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Devils Drop First Preseason Game, 4-3, To Flyers

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

The Flyers defeated the Devils, 4-3, in a shootout tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Mike Richards scored the deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout, beating Devils’ goalie Mike McKenna.

The Flyers jumped ahead, 2-0, with Darrell Powe and Jeff Carter tallying goals. Adam Mair, who’s with the Devils on a tryout contract, brought the Devils to within one with a goal at 3:06 of the first period, cutting the Flyers lead to 2-1. Dainius Zubrus tied the game at 8:00 of the second period, evening it up at 2-2. Jamie Langenbrunner gave the Devils a one-goal lead, 3-2, with a goal at 12:06 of the second.

Johan Hedberg left the game after the second period, stopping 11 of 13 shots. Michael Leighton also exited after two periods, stopping 20 of 23 shots.

Danny Briere tied the game at three in the third period, scoring an even-strength goal at 14:54 of the period.

Devils rookie defenseman Alexander Urbom recorded two assists and was a team-high plus-2 in 22:10 of ice time. Devils head coach John MacLean said he liked what he saw from the rookie.

“For a young guy, he’s got some good poise back there,” MacLean said. “He feels comfortable playing with Henrik too. So, that’s a good thing. He’s got some good legs and moves the puck.”

Despite the loss, MacLean was still encouraged by what he saw from the team tonight.

“I thought it was a great effort,” MacLean said. “I thought the guys really had some good jump and I thought they did some good things., Everybody was ready to play. For the first preseason game, I thought it was pretty good.”

The Devils will face the Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in their second preseason game of the season.

Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Philadelphia Flyers

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Season Preview” tab. In today’s preview, we go to the Atlantic Division, taking a look at this season’s matchup with a hated rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.

This is still one of the hardest playoff loses to swallow, and the picture is a reminder of that. Photo Credit; Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Flyers vs. Devils – Historical Data

In 204 all-time meetings against the Flyers, the Devils are 88-95-13-3. In those 204 matchups, the Devils have averaged 2.97 goals against Philadelphia, but have allowed the Flyers to average 3.42 per meeting. Last season, the Devils went 1-4-1 against their rivals during the regular season. The Flyers also defeated the Devils, 4-1, in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, ending the Devils season.

The Devils opened their season against the Flyers, losing the opener, 5-2, at the Prudential Center. Jeff Carter opened the scoring, giving the Flyers a lead, 1-0, at 15:57 of the first period. The Flyers continued the offensive output in the second period. Ian Laperriere netted an even-strength tally at 9:20 of the period to extend the Flyers lead to 2-0. Mike Richards would add a goal at 15:23 to push the Flyers lead to 3-0. But the offense wouldn’t stop there.

Darrell Powe increased the Flyers lead to 4-0 with an even-strength goal at 7:34 of the third period. Brian Rolston ruined Ray Emery’s shutout, scoring a powerplay goal at 9:44 of the period to bring the score to 4-1. Matt Carle would reinstate the four-goal lead, scoring at 11:13 to put the Flyers ahead, 5-1. Jamie Langenbrunner tallied a shorthanded goal at 13:40 to cut the lead to 5-2.

The Flyers would once again defeat the Devils, 3-2, on November 16 in Philadelphia. Powe opened the scoring, giving the Flyers a lead, 1-0, with an even strength goal at 7:11 of the first period. Scott Hartnell increased the lead to 2-0, scoring with the man-advantage only 44 seconds into the second period. David Clarkson cut the deficit in half, tallying a powerplay goal at 15:42 of the period. James van Riemsdyk scored the eventual game-winning goal at 10:38 of the third period, increasing the Flyers lead to 3-1. Zach Parise scored an even-strength goal at 19:59 of the third, bringing the score to 3-2.

The Devils defeated the Flyers, 4-1, for their only win against their rivals on December 12 at the Prudential Center. Niclas Bergfors scored the game’s first goal, putting the Devils ahead, 1-0, with a powerplay tally at 2:33 of the first period. Bergfors would strike again on the man advantage at 12:31, extending the Devils lead to 2-0. Patrik Elias netted his then-300th career goal at 15:47 of the period, increasing the Devils lead to 3-0.

Claude Giroux snapped the shutout at 15:03 of the second period, netting a powerplay goal and bringing the score to 3-1. Elias scored another goal at 19:26 of the period, upping the Devils lead to 4-1. Martin Brodeur finished with 22 saves (and a powerplay assist) in the win. Brian Boucher stopped 24 shots in the loss.

