Adam Larsson finally got to play in his first NHL playoff game and for the first time in a while he was nervous before a hockey game. "I was nervous, actually. I’m not nervous at all usually, so it was a special game for me.” Larsson struggled his first shift and coughed up the puck, but came back to the bench only to hear words of encouragement from assistant coach and legendary defenseman Larry Robinson. Apparently that was all he needed.
Larsson then played a strong game and was able to destroy a 1-0 deficit by wristing a beautiful shot past the glove of Ilya Bryzgalov. “I was actually pretty surprised because I don’t score much,” said Larsson “But it was a good feeling for sure.” The rest of the team was pumped for Larsson, symbolic of how close the Devils have gotten this year. Backup goaltender Johan Hedberg stood beaming watching Larsson's post-game interview as reported by Tom Gulitti, and Zach Parise had nothing but good stuff to say about Larsson. “It’s awesome,” Zach Parise said. “Everyone was so happy for him. He’s worked really hard. He hasn’t been in the lineup and that can be frustrating for a young player, but he’s worked hard. He worked hard to get himself back in and took advantage. It was a great shot and really it got us going. It’s great to see.”
David Clarkson and Travis Zajac also scored to give the Devils a 3-1 lead and Bryce Salvador took advantage of an aggressive goalie pull by the Flyers to score in the empty net from the Devils' end. The Devils ended up celebrating right in front of their bench, and the rest of the guys on the team jumped in. “Any time you score a goal in the playoffs, you take it,” said Bryce Salvador. “You take them however you can. What’s more important is we got the win, so it makes it feel that much better. The score sheet’s not going to say how it went in, so I’m going to tell my kids it went top shelf.”
The Devils will head back to New Jersey with a series split, and technically now have home ice advantage. They will place Thursday night at 7:30 in front of another sold out crowd, which the Devils just announced today.
Lets go Devils!
As I sat on my bed and watched the Devils game unfold, I kept saying how Henrique looked like he really wanted it; that turned out to be an understatement. The Devils rookie scored 2 goals and on top of that had tons of other scoring chances including two breakaways in a pivotal Game 7 that led the Devils to their first second round series since 2007. “NHL Game 7 winner that’s like playing mini sticks at home. That’s the game you always play" said Henrique.
“A fitting end to the series,” head coach Pete DeBoer said in his press conference. “I’m, obviously, glad we won, but both teams battled for five periods tonight and really seven and a half games. Glad to come out on the right side of it, but also full marks to Florida for the fight they put up and how they played in the series.”
The Panthers played a great series and had been exceeding expectations all season long. Practically no one epected them to be in the playoffs in the first place, and very few thought that they would win the series. Most predicted the Devils in 5 games. "This is not where the hockey people predicted us to be at the start of the year," said Stephen Weiss, who's been with the Panthers his entire career and just finished his first ever playoff series. "We did some good things. We're obviously disappointed not being able to move on. It's been a fun year. It's been a fun playoff in front of our fans."
Next up the Devils will take on the Philadelphia Flyers. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 2010, where the Flyers easily handled the Devils in 5, the only Devils win came at Wells Fargo Arena. The key for this series for the Devils is composure and focus. The Devils really need to work hard to play the game their own way and not fall to the usual BS that the Flyers like to stir around. The Penguins couldn't handle it and they found themselves in a 3-0. Basically, the Flyers get you all riled up and upset and then they score on you and you just crack. The Devils can't let that happen this time.The Devils took a flight back to New Jersey after the game last night and got to sleep at home so they will not practice today. Tomorrow they'll hold a regular practice, media meeting and then they'll most likely have an optional morning skate Sunday morning. Puck drop is at 3pm and the game is on the regular NBC channel, so Doc will most likely be calling it!Here's the full schedule:
Game 1: Devils at Philadelphia, Sunday 3 p.m. NBC
Game 2, Devils at Philadelphia, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Game 3: Philadelphia at Devils, Thursday May 3, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Game 4: Philadelphia at Devils, Sunday, May 6, 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network
*Game 5: Devils at Philadelphia, Tuesday, May 8, TBD., NBC Sports Network
*Game 6: Philadelphia at Devils, Thursday, May 10, TBD, TBD
*Game 7: Devils at Philadelphia, Saturday, May 12, TBD, TBDLets go Devils!***Be sure to check out the front page of the blog, I've been doing win countdowns so you can check on it and see how many wins the Devils need to advance to every series in the playoffs and to win the cup. Also, be sure to like the blog on facebook or follow me on twitter to know when a new post has been put up.
The Devils had an optional morning skate today before Game 6 at Prudential Center tonight. The team is currently down three games to two and a win tonight would send the series back to Florida for a winner-take-all game at BankAtlantic Center. The Devils said the same words they've said all series yesterday after practice, talking about their intensity level and playing smart. “I still believe we can beat them,” Dainius Zubrus said. "This team, we can beat. I’m thinking about that more than [thinking] our season might be over."
“I don’t even have in my mind that this might be our last game. I’m not ready." Elias paused and repeated, "I’m not ready. I’m trying to cool myself down. Emotions are going to be there, no matter what you do. Approach it like it’s just a game, do everything right and have your A-game. Don’t worry about the end result.”
The forwards on the ice were Travis Zajac, Ryan Carter, Dainius Zubrus, Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta, Alexei Ponikarovsky. The defenseman on the ice were Adam Larsson, Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, and Anton Volchenkov. Both goalies were also skating and it is again expected that Brodeur will play.
That leaves these players taking rest: Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Adam Henrique, Bryce Salvador, David Clarkson and Marek Zidlicky.
“We’re not done yet,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “It’s always a good chance when you go and play face to face with any team. We can win two in a row. We did it a lot of times this year. But they’re a good team. They work hard. They do what they’re best at. Like I said a lot of times, they’re there for a reason, but if we want to win the series, we’ve got to take care of ourselves."
Lets go Devils!
Earlier today Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were announced as the three nominees for the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player "selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League", aka the Rookie of the Year. The nominees were selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20th.
Landeskog was selected 2nd overall in the 2011 draft and immediately made the jump to the Colorado Avalanche team, playing left wing for the team. In 82 games he scored 52 points (20g, 32a) and went +20. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick also in the 2011 draft, tied Landeskog in points with 18 goals and 36 assists, although he scored those in 20 less games. RNH went -2 in those 62 games but only has 16 penalty minutes as compared to Landeskog's 51 penalty minutes.
Devils center Adam Henrique took a much different path to the NHL. Henrique was drafted in the third round, 82nd overall, by the Devils in 2008. He had already played two years with the Windsor Spitfires and would spend the next two years there as well, amassing 68 goals and 72 assists in 110 games over those two years. In those two years with Windsor the team won the J. Ross Robertson Cup (awarded to the winner of the OHL playoffs) and the Memorial Cup, awarded to the champion of the CHL playoffs. Henrique played an integral role during the playoffs, marked by his receiving of the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award, which is awarded to the MVP of the playoffs for the OHL.
After those two impressive seasons, Henrique found himself playing for the Albany Devils of the AHL. In 73 games Adam scored 25 goals and 25 assists, a testament to his all-around offensive skills and that he could easily adjust to the quicker pace of the AHL. At the start of this season, Henrique struggled through training camp and was once again assigned to the AHL, but knew that his time on the bigger stage of the NHL would come eventually. It was only a few weeks into the season when Jacob Josefson fractured his clavicle, and the rest is history. Henrique was eventually paired with Kovalchuk and Parise on the top line, and has scored 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in 74 games.
"He's a good player," said Zach Parise during the season. "You can tell he's patient with the puck, he makes good plays. Most importantly, Kovy and I tell him to relax and make the good play. Don't feel obligated to pass to either one of us, just make the smart play and he's done that."
