The Devils are taking that old saying "It is better to give than
receive during the holiday season" to a whole new level. The men
in red and black have been giving losses to just about everyone
who gets in their way. They are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games,
and will glide into the two-day Christmas break with no less than
a five-point lead in the Atlantic Division.
The Devils held a four-point lead over the second place
Philadelphia Flyers, until the home-on-home series the clubs had
about two weeks ago. The first game, in the Meadowlands, ended
up in a 5-5 tie. The good guys blew a lead late in the game,
culminated by Martin Brodeur inadvertently swatted a loose puck
out of the air and into his own net.
The second game of the two-game series was the complete opposite.
The Flyers had a 4-1 lead, but the Devils fought back to win 5-4
in overtime. A short-handed goal by Brian Rolston followed by a
goal from Randy McKay 90 seconds later shifted the momentum in
the Devils' favor. Bobby Holik took a pass from McKay late in the
third to knot the game at 4-4.
The overtime goal was one of the bizarre sort. The Flyers had
several chances to clear the puck down the ice, but the Devils
maintained good pressure. Defenseman Lyle Odelein had a
point-blank shot at an empty net, but rang a shot off the post.
The puck eventually found its way to the stick of Dave
Andreychuk, who made no mistake and buried the game-winner.
In the first game against Philly, Ken Daneyko broke ex-Devil John
MacLean's team record for games played, appearing in his
935th game in a Devils uniform.
The winning continued against a banged-up Colorado Avalanche
squad. Bobby Holik must have received a Superman outfit for
Christmas, because he put it on for this game. Holik picked up
his game a notch, both mentally and physically. He looked faster
and stronger than everyone else on the ice - especially in the
Holik netted the game-winning goal on a pretty play. He won an
offensive zone faceoff cleanly back to Sheldon Souray, fought his
way to the front of the net, and tipped the puck past Av's backup
goalie Craig Billington.
The New York Rangers were the next victims, as they were spanked
once again by Ftorek's Boys. Today's Trivia: When was the last
time the Rangers beat the Devils?
The Devils suffered their first loss in nine games at the hands
of the Calgary Flames, 5-2, on December 18. The game marked
backup goaltender Chris Terreri's first loss since his return to
New Jersey. Two different leads were blown in this game - Scott
Stevens' goal 57 seconds into the game made it 1-0, and a goal
from Bobby Holik improved the score to 2-1. But both leads were
short-lived, and the Devils couldn't get it going again.
Five is a significant number if you are a New Jersey Devil. Five
is the amount of points they lead the second place Flyers in the
Atlantic Division. Five is the number of games in a row they
scored five or more goals (which is the most in team history).
And five is the number of players on the team who are projected
to score 30 plus goals this season (Bobby Holik, Petr Sykora,
Dave Andreychuk, Jason Arnott, Jay Pandolfo - which would also be
a team record).
What Does Jacques Think?
When asked about the Devils' new, open style of play, ex-head
coach Jacques Lemaire gave his opinion. Much to the surprise of
many, he responded positively to the "new system" - stating that,
"This particular group of guys make this system work - well." He
pointed out that Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, in particular, are
really adapting to it. Another thing that Lemaire pointed out was
that he liked the idea of the defense becoming such a big
component of the offensive rush.
The Devils of old are history, and the Devils of new are here to
stay. They are in first place in the Eastern Conference, second
in the NHL. They are third in the league in goals scored (90),
trailing only Toronto (98) and Detroit (94). They are the hottest
team in the league, going 6-1-3 in their last 10 games. The
scariest part about it is that, besides their goalie and a
defenseman or two, they don't have a household name on their
roster (except, of course in some Northern Jersey households).