The Flyers defeated the Devils on February 8, winning the first game of a home-and-home series, 3-2, at the Wachovia Center. Parise gave the Devils an early lead, netting a powerplay goal at 7:00 minutes of the first period for a 1-0 advantage. Anssi Salmela doubled the Devils lead, scoring a shorthanded goal at 1:01 of the second period. But the defenseman paid a hefty price, as Carter leveled him as he took the shot. Salmela would lay motionless on the ice, and was eventually taken off on a stretcher. Here’s the video:

After that hit, the ice titled in the Flyers favor. Van Riemsdyk scored at 18:24 to cut the Devils lead to 2-1. Carter tied the game at 19:36, scoring an even-strength goal to knot the game at 2-2. Richards scored the game-winning goal, scoring with the man advantage at 12:02 of the third period to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.

Continue reading for the rest of the recap!

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ECQ Game Five: Devils Look To Start The Comeback

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The Philadelphia Flyers (3-1) face off against the New Jersey Devils (1-3). This is the fifth game in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. The Flyers currently lead the series, 3-1.

Series Scope: Ilya Kovalchuk scored the first goal Tuesday night to take a 1-0 lead after the first period. That would be all the Devils would get. The Flyers scored four unanswered goals – including two from Jeff Carter – and thoroughly whooped the Devils, 4-1. The Devils, admittedly, gave up in the third period. The Devils have only recovered from a 3-1 series deficit once, in 2000 against the Flyers. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire brings experience, as he’s the only coach to come back from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same playoffs (2003 with the Minnesota Wild). But this won’t be an easy task, because the Devils have already been outscored, 12-9, and rank second in penalties (24) in the playoffs.

Tonight’s Matchup: This could be it for the Devils tonight. Facing a 3-1 deficit, the chances of coming back are somewhat bleak after watching the Devils’ performance this entire series. But the team hasn’t shared this view. In an interview with Kovalchuk, Devils beat reporter Rich Chere asked the left-winger if he’s worried about this game being his last as a Devil.

“No. Because we’re going to win tomorrow,” Kovalchuk said.

That quotes sums up everything the players have said over the past two days. They don’t feel like they’re out of the playoffs yet. While it might be smoke and mirrors, it’s this type of talk that gives me hope. Maybe, just maybe, the Devils can put together an inspired, complete performance and defeat the Flyers. But, in order to do that, the Devils need to play better than they’ve played in the entire series. Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti highlighted some of the problems the Devils need to change.

“They certainly won’t be able to do it if they continue having trouble getting out of their zone at even strength,” Gulitti said. “The Flyers have pressured the Devils on the forecheck and the Devils have not been to break out of their zone and through the neutral zone with clean passes. That was a big factor in the last two games during the times when they did skate 5-on-5 (there were 13 power plays in Game 3 and 16 and Game 4). The Devils defensemen have not been able to handle that pressure.”

And that’s just about the defense. Here’s what he had to say about the offense.

“The Devils will have to test (Brian) Boucher more,” he said. “He (Boucher) allowed only one goal in Games 1 and 4 and had to make maybe a handful of difficult saves in both of those games. The Flyers have been doing a good job of blocking shots and have roughed up Zach Parise pretty good, but the Devils have not been doing enough to get to the net annd get to rebounds and have allowed Boucher to become very comfortable.”

I think Gulitti lays out the plan very well. The defenseman need to make better, quicker decisions, and the forwards need to generate traffic and get tough shots on Boucher. If the Devils can do that, they will set themselves up for a big performance and, hopefully, will live to see another game in this series.

The Devils finally caught a break in game four, with injuries to Simon Gagne and Carter. Both will miss the rest of the series, with both undergoing surgeries for foot injuries (Gagne toe, Carter foot). While both haven’t played extremely well, they were two of the top forwards for the Flyers, each averaging over 18 minutes of ice time. Both played significant powerplay time, and Gagne even played on the second penalty-kill unit. While the Devils still have to defend against Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, etc., these two injuries weaken the Flyers. They might not be series-changing injuries, but they should play a role in tonight’s game.

Gametime is 7:00 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSGPlus, Comcast SportsNet and WFAN. Check in with The Devils’ Den tonight for a live game blog of all the game five action!

To Come Back, Devils Will Need Leadership

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Tomorrow night can be a sad night at the Rock. The Devils, who outplayed the Penguins all year and clinched second in the division, can be eliminated in the first round of the players for the third consecutive season. Down 3-1, and with the way the Devils have played, this looks almost certain. The Devils face a steep uphill climb to just get a victory tomorrow night.

Despite the odds, the Devils can still stage a comeback. But, in order to be competitive, the team needs leadership, and those leaders need to step up quickly. Who can step up to provide the leadership necessary to lead the team? Here are a few of my options:

1. Coach Jacques Lemaire

Lemaire hasn’t been doing so well in this series. It looks like Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette has thoroughly outcoached him. The Flyers’ forecheck has been terrific, they’ve continually attacked the Devils’ defense, and the team has never stopped moving since game one. Lemaire has seem subdued, almost emotionally detached to the situation going on around him. But I believe Lemaire can begin a Devils’ turnaround by making a few simple adjustments.

