The New Jersey Devils have become the most frightening rollercoaster ride I’ve ever been on and I would like it to end both safely and successfully. They are the better team 1 game and the following game, they let the Florida Panthers run all over them. It has been like this the entire series thus far. Let’s take a look at the games 1 through 5.
Game 1 – The Devils completely dominated the Panthers in their own building for the better portion of the first period. Until Florida decided to wake up and after being down 3-0, they suddenly found themselves 1 goal down. Fortunately for the Devils, they were never able to get that equalizer and the Devils took the series lead 1-0. Although the Panthers lost Game 1, I believe this game gave the Panthers a lot of confidence in this series. It helped them realize that even though you are down, if you keep pressing, the Devils will make an error and you can certainly come back and possibly win the game.
Game 2 – The teams decided to switch it up and the Panthers dominated the better part of the game until the Devils woke up and clawed their way back to make it a 1 goal game. The Devils couldn’t get the equalizer and the Panthers tied up the series 1-1. The Devils tried really hard to make get the equalizer, but you can’t win a game in the last 10 minutes when you refused to show up for the other 50 minutes of a hockey game. Although they lost, it was promising that the Devils had taken away the Panther’s home ice advantage by splitting the first 2 road games. Let’s move on to Game 3.
Game 3 – The Devils started out the game by going up 3-0. Ok, I really should just copy and paste at this point. Can you guess what happened?? You’re almost right! The Panthers tied the game! At this point, both starting goalies have been removed from the game and Scott Clemmensen and Johan Hedberg were in net for their respective teams. I understand the Panther’s move to put Clemmensen in as Jose Theodore allowed 3 goals in 6 shots. I can almost understand Peter DeBoer’s move to replace Martin Brodeur. Almost! At that point, it was still a tied game. As mad as I was at the Devils for letting in 3 quick goals by the Panthers to eliminate, what should have been, a large enough lead in the game to win it – I still had faith in Marty that he was mad enough to shut down the Panthers for the remainder of the game. I have no problem with Hedberg, he is a fantastic goaltender once he gets in his rhythm. It took a Panthers goal for Hedberg to find his groove and shut them down the rest of the game. The only problem with that is that Clemmesen didn’t let another goal past him and the Devils had a heartbreaking 4-3 loss and found themselves down 2-1 in the series.
Game 4 – Before this game started, Scott Clemmesen was quoted that he could beat Marty, or any NHL goalie for that matter, any day. Oh really? Let’s face it. Martin Brodeur is not the same Martin Brodeur from years past, but you have real guts walking into his building and giving that type of quote to the media. This game started differently as both teams seemed to play a more physical game, along with not give up 3 goals in the first couple minutes of the game. The offense finally broke for both teams in the 2nd period and the Devils went into the 3rd period with a 1-0 lead. Suddenly, the Devils decided to just pounce on every mistake the Panthers made and ended the game 4-0. Marty completed his 27th career playoff shutout, passing Patrick Roy for the most in NHL history. Oh, I didn’t hear that Clemmensen – what did you say? The Devils arguably played their best game of the entire season to tie the series 2-2.
Game 5 – Coming off a brilliant shutout in Game 4, the Devils’ other personalities decided to come out and play and lost 3-0. Unfortunately, the Devils couldn’t get any offense going because they spent the better part of the 2nd period killing penalties. The goal by Kris Versteeg to make it 1-0 was a fantastic goal. The 2nd goal was due to a very bad decision by Marty. Due to the trapezoid, Marty had to wait for the dump-in and, unfortunately, did not see the Panthers coming into the zone when an easy empty-net goal was scored. Frankly, I would have been more mad about this goal if the Devils were able to score a goal, but they weren’t so they would have lost the game anyway giving the Panthers a 3-2 lead in the series.
So that brings us to Game 6, which is in the Prudential Center in NJ on Tuesday. Which side of the Devils will we see? The dominated, shutdown Devils or the passive Devils that can’t get any offense? No matter what team decides to show up (I really really really hope it’s the dominating one. I may have missed a “really”.), they must stay out of the box! Special teams has been the deciding factor in all 5 games played, therefore, I am going to state the obvious because no one else seems to be telling the players – don’t take unnecessary penalties! Obviously, this is a must-win game for the Devils or they will find themselves packing up for the summer. In picture form, I want to see more of this: