Devils Lose 5-2 to the Lighting in Game 1 of the First Round
Devils Lose in First Playoff Game of the First Round
The Devils are 0-1 against the Tampa Bay Lighting who won in front of their “Thunder Clapping” home crowd. While it might have been nerves mixed with inexperience the Devils will have an uphill battle if they want to beat one of the best teams in the NHL and advance to round two. Do they have it in them? In my opinion the jury is still out.
For the first time since 2012 the New Jersey Devils skated in post season play. The 2017-18 are a much different than that team. Gone are the mainstays of Bryce Salvador, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique. It was the also the first time in almost a quarter of century that someone else started in goal instead of future hall of famer Martin Brodeur in a playoff game. Of that team only, Travis Zajac and Andy Greene are still wearing a Devils uniform.
First Period Kept the Nervousness at Bay
As the Devils took the ice in front of the billionth (yes, I am exaggerating) sell out at Amalie Arena it was clear it was not going to be easy. The home fans exuberantly clapped their “Thunder Clappers” in hopes of making the young Devils team nervous.
The first period was exciting. The Devils matched the level of intensity that the Lighting put out. Dare I say they were equals? Even when the Lighting struck first it seemed as though the two teams were evenly matched. The momentum shifted when with a few seconds left in the first the Lightning struck again.
Second Period the Adrenaline Subsided
There was noticeable shift in intensity at the start of the second. It felt as though the Devils adrenaline had no been replaced with nervousness. Miles Wood took a penalty in the first 5 seconds of the game allowing the Lighting’s Yanni Gourde to score on the power play. Hope of a comeback started to dwindle as the fans took the Devils right out of the game. Taylor Hall decided the Devils were not going out with out a fight and scored with about 6 minutes left in the period. This was Hall’s first playoff goal ever. It instantly lifted the Devils momentum.
Third Period There was Still Hope
At the start of the third, there was restored hope in a comeback from the Devils. The Devils got their second goal from Travis Zajac during a power play. The upward momentum was thwarted when the Lighting struck back with a 4th goal as Alex Killorn snuck one by Keith Kinkaid. The icing on the losing cake was an empty net goal with a 1:12 left.
First, the Lighting were due a win against the Devils. The Devils won the season series 3-0. Second, they had a home ice advantage. Amalie Arena can get loud with its sell out crowds. Their noise makers up the ante. It is like trying to win an away game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle…it is almost impossible. Third, it is game one. There are potentially six more games. While I think game, one is good litmus test to whether or not the Devils can make it past the first round, Saturday’s game hold more weight. Saturday, the nerves will be gone, and the anticipation of the playoffs will be in the back of their heads.
As far as personal goes its time to get Grabner off this ice. You can say that he has experience or that he can be asset but since coming to this side of the Hudson he has been lackluster. He might have speed but that has not translated into points. The production from players like Coleman, Butcher, and Maroon are much more interictal to the Devils producing. They are players that should be seeing a good amount of ice time of the next few games. Also, I think it is important to note that Kinkaid did a good job in goal. Had the offense produced a little more the game could have easily been tied or tilted in the Devils favor.
Will MoJo Make an Appearance?
Marcus Johansson has been cleared for contact in practice but not games yet. It is possible we will see him before the series is over and it could be just what the Devils need. He has playoff experience from being with the Washington Capitals. He is also an amazing hockey play whose talent translates into wins.
Game 2 starts at 7:00pm Saturday in Tampa Bay.