Devils Fire Blanks in Opener vs. Flyers

Philadelphia 3               Devils 0

The 2011-12 edition of the New Jersey Devils started their new season on Saturday night looking to get off to a fast start, unlike last season’s squad which dropped its first three games. Unfortunately no one informed the Philadelphia Flyers about these plans as they controlled the play and pace of the game virtually all night en route to a 3-0 win in front of a sold-out crowd at the Prudential Center.

Despite the disappointing loss in which the Devils (the worst offensive team last season in terms of goals scored) failed to score a single goal, there were some positives to take out of the game. Martin Brodeur made 26 saves, and was the main reason the score was only 1-0 heading into the third period; “He was outstanding, by far our best player,” said coach Pete DeBoer, who made his debut behind New Jersey bench.

The team’s new captain Zach Parise made it through the entire game without incident and appears to be rounding back into his All-Star form following a knee injury that cost him 69 games last season. “I felt pretty good, my legs were good, but I still need to have a little more patience with the puck,” said the newest and ninth captain in team history.

Finally, despite taking way too many penalties, the Devils killed off all eight power plays that they gave the Flyers. “We did take a lot of penalties, so it was tough to generate anything in the third period,” said Parise afterwards. “I thought our PK did a good job, it got called on a lot, and there were some good things that we did out there.”

Claude Giroux scored the first goal of the game 12:05 into the first period burying a one-timer past Brodeur after a pretty backhand pass from James van Riemsdyk. Andreas Nodl (KNOW-duLL) almost made it 2-0 when he roared in on Brodeur on a shorthanded breakaway during the dying seconds of the opening frame, but New Jersey’s netminder stifled the attempt with a midseason-form save. “Yeah (his shot) hit my shoulder; noodle or however you pronounce his name,” said a laughing Brodeur. “He made a good shot and it hit off of my shoulder.”

The Devils improved their play in the second period, but were still unable to get any pucks past Philly’s Ilya Bryzgalov and still trailed on the scoreboard. “It looked to me like we were at practice speed and they were at NHL game speed,” said DeBoer after the loss. “Our reaction time never caught up with where theirs was tonight.”

He was absolutely right in his assessment and his team imploded, surrendering two goals in a span of 2:19and then proceeded to take needless penalty after needless penalty — sabotaging any slim chance of coming back against Philadelphia. Matt Read scored his first career NHL goal from the slot, muscling a shot into the back of the net that Brodeur got a piece of at the 2:31 mark. “I saw it,” said Brodeur, “it just kind of snuck through between my arm and my body.” The lead increased to 3-0 when Wayne Simmonds beat both Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador to a loose puck in front of the crease just asPhiladelphia’s power play had expired.

Less than four minutes after his goal, Simmonds fought David Clarkson — and beat him soundly — putting the exclamation point on a workmanlike Flyers victory. “I think we have less than 48 hours until our next game,” said Parise. “We’ll come in tomorrow and identify some things we didn’t do right and fix them.”

Game Notes: Before the game there was a moment of silence and very touching video tribute in honor of all of the players that the hockey world lost this summer; The Devils honored former teammates Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasyunov with memorial patches on their jerseys that they will wear again next Saturday night; the jerseys will then be signed by the entire team and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Rachunek and Vasyunov families. The 4th overall pick in this past June’s draft, Adam Larsson, had a nice debut despite the ugly loss: 21:46 of ice-time (tops among NJ defensemen), three shots on goal, two hits and one blocked shot. Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri were both -3 on the night. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 23:30; Chris Pronger led the Flyers with 22:57. Philadelphia’s Andrej Meszaros led all players with five shots on goal; four Devils had three shots on goal each. New Jersey rookie Brad Mills won 10-of-11 face-offs he took and his teammate Jacob Josefson won eight-of-ten. Philadelphia (2-0-0) is off until their home opener on Wednesday when they hostVancouver (0-0-1) and New Jersey (0-1-0) is back in action Monday afternoon when they host Carolina (0-2-0).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Claude Giroux (Phi) – gw goal (2)

#2 – Wayne Simmonds (Phi) – goal (1)

