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Free LCS 1997-98
Reader Hockey Pool
head coach: Jacques Lemaire
roster: C - Doug Gilmour, Bobby Holik, Bob Carpenter, Denis Pederson, Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott. LW - Dave Andreychuk, Brian Rolston, Patrik Elias, Scott Daniels. RW - Randy McKay, Steve Thomas, Krzysztof Oliwa. D - Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Lyle Odelein, Kevin Dean, Doug Bodger, Sheldon Souray, Brad Bombardir. G - Martin Brodeur, Mike Dunham.
injuries: 1/22 - Bob Carpenter, broken bone in left foot.
transactions: 2/5 - Sent C Peter Zezel to Vancouver in exchange for a fifth round pick in the 1998 Entry Draft.
Eastern Conference - Atlantic Division Team GP W L T PTS GF GA New Jersey 56 34 16 6 74 158 110 Philadelphia 55 29 17 9 67 160 123 Washington 56 26 19 11 63 156 143 NY Rangers 57 17 24 16 50 140 154 NY Islanders 57 20 29 8 48 148 158 Florida 57 18 27 12 48 138 160 Tampa Bay 56 10 37 9 29 104 185
1/28 at Edmonton T 1-1 1/30 at Vancouver L 3-1 1/31 at Calgary T 2-2 2/02 at Ottawa W 1-0 2/04 Ottawa W 2-0 2/07 at Islanders W 3-2
by Phil Aromando, New Jersey Correspondent
Disallowed goals. An invisible power play. Few goals. Winter Break couldn't start soon enough. Although the Devils entered the break with a three-game winning streak and the most points in the Conference, there was a palpable sense of fatigue creeping into their game. The schedule was beginning to take its toll.
Not for Martin Brodeur. He was named NHL Player of the Week for his three-win, two-shutout, 0.67 GAA performance of the past week. He single-handedly managed to keep the Devils afloat after a mediocre road trip (2-1-3) that saw some of the least focused play of the season.
Maybe it was the Revenge of Guerin. The Devils had more goals disallowed (5) than they scored (4) over the final three games of the longest road trip of the season. To put that in perspective, half of the goals that counted were scored by the struggling Steve Thomas. None of them came on the power play.
In fact, the Devil power play, going back to the Ranger game of January 24th is connecting at a rate of 4% (1-for-27). And on many of those attempts they have managed to register fewer than one shot on net. Other than the fact that Doug Gilmour is playing hurt (back spasms since Jan. 30th) there is no real explanation for such futility. Lemaire hasn't changed the unit all that much. But it's something that needs to approach early season form if the team expects to have any success beyond the regular season.
Three disallowed goals aside, the Edmonton game had its share of drama with Jason Arnott returning home and Guerin facing his old mates. Arnott managed two shots on goal, none threatening, and was booed every time he touched the puck. There were a few fan-made signs of support that helped take some of the edge off for him but he was obviously uncomfortable and tried hard to not make a mistake. It's easy to see why he needed to leave Edmonton. It was the most timid game he's played as a Devil.
Guerin was all over the ice. He had three bona fide scoring chances, including a breakaway, but couldn't beat Brodeur. His game didn't seem to change. If anything he was trying too hard to make his presence felt. He would have loved to score the game-winner. Ironically, Valeri Zelepukin almost got it on an excellent chance down low that Brodeur had to make a solid glove save on. Steve Thomas scored the lone Devil goal; they managed 30 shots on Curtis Joseph.
But shots don't count. Despite outshooting Vancouver 32-14 and limiting the Canucks to only four shots over the final two periods of their matchup, the Devils couldn't solve seldom used goalie Arturs Irbe. Vancouver scored two quick goals (early in the first; :50 seconds apart) that managed to stand up even though they were overmatched for much of the game. The Devils had three excellent chances to tie it late in the game and almost did after Brodeur was pulled but Pavel Bure put in the empty- netter and the Canucks had their first victory in ten games.
