Game One of the Hudson Hate-Fest starts in 15 minutes. Tom Guilitti’s Fire and Ice blog has some great commentary, including a stream of reader comments. Tom wants predictions, and I can’t resist being an armchair broadcaster, coach and screaming fan:
Brodeur is on top of his game. Between the spin-o-rama saves and having great reads on the inbound puck, Marty is so far into the zone he can’t yell at the defense. If the offense gives him some time to relax and breathe, he’s in control.
Elias comes to play in April. Maybe it’s the birthday thing, maybe it’s just that every game is the pressure cooker situation he seems to thrive in (how else does he lead the team in game winning goals and shootout goals?). He was quiet during the regular series set with the Rangers, but I remember what he did in 2006 when his first-round performance had him in the playoff scoring leaders after the Devils were bounced.
Zubrus + Vish >> Jagr + Gomez. Gomez plays like he’s already scheduling his tee times in April; he’s the anti-Elias. Everyone is hyped about Jagr coming on strong late in the year, but watch his shifts: they aren’t the end to end, skate till you puke then change shifts that win playoff games. I’ll take Zubrus and Vish along the boards. And for Stan Fischler’s comments about Gomez knowing the Devils’ weaknesses, he’s right: it was Scott Gomez in the playoffs. I’m eager to see how all of those miles on the post-game bike rides play out in these games.
Langenbrunner time. Jamie has been quiet lately on the ice. What matters more is what happens in the locker room, on the bench, before the game, and everything else that establishes a winning context.
This is going to be a grind it out, long series. My predictions: it goes at least 5 games, probably 6. Rangers win one in the Rock, but the Devils humble the Rangers at least once and depose King Henrik. With all of the talk of playoff experience, doesn’t anyone remember Lundqvist’s first playoff experience against the Devils?
I got to catch about half of last nights Rangers-Devils pre-season game; even given modern technology I had to put the game on DVR and get to synagogue live. I missed Weekes getting hurt, and the first two Rangers goals, but what I saw after that gave me hope and a bit of a smile. Realizing that pre-season games in the NHL mean even less than they do in the NFL, I try not to read too much into events. But there were bright spots last night (other than the over/under on the rabbi’s annual list-making coming in at 6 and not 8 items)
Vishnevski is a big boy. Bad news: bloggers will have to learn to spell his surname. Good news: it’s because he’ll be dumping smaller centers and wingers on their highly efficient Reebok-reinforced rear ends. My wife’s family’s name was Vishnevski before someone on Ellis Island truncated it, and both #2 on the Devils and #1 in our house come from the same part of the Ukraine. So I’ve taken to calling Vishnevski “cousin”, lending a distinctly Perfect Strangers air to my in-game ranting. Even if we’re not related, I’m going to cheer for him. Loudly.
Zubrus is a bigger boy. Hello, forecheck. Last season I could have counted the number of times the Devils made the extra effort to hold the puck in the attack zone on one plate of Meadowlands chicken fingers; last night they were a forecheck on fire. Zubrus in particular just controlled the flow. It’s not just that Rafalksi and Gomez weren’t making bad, blind passes or failing to keep their sticks down; it was intentional, positional hockey at its best.
Gionta could score from the press box. Yeah, it was against the number three or four goalie, and yeah, it was late in the third period, but what a goal. Valiquette wasn’t faked out of his jock; he didn’t know anything had happened until there was that rocket’s red glare behind him. With some puck control (see above), Gio might break his own goal record this year.
There are still some rough edges, like who plays in the third defensive pairing and where precisely Brylin will end up. My advice (such as it is) is to take Sergei off of the checking line, and replace him with someone with more size (Clarkson), and maybe match up Brylin with Parise and Zajac until Langenbrunner’s leg is glued back on. And of course, everything changes in tone once the Lowell Devils head back to Beantown and the season’s first roster is set. And I can’t wait.
Phonetic phun with Dion Phaneuf is the latest phad in hockey coverage. The big Calgary rookie has turned heads — both sportswriters and some unprepared opposing wingers who were on the wrong end of a phreakin’ hit. Last night, though, Phaneuf was a playoff rookie, and it showed. Certainly his goal late in the 3rd period that brought Calgary to within a shot got a spur under the Saddledome fans, but it was his decision to pinch in and finish a check earlier than led to the 4th Anaheim goal. Check the replay: Phaneuf came in to about the hash marks to play the body, not the puck, a shovel pass went past him, and the Ducks scored on the resulting two on one. Dion foofed.
To be phair, the Ducks were phlying. Nieds had a short-handed goal, showing some of the speed that’s earned him “fastest skater” honors at NHL All-Star Games (when there were such things). Lupul was lightning phast. And even Vitaly Vishnevski showed some some phlash. (Note to readers: we have a special soft spot in our household for Vishnevski, because that’s what we believe my wife’s family’s name was back in the Old Country. Not that we think we’re related, but it’s good copy).
So, a request for writers and editors everywhere: let’s get the “f'” back to reality. I mean, I only know two other people with “Dion” as a first name, and both use a better phonetic spelling. One is a professional athlete (I don’t know him personally); the other is a hockey mom (and her husband is the source of much game-used swag, but that’s a story for a different time). Time to cut out the foofy stuff.