#3 – Ilya Bryzgalov (Phi) – 20 saves, win (2-0-0), shutout (1)

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

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How the West Will Be Won

How the West Will Be Won

Western Conference predictions

Round 1:

(8) Chicago over (1) Vancouver

(7) Los Angeles over (2) San Jose

(3) Detroit over (6) Phoenix

(4) Anaheim over (5) Nashville

Round 2:

(8) Chicago over (3) Detroit

(4) Anaheim over (7) Los Angeles

Round 3:

(4) Anaheim over (8) Chicago

Vancouver (1)        vs. Chicago (8)

Last Cup Win: Vancouver (never), Chicago (2010)

Why the Canucks will win: The team won the President’s Trophy (117 points), Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider won the Jennings Trophy (185 goals-against) and Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy (104 points). This team is built to win now and this is probably the first of their two-year window of opportunity to do just that.

Why the Blackhawks will win: Their nucleus from last year’s championship is still in tact despite losing several key pieces; and Patrick Kane brought his playoff-mullet back.

Vancouver’s most important player: Whichever player replaces Manny Malhotra (eye injury) as the third-line center; his ability to win key face-offs and his lead-by-example attitude will be sorely missed.

Chicago’s most important player: Captain Jonathan Toews has led the Hawks’ playoff push in the second half and he will need to continue with that effort to help his team advance past the Canucks.

Vancouver’s biggest question mark: Can Luongo finally beat Chicago? Two years in a row the Canucks were sent packing for the summer by the ‘Hawks; if Vancouver does win the series will it be a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things?

Chicago’s biggest question mark: The Blackhawks will try for a second consecutive spring to win the Cup with a rookie goalie. Corey Crawford had a stellar season, but can he duplicate Antti Niemi’s 2010 success? If Crawford falters, Chicago can always send in Marty Turco.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Vancouver (Mikael Samuelsson), Chicago (Dave Bolland, Toews, Troy Brouwer, Marian Hossa, Kane, Tomas Kopecky, Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell, Jassen Cullimore, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook).

PREDICTION: HAWKS IN 6 Luongo may be crying again after this one as the rejuvenated champs begin their defense of the Cup by eliminating the Canucks swiftly.

San Jose (2)            vs. Los Angeles (7)

Last Cup Win: San Jose (never), Los Angeles (never)

Why the Sharks will win: San Jose’s players have a lot of playoff experience, just not too many winning experiences though. The additions of Antti Niemi and Ben Eager (who won the Cup with Chicago last season) should help, but will it be enough for this underachieving bunch to finally make the Finals?

Why the Kings will win: Two words — Jarret Stoll. One of the NHL’s most underrated players is very important to LA’s success. He was a key cog in the Oilers’ run to the ’06 Finals and whether it’s winning a key face-off or scoring a clutch goal, you can expect to see Stoll’s name a lot if the Kings are to do some damage this spring.

San Jose’s most important player: Dany Heatley, He had a very un-Heatley like season this year (26g-38a), but he can make that a distant memory if he’s clutch in the postseason.

Los Angeles’ most important player: Jonathan Quick, He’s made the big saves all season long and is the rock solid foundation of the Kings’ stingy defense. With the offense hurting, he will have to steal a game or two for his squad to advance.

San Jose’s biggest question mark: Niemi, yes he won the Stanley Cup in the Windy City in 2010, but the ‘Hawks defense was and is a lot better than the Sharks’ blueline.

Los Angeles’ biggest question mark: Where will the Kings’ goal scoring come from with their top two scorers (Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams) sidelined? Paging Wayne Simmonds

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: San Jose (Dan Boyle, Eager, Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin, Niemi), Los Angeles (Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Williams)

PREDICTION: KINGS IN 7Quick will steal two games, including Game 7 in the Shark Tank.

Detroit (3)              vs. Phoenix (6)

Last Cup Win: Detroit (2008), Phoenix (never)

Why the Wings will win: Detroit has too many savvy and talented players to lose in the first round right? Look for Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Modano to have big impacts in this opening round series.

Why the Coyotes will win: For two consecutive seasons now Phoenix has hovered around the NHL’s elite with back-to-back stellar regular seasons. Obviously this is not a fluke and captain Shane Doan just might get out of the first round for the first time in his career.