Mike Dunham started in Calgary for the first time since the December 30th drubbing at the hands of Chicago. He came within :42 seconds of a victory but ended up settling for a tie. Bobby Holik scored his first goal in three games to put the Devils ahead with less than three minutes to go in regulation but Hnat Domenichelli took an errant clearing pass off a freaky bounce and beat Dunham to send the game into overtime. Overtime was uneventful but it felt more like a loss than a tie. Losing a lead late in the third after taking the lead late in the third is a rare (and demoralizing) event for the Devils. It didn't help that the power play went 0-for-6, either. Scott Daniels and Krzysztof Oliwa combined for more fighting majors (3) than goals.
First goals (record when scoring first: 21-6-2) are as important to the Devils as taking a lead into the third period (30-1-1). Since they were unable to do either over the previous three games, it was a good sign when Petr Sykora scored early in the first period against Ottawa. Good because they got out of a period with a lead and good for Sykora. Since returning from injury, he's been in a huge goal-scoring drought.
The lead, as minuscule as it was, seemed to bolster the Devils. They settled in and played a patient and error-free game; it was a refreshing return to normalcy even though they couldn't manage to put more than one puck past Damian Rhodes. Brodeur came up big twice on Shawn McEachern to preserve the shutout, his fifth of the season; 27th career.
Consistency is a key to the Devils success. Aside from Oliwa taking a bad penalty (four minutes) in the opening minutes, they virtually duplicated their play two nights later in the second game of the home-and-home series and got nearly identical results. Steve Thomas opened the scoring halfway through the first period and no one scored again until the resurgent Petr Sykora netted one on a nice give-and-go with Arnott with less than two minutes remaining. Even Shawn McEachern added to the mirror image experience by duplicating a quality scoring opportunity, nearly beating Brodeur on a hard slapper with less than eight minutes left in regulation. At least these last two games showed that they can still play with a one-goal lead for long stretches of time. Brodeur was happy with his second shutout in as many games but it's obvious that the Devils need to begin generating more offense for him. As if he doesn't do enough for the team already, he attempted a shot into the empty net but missed wide right by about ten feet.
Maybe if Martin did score goals with frequency it would convince Marc Crawford to start him over Patrick Roy for Team Canada at the upcoming Tournament of Three Medals. If Brodeur does indeed get a start, the game against the Islanders may have been a preview of things to come. However, Tommy Salo did not give a flawless confidence building preview - he allowed Doug Bodger's 100th career NHL goal in from a bad, bad angle.
Brodeur's shutout streak was broken 5: 51 into the game but the Devils scored three unanswered goals (Bodger's was the second in the second period) and held on even though Ziggy Palffy's 30th made it interesting late in the third. Patrik Elias, mired in a monumental slump of his own, scored his 15th to start the second period and bring the Devils even. Brian Rolston's third period goal was the eventual game-winner.
The win snapped a five-game Islander winning streak. They were playing with a practically new lineup and according to coach Lemaire that was most likely the reason why they were unable to completely comeback, why they didn't seem as sharp. He has a bit of a point, the Isles usually beat on the Devils at the Coliseum: they lead the all-time series 33-10-7.
After the game, the lone Devil Olympians prepared to head to Nagano while everyone else headed for vacation or optional skates (if they stayed in the area; all players are due back for a five- day mini-camp just prior to the Florida game on the 25th.) The rest is going to do everyone good. Hopefully Holik, McKay, Gilmour, Elias, Andreychuk, Niedermayer et al. will come back fired up and ready to finish strong. If they can recharge and return with a sense of what they have accomplished so far this season, combined with a renewed sense of mission, this Spring's playoff's may very hold more interest than the Olympics for Devil fans.
The Devils have one more western USA road trip on March 26-29. They face the Flyers three more times and the Rangers twice. Final game of the season is on April 18th against the Islanders.
It is believed he will begin to play right after the Olympic Break. That means trouble for either Kevin Dean or Brad Bombardir. Dean is the more likely of the two to sit in the press box.
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