First, Lemaire needs to actually coach. While watching the games, Lemaire seems to take a hands-off approach, especially when the Devils need him most. Lemaire needs to get in the face of his players. He needs to be there, getting in players ears. He needs to make the adjustments in between periods to keep this team sharp. I know Lemaire has been hands-off, but down 3-1, it’s time to break the mold. I’d like to see Lemaire get a little more proactive on the bench and institute in-period changes. It’s the only way to keep up with a Flyers team that has outworked the Devils in four of the series five games.

Lemaire also has the background to help the team rescue the series. In 2003, with the Minnesota Wild, Lemaire pulled his team back from two 3-1 series deficits. They first came back against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference quarterfinals, effectively ending Patrick Roy’s career. They repeated the feat in the next round, defeating the Vancouver Canucks. His experience in this situation can and should be used to help the team respond.

Lemaire knows the time for speeches and talking is over.

“It’s been four speeches that we put on and there will be a fifth one,” Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “There’s a time for speeches. You can’t look for speeches. You’ve just got to get the work done.”

2. Colin White

In 2000, the Devils had great leadership throughout the locker room. Scott Stevens was the unquestioned leader of the team, but they also had great leadership from Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer. White was also on that squad. With the defense playing subpar during this series, the Devils need someone to step up and lead the blue line. While White may not be the best blueliner, he’s the senior leader of that group. White needs to step up and get the defense playing well. The defense hasn’t played well in their own zone, and White needs to be the one to hold people accountable. He should be the vocal leader of the group, reminding the defenseman to move the puck and make the smart play. He should be riding defenseman when they take dumb penalties or take a shift off. I haven’t seen anyone step up this season to be the leader of the defense. In this situation, the team needs someone to do that, and White’s been around long enough to know what the Devils expect from their defenseman. He should step up, carry the torch and lead the defense.

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Flyers vs. Devils – Battle Of The Forwards

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

As the first game of their playoff series looms, I’m going to break down the matchup between the Flyers and the Devils. In the first installment of this series, we’ll take a look at the forwards for both teams.

Philadelphia Flyers

Daniel Briere will be one Flyers forward who needs to provide an offensive spark. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Injuries have cost the team several key players, mostly in net. But one of the biggest injuries came when Jeff Carter went down with injury. While he hoped to be back for the playoffs, it looks like the Flyers will be without him. Carter, who led the team in goals and finished second in points, was an absolute Devil killer this season. In five games, he recorded three goals, two of which were tying goals. He also netted six game-winning goals, and recorded 22 powerplay points. The Flyers still have explosive scorers in Mike Richards and Danny Briere. Simon Gagne has always hurt the Devils. But, after that, the performance falls off. Claude Giroux can score big goals, but he can also disappear for large stretches of time. The same can be said for rookie James van Riemsdyk.

Overall, the Flyers ranked eighth in goals and 11th in assists. Their specialty teams are explosive, ranking second in powerplay goals and third in powerplay assists. The Flyers forwards are a dangerous bunch, but if the Devils can shut down their top guy, they should be able to manage playing against them.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils scored 22 goals fewer than the Flyers this season, but it doesn’t mean the team’s scorers can’t do some damage. The acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk seemed to pay off, as the Devils newest left-

Brian Rolston will need to pick up his offensive slack to help the Devils defeat the Flyers. Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

winger contributed 10 goals and 27 assists. He instantly updated the powerplay, and those assists show he’s willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get the goal. Zach Parise, who finished with 38 goals and 88 points, is another talented forward. Whether chasing down a loose puck or putting home a one-timer, he hustles during every shift. And these aren’t the only two bright spots. Players like Travis Zajac (25 goals, a new career high), Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrik Elias are always dangerous.

One of the keys to the offense will be secondary scoring. We all know the top two lines can produce. But who will come up clutch? Can David Clarkson continue to improve? Will Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond contribute anything offensively? Can Brian Rolston find his goal scoring touch? In the playoffs, these “role” players are usually the ones that make an impact. I think the Devils have more depth and more role players who can score these key goals.

Here’s the stat line: the Devils ranked 19th in the league in goals and 17th in assists this past season. The powerplay, while not great, was better this season, tying for 21st in powerplay goals and 21st in powerplay assists. It’s not dangerous, but the Devils can do some damage with their special teams.