Detroit’s most important player: Johan Franzen aka ‘The Mule’ is an absolute proven playoff beast — 69 points (35g-34a) in 75 career playoff games — and if Phoenix has any hopes of surviving this series they better find a way to corral the large Swede; he also has 11 playoff game-winning goals.

Phoenix’s most important player: Ilya Bryzgalov
is the backbone of the Coyotes and could be the biggest factor in knocking the Wings out. His 36 wins and seven shutouts this season place him among the NHL’s elite netminders going forward.

Detroit’s biggest question mark: How healthy is Henrik Zetterberg is the main question in the Motor City; if he is at less than 100% the Wings could be ripe for the taking against the hungry Desert Dogs. He will definitely miss Game 1 with a left leg injury.

Phoenix’s biggest question mark: Can they finally get past the big, bad Red Wings? They should be motivated and know what to do after being eliminated in seven games by Detroit in last year’s first round.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Detroit (Pavel Datsyuk (2), Zetterberg, Brian Rafalski (3), Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom (4), Nicklas Kronwall, Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Holmstrom (4), Kris Draper (4), Brad Stuart, Drew Miller, Darren Helm, Chris Osgood (3), Modano), Phoenix (Bryzgalov, Ray Whitney)

PREDICTION: RED WINGS IN 7 Experience wins out for the Wings, but they will get another scare from the gritty Coyotes.

Anaheim (4)           vs. Nashville (5)

Last Cup Win: Anaheim (2007), Nashville (never)

Why the Ducks will win: Who on Nashville can stop Corey Perry? No one in the league has been able to contain the league’s leading goal scorer (50) in the 2nd half, so good luck Preds.

Why the Predators will win: Defense wins championships, and Nashville has two of the NHL’s premiere defensemen (Shea Weber, Ryan Suter) plus a Vezina Trophy candidate in Pekka Rinne.

Anaheim’s most important player: I think it will be Saku Koivu’s time to shine in the first round. With all of the defensive attention (and rightfully so) being paid to the Ducks’ top line, watch out for the Finnish dynamic duo of Koivu and Teemu Selanne to wreck havoc.

Nashville’s most important player: If Rinne can stand on his head (and get in his opponents’ head) the Ducks might be in trouble here. His numbers (2.12 GAA, 33 wins, .930 save %, six shutouts) speak for themselves, but his ability to take over a game can’t be measured in numbers. Nashville’s penalty killers (fifth overall) will be tested against Anaheim’s power play (third overall).

Anaheim’s biggest question mark: Who’s in goal for them? Is it All-Star Jonas Hiller, vagabond Dan Ellis or head case Ray Emery? If one of these tenders steps up the Ducks will be hard to eliminate and SoCal could be celebrating their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

Nashville’s biggest question mark: Who the heck is going to score for this team? They have only two 20-goal scorers (Sergei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist) and obviously rely on defense and scoring by committee. If Mike Fisher and JP Dumont find their scoring touches, the Predators could pull off the upset.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Anaheim (Ryan Getzlaf, George Parros, Perry, Selanne, Francois Beauchemin, Todd Marchant, Andreas Lilja), Nashville (none)

PREDICTION: DUCKS IN 5 The Ducks will be too powerful for the gutsy Preds; the series will only go five games, but each game will probably have a 2-1 final score.

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

Devils-Kings Postgame Quotes [01.31.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes following the Devils 3-2 loss to the Kings on Sunday night:

Martin Brodeur:

Did you feel tired at all, with all of the games that you have played so far?

“Ask my trainer, he’ll tell you; that’s a stupid question you just asked me there. I play the game, as hard as I can all the time. Getting twenty shots a game; I don’t think you get tired from that, that’s for sure.”

Did you see the tying goal?

“I saw him shoot it, but when it came close to me I was expecting it to hit (Ryan) Smyth in front of me and it just kind of hit the side of my leg and snuck in.”

On the winning goal there was a crowd of players in front of you…

“I saw him (Drew Doughty) shoot and I just went down; Smyth did a great job screening me there.”

