New Jersey Devils: The Good and the Bad in Game 1
The New Jersey Devils came out on the losing side of a 4-3 overtime decision against Philadelphia in Game 1. The Flyers used their home-ice advantage effectively and simply outplayed the Devils in the series opener.
However, it was not all bad for the boys from Jersey. Let's take a look at three elements of the Devils' game that need to change and three that must stay the same.
The Bad: Defensive Play
At several points during Game 1 the Devils defense became completely non-existent. New Jersey allowed 36 shots on goal and only one member of the defensive unit, Bryce Salvador, had a positive plus-minus rating.
New Jersey's defense also had a number of turnovers in Game 1. Too many times a Devils' defenseman would retreat behind the net to simply force the puck up the boards to a waiting Flyers' winger.
The Bad: Playing from Behind
New Jersey completely outplayed the Flyers in the first period. However, this dominance was short lived. From the end of the first frame on Philadelphia had a 30-11 advantage in shots. The Devils also had to erase deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 in order to force the game into an extra session.
In order to have success against the Flyers, the Devils must sustain the pressure they put forth in the opening frame throughout the entire game. They cannot expect to continuously play catch-up with a high level of success.
The Bad: Ilya Kovalchuk
To put it lightly, Ilya Kovalchuk was simply a liability for the Devils in Game 1. He did account for an assist on Travis Zajac's 2nd period goal, but that did not make up for his severely poor play in the contest.
At many points during the game, Kovalchuk threw passes aimlessly up the boards in the defensive zone, leading to uncontested shots by the Flyer's defenseman. He was a minus 2 in the game.
No. 17's most notable mistake came on the Flyer's first goal of the game, in which he fired a misguided shot wide of the netminder Bryzgalov. The puck rattled behind the Philadelphia net all the way to Jakub Voracek on the boards, who then passed it to a wide open Danny Briere for a score on a breakaway.
Overall, Kovalchuk's play seemed very disheartened. He did not pursue the puck with much determination and at points looked injured and very slow. Even with the puck Kovalchuk did not make the right decisions; he would over-stick-handle or make errant passes.
The Russian superstar must step up and show the sparks of brilliance he did in the regular season and in New Jersey's first round match up with the Florida Panthers. If the 29 year-old left winger does not begin to play at a high-level he may be on the golf course sooner rather than later.
The Good: Brodeur Has Turned Back the Clock
Martin Brodeur turned in a very solid performance in Game 1. The future Hall-of-Famer made 32 saves on 36 shots against, almost stealing the match for the Devils.
Brodeur also looked fairly comfortable controlling the puck behind his own net and providing outlet passes to his teammates.
None of the responsibility for any of Philadelphia's four goals hangs squarely on Marty's shoulders, as the majority of them were the outcome of turnovers by his teammates.
If No. 30 continues to play at such a high-level he may single-handedly steal a game for New Jersey.
The Good: Zach Parise Has Come Alive
Not to say that the New Jersey captain's play was lacking prior to Game 1, but right now, Zach Parise is playing with a new, heightened level of energy.
Before Sunday's game with Philadelphia, Devils' Coach Peter DeBoer switched up his lines, moving Parise down to the second line to play alongside Patrick Elias and Dainius Zubrus. The transition paid dividends early when Parise gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead only 3:16 into the contest.
The line seemed to have solid chemistry throughout the game and Parise in particular played with a tremendous amount of drive.
The 27 year-old captain must maintain his effective level of vigor and attempt to make it contagious for the rest of his team.
The Good: Bryzgalov Looks Very Beatable
Although New Jersey did not get the win, they successfully exposed Flyers' goalie Ilya Bryzgalov several times. Of the three Devils' goals, two of them were very suspect.
Travis Zajac's second period goal occurred as an outcome of Bryzgalov's shaky handling of the puck behind his own net. Bryzgalov was not able to get reestablished back in the net in time and Zajac slid the puck under his pad.
On the Devils' third goal, Petr Sykora was able to fire a somewhat weak shot through Bryzgalov's five-hole. Throughout the latter stages of the game it seemed as if the Flyers offensive power was simply trying to surpass the weak play of Bryzgalov.
If the Devils find a way to slow down the high-powered offensive attack of Philadelphia they will have a very serious chance in this series, especially if Bryzgalov's play does not improve.