The sixth seeded New Jersey Devils will be staring elimination in the face tonight when they take on the Florida Panthers in game six of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The series has had a mix of ups-and-downs for both teams, with games where the offense was potent and others where the defensive won the battles.
With the Devils down 3-2 in the series, they will have to win the last two games in order to advance further in hopes of bringing the Stanley Cup back to New Jersey for the first time since 2002-03.
Martin Brodeur watched the end of game three from the bench after he allowed three goals on 12 shots. Game four produced different results though. Back between the pipes, Brodeur turned aside every shot that made its way to him en route to a 4-0 Devils victory. Brodeur looked like the Marty of old, with his glove hand lightning quick and his pads ready to kick out any low shot. Brodeur’s shutout also broke the NHL postseason shutout record originally held by Patrick Roy. Brodeur now sits atop the list with 24 postseason shutouts.
The first two games in Florida are over and the Devils, who are favored even though they are the six seed, have split the games with the Panthers. Both games were hard fought for the Devils, however, an early lead for the Panthers in game two was one of the reasons the Devils couldn’t mount the necessary comeback. Heading back to New Jersey, the Devils will have to turn up the heat and walk away with two additional wins before locking up the series in Florida.
Ilya Kovalchuk won’t begin to harp on the possibility of a Stanley Cup. Not yet, at least. Kovalchuk has been known to struggle in the playoffs, playing in only nine postseason games throughout his career.
“Let’s not talk about that right now,” Kovalchuk said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “We just want to make a little step forward at a time. We want to do well in the first round first.”
“I’ve played 10 years in the league and I’ve played only nine games in the playoffs,” said Kovalchuk. “Hockey is fun, but you want to win. It’s fun to go play for your country in the world championships and stuff and I got some experience when we won (with Russia in 2008 and 2009), so that’s nice, too. But this is the best league in the world and I think the Stanley Cup is the toughest to get and when you get that chance you always want to be successful.”
With a 5-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, the New Jersey Devils have officially clinched a berth in the postseason this year. The Devils failed to make the playoffs last season. In the past 22 seasons, the Devils have been in the playoffs 21 times.
Martin Brodeur, who pitched a shutout to solidify a Devils playoff birth, is happy to be back in the playoffs after last years mess.
“It was tough,” Brodeur said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Recod, “I didn’t think it was going to bother me that much because we were out for so long, early in the season. It was a tough start we had. But when I started to watch a little bit of hockey maybe in the second and third round, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really missing this atmosphere.’ This is why was an important thing for me to go out and try to get in the playoffs, get back at it.”
The New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks had a real defensive battle last night. Martin Brodeur played amazingly well considering his team was severely outshot in the game. With a 1-1 score, the game would need to be settled in a shootout. After just returning to the lineup the other game, Travis Zajac came out as the fifth shooter and snapped a shot over Corey Crawford to score the decisive goal. The two points tonight puts the Devils just four points out of securing a playoff spot.
“It’s been great,” Zajac said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I felt like I haven’t sat out for most of the year, actually. The locker room, it’s a good group of guys in here. It’s easy to get along with everyone. So, that’s been easy. That’s been the easy part.”
It seems that Devils center Travis Zajac is continuing to move closer to a return with the team. He is ruled out against the game tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but I could see him making a return sometime around Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning currently sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. No one has given up more goals this year then Tampa Bay.
“We’re not going to rush it,” DeBoer said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “It wasn’t him saying he’s not ready. I never said that he would play tonight. You guys insinuated that. I said he was day to day all along and we woke up today and decided day to day doesn’t mean today.”
After the puck dropped between the Rangers and Devils the other night, the gloves soon followed. Stu Bickel, Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust went toe-to-toe against Cam Janssen, Ryan Carter and Eric Boulton. Even more entertaining then the planned fights was the trash talking by both coaches that ensued after the game.
“I guess in John’s world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can’t do the same in here. He’s either got short-term memory loss or he’s a hypocrite,” Deboer told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record.
If anyone caught the Devils game last night, you witnessed an old-school goaltender duel between Martin Brodeur and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Colorado Avalanche. Both goalies pitched shutouts for the game, and the 0-0 battle would need to be decided in a shoot out. Brodeur made 27 saves while Giguere finished with 33. Both goalies made numerous stops and big saves to give their team a chance at victory. Both the Devils and Avs had a few key scoring chances that would of swing the decision in their favor, but the goalies prevailed between the pipes.
1. John McMullen
Having grown up in Jersey City and moved to Montclair in his high school years, McMullen was a passionate New Jerseyan. Nevertheless, he threatened to move the team to Nashville and Hamilton, Ont., when he perceived a lack of local support. Former Devils remember annual dinners for the team at his home, where priceless paintings hung on the walls in the days when NHL players didn’t earn today’s money. McMullen was a dog lover, as well as a Rangers and Flyers hater. To him, a win over either was worth two against anyone else. He took his son, Peter, to a few Rangers game at Madison Square Garden each year in the 1960s and 1970s but was never a season ticketholder.
2. Lou Lamoriello
Tyrannical. Obsessive. Married to the Devils. Architect of three Stanley Cup championships. They are all descriptions of the team’s longtime president and GM. He micromanages the Devils, has gone through 19 coaches (15 different people) in 25 seasons and is quick to lock horns with NHL executives, disgruntled players, reporters and staff members if they disagree with him. But he holds firm to his principles and every now and then slips up and lets you see he’s a good person.
3. Scott Stevens
Hockey’s most-feared hitter, the defenseman was awarded to the Devils in 1991 as compensation when the St. Louis Blues signed free agent Brendan Shanahan. A Hall of Famer, his hit on Eric Lindros turned the 2000 conference finals around. He policed the dressing room, with teammates fearful of letting him down. A three-time Cup winner, he ranks ahead of Martin Brodeur only because the Cups stopped when he retired.
4. Martin Brodeur
The face of the franchise for two decades, his importance cannot be measured simply by the fact that he is the NHL’s all-time leader in wins, shutouts and games played. A four-time Vezina Trophy winner, it was unfair to suggest he was great during the Cup years primarily because of the defense he had in front of him. In fact, his ability to handle the puck changed the game and overall skills still give his teammates a sense of security.
5. Scott Niedermayer
Grace and class on and off skates. Stevens and Ken Daneyko did the dirty work, but he was equally as important. Niedermayer was so good that there often appeared to be two of him. He’d lead the offensive rush and then get back in time to stop the opposing team. If you didn’t see him in his prime, you missed something special.
About Devil's Advocate
I am an all around NHL fan. I love to watch Atlantic Division, and root for the Philadelphia Flyers. Just because I cheer for the Flyers, doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with the other teams in the division, specifically the New Jersey Devils. Devils Advocate will provide you with the most important Devils news, filled with my opinion about the selected topic.
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