One of the big blows in last night's 2-1 overtime loss to Carolina is that Jamie Langenbrunner left the game in the second period. During a power play, he passed the puck off, and immediately went to the bench, appearing to be limping off. I didn't know whether something hit him or he pulled something; but it's definitely an issue with his leg.
So far, according to Gulitti and Chere, Langenbrunner's status is unknown. With respect to how this could affect New Jersey, Chere cuts to the chase in the title: Are New Jersey Devils in a jam without captain Jamie Langenbrunner?
Langenbrunner is important to the team not just as their captain, but as a scorer. He's got a powerful shot and came close to hitting 30 goals this season. Even then, playing with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, he managed to hit career highs in goals and points. Whereas last season wasn't so good for Langenbrunner, he definitely deserved appreciation for this season. Most of all, he helps make that ZZ Pops line work. Parise is in constant motion, always hustling and unloading shots; Zajac has the chemistry with Parise; and Langenbrunner is able to hang back and unload that big shot when the space opens up.
So missing him is a big deal! However, Game 3 is going to be a tough one for New Jersey. Consider the following the Devils will have to overcome (and this is all just off the top of my head):
- Carolina isn't slumping anymore by virtue of playing much better in Game 2. Oh, and winning that game too. The Devils cannot count on Carolina's poor passing anymore (though their defense is still too sloppy, I think).
- Eric Staal finally did something of production in this series and he'll be particularly more confident and motivated to do more.
- New Jersey hasn't won in Carolina in either game this season against the Hurricanes.
- More distressingly, as Gulitti pointed out yesterday, the Devils have lost 6 straight in Raleigh in the playoffs. They haven't won a playoff game down there since 2001.
- In the Chere article, Sutter calls out Brian Rolston (plurally) to step up. I think it's more than just Rolston that has to up his game. Though I agree that now would be a great time for Rolston to earn his salary in the postseason. Looking back at Game 2, Zajac didn't have a great game, adding Elias to Parise and Zajac didn't yield a proper result in a third period, and David Clarkson also wasn't a major factor all game. That's why Brent Sutter said "Rolstons," I think.
- This is the first loss of the playoffs for New Jersey and how they respond will be critical as to how the rest of the series goes. They will go nowhere in the postseason if this one loss throws them off completely.
- The Devils have to win at least one on the road to make the home ice turn back in New Jersey's favor. Going down 3-1 is not an option. Yes, the Devils pulled off that historical comeback against Philadelphia, but that was in 2000 and against Philadelphia. Carolina isn't going to choke on that lead.
Even if Jamie Langenbrunner is OK and will play tomorrow night, it's still a lot that the Devils have to overcome. A returning and healthy Langenbrunner alone wouldn't solve these issues. It may make you and me feel better about the Devils' chances tomorrow; but it won't necessarily make the Devils favorites to win tomorrow and/or roll off 3 straight wins. Carolina won't care if Langenbrunner is in or not, they're going to be more confident and more flowing in Game 3 by virtue of coming off a win at the Rock and returning home to the RBC.
I'm still confident in New Jersey namely because Carolina has yet to consistently outplay the Devils for more than a few minutes at a time. New Jersey just has to bury those chances that they still are getting on Cam Ward.
It wouldn't be the playoffs without some adversity, after all and on Sunday we will see if the Devils will re-take control of the series. Game 3 will test what the Devils are made of - with or without Langenbrunner.