If a 30-goal scorer is on the trade market, you would think Lou Lamoriello and the Devils would be interested. Todd Cordell of Hockey Buzz posed the question, speculated about Anaheim's asking price and then answered it rather definitively.
His points per game average was down a bit from his standards this season but he still had more even strength goals and points than every player on the Devils, so clearly he'd be a welcome addition.
On May 8?
1988- Officials boycott game 4 of the Wales Conference finals between the Devils and Boston Bruins, after the NHL did not suspend New Jersey coach Jim Schoenfeld for his postgame outburst at referee Don Koharski.
This is the first in a series of posts on the Devils' pending free agents (restricted and unrestricted). We'll cover their strengths and weaknesses and end up with a final verdict on whether we think the Devils should re-sign the player. There will also be a poll at the end of each post so you guys can weigh in with your thoughts.
On May 1...
2000- Patrik Elias records a goal and two assists, and Scott Gomez and Claude Lemieux each post two-point games, leading the Devils to a 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Continental Airlines Arena.
Here are some leftovers from the Devils' 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For whatever reason, the arena seemed exceedingly quiet until Travis Zajac's second-period goal.
Yet, somehow they still managed to claim the season series from the Eastern Conference's top team.
New Jersey came from 2-0 down to send its home crowd out with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center.
When: 7:30 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
As I said on Twitter postgame, this was an impressive win for a lot of reasons. Yes, the Devils probably should've played like this at some point during their 10-game slide. No, two more wins like this won't drastically change how we look at the season. However, there were bright spots in this game that lend themselves toward a positive look for next season and it's possible missing the playoffs flipped a switch in the psyche of a lot of these players, which is another topic for another day. As for? tonight's game, some thoughts...
Fortitude: At least for me, the most impressive part of tonight's win came after the Canadiens scored two unanswered, the second of which came including one in the final minute of the second period. We've seen the Devils melt down multiple times in that scenario, giving up an early goal in the third and going on to lose in regulation or in extra play. It's been one of my biggest criticisms of this Devils team, particularly during their recent slide. This team lacked a strong enough mental edge to their game to rebound from "woe is us" moments. Tonight, though, they didn't need a timeout to correct them and while they struggled to get shots on net in the third, they still kept the Canadiens at bay for long stretches. Also, the Habs came out in the third and tried to bully the Devils, who fought right back. Ilya Kovalchuk, for one, went right at the Canadiens after he got hit from behind. Kovy's response, along with the the energy he's played with and the way he drives the train (so to speak), has me wondering if it should be Kovalchuk with the captain's "C" next season. I know Salvador is respected in the room and a lot of guys like him, but would it kill them to give it to Kovy and have Salvador take an "A?" I think it would be a wise move that would help shape the team's mindset going into next season. Food for thought.
A lifeless start, a couple of bad penalty calls and suddenly the Devils were frustrated, losing and on their way to playoff elimination. All in all, a sad but fitting end (as far as playoff chances go) to a season that was flawed from the get-go. Some thoughts...
Two things: When you combine a lack or energy with some questionable officiating, you usually get one of two results. Sometimes the team will take on an "us against the world" mentality, snap out of their funk and go on a tear the rest of the game. That didn't happen today. Instead, the Devils went further into their shell and seemingly quit on the game and essentially their season. Even Martin Brodeur admitted that he felt his teammates gave up when things didn't go their way. The Devils basically mailed in the first period, negating to forecheck or apply any sort of offensive pressure on the Rangers. It was almost like the Devils came out assuming they were already eliminated from the playoffs. While it was a mathematical eventuality, it's still disconcerting to hear players after the game talk about how they knew it was just a matter of time. When you hear stuff like that, you can understand why you get a first period like the Devils had today.
If you didn't watch the first 10 minutes of today's game, you'd think it was one of the Devils' best efforts all season. Despite that (very) sub-par start, the Devils once again managed to "turn it on" after Pete DeBoer's timeout and just dominated the Panthers for the next 50 minutes. Some thoughts...
