There is nothing like your first time! This post season for the New Jersey Devils has created some stories on guys that don’t usually make the headlines.
For Alexei Ponikarovsky, his first goal of the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs came at the right time. “I didn’t have time to celebrate. Everybody jumped on me. It felt good in the pile.”
I cringed at the thought of Ilya Kovalchuk skating in Game 3 because something wonderful needed to happen for that man to erase the embarrassing play that he showed all Devils fans in Game 2. It was magical, and his return was nothing short of impressive. Stepping back into his role at RW, Kovalchuk tallied one goal and two assists, including the one on Ponikarovsky’s game winner. It’s a breath of fresh air to see what type of player Kovalchuk used to be to where he is now.
The Flyers came out much harder in this game versus the previous two, and an early goal by Brayden Schenn capped off the pressure. While that took some wind out of the sails of all 17,000+ fans at the Prudential Center, two goals within the span of 20 seconds were scored by the Devils. Despite the quick 180, they did play from behind the rest of the game.
It was like two boxers were exchanging connecting punches all night. Carle tied the game up, Parise broke that tie, and Mr. Clutch, Daniel Briere helped send the game in to its 2nd overtime of the semi-finals. If I’ve seen anything that’s consistent this series, the Devils just do not quit. While the penalty kill continues to frustrate the Flyers, two of those penalties came in overtime, which just seemed to stack the odds against the Devils to steal their first home victory and the series lead.
Nevertheless, you are not seeing the same Devils team you did in the series against Florida. I believe that series was more about bragging rights than competing for the cup as Peter Deboer faced his replacement, Kevin Dineen.
“That line of communication is tremendous. As long as I’ve been in the organization, this is as good as I’ve seen it,” Brodeur said.
Coaches and players need to have an outstanding relationship in order to be successful. If the players don’t buy in to the system the coach wants to play, and, if players don’t want to play for that coach, you get to start summers early. This is not the case in New Jersey. You’re seeing the success spread from Pete Deboer, Larry Robinson, Adam Oates, and Chris Terreri, all the way down to the fourth line. It’s beautiful to see a full team effort for the 10 periods played thusfar in this series.
So now, reality hits. The Devils and Flyers both have two days to regroup and refocus for Sunday’s Game 4 matchup at the Prudential Center. Game 3 is over, so I hope the Devils don’t think their work load gets any easier. Pete Deboer and his Devils need to show up to Game 4 on Sunday with a Game 7 mentality and a chance to put a strangle hold on the Flyers. Going into Philadelphia tied at two games a piece won’t make life easy.
However, the Flyers also have their hands full. Not only do the Devils play a different style of hockey than the Penguins do, the Flyers might have to play Game 4 without rookie stud Sean Couturier, who left the game in the first period with a lower body injury.
So what happens in Game 4? I think the Devils defense needs to elevate their game as the Flyers were able to put some power moves on display to crash the net and create some chaos for Marty and the team. A little more patience, but urgency with the puck I think could help as well when clearing their own end so we don’t take any more delay of game penalties despite killing off 14-of-16 penalties.
Deboer will have the Devils ready for Sunday, and you’ll see the same aggressive fore-check, pressure in both ends of the ice especially on Bryzgalov, and a team hungry to go up 3-1.