Johnny Oduya:

Talk about your goal that opened the scoring tonight…

“I got a pass from Zach (Parise) there across (the ice) and I just tried to shoot it on the far side there, I saw some guys going to the net and it went in off of a skate.”

Obviously a disappointing end to the game, can you put a finger on any one thing that went wrong?

“No I think it’s just a general feel at this time, obviously for the second game (in a row) it’s not something we usually do; we have a lead, usually we feel pretty good and play confident — somehow that slipped out. It’s something we have to talk about and not worry about too much, but keep playing in games and not sit back.”

Wayne Simmonds:

Were you shooting to score there?

“Oh no, definitely not, I was just shooting for a rebound or for Smyth to tip it; I got lucky and it went in.”

Did you see that Smyth was there in front when you shot it?

“Definitely, that’s the first thing I looked for. I looked to see if someone was in front of the net and I just fired it at the net.”

You guys are on a nice winning streak, now that you get to bring home and play in front of your fans…

“I think it’s great, we were in a little slump at home before we left for the road — I think we won five straight on the road trip and now we just have to build that up and carry it over. Our fans deserve better than out last home stand, that’s for sure.”

What has been the secret to success for you guys on the road, now that you’ve won six in a row away from LA?

“I think it’s just resiliency, like tonight we were down and we never gave up. That’s pretty much the way we’ve play all year — we get down a goal or two and we just never say die; it’s worked out really well for us.”

Anze Kopitar:

Talking about the successful road trip…

“If somebody would say (before the road trip) that we were going to be 4-1, I think everybody would pretty much take that; being 5-0 it’s obviously great. I think now it’s time to bring that attitude and that energy at home because we have to start winning some home games too.”

How big was the goal scored late in the second period, instead of being down two goals, it’s only one?

“It was huge. It’s something that, always when you get a goal in the last minute of a period it’s great; they have something to think about in the locker room during intermission and that gave us a little boost. I thought we came out a little stronger in the third period and we definitely shot the puck a little more; and it paid off for us.”

Did you know that this is the first time the Kings have gone 5-0 on a road trip in history?

“That was the first time? That’s great then (smiles), we’re making history. We’ve been playing some decent hockey, right from the first game of this road trip I thought we were playing good hockey and now it’s paying off for us. Maybe we weren’t the better team out there tonight, but we’ll take it every time; two points is two points.”

When you’re winning, this is the kind of stuff that happens right?

“Exactly; and with the opposite, when you’re struggling you can shoot 50 shots and still lose the game — its funny how the game goes. But like I said we’ll definitely take these two points and go home.”

Can you talk about the winning power play goal?

“We were moving the puck around and just trying to get shots. They play a pretty tight box and obviously with Marty in the net they have a world-class goaltender. There’s not a whole lot you can do but shoot the puck, so Drew found a lane there, ripped it and luckily for us it went in.”

Was it a point of emphasis to get bodies in front of Brodeur tonight?

“Yeah, absolutely; we have one of the best in the league I think with Ryan Smyth — he’s really stingy around the net. (Dustin) Brown is in there too, he’s a decent screener too. At that point, especially at that time of the game, you just want to get bodies in front and shots at the net.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Two key things that went wrong tonight?

“The last two goals, the penalty. Not just to let Doughty shoot on the PK and the penalty.”

You had two PP’s when you were still leading by one, did you think the guys worked it with enough intensity?

“We still had good chances; we had good chances to put the game away, but the goalie was good and made some good saves. We could’ve been a little better on certain plays there, but as I said we had our chances.”

You had a 2-0 lead late in the second period, was it a bad play by (Mike) Mottau that led to their first goal?

“Yeah, that will happen though. You can recover and we did; things like that will happen, this doesn’t bother me at all.”

Do you think Marty could have stopped the tying goal?

“He could have stopped that, definitely; a shot from the side that I know there’s a guy in front of him — but I always say when you’re due to lose, there’s something like that that will get in the net, some shots like that. When everyone is confident, those goals just don’t happen.”

What do you tell the guys to get them to recover (from this)?

“Well I have to talk to myself first; that’s a loss that I still didn’t digest so we’ll see tomorrow.”