Wake-up call: The Pete DeBoer First Period Timeout should be sold in pharmacies across the country. It's best wake-up call I think I've ever seen. Why the Devils continue to need it -- especially in the throes of a desperate playoff chase -- is beyond me, but it certainly is the magical elixir this roster covets. The Devils came out painfully slow and were lacking any sort of energy. The Panthers were skating circles around them, getting to every loose puck. Both of Florida's goals were a result of out-efforting New Jersey, but that changed as soon as DeBoer called his infamous timeout. You could see him rotating his hand, signaling the Devils needed to pick up the energy. This wasn't one of those "settle down" timeouts. This was the "well-time expletive" version and it worked. Boy did it work. It took a few minutes but before long New Jersey was all over Florida, like a train that takes time to build up speed and then all of sudden is barreling down the tracks at 80 miles per hour. I know I've spent some time cracking on the Devils for their slow starts this season and their reliance on the P.D.F.P.T. (we might need a better acronym), but at this point, a win is a win is a win.
There's going to be a multitude of reactions to tonight's loss. Many will cite "puck luck" or the lack thereof. Others will claim a screwjob from the refs in the third period. Some will say Pete DeBoer isn't doing his job and needs to go, if only to shake up the team. I'll give you the first one. I may even listen to you on the second one, too. But this loss, like most of the last nine have not been the fault of one, Pete DeBoer. This loss, like this skid, is a combination of factors, but the blame resides largely on the ice. Some thoughts...
Car, meet wall: We talked about it in our pregame thread, the idea of a team struggling to score running into a very good goalie in Craig Anderson. We were concerned that if Anderson was on his game, it might not matter what the Devils did -- and after 60 minutes it was pretty clear that Anderson was going to win tonight no matter what the Devils did. Although he got a little help from the iron maidens, he did plenty of work on his own. At times, Anderson used excellent positioning to give the Devils almost nowhere to shoot. The rest of the time he flung his legs or his glove or his blocker (or the butt end of his stick) into the Devils' way (and faces). Flat out -- Anderson was a damn beast tonight. He might have missed too much time with a sprained ankle to still be considered for the Vezina, but he put on the type of late-season performance tonight that usually rockets a goalie's name to the top of the list. You know what tonight was? It was the Coyote vs. the Roadrunner. The Coyote painted the train tunnel on the rock, thinking it would fool the Roadrunner, who of course (through the miracle of dated animation) ran right through that tunnel. When the Coyote tried to follow, he either found himself flattened by a train or up against the rock. Craig Anderson was both the train and the rock tonight, sitting back and attacking and basically steamrolling a Devils team that basically gave everything it had and came up with nothing.
The last time the Devils were in the midst of a lengthy losing streak, Pat Pickens and I got together and debated whether the Devils were in real trouble. Pat was a little more optimistic than me, although we both saw a chance for redemption. Then Ilya Kovalchuk got hurt and the Devils went off the rails. With eight games left, Pat and I faced a simple questions: Will the Devils make the playoffs? What follows is a quick answer to that question followed by a debate over why it happened, how to fix it and whether Pete DeBoer should be part of the solution or on the chopping block.
"We're a confident team, we believe in ourselves," forward David Clarkson said. "We have to continue to keep pushing and working hard every day."
Still, six-straight losses-- three straight in regulation-- have left the Devils searching for answers.
On a night when the Jets, Rangers, Islanders and Capitals all won, New Jersey could only muster one goal in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at Prudential Center.
"There's some frustration in not winning," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We have to find a way to win games ... that's where the frustration lies."
We finally found out on which line and with whom he'll be playing.
Here's some numerical knowledge that back that up.
Minus-3- Marek Zidlicky's rating in New Jersey's last four games. Zidlicky is a minus-8 overall this year.
If you can play better in a loss, I'd like to see it. OK, maybe if you scored some goals, but I'm not sure how much more the Devils could've done tonight. They dominated puck possession, neutralized the Bruins' offense and put tons of pucks on net -- all to come up with nothing. Even worse, with the way things are unfolding around the East, they've fallen out of the playoff picture for now. Not a good night, to say the least. Some thoughts...
Everything but the kitchen sink: The Devils did it all tonight. They threw pucks at the net, they deked the Bruins out of their jocks (Andy Greene says "Hi" Shawn Thornton) and they had Tuukka Rask running all around his crease. Yet, at the end of the day, it was a zero on the scoreboard. While I've spent countless posts here lamenting the Devils' lack of a finisher, never was it more apparent than tonight. Say the Devils didn't get "puck luck" and I'll say you're being naive. Tell me the Devils should've scored four times tonight and I'll respond, "But they didn't." None of this is to say the Devils played poorly in the offensive end; it was quite the opposite. The Devils did so many things well tonight, reducing the Bruins (arguably the second-best team in the East) to nothing more than partners in an optional skate. But the one thing they didn't do outweighs all the positive because this time of the year isn't about "building." Just like coffee, April is for closers, which is one thing the Devils have been woefully lacking since January 19. There's no relying on Ilya Kovalchuk's return. It's not coming "anytime soon," according to Pete DeBoer. That means "future Hall of Famer" Patrick Elias, "budding power forward" David Clarkson and promising young centers Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique need to start putting pucks into the net. Devils fans ask if this team can make a run like last season but tonight was 60 minutes worth of reasons why they might not even get the chance.
?I?ve always been a fan of is,? DeBoer said this morning in Boston, where the Devils will take on the Bruins tonight. ?He?ll give us some speed, an offensive guy. I?ve got to try and find him some chemistry and with Kovy out I think he?ll be a nice burst of offense, hopefully, for us.?
If you had to pick a word for tonight's game, it would probably be disappointing. On a night they could've put six points between themselves and the Islanders, the Devils came out of the gate so sluggish someone joked they thought the game started at 7:30. Is it the end-all, be-all? No, but it's not a good sign after being unable to finish off an opponent the past two games. Some thoughts...
10-minute warning: How many times have we talked about the Devils taking 10 or sometimes 20 minutes to show up in a game? Once again, the Devils seem to have tremendous difficulty generating energy to start a game, something coach Pete DeBoer seemed totally flummoxed by. He admitted after the game that the slow start (a trend all season long) was disappointing and said the Devils didn't take the Islanders lightly. OK, fair enough. DeBoer also didn't seem to have an answer for why things started off so sideways and said that he actually tried to be calm in (yet another) first-period timeout. Think about how differently this game goes if the Devils are at least somewhat present for the first half of the first period. I mean, how many timeouts does DeBoer have to call in the first period? Matter of fact -- does anyone have that stat? The bottom line is I shouldn't have to ask that question. This is a veteran team with leaders galore that has been through the ringer. Their coach knows what it takes at this time of the season; everyone from the goalie out knows what it takes. So why are the Devils still having the same problem in April they had in January? One theory is that there's no one in the room willing to overturn a table or kick something across the room. I'm starting to think that might have some merit. Even listening to the few Devils talk after tonight's game, you get the sense that things are too even-keel for a team that's on the edge of the playoff picture. The problem is that's not something you add at the deadline. That's something you need from the get-go, a player that's been through training camp and the dregs of the season in that room. I just don't think they're suddenly going to "figure out" these slow starts and that's going to cost them, either at the end of the season or in the playoffs.
The phrase "well, at least they got a point" is starting to mean something very different for these Devils. Tonight, it was more about the point not earned, much like last night's loss to the Lightning. As the playoffs approach (very quickly, might I add), it's becoming apparent that qualifying for the postseason isn't as much of a sure thing as previously thought. Some thoughts...
Points on the table: In the spirit of Schoolboy Q's "Hands on the Wheel," the Devils are really starting to temp fate here. They should have come away from this two-game trip with at least three points, but instead blew leads in the final 30 seconds both games. Tonight was a game that saw them play physical and play well for the most part and they were rewarded for it with two goals that came as a result of that work. The problem wasn't that the Devils took their foot off the gas. No, the Devils I think played too fast in the final minute. There's a reason why Pete DeBoer called a timeout with the Panthers' net empty. He wanted to the Devils to play calm, relaxed and smart, but instead they ended up running around in their own zone, chasing the puck and the Panthers were able to capitalize. As Steve Politi pointed out on Twitter after the game, the Devils have left at least eight to 10 points on the table this year, which is in direct opposition to the way they closed out games last season. Will those extra points come back to haunt them? It's too early to say. I still think they'll make the playoffs, but it could be a matter of seeding hurting the Devils in the first round. With the bottom of the East so tightly packed together, it's starting to look like six, seven and eight will be separated by two to four points -- points the Devils keep giving away.
There's two different ways you could look at tonight's game: Disappointing or gutsy. During their first contest without Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils fought through in-game injuries to two game players and an awful to start to eek out a consolation point. They also played some good hockey in the second and third periods, although there were mistakes and they were clearly tired in overtime. Some thoughts...
