RECORDS: DEVILS:, 2-0; WASHINGTON, 0-3
THEME: Are Peter DeBoer‘s skaters for real?
PLUS: As a group the club has jelled must faster than anyone had imagined. The defense, led by new captain Bryce Salvador, has been so effective that prize sophomore Adam Larsson has not cracked the lineup. Martin Brodeur — still only 40 — has performed nobly. Travis Zajac has been outstanding among the forwards. Ilya Kovalchuk has meshed well and delivered a spectacular penalty shot goal against Ilya Bryzgalov en route to the win over Philadelphia. David Clarkson is quickly become a leader and scoring force.
EVEN: The “New” Crash Line — Stephen Gionta–Steve Bernier–Ryan Carter — has not dominated as it did last Spring. Better forechecking would help. Essential defenseman Henrik Tallinder appears to be in mint condition. For now, at least, Zach Parise’s absence has not hurt the club. Harmony exists up and down the line.
MINUS: The power play isn’t where it should be. So far it’s one-for-seven. Tinkering will have to be the order of the night. Remember, last year’s power play guru, Adam Oates, is now head coach of the Capitals.
CHALLENGE: Washington is winless and no doubt will be champing at the bit for a win. At this point overconfidence should not be an issue. What really matters is whether Brodeur can maintain the standard he set in his first two games. Stopping Alex Ovechkin’s mighty shot — or, better still, preventing him from shooting — is an automatic. The Caps will be playing desperate hockey; Devs have to match the intensity; or even top it.
FAN COMMENT: From Jim Charshafian of Saddle River, New Jersey: “The trademark that took this team to the Stanley Cup Final last Spring — hard work from every member of the team — has emerged. And that’s good news!”
THREE KEYS TO STOPPING WASHINGTON:
1. Score