Tuesday was a roller coaster ride of emotions for all Devils fans. For nearly seven minutes to begin the game, the Devils dominated the opposition in what was the closest thing I’ve seen to perfect hockey (until I watched the Penguins last night after the score was 3-3). Devils fans and probably Devils players were strutting around, thinking they were untouchable, meanwhile forgetting how much time was actually left in the evening. Then, that ever present pendulum of momentum began to swing yet again and the Panthers stormed back, erased a 3 goal deficit, chased Marty from the net and quickly put themselves on top...for good.
The collapse was stunning, embarrassing and for me, Game 3, while not as bad since it was only a Game 3, ranks up there with Game 7 against Carolina in 2009 as one of the worst.
The reality of all this is that the Devils are only down 2-1 in the series. A win tonight changes everything and puts this series back up for grabs. A loss however, creates a huge hole for us to climb out of and I wouldn’t even begin to know who could bring us a ladder.
This much is obvious; the Devils need to stay out of the box. They desperately need to stay out of the box. Take away Florida’s success on the PP and this series looks VERY different.
Line combinations at practice on Wednesday weren’t any different than we’ve seen so far in this series. It would seem that DeBoer believes in what he’s putting out there and that change isn’t needed. I have to admit, I was and still am hoping for a little change.
- Henrique played well all season on the top line with Parise and Kovalchuk. Why not swap him and Zajac for a night or a few periods to see if something sparks that line into what they were in the regular season.
- Peter Harrold isn’t doing it for me and Volchenkov lacks the speed to keep up with the Panthers. I know Larsson made his mistakes during the year but pretty much everyone defenseman not named Salvador made their share of mistakes. The kid has talent and speed, might as well see what he can do.
- Kovalchuk needs to figure out how to play playoff hockey. I understand it can be hard for a guy without much playoff experience or success to just stand up and carry a team this time of year but he needs to. Kovalchuk looks tentative out there because he’s trying to figure out his place but he’s the kind of player that needs to take over and drive the tempo of the game. Stop worrying if you are trying to do too much. Just do what you did in the regular season, don’t over think it.
- I’m still waiting for Marty to just take over like he’s done in the past but the reality is, that might not happen. He’s older and therefore a little slower so the defense needs to help him out a little more. That means not screening him as you try and clear out the area in front of him.
- Faceoffs, WIN THEM. It’s the main reason our Penalty Kill has been such an epic fail so far. Think about it, if you win the faceoff, you send the puck down ice which causes the Panthers to chase the puck, regroup and try to enter the zone which can take a good 10-20 seconds of the clock. If they win the faceoff, they immediately setup and start throwing pucks at the net. More wins in the faceoff circle will equal better results on the penalty kill.
Let be remembered as fighters!!