So, overall, who owns the advantage. I think the teams are almost dead even, but I give the Devils a slight nod. I think the ability to run out two great scoring lines gives them a big advantage in the series. However, the powerplay ability of the Flyers should not be forgotten. The Devils will need to be smart, because the Flyers have the potential to put their great powerplay to work. As I said, the teams draw almost even, but in the end, I believe the Devils are a tad bit stronger.

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

In the continuing “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview” series, I take a look at the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils rival currently hold the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. But the team has gone through some adversity as of late, losing three goaltenders and their leading scorer, Jeff Carter. Can this team succeed in the playoffs without those integral pieces?

Forwards:

The Flyers have some solid, but not great, forwards on the team. With the injury to Jeff Carter, the team lost their leading scorer and one of their best goal scorers. One of the best forwards on the team is Mike Richards. The young captain has 28 goals and 30 assists through 76 games, and his play on the penalty kill and powerplay are stellar. He’s one of the better two-way forwards in the game today. After Richards, the Flyers have several role players. Simon Gagne, who could be a great goal scorer, has only played 52 games this season. The same can be said for Danny Briere. What I don’t like about the Flyers is the injury risk throughout all of their lines. Gagne usually has one major injury per year, and Briere hasn’t been fully healthy since signing with Philadelphia (8 years, $52 million with a no trade clause). Both of these guys can make plays and put the puck in the net. With one major weapon already down, another injury to a scoring forward would sink this team.

Brian Boucher and the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the weakest teams qualifying for the playoffs right now. Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Defense:

The Flyers first defensive pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle are extremely good. Both defenseman combine for a plus/minus rating of 41. Pronger leads the team in assists, and has chipped in 10 goals during the season. But that has been one of the only bright spots for the Flyers defense this year. They rank near the middle of the pack in goals against, allowing 202 so far this season. They also rank 25th in shots against, with 2,184 shots taken against their goalies. Coming into the season, the team had high hopes for their defense. But so far those expectations haven’t been met, and they have underperformed this season.

Goalie:

Philadephia has dressed four goaltenders this season, and only one of them remains healthy today: Brian Boucher. The first starter, Ray Emery, was enjoying a great comeback season But an abdominal strain – and the resulting surgery from the injury – knocked him out for the season. Next came Michael Leighton, who looked terrible in Carolina. The Flyers got lucky again, as Leighton played exceptionally well with the team. But an ankle injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. They even gave rookie John Backlund an opportunity, but he was injured during his first ever start. Now, their playoff chances rest on Brian Boucher, a goalie who has never started more than 45 games in a season. His career save percentage is under .900. Clearly, goalie is the weakest link of this team. The Flyers cannot depend on Boucher to bring win them a series. He’s the weakest goalie coming into the playoffs. This will, without a doubt, hold back Philadelphia in the playoffs this year.

So, where do the Flyers sit coming into the playoffs? They seem to be one of the weakest teams qualifying for the playoffs. They’re missing their leading scorer, and the defense has been underwhelming all season. Now, they need to depend on a career backup who has never played well in the N.H.L. The Flyers look like the surest bet to be a one and done in the playoffs this year.


N.H.L. G.M.’s Proposed Rule Change Doesn’t Go Far Enough

March 9, 2010 1 comment

With the N.H.L. general managers meeting underway in Boca Raton, Florida, only one proposed change to the on-ice product surfaced. General managers are leaning toward recommending a rule change that would penalize some, but not all, hits to the head under current NHL rules.

I italicized the words leaning toward to highlight the current language of the rule change. The general manager’s haven’t gone far enough. To make the game safer, N.H.L. general manager’s need to ban hits to the head.

The numbers on head hits in N.H.L. games are revealing. According to Colin Campbell, the N.H.L. director of operations, and Gary Meagher, a league spokesman, noted about seven hits a game are shoulder-to-head hits. Both studied 21 league games, which showed an average of 22 hits to the head per game, from a light brush with a glove to a heavy blow. In all of those games, or 462 instances, there was one penalty called.

Matt Cooke Hit on Marc Savard – 3/7/10

Clearly, there is an issue here with needs to be fixed. While the general managers don’t want to see any of the physical aspect taken out of the game, the general managers need to institute a safer rule on head hits. The N.H.L. Players Association proposed a rule change last season to ban shoulder checks to the head, such as in the Ontario Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation did. This was before hits like the one above and the one you can view below.

Mike Richards Hit on David Booth – 10/24/09

Hits like these aren’t a new problem. With the players calling for a change last year, these problems have existed before. With the speed of the game increasing, especially after the lockout, hits became more violent, and the chances of injury increased significantly. But the league has been slow to respond, and they need to step up and address this issue. The league needs to follow the call of the N.H.L. Players Association and ban shoulder-to-head hits.

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