Positives the New Jersey Devils Can Take from Game 2 into Game 3

Colin White scoring a goal is a big positive for the Devils to be carrying forward for future games. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Often in the fast-paced world of the playoffs, there's not much time to take a step back and look at what just happened beyond a timely recap of the last game or so.  After all, there's plenty of hockey to play and the focus needs to be on the next game. 

That said, I can't help but shake off that the Devils have plenty they can build on for Game 3 based on how they won Game 2.  Consider this to be a short supplemental post to the Game 2 recap and even for the Game 3 preview.

  • The Devils came from behind to win. This is the biggest positive from Game 2 outside of the win itself. The Devils went down 2-1 to the Flyers in the first period despite out-shooting them and putting more quality shots on Brian Boucher.  While no one at the Rock wasn't happy about it, the Devils players didn't let the deficit get to them and just concentrated on the game at hand.  As a result, they tied it up and took the lead in the second.  A late second period power play goal against tied it up, but did it cause the Devils to collapse? No, and that's huge. Given how close playoff games can be, not having your confidence and intensity sag after a goal against is crucial to not only stay in the game but win it. The Devils players should definitely recall this in future games should they fall behind.
  • The Devils were able to crack the Philadelphia defense.  Chris Pronger remains as the Flyers' top player so far; but the Devils didn't just get more shots on net in Game 2 but they got more quality shots.  Boucher was forced to make lateral movements and hope he could get a stop.  You saw red jerseys in the slot and actually get the puck.  The Devils even won battles along the boards.  A quick look at the Corsi and Fenwick numbers from the game shows that the Devils picked on the Flyers' non-Pronger-Carle-pairing defenders, especially Braydon Coburn and Ryan Parent.  This is huge going forward.
  • The Devils succeeded in spite of their discipline problems. The Devils took way too many penalties and handed the Flyers seven power plays.  While they were beaten twice on them, the Devils had many successful kills and even sprung Zach Parise for a shorthanded goal.   On most nights, handing an opposition 7 power plays is a great way to lose a game; but the Devils stood tall.  
  • The Devils held on late and nailed the empty net goal to win.  The Flyers pulled the goaltender and the Devils defense didn't relent.  They got some big clearances that weren't icings.  Martin Skoula made a clutch stop late to prevent a huge scoring chance.  Moreover, they kept the Flyers largely to the boards and Kovalchuk - yes in a 6-on-5 situation with a one goal lead, Kovalchuk was out there - was incredibly calm to get to the red line and slide the puck in.  Anyone concerned about how the Devils handle one-goal leads late were answered in Game 2. 
  • Ilya Kovalchuk's three-point night.  I still say he had a very poor first half of the game and took some dumb calls.  Yet, he managed to surpass his entire NHL playoff totals in one game.  Granted that was just 2 points in 4 games back in 2006; but I still find it impressive. Imagine what he can do when he plays a more complete game?  Imagine, my friends.
  • The Devils cannot be pushed around so easily. Granted, it led to a good number of their penalties, but Zach Parise wasn't taken out of the game when Mike Richards took some shots at his head while lying on the ice in the first period.  Colin White exerted his physical play and gave Pronger an earful whenever possible.  Kovalchuk did not care for Richards or Darrell Powe's actions.  Again, some of these examples went on to hurt the Devils; but a message was sent: this team will not be intimidated.  Given the opposition, that's a positive.
  • Goals from the defense. Colin White and Andy Greene scored important goals in this game.  Who knew that the secondary offense would come from the Devils' blueline, a position where they didn't get a lot of points all season?  Their confidence has to have boomed from those tallies, especially for White who hasn't scored a playoff goal since the 2000 playoffs (his first playoffs).  That's great for them and also their defensive partners since they'll be thinking, "Hey, why not me? If I got the time and space, then why not throw it on net?" Since the goals, I felt the defense were more active in pinching in and firing pucks in Game 2.  Perhaps it'll continue through Game 3 and beyond.
  • The Devils may actually have set forward lines.  Unless my eyes were deceiving me, the line of Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, and Dainius Zubrus were together from the beginning and the end of the game.  Ilya Kovalchuk constantly had Jamie Langenbrunner on his wing and Travis Zajac as his center.  Sure, the fourth line got shortened in the third period; but for the most part, the forwards maintained the same partners throughout the game.  That tells me that Jacques Lemaire was comfortable with them and that they were effective for the most part.  Let's hope they remain.
Just recalling these and writing them down brought a smile to my face. Especially in anticipation for tomorrow's game.  If you have any other positives from Game 2 that the Devils can certainly build on and/or continue for Game 3 and beyond, please let me know in the comments.
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