Winner, eleven — that is, on the eleventh goal of last night’s Devils-Thrashers game (11 goals? In a Devils game?? Hello, Coach Sutter!). I was hoarse from yelling at the television and radio broadcasts but all’s well that ends well. In this case, there was ample material for holler-backs.
The Good: Elias gets his first goal, and nets two goals and a very pretty assist on Zajac’s tying goal. The Devils didn’t give up when they were down two goals, and after squandering single-goal leads. Strong, solid forecheck, including the last power play of the game which may have been the best I’ve seen in three seasons. The days of long-range bombing from the point, typically resulting in a blocked shot, a riccochet to start a short-handed attempt, or the puck clearing the attack zone, are over and done. Precise passing and shooting through open lanes. Tying all of the good together: Elias fires from the top of the slot, rebound comes to the right where he scoops it, fires back to Martin, who re-feeds Patrik for the game-winning goal. Puck control, skating hard to make time and space, and shooting through lanes rather than into shinpads.
The Interesting and Good: John Madden has re-emerged as a goal scorer. Not that he had ever lost the touch, but I think in previous seasons he was forced into a role of sheep-dogging the opponent’s top-line, over-watched center-pieces to the point where he was playing defense instead of pivot, with or with-out overt over-hyphenation for emphasis. I think my son puts it best: “Maddog is a hard worker.” When teenagers recognize work, you know it’s valuable and valued. When you go from two scoring lines to three, it’s a big deal for your opponents. Half of the Devils goals last night came from the Madden-Pandolfo combination.
The Bad: I always follow games through live caps at 2 Man Advantage because their photo editing captures the mood so perfectly. It’s like enjoying one of the old Monkees TV shows with the cutaway jokes to make a visual pun. Last night they challenged Brodeur to stop a beachball (but stopped short of suggesting he couldn’t make do with a pitchfork, both a Devilishly good utensil and the best for spearing wayward plastic). I’m not so sure it was Brodeur, more of the weak defense on the weak side (again) and a complete lack of attention to the wings on the weak side. A possible breaking point in the game came when Kovalchuk was left unmolested on the left side, with Dave Clarkson just behind the play. When the “D” is back, cutting down the shooting lanes, the wings have to fill in and take away the passing lanes. Nobody got between Kovalchuk and the puck from the cross-zone pass to the one-time that eluded Marty. Partly a rookie mistake, partly bad defense. If the Devils are going to play a more aggressive offensive game, then the natural by-product is that they’re going to have more goals scored against them — this goes both ways. But I’d much rather see the Devils win 6-5 than lose 2-1. Any day.
The Ugly: Bobby Holik. How his crease-crashing that resulted in Brodeur looking up at the Thrasher’s third goal was not a penalty escapes me. Why give the captain-C to a player with the loyalty of a cat and the leadership qualities of a high school locker room bully? To top it off, our brilliant TV commentators relayed a story that Elias and Holik had spoken when Holik was given the “C”, just as Patrik had his revoked, randomness rooted in their Czech heritage. Maybe if Elias races across the Hudson to pimp his contract, there will be some kind of similarity here, but then we’d have to talk about Gomez.
So we will: Elias has 4 points (2 G, 2A) and Gomez has half of that, only thanks to a miserable assist late in last night’s Senatorial smackdown. If Gomer was on his way to 63 helpers, he should have quadrupled his output. Personally, I think the relative economics lesson here is that there’s half a Gome$$ separating the two. Double oof.