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DGA's Devils Daily

Welcome to a new feature on Down Goes Avery (even though it isn't new anymore): the Devils Daily section.  Each day, I'll post a brief write-up that reflects my opinion and the state of the team, without any limited sarcasm.  I'll sound off on some things, I'll go on rants, I may write something longer than a novel or as short as Mattias Tedenby.  Who knows, maybe I'll even praise the Devils.  Well, probably not, but you get the idea...

APRIL 30th, 2012: Why Devils fans should not panic about losing Game 1 to Philly

The Devils lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi's yesterday, a 4-3 overtime decision to the Flyers.  But I'm not really that worried.  Here's a few opinions and observations I took from yesterday's game (my full recap can be found here).

  • After winning in overtime in Game 6 and double-overtime in Game 7 against Florida, the Devils looked fatigued in the second half of yesterday's game.  I thought they did a pretty good job of containing the Flyers' attack for most of the second period, but by the third period, they couldn't keep up with the Flyers.  I'm not concerned about that in general.  I'd guess Pete DeBoer will have a light skate today in practice and have everyone ready to go for Tuesday night.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk's "injury" is very concerning, on the other hand.  He didn't have a shot and was "limited" to 21:20 of ice-time through overtime, which is his lowest total of the playoffs (just 14:43 of that ice time came at even strength).  He says he's fine, but there's obviously something wrong with him physically.  He has to play, because just his presence in the lineup forces the Flyers to defend him, but if he's going to fight through this injury, he's got to shoot the puck.
  • Don't believe Milbury or Jones.  They were shredding Kovalchuk yesterday, and that's just wrong.  The media is quick to compliment players who battle through injuries, but they've been harsh on Kovy.  I don't necessarily blame him for the loss yesterday.  He's trying, and although he struggled in his own end without the benefit of Zach Parise on his line, his defense didn't support him, either.
  • Zach Parise played an incredible game yesterday.  He looked like he found a new gear.  He was flying on the ice, and obviously his work ethic is never in question.  He picked up two points, but he was the Devils' best skater in general in Game 1.  With the Flyers focusing so much on Kovalchuk (as they did with Malkin against Pittsburgh), I'd expect Parise will have a big series.
  • Ilya Bryzgalov was very mediocre.  He played well in the first period, as the Devils easily could have scored two or three goals in their early surge, but Bryzgalov played pretty well early on.  He probably should have stopped the puck that did beat him, Parise's shot.  He was out of position for the Zajac goal and he got fooled by Sykora's fake shot on the third goal.  If the Flyers manage to win this series, it'll be despite Bryzgalov.  He nearly cost his team the game yesterday.
  • Now, let's quickly review the four goals against yesterday.  On the first goal, Peter Harrold pinches in to keep the puck alive in the offensive zone, and he simply lost Danny Briere in coverage.  Kovalchuk carelessly swung the puck wide of the net, and that allowed Jakub Voracek had an easy breakaway feed.  Martin Brodeur couldn't come up with the stop.
    Seconds later, Brodeur tried to do a bit too much with the puck behind his net, and turned it over to Erik Gustafsson.  That was a bad decision on Marty's part, and all five Devils skaters were out of position.  It was a pretty easy rebound goal for James van Riemsdyk.
    The third goal came on a Philly power play following an Andy Greene hooking minor.  The Devils were simply caught running around in their own end.  They allowed Claude Giroux too much time and space to load up his shot, and he beat Brodeur.
    In overtime, things went downhill as soon as the puck dropped.  Marek Zidlicky took a stupid delay of game penalty, and Brodeur stopped Hartnell to keep the game alive, then benefited from Briere kicking the puck in.  Alexei Ponikarovsky actually came close to winning it for the Devils, but then another sloppy clearing attempt by Zidlicky resulted in the turnover to Briere and he blasted it home.  I would say Brodeur should have stopped the shot, but whether you want to admit it or not, Brodeur's stick was bumped, and van Riemsdyk was the only player in that zipcode.  Of course, officials would never have wiped out two goals in Philly, and even if they had, the Flyers were buzzing and would have buried one at some point.  They deserved to win that game.
  • As poorly as the Devils played, they actually did a decent job of containing the Flyers.  After all, it took overtime for the much more rested Flyers to win the game.  The Devils need to be more disciplined, because giving six power play opportunities is not a good idea.  Then, if Brodeur is smarter with the puck and doesn't force careless passes and his defensemen display slightly more composure than Zidlicky, Harrold and others did in Game 1, the Devils can win Game 2, especially with Bryzgalov as shaky as he was.  It'll be interesting to see how the Devils respond to Game 1.  Obviously, the Penguins didn't respond well in their Game 2 in round one.
  • In my opinion, the biggest key to Game 2 is to establish the Devils' forecheck.  Whether the Flyers were "rusty" in the first period or not, the Devils forecheck gave them all kings of problems.  There's nothing wrong with getting the puck deep and forcing Bryzgalov to play the puck.  Involving Bryzgalov in the game as much as possible will benefit the Devils.  All three Devils goals in Game 1 were on low shots, particularly through the five-hole.  They need to shoot on him, force him to make those saves and get more traffic in front of the net.
  • On the flip side, the Devils need to do what they were doing in the first half of regulation: frustrate the Flyers offense.  The best way to do that is to control the puck, but the Flyers will have their surges, and the Devils need to make it difficult for the Flyers to enter the offensive zone.  I felt that the Devils tried to be a little too fancy, and they forced some ill-advised passes breaking out of their zone.  They allowed the Flyers to enter their offensive zone too easily at times.  

  • My Devils Daily game recaps have been moved to the Devils Generals Army Blog.  I will continue to post links to my recaps on Twitter and Facebook, but they will no longer be posted here.  You can still find archives of all Devils Daily posts in my archives section.