It wasn't an easy game at all for the New Jersey Devils. The Boston Bruins, who won their last four, were pressing hard early and in the third period. While the Devils outshot the Bruins 37-33, the Bruins had more possession, pinned the Devils back in their own end more often, and had better scoring chances. Yet, the score remained tied thanks to one man: Martin Brodeur.
Today, Martin Brodeur broke the all-time NHL record for career minutes played in the second period. That wasn't all. He wasn't just big in Boston, he was massive. Long shots, point-blank shots, shots from the slot, up high, down low, on the ground, while standing - Brodeur made every stop except for one. A shot right on Brodeur's flank right in front of the crease courtesy of Blake Wheeler. Nevertheless, Martin Brodeur prevented this one from becoming a Boston rout in the third period and for that alone, he should be praised. The Devils get nothing from today's game if it wasn't for Brodeur bringing his "A" game.
Credit should also go to Boston's Tuukka Rask as well; he had a busy afternoon with 37 shots against and he was only beaten by Zach Parise forcing a puck into the net. But the Bruins had more scoring chances in my opinion, more dangerous shots on net, and Brodeur was the sole reason the Devils got a point - much less two. Jamie Langenbrunner sealed the deal in the shootout and so the Devils win their second straight over Boston and in general. NHL.com has their recap up with a link to the boxscore and other stats.
Check out Stanley Cup of Chowder for his recap later on - he was at the game, as I understand it so it'll be up a little later. My recap continues after the jump.
First, an embedded video of the game's highlights via NHL.com. Expect a lot of saves:
The win didn't come easy at all for New Jersey. First, the Devils lost David Clarkson early in the game. Clarkson blocked a Zdeno Chara slapshot from point blank right on his right ankle. He had to crawl to the bench, he did not return at all, and that is definitely concerning. The last thing the Devils need is another injured forward. Unfortunately, per this postgame post by Tom Gulitti, Jacques Lemaire is already saying that the injury "doesn't look good." That could mean just the fact that another Devils is injured doesn't look good, but it could also mean the injury is serious. More will be available tomorrow, but I wouldn't expect Clarkson to play at the Rock.
Second, the Devils had to make a lot of heads up plays in their own end, leading them to be pinned back further. The Devils blocked a total of 17 shots, 4 by Bryce Salvador, but many of these blocks led to an errant clearance that the Bruins picked up in New Jersey's end or a clearance that got the Devils to change but Boston easily got so they could start again. Ultimately, the Devils got into too many cycles where they kept having to defend over and over. It's great that they made defensive stops, and it's great that Martin Brodeur made so many saves. But it's not great that the Devils essentially made it easier for the Bruins to attack over and over. In particular, the make-shift third line of Tim Sestito-Dean McAmmond-Matt Halischuk got worked over the most in the third period but this was true across all four lines.
Yes, all four lines. There was a Rod Pelley and Andrew Peters sighting in the third period. Not that Jacques Lemaire wanted to spread out some of the fatigue among the forwards. The top two lines got plenty of work with all of them playing at least 20 minutes today except for Nicklas Bergfors (18:28). As usual, the defensemen endured a disparity in time played. While Matthew Corrente got 10:52 of ice time, the workload was all over the top four with Andy Greene playing a mind-boggling 27:59 this afternoon. And to think, only Mike Mottau (26:52) made a fatal error - giving the puck right to Byron Bitz who fed Blake Wheeler for the goal. I really hope Greene gets a lot of rest tonight because the Islanders aren't going to give him a break tomorrow.
With respect to individual statlines, this may surprise you, but Brian Rolston had the most impressive set of numbers. He played 22:45, put 7 shots on net, attempted 10 (3 misses), and had 5 hits. Really. He had the second best scoring chance in the first period when he broke away on a breakaway, but was forced to the side by Dennis Wideman from behind and so Rolston's shot was on an angle and hit Tuukka Rask's helmet.
Going back to things that made this game difficult for New Jersey: the power play. The Devils didn't have too many of these, the refs let the players play today. But in the first period, Travis Zajac had a wide open net right in front and the shot was shanked during the Devils' first power play. The miss wasn't fatal, but it was regrettable. If only Zajac actually had the puck on his stick when he attempted to shoot it! Who knows how . Later on, during a power play late in the second period, Brian Rolston "slashed" Dennis Wideman (I'll give Dennis this, he knows how to sell a move - like a wrestler!) which led to a minor penalty that wiped that chance out early into the man advantage. I can't complain about the special teams too loudly, since the Devils' PK was solid, but it's still opportunities wasted.
Lastly, I have to praise the Bruins' for their balanced attack. 33 shots, Patrice Bergeron led with 5, but 5 other Bruins had at least 3 shots on net, and only Marco Sturm ended the game without a shot on net - and that's only because Matthew Corrente recovered from getting burned to stop him from shooting. The Bruins were better at faceoffs, winning 61% of all draws - further proof of Boston's advantage in terms of puck possession. It wasn't one line or one player that gave the Devils' issues - it was the whole team.
That all said, I would have been happy with just a point. But the Devils managed to hold steady in overtime and earn the win in the shootout. This reminded me of Stanley Cup of Chowder's recap of Boston's previous win: a game where the Bruins didn't look like the superior team, where the Bruins kept it close largely in part of their goaltender, and got the win (2-1, no less). The Devils will take the win; but they'll have to be ready for a tough one tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully, they all get a good night's sleep - they'll need it after such a tight game today.
Thanks to Steve for the GameThread, the commenters in said GameThread, and you, for reading all this. Please share your thoughts, concerns, and such in the comments.