The New Jersey Devils took Game 5 in an impressive fashion, featuring a classic Martin Brodeur performance for his 23rd playoff shutout and to win Game 5 1-0. I like to thank all the commenters in the GameThread. Thanks for keeping it real, fairly clean, and supportive of the Devils.
As usual, I have plenty to say, and that will come after the jump. Yet, I will sum up tonight's game with an appropriation of a soccer chant:
There's only one Martin Brodeur!
There's only one Martin Brodeur!
There's only one Martin Brooooooodeur!
Bubba postulated yesterday whether Brodeur's "theatrics" would affect the series. Oh, there was theatrics tonight! Just not the kind he or any other Carolina fan would go pay to see! The stage tonight was Game 5 at the Rock. The leading man was Brodeur, supported by his glove hand, his legendary awareness, his stickhandling ability, and a defense that, fortunately, did well cleaning up rebounds and loose pucks.
The antagonists, the Carolina Hurricanes, threw what they could at him. Point-blank shots, glancing shots, rebound shots, shots from the point, shots through screens, shots for the sake of shots, and everything else. Brodeur faced 44 and the most dangerous one came in the second period. It actually snuck through him, hit the post, bounced off his butt, and Brodeur dramatically covered it with his glove before it even touched the line. Like all proper performances, it all ended happily as the Hurricanes were just robbed, stoned, and denied; and the Devils and their fans at the Rock went home happy.
I'm not exaggerating, Brodeur truly was at an elite level of performance tonight. His focus was uncanny, he rarely got out of position, and he stayed calm despite what Carolina did. There was a scare in the second period when Brodeur came way out to play a puck to avoid Chad LaRose taking it. LaRose just slid into Brodeur like runner trying to beat the double play and Brodeur just went down. To their credit, Carolina didn't try to throw it on net until Brodeur got up (maybe they were expecting a whistle?), but even then, they couldn't get it on net. Brodeur was more than OK; he continued to be great.
Needless to say, the events that ended Game 4 or Carolina's aggressive rushing to the net did not enter his head. If anything, it's Martin Brodeur who may be in Carolina's collective head! Especially Eric Staal's, who got owned tonight more than any other Cane. The game ended up being a massive goaltender's duel and while Cam Ward did play great, Martin Brodeur came out on top. Tonight, the big book of Martin Brodeur's great performances and accomplishments just got another page entitled: Game 5 vs. Carolina in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Incidentally, despite having 44 shots on net, Carolina did struggle getting it on net. They were also blocked 22 times by the Devils' - 15 by the defense alone. I can't honestly say either blueline was great tonight, with each side conceding over 40 shots. No one really can call that great. But the Devils' got in their way, they let Marty see the shots, they prevented the cross-ice passes that normally lead to shots goalies can't stop, and they did a great job preventing Carolina from putting away a puck Brodeur wouldn't have a chance at. Better than what they did in Game 4, but because 44 shots went through, I can't say they were good. A mix of good and bad, perhaps. Given how the Devils killed 5 penalties on top of this, perhaps more good than bad!
Though, a point of concern would have to be that at the Devils' sole goal of the night, the Devils were just out-gunning Carolina 29-19 in shots. Carolina must have gotten woken up by the tally because the period ended 31-28 in shots! They ended up with 19 that period and kept piling it on in the third. The Devils defense, wisely or stupidly, let them have the space for these shots - but Carolina really put them at Brodeur.
The Devils' attack was prolific with 42 shots of their own. Given that there were times of empty nets, a few lucky bounces, Devils being able to get into the slot, a Jay Pandolfo breakaway, etc.; I think Ward had to make bigger and tougher saves tonight. On some of these chances, the Devils were just unlucky to make that pass or to take it or to fire a proper shot from it. Even so, Ward robbed the Devils more than a few times too. Carolina fans really should be praising Ward because he and he alone are keeping the games in this series close! They should also be praying he doesn't have a bad game any time soon! Alas, he could not stay perfect like Brodeur as he was beaten by a goal.
That goal requires bold font. IT WAS A POWER PLAY GOAL. YES THEY DO EXIST IN THIS SERIES! It came from a guy who definitely earned his pay tonight: David Clarkson. Just a deflection - yes, another goal off a deflection - to beat Cam Ward. The great shot came from Andy Greene, who had a solid night of his own. Rather than describing it, here's the video:
Clarkson was just abused all game for some reason - he drew sticks, grabs, hooks, you name it and he got it. Yet, the refs felt this wasn't worth a call. Let me give you a picture perfect example of Clarkson getting abused - and why referees can just plain stupid/blind, why the refs were awful tonight. During the Devils' first power play in the first period, David Clarkson had the puck in the corner. A Cane (I didn't get the name) performs a picture perfect example of a cross-check. Two hands on the stick, pushed out, and with a lot of force. If you were showing someone new to the game what cross-checking was, you would do exactly what the Cane did. Clarkson falls down because, hey, he was cross-checked from behind pretty hard. And either Bill McCreary (a.k.a. The New Don Koharski) or Brad Meier, who was in the corner as well, watches it happen and does nothing. It's as if cross-checking is legal if you're killing a penalty.
There were a lot of missed calls and bad calls, on and against both sides, and the Devils had to overcome that in addition to the Hurricanes. That they were able to do it and by a margin of 1-0 is simply impressive. Further proof how great Marty was tonight.
If you're a Carolina fan or a Cane, you have to feel frustrated. The Hurricanes didn't blow this game. But it was truly a must-win for them as it was for New Jersey. They did their job for the most part. They put rubber on net, they kept Parise off the scoresheet, the Devils got nothing on even strength but a lot of chances, Cam Ward had yet another great game, they played really physical, and didn't get torched on too many calls. Yet - YET - Brodeur and the Devils pull off a 1-0 win without looking like they were just grasping on for dear life. What more can you do? You'd like to think, OK, let's get the next one - just get one - yet, the first goal for them has to be, well, getting a goal. Remember: Tonight was their only a chance to take the series for themselves short of a Game 7, and they couldn't even score one goal. That's going to have a huge effect for Game 6 despite being at home!
One thing is for sure: Marty's better. And that alone made all the difference tonight.