One and one: One game without Kovalchuk, one point for the Devils. This is how it will have to be. Yes, they would've liked to have picked up the extra point and surely played like it in the third period, but any points are important given the state they're in right now. If you'd like to be concerned, the Devils' record in overtimes and shootouts is reason for worry. New Jersey has left a lot of points on the ice this season after excelling in extra hockey last season. Will it be the difference between eighth and ninth? Too early to tell, but for now the Devils simply have to do everything they can to stay stagnant (at worst) in the standings while Kovy is out. Tonight, the Devils managed to overcome a dreadful start and seemingly woke up after being undressed by Pete DeBoer during a first-period timeout. The gears didn't really begin to turn until the second when Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique had some impressive shifts as DeBoer mixed and matched forwards given his limited bench. Over the final two periods, the Devils looked like a good hockey team that couldn't finish -- which is what they've looked like for stretches this season. Except there's no Kovy coming in to seal the deal with a rocket from the point or a perfect pass across the ice. Make no mistake, this is what the Devils will look like for the next two weeks. They could play very inspired hockey game in and game out and it will still be a challenge to score goals.
Depending on the diagnosis of Ilya Kovalchuk's shoulder, the image above could be the lasting one for this season for the Devils. His teammates and coach had some interesting and telling quotes after the game. Here's a roundup of a few of them.
Pete DeBoer: "I think mentally coming into the season we're prepared that we?re going to have to lose key people and be able to survive it." (via Tom Gulitti on Twitter)
That certainly was not a pretty win by any means, but it was a win nonetheless. The Devils had one strong period surrounded by two sleepy ones and got away with two points against a very injured, very bad team. Of course, none of that matters if Ilya Kovalchuk is seriously hurt, but we'll reserve judgement until we hear something from the Devils. Some thoughts...
Two points is two points: We've talked about the Devils racking up standing points regardless of style and that was precisely what tonight's game was about. The Devils won't admit it, but it looks to me like they overlooked the Panthers. They came out flat and were pretty de-energized in the third period, as well (wonder if that late goal had anything to do with it?). The good news is they had a very strong second period and got just enough goals to beat one of the worst teams in the league. With the Senators winning earlier in the day and the Rangers and Canes each possessing a game in hand, the Devils just have to points on top of points. More importantly, they have to win games at home against teams they should beat -- like the Panthers. Martin Brodeur didn't have to be great -- although he had a great moment here and there in career win No. 666 -- but he was sharp enough outside of that brain fart behind the net at the end of the second period. More importantly, this win puts pressure on the teams around the Devils to keep up, which can only help New Jersey. Hell, at this point, the Devils could be within four points of fifth place with a win over Ottawa on Tuesday and that's ahead of a sweepable two-game trip to the Florida teams next weekend. All in all, the Devils have things to work (the power play, for one), but they can leave the arena tonight knowing they did enough to help their playoff positioning and these days that's really the only thing that matters.
0- The number of goals David Clarkson's scored since Feb. 15-- a span of 13 games. Clarkson does have one assist in that time frame but is a minus-7.
5- Marek Zidlicky's rank on the Devils' scoring-leaders list. Though he's still a minus-6, Zidlicky has assists in two of the Devils' last three games.
There's not much more you can ask for in a game than what you got from the Devils tonight. The effort was there in all phases, the stars delivered and Johan Hedberg was strong for the third time in the last four games (coincidentally, all Devils wins). It certainly set up an interesting game Friday in the second half of this home-and-home series with Philly. Some thoughts...
Stars deliver: For the past two weeks, everyone's been asking for the Devils' key players to step up, including Pete DeBoer. Well, tonight everyone and DeBoer got their wish. Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias all lit the lamp, with a little extra help from a beautiful Andrei Loktionov toe drag. With all due respect to Loktionov, Ryan Carter and the supporting cast, the Devils need their top players to step up in order to make a serious run at and eventually through the playoffs. Kovy is going to be Kovy aka he's going to score, going to dazzle and apparently, going to score a lot of short-handed goals. Elias is leading the team in points and outside a brief stretch has been the Devils' most consistent player all season. The difference maker tonight was clearly Henrique, who has been an absentee figure (along with Travis Zajac) for large chunks of this season. It wasn't just than Henrique had two goals and an assist tonight. It was that he was all over the ice, particularly in the offensive end. He was constantly putting the puck on net and was a nightmare for the Flyers all night. With the way Loktionov is playing on the top line alongside Kovy, an energized and dangerous Henrique would make the Devils a dangerous two-line team that has the potential to play offensive hockey three lines deep once Zajac awakens from his slumber. Up until tonight, the Devils had been mostly playing one line deep or maybe two lines when the third line or CBGB line was rolling. Tonight you saw why New Jersey so desperately depends on their top players and what happens when those top players deliver.
Being that the Devils are at the half-way point of the season (OK, a couple games past it but cut us some slack), we decided to do some "grades" for this team. Originally, this was supposed to be one full post, but after compiling them, it seems better to break them up into different pieces today. First up, the forwards.
(Disclaimer: All "grades" articles are usually entirely too general and tend to omit more detail than normal, so apologies in advance if we left a player out.)
Bounce after bounce after bounce didn't go the Devils' way for two-plus periods Thursday night ... until they did. A rebound ended up right back on Adam Henrique's stick, same with Patrik Elias and then Elias had what might have been the biggest goal of the season (albeit a shootout score). Finally, the streak is over, hopefully for the Devils the pressure is off and? they can get back to playing a complete hockey game. Hopefully. Some thoughts...
Best player on the ice: The Devils aren't anywhere close to being in position to win that game if not for Johan Hedberg. Moose has taken a lot of heat during this losing streak -- and deservedly so. But tonight he was everything the Devils needed him to be. Hedberg was calm in the face of pressure, excellent with his positioning and made a couple saves he probably had no right making. He also got a few breaks (and caught a few posts, particularly in OT), but you tend to get those breaks when you're playing well. One of the more impressive aspects of his game tonight was his puck movement. After a couple early snafus, including one that led to him committing a penalty in the first period, Hedberg settled down with the puck on his stick and directly set up at least two legitimate scoring chances for the Devils. It's a small thing that Martin Brodeur usually excels at and it helps the Devils' defensemen move the puck up the ice without asking guys like Bryce Salvador to carry it end to end. Pete DeBoer had no doubt that Hedberg would eventually settle down and reward his patience in the veteran and tonight, DeBoer's faith paid off. The question now is whether this is a blip in the radar against a team that's OK at best or whether it's a sign of things to come. The Devils need it to be the latter because it doesn't appear that Brodeur is coming back from his back injury anytime soon. Hedberg doesn't have to win games like he did tonight, but he has to play well enough and not give up bad goals so the Devils are at least in games and have a chance to win.
With the Devils in a serious tailspin, SNYDevils contributor Pat Pickens emailed me this morning with a simple question: Do you think the Devils are in trouble? He doesn't think they are, but I disagree. What follows is an actual email exchange between Pat and I discussing the state of the Devils, how they can fix it and whether they should blow up the system and go for a Stanley Cup this season.
Seriously. The two have basically spent the entire season together regardless of what's been going on around them. According to Behind The Net, Clarkson has been Elias' linemate for 80.7 percent of the time when Clarkson has been on the ice at even strength. Even more startling, the two have been linemates 87 percent of the time Elias has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play.
No matter who has been the second-line center, those two players have been on the wing. And for a long portion of this season, it was working. From the beginning of the season until Feb. 16 (when the current skid began), the two scored a combined 14 goals and notched a combined 34 points in 14 games. That's pretty freakin' impressive. So impressive, in fact, that I commissioned a friend of mine to make the photo above on Feb. 13. They were one team-up effort away from me posting the photo, but ever since then, the two have cooled off considerably. Consider that since a Feb. 16 loss to the Islanders, the two have combined for one goal and five points with Clarkson contributing only one assist to that total.
Who:? New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Well, that makes three straight losses and five defeats in their last six games for the Devils -- not exactly the way Pete DeBoer wants to be trending when approaching the meat of the season. All in all, it was a far better overall effort than it had been in the past couple games, particularly Sunday, but not enough to get off the schneid. Some thoughts...
Help needed: You want a main reason behind the Devils' current skid? Try these numbers: 1, 1, 1, 2, 1. That, in chronological order, is how many goals the Devils have scored in each of their last five losses. In past games, it's been due to an almost passive nature on offense and a reluctance to establish a hard forecheck early and often. Tonight, after a brief wave of Jets attacks, the Devils started forcing the play and getting chances but just could not finish, which is something we wondered if they could do on a regular basis before the season. It seems like if? Clarkson or Kovy isn't scoring the Devils are hard-pressed to find goals. Elias is having a strong season, but even he missed out on a couple chances to bury the puck tonight (one of which came on a nice cross-ice feed from Zajac). The bottom line is the Devils can't simply rely on their top two players to score. If they're going to compete for home-ice advantage in the first round, they're going to have to find the secondary scoring that made them so dangerous in last season's playoff run. I'm sorry but losing Parise is not an excuse anymore, not when you get 10 goals out of Clarkson and a 22-point start from Elias in the season's first 20 games. Zajac has been non-existent offensively for the most part this season and Henrique has disappeared after putting together a good first few games when he returned from injury. Kovy cannot be the end all, be all of this offense or else the Devils won't just struggle to host a playoff series -- they'll struggle to make the playoffs in an absurdly packed Eastern Conference. DeBoer messed around with his forward lines entering play tonight in an attempt to spark the dormant offense. It work in the sense that the Devils' top two lines started generating chances and putting consistent pressure on an opponent, but that's not enough.
Well, that got out of hand quickly. After a strong first period, the Devils seemed completely overwhelmed by the tempo of the game and just never got it going. All of the textbook problems were there and you have to wonder if Marty's late scratch may have played a factor. Some thoughts...
Funky: I delved into it briefly during the pregame post, but the Devils have been less than stellar over the past two weeks. During that stretch, they've failed to put together an overall game as strong and complete as some of their early season efforts. Is it the injuries and lack of depth catching up to them or is this the Devils team we should get used to seeing? I tend to think it's a bit of both. The Devils probably aren't as good as they showed in the first couple weeks, but they're certainly better than the team that lost 9-3 over the past two days. They're in a funk, which Pete DeBoer has been aware of for a few games now. DeBoer has tried to find a way to spark the Devils out of their funk, specifically using line changes to try to get players out of their comfort zones and force them back into doing some of the fundamentals of the Devils' gameplan. It's worked for some players (Travis Zajac's goal from Patrik Elias tonight), but for the most part the alterations have been unsuccessful in getting the Devils back to playing their basic game of forechecking, taking away the other team's best player and being responsible with the puck in their own zone. Is it time to panic? Not by a longshot, but the time to be concerned has definitely arrived.
As I wrote yesterday, the Devils cannot afford one more injury. Not one. Let alone one to a player as valuable as Clarkson. I'm not going to get on my "no depth" soapbox today, but I'll just point out that injuries like this are going to come with Clarkson's style of play. Unfortunately for the Devils, they're starting to pile up right now. First it was the stiff back, not a jammed wrist and I've got to imagine the rest of his body is pretty sore, as well. Once Ryan Carter returns from his "upper-body injury," I think it might be time for give Clarkson a couple of maintenance days to keep him from wearing down during this compact schedule.
I'm not going to say the Devils stole this one, because they played well enough to win, but boy, the Caps' penalty problems certainly got them going in the third. With a noon start coming Saturday, this was a big win for the Devils and they could ice what's left of the Caps' season with a sweep of this two-game series. Some thoughts...
Dueling Russians: Alex Ovechkin came out firing on all cylinders in the first two periods, playing with the jump and speed that he used to display on a regular basis. There was the ridiculous undressing of Bryce Salvador and the spin move that left Henrik Tallinder useless and finally an end-to-end rush that he shot wide. It was vintage Ovechkin for 40 minutes and although he didn't score, it appeared only a matter of time before Ovi buried one. But then all of a sudden to star the third, Ilya Kovalchuk seemed liked a different player. Perhaps energized by Ovi's sudden resurgence or pissed off by his team's poor effort in the second period, Kovy was all over the ice in the third. Even before he scored the game-winning goal on a picture-perfect one-time setup from Patrik Elias, Kovy was rushing Caps goalie Braden Holtby and drawing penalties with strong work along the boards. It was always like Kovy realized there was nothing else going for the Devils tonight and took it upon himself to be the best player on the ice for the final 20 minutes. Of course, it helped that he basically played the entire period because of how much time the Devils spent on the power play during the third. Still, on nights like tonight, we're reminded that the Devils have something that only a handful of other teams have: a player that is the most skilled player 95 percent of the time he's on the ice. I mean, really, how many other players could've taken the shot that he scored the game winner on? Just fantastic.
1 - The number of points David Clarkson has since his two-goal game in Pittsburgh on Feb. 10. His lone point was the game-winning goal in New Jersey's 5-3 win over Philadelphia last Friday.
30 - The number of goals Clarkson is still on pace for, despite his recent cold stretch. That would tie Clarkson's career best, set last season.
?Just stiff,? Clarkson said. ?I tweaked my back in that scrum yesterday and I?m just stiff.?
Clarkson said he would have practiced today if there had been a practice, though, and he will play Thursday.
Hey guys, I want to introduce Pat Pickens, who just joined SNY Devils and will be contributing weekly to the site. He's a sportswriter for Hearst in Connecticut, but he also is a New Jersey native and a lifelong Devils fan. Follow him on Twitter here.