’re managing our expectations a little bit better; we know there’s going to be a steady improvement by every team over the course of the season. With this team we have to show some improvement every night and we also have to show that we can bring a work ethic on the ice every night. A good start shows that guys really care and they want to play; I think that’s going to be a key to the season.”

Colin White:

Fast start for them and not so much for you…

“They jumped on us quick; we had a slow start; and a slow finish I guess.”

Was missing Paul Martin a factor early on?

“We’re definitely going to miss those guys, but I don’t think we performed as well as we should have, obviously. Myself, I have to be better than that, so we all have to pick our games up. Let’s not try to do too much, just do the right plays. We made a lot of poor decisions, all of us, tonight. We’ll learn from it and we’ll move on; it sucks right now, but its one game and we have to get ready for tomorrow.”

Does it help that there’s a game tomorrow, to get this out of your head quick?

“Yeah, we have to forget about it. We have to learn from our mistakes – we made a lot of them tonight. They played hard, they played 60 minutes; they played the same system for 60 minutes.”

The third goal did you get a piece of it with your stick?

“Yeah I did, I tipped it. The pass beat me, obviously through my legs, right to (Paul) Gaustad; I just turned around and whacked at it. I got a piece of it and tipped it, I think low corner (into the net) blocker side.”

Jacques Lemaire

What went wrong tonight?

“I think we faced a team that was ready and you could tell why they’re on top (of the standings). They have four good lines and they all play the same way. They’re a puck control team and they make quick plays and they’re around the puck. So there’s no doubt we faced a better team tonight. Our players were not surprised with what they were going to get from the Sabres. The second period is when we started to play.”

Penalties seem to be hurting you, are they bad penalties?

“Well, one (Pikkarainen) lifted a stick and touched a guy’s hand, it’s a penalty. The too many men happened when Travis (Zajac) was on the point (during a power play) and then he came to the bench. The defenseman jumped on the ice for the point man, and, the center jumped on the ice for the point man. So you end up with too many men on the ice.”

By the end of the first period you had Zajac back with Parise and Langenbrunner, why?

“Because we had no offense; we had no offense, so I felt that ‘hey if we’re not going to have offense, I’m going to put Travis back (with them).’”