Henrique is the last Calder Trophy finalist from the Devils since Scott Gomez was selected in 2000 after he scored 19 goals and had 51 assists in 82 games. The last Devil to win the Calder Trophy was Marty Brodeur, who won it in 1994 after going 27-11-8 with a 2.40 GAA and .915 save percentage.
Lets go Devils!
The Devils scored 4 goals at The Rock last night and Brodeur made 26 saves to give the Devils their 2nd win of the series and Marty's 101st win in the playoffs. The guys worked really hard, got good opportunities on net, and kept the pedal to the metal for the rest of the game even after the scoring stopped. If they continue to play like this there's no doubt they'll be advancing to the second round in my mind. A few notes:
-Anton Volchenkov played 16:19 last night, the highest he's played all series. In addition to that, he was on the ice for two goals and his plus/minus rating is now even for the series. He had some strong hits and it's good to see him bounce back while everyone (including me) was criticizing him and wanted Larsson to play in his place.
-Brodeur was real sharp last night. Even though he didn't have a huge work load like Braden Holtby against the Bruins, he made the stops you expect your goalie to make. Regardless of how much work needs to be done, you can't be unhappy with a shutout. “I thought he played great tonight,” Parise said. “Just like any competitive player, when you get pulled out of a game you want to have a great bounce back game, and I think we all knew he was going to have that. We saw him make some big saves early, and he was sharp.”
-The Devils have given Kris Versteeg a nickname, "the rat" according to the NY Post. Versteeg currently has two points in the series, but was a Devil killer during the regular season with five goals in four games.
-The Devils went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill last night, obviously a huge improvement from the 40% rate they had been working at. “I knew that our penalty killing would bounce back, and it did tonight,” said head coach Pete DeBoer.
-Every player on the Devils fourth line now has a goal in the series after Steve Bernier scored last night. “It’s pride,” Bernier said. “You can call it what you want. We want to win and we feel as a fourth line that we’ve got the speed, we’ve got the size to not get scored on. That’s our main goal. Then, play in their zone and get some offensive zone time.”
-No word yet as to whether the Devils will skate today or not, if they do I'll have an update later today.
Lets go Devils!
Hey all, just a few notes before tonight's win. The Devils are currently in a 2-1 series hole and are facing a must-win tonight. A loss will leave them heading back to Florida trailing 3-1 in the series.
- Anton Volchenkov will play tonight. Pete DeBoer had been considering replacing him with Adam Larsson because he's been having a rough series so far. For those of you who don't already know, Volchenkov has been on the ice for 9 out of 10 Panthers goals this series, and the only one he wasn't on the ice for was an empty netter. When his bad play became a noticed issue, DeBoer mentioned how he fully didn't recover from an injury during the regular season and this was the reason for his poor play against a fast team like the Panthers. “Volchenkov, you look at the situation and he’s had some bad luck, some bad timing,” DeBoer said. “He’s been on for nine of the 10 goals (and had) personal responsibility in only a couple of them. He’s had a bad run. I feel for him. It’s Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong is going wrong for him right now and he’s just got to battle through that."
- Kevin Dineen hasn't said whether Clemmensen or Theodore will start tonight in goal. Theodore was pulled after allowing three first period goals in Game 3, after that Clemmensen stopped all 19 of the Devils shots to help the Panthers pull off a 4-3 comeback.
-The Devils had an optional morning skate, the following players didn't attend: Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky. Most of these players aren't surprises to not participate as the majority of them are older or may be dealing with nagging injuries.
-Panthers coach Kevin Dineen on the game tonight: “Here's one guarantee,” he said. “If we spot them three goals, I don’t think we’re going to be able to come back tonight. You don’t get away with that time after time. We’re going to have to play a more consistent brand of hockey for us to come in here and win. We’re not going to steal anything out of this building. We’re going to have to earn everything we get today.”
Lets go Devils!
The Devils are practicing this morning at Prudential Center looking to get their act together after blowing a 3-0 lead and losing 4-3 to the Panthers last night. The loss was on home ice and puts the Devils in a hole, now being behind in the series 2-1. The Devils will be in a desperate situation tomorrow night if they lose; a loss would put them in a 3-1 hole and they would head back to Florida to play Game 5. Devils players as well as their coach Pete DeBoer had no excuses for themselves in their post game interviews. “I don’t really have an explanation,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve got to learn as a group how to play in that situation. It starts without taking penalties. We’ve been burned in two games now taking penalties and their power play has been the difference.”
“A three-goal lead in your own rink and you lose the game, that’s unacceptable right now,”said Zach Parise, captain of the team. Devils fourth line center Ryan Carter agreed, “If we are shocked, we shouldn’t be. That’s a good team over there. And they can score quickly. We shouldn’t be shocked because we did it to ourselves.”
Personally, it seems like to me the Devils are just flat-out nervous. The way Elias paused before putting home the third goal in an open net, even the awkward way they all look for each other to celebrate and don't know who to skate towards; it just looks like they're flat out nervous and looking for a leader to calm them down. The Florida Panthers have nothing to lose, meanwhile the Devils struggle to get over their issue of passing the first round and need to forget about the team's reputation altogether. The Devils need to forget about everything and just play hockey: much easier said than done, especially on a professional stage.
"We got overexcited about our three-goal lead,” Brodeur said. “We let them back in the game. We got a little undisciplined.” Johan Hedberg agrees and thinks the team needs to settle down. “Obviously, you have to be aggressive, you have to do all the little things, but at the same time you have to be confident enough and relaxed enough that we can make the plays we need to to be successful. We have a lot of titles in our room, so we truly believe in ourselves as a group. We’ve just got to stick to what we talked about and do the little things."
Personally I would like to see Cam Janssen in on the fourth line to set the tone with a few big hits, I know there has been a ton of hits in the series so far, but I want obnoxiously loud and huge hits. They're important for the crowd and play a huge role in keeping the Devils riled up when they have the lead and start to play on their heels. How many times have we seen Cam come out with a huge hit and the game-play picks back up? That's no accident, it gets the adrenaline running in the players, which is exactly what the Devils need when they get too relaxed after big leads.
The Devils are a solid playoff team and can turn this series around, but they need to play smart and learn to control themselves and the intensity that they play with. This series isn't over yet, so don't get discouraged Devils fans. Root for the red and black and LETS GO DEVILS.
As nice as it would have been for the Devils to head back to New Jersey with a 2-0 series lead, Coach Pete DeBoer and the guys in the red and black are happy with splitting in Florida. “I think we would have taken a split coming down here,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “There’s no easy match-ups in the NHL playoffs. I don’t think anyone expected that anyone was going to beat anybody in four. We got a split. Now, have to take care of business at home.”
The Devils destroyed the Panthers in the first period of Game 1, peppering Jose Theodore with 26 shots on net and scoring 3 goals. They then allowed 2 goals in the 2nd period and were able to seal the deal by playing a shutdown defense in the 3rd. The game was very similar to the first time the Devils played the Panthers in the regular season where they went up 3-0 and lost 4-3 in overtime. “All year, we’ve tried to implement that in our game to be a solid team with the lead, especially in the third period,” Brodeur said. “As of late, we’ve got a lot of success with it. That’s what we talked about. I know it’s not fun to give up two goals and get back into a hockey game in a game that we had under control, but we said, ‘This is a great opportunity.’ We were up by one goal going into the third period. If anyone would have asked us if we wanted to be in that situation, we would have taken it in a heartbeat and we just went out and played the way we can play defensively."
In Game 2 the Devils came out sloppy and lacked discipline, giving the Panthers two power play goals and an eventual third goal; two were scored by Stephen Weiss, his first two ever in the playoffs, and one by Marcel Goc. The Devils then came out in the 3rd period where Zajac and Kovalchuk each scored in the first 2:02, but the Devils were unable to complete the comeback and lost 4-2. “I think we gave them a good push in the third, but it just wasn’t enough,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “I think we all liked the way we played in the third period, so we just have to keep playing the same way.”
