We would have written this reaction right after the game (we hate to keep you waiting, Gentle Reader), but we were too busy running around our neighborhood screaming like maniacs and banging pots and pans together. And we wonder why all our neighbors are Flyers fans…
As much as we are clearly delighted with how things ended up last night, there is still a lot we would like to see fixed. But first, let’s consider the positives:
1. We won. It can’t be stressed enough how huge it was that the guys didn’t fold (a la Carolina, Game 2 last year. Not that that game doesn’t haunt our dreams still or anything…), and furthermore killed two penalties in OT. Going into the first overtime session having just choked away their hard-fought lead, and having to kill Gio’s moronic penalty right off the bat… well, lesser Devils teams have succumbed in that spot in the past. The Devils spent three full periods getting skated into the ice by Ottawa, but somehow managed to find the resilience to just barely hold them off long enough. It speaks volumes of the character of this team that they found a way to win this one.
2. Marty. We know we have a tendency to rag on Marty a lot in this space, but it’s because we’ve come to expect excellence over the years from him. Last night he brought it. And then some. And even we don’t take him so much for granted that we can’t recognize it. We can only hope the Senators are having an uncomfortable realization that, despite everything Marty did in Game 1 to disprove it, they are actually facing quality goaltending in this round, unlike previous playoff rounds they’ve been through this season. We are also petty enough that we hope Marty’s easy-going, non-spazzy, happy-go-lucky personality is creeping just a bit into Emery’s head with that whole “switching up his equipment” thing. Not that Emery is seeing this as him v. Marty, of course.
3. Scott Gomez. Yup, it’s probably fair to say he’s decided it’s time to make a contract-year sort of effort, because he has been an absolute force ever since Game 4 against Tampa. His speed, his flair and his confidence are making the Devils a far more dynamic team that we’ve seen from them all season. With Patty back from the Worst Cold Ever, the EGG line was far and away the best thing the Devils had going last night; we’d like very much to see them get some head-to-head action with those creepy Spezza-line guys, because the checking line? Ain’t getting it done. But this is the “Positives” section of our post-game reaction, so we’ll leave that for later…
4. Jamie Langenbrunner. We’ve been waiting for his tendency for big-time playoff goals to come into play, and for the better part of last night’s game we feared for the worst. But he, Travis and Zach never stopped working (when do they ever?), and sure enough it paid off. We especially loved in his post-game interview with Stan when Stan asked all condescendingly, “Have you ever scored an OT goal before?” and Jamie just shrugged all blase, “Yeah, this is my fourth.” Stan was probably stunned to discover someone other than Sean Avery has been instrumental in a team’s postseason success.
5. FSN’s post-game show. Hey, we’re girls. And that game was brutal to suffer through. So the back-to-back in-studio interviews with Travis and Zach (so, so adorable!) was very welcome. We especially loved how Travis seemed to be shrinking farther and farther back from the little studio desk to get as much distance between himself and crazy Stan.
So yes, there was a lot we were happy about last night. But again, here are just a few of the things that still have us troubled:
1. The offense backing off for 2/3 of the game. The Devils got 2 goals on 16 shots in the first period and managed only 15 more shots in all of regulation. Sure, Ottawa came out like gangbusters in the second and third periods, but on the rare chances the Devils got with the puck in the offensive zone, they looked to pass, pass, pass and pass some more. What’s the opposite of “killer instinct”? Uh, the Devils’ O last night. It’s a good thing Langer was in all alone on the game-winner, or he probably would have tried dishing it instead of going for the jugular. Please, Devils. Stop doing that.
2. The checking line. Look, we love Pando as much as the next person. Correction: we love Pando way, way more than the next person. But even we know he is being outmatched. As is Madden. As is Brylin. This line has been atrocious so far in this series, and not in an “atrocious numbers against Lecavalier and St. Louis in the first round, but really they were doing a good job of limiting their chances” way. Every time they take the ice the Senators get to spend a long, often fruitful shift in the offensive zone. This is, to put it mildly, a huge problem. There’s no way Lou is actually going to change things up here, just the way he’d never in a million years consider pulling Marty after his first period in Game 1, but we would love to see the checking line used less obsessively against Ottawa’s top guns. Because really, it’s not like Gomer’s line could do any worse defensively against them.
3. The falling back into the Julien-Era “Oh, it’s so hard to maintain a semblance of control while trying to clear the zone” mindset. They’ve looked outrageously sloppy in their own end, and we know they’re better than that.
4. Bad penalties. Stupid penalties. Idiotic penalties. Ottawa is too good to keep spoon-feeding chances like that.
The Devils have seemed to have a mantra over the last few years of, “We’ll enjoy this win for a few hours, then get right back to business.” Yeah, they’re professionals. So we’ll enjoy this staggering, surprising OT win for now (being the professional-type fans we are), and start worrying again tomorrow.