The Devils were given off yesterday to rest, something that has worked well for the Devils in the past, like when they went 8-1-1 after the All-Star Break. The Devils are currently the oldest team in the league at an average age of 30.3 years old. Coincidentally, the Panthers are 3rd at 28.6 years old (Detroit is 2nd at 29.2). “I’ve taken the approach with our group and I’ve said before that I don’t believe there’s any such thing as too much rest.” said Coach DeBoer. "I think our history over the last half of the season was that when we’re rested we play well and when fatigue gets set in a little bit for us we don’t. So, we want to control that the best we can.”'
The Devils are on the ice today for a morning skate, and every player is skating. DeBoer has told the media he doesn't plan to make any lineup changes and will go with the lines he used in Game 1. No line changes means that rookie Adam Larsson will still wait to get his playoff debut after struggling towards the end of the season. As of today there haven't been any call-ups from the Albany Devils (who just finished their season) as spare players for the team, and according to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record the players are still skating lightly and in the process of doing end of season interviews. On another note, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has stated that everything is status quo with Henrik Tallinder's blood clot and he is not likely to return for the playoffs.
Also, for those of you who don't know by now the team's personal slogan for the playoffs is "Swarm it up". “That’s what we talk about doing in the defensive zone,” said locker room leader Patrik Elias. “We want everybody to get good pressure, get the swarm going.” Kovalchuk and Brodeur ordered every player a red sweatshirt and grey t-shirt with each player's number and a Devils logo on the front, while on the back there are dice with 16 noticeable dots (possibly for the amount of wins needed to win the Cup) and the motto "Swarm it up". Kovy wanted to get something for the boys,” said Marty, meanwhile Kovalchuk insisted there was a couple of guys involved. No one would say for sure the meaning of the 16 dots on the dice, all Kovy said was “It’s a secret” while goalie Johan Hedberg said "It’s symbolic. It’s like a Dan Brown novel.”
It's been 729 long days since the Devils last played a playoff game, and tonight that count of days comes to an end. Here's some quick notes before the game tonight. Keep in mind that the game will be on MSG+ for the locals and NHL-Net for the national coverage. Notes:-Vanderbeek and Newark mayor Corey Booker are still going at it. At this point it looks like Vanderbeek is following the contract the Devils signed with Newark and Booker is trying to look like a hero to save himself in the 2014 re-election campaign. If you want quotes and more details, check out nj.com here. -Brodeur is expected to start tonight in what will be his 171st straight playoff start, and a win tonight would be his 100th career playoff win.
“It could be my last playoff,” said Brodeur. “I want to go out and really enjoy it as much as I can." Regardless of how far the Devils go, all Marty wants is to have fun. “It’s fun. It’s still pressure. I am gonna get judged, trust me. I am old now, I’ve got everything going against me,” Brodeur said. “But we also have some mid-career guys, like Kovy and Zach, who are looking to taste playoff success. This is just a great time in my career to enjoy all that. I am enjoying this more than ever just because where I am in my career and where I am going in my career. It’s a fun team to be a part of.” -Former Devil John Madden is excited to be in the playoffs, even if it is against the Devils. Madden texted his buddy Brodeur often before he signed to the Panthers in January, but once he became a Panther those texts stopped; indicative of how professional hockey is.
“I just kept looking at the standings, and the way it was playing out there was a good possibility we’d be playing each in the playoffs,” Madden said “Prior to that, I’d text him after he had a good game or just to say hello. But I figured I couldn’t do that anymore. Madden is happy to be back in the playoffs and joked that he can help the team dismantle the Devils. “I’m proud to be back in the playoffs. Anybody would be,” Madden said. “I’m just trying to help this team out in any way. Anything I can give the guys, I’ll pass it along. Like any tendencies the Devils have as a team." Brodeur said he wasn't worried about it, neither am I.-The Devils last practice in Newark was yesterday, afterwards they flew to Florida and will have a mandatory morning skate Friday morning.
Larsson, Boulton, and Janssen were extra skaters in yesterday's practice, so that leaves us with the impression that they won't be starting tonight in Game 1. Here are your lineups from yesterday's practice:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold Extras:
Larsson, Janssen, BoultonLets go Devils!
The New Jersey Devils finished their season on a six game win streak when they defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-2 Saturday afternoon at Prudential Center. Brodeur let in a soft goal when he tried to kick a puck away while standing up, but Kovalchuk answered, Stephen Gionta scored his first NHL goal, Sykora scored on a 5-on-1 and Kovalchuk put away the empy netter to give the Devils a 4-2 win. In their last six games the Devils have scored a total of 22 goals (an average of 3.667 a game) while they've only given up 9 (an average of 1.5 a game). Later Saturday night the team found out that it would be playing the Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, who beat the Hurricanes 4-1 that night after skidding towards the end of the season with poor play that almost cost them the Southeast Division Title.
The Devils/Panthers series is the only one to start as late as Friday while the other seven start Wednesday or Thursday. Although we all have to wait an extra day, the rest will be great for players like David Clarkson and Anton Volchenkov. Specifically, Clarkson has been dealing with a nagging injury and DeBoer said it wouldn't keep him out of the playoffs even if it didn't improve, but it was enough to keep him out of a regular season game. Meanwhile, Volchenkov was out Saturday with the flu but is expected to be fine.
This will be the first time the Devils will play the Panthers in the playoffs since 2000 when the Devils swept the Panthers in the first round on their way to their second ever Stanley Cup. Hopefully history repeats itself. Although Coach DeBoer admitted before their first regular season match-up that he wanted revenge, he now says he put it all behind him. “When we played them the first time, there was some emotion involved,” DeBoer said. “I’m not going to lie to you. That’s human nature. But we’ve played them four times during the season and we’ve gone 82 games. Three quarters of that team is different personnel than when I was there. They really are another team for me now.
Although the Panthers have the higher seed they are currently 8 points behind the Devils with 102, but numerous Devils players have said they don't mind starting on the road. It is widely speculated that the Devils will handle the Panthers easily, on NHL Tonight former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice stated that he though Brodeur would play strong and the Devils will sweep the Panthers easily. Although the belief seems to be the Devils will win in 4 or 5 games, the Panthers do have offensive weapons that the Devils need to focus on. Kris Versteeg has been deadly when playing the Devils this season, scoring five goals in four games. Meanwhile, former Devils netminder Scott Clemmensen has gone 4-0-0 in his career against the Devils and you can't help but think Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen is considering starting him over inconsistent veteran Jose Theodore. Time will tell.
On a more personal note, I strongly encourage anyone who has a free night to attend a Devils playoff game. The stadium is always loud and packed, and it truly is on a whole higher level than regular season games. Playoff games are really worth the money, and you'll often leave with a cool t-shirt or rally towel. Check out stubhub.com for seats as low as like 30 or 40 bucks, which is pretty good in my opinion. I'm writing this as a Devils fan and nothing more, I'm not being paid for this or anything! But seriously, it's truly a great experience.
Here's the full schedule:
Friday, April 13, 2012: Devils at Florida, 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 15, 2012: Devils at Floriday, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012: Florida at Devils, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 19, 2012: Florida at Devils, 7 p.m.
*Saturday, April 21, 2012: Devils at Florida, 6:30 p.m.
*Tuesday, April 24, 2012: Florida at Devils, TBD
*Thursday, April 26, 2012: Devils at Florida, TBD
In Canada, games 1-5 will be broadcasted on TSN while in America 1,3,4 and 5 will be on NHL Network, except for Game 2 will be on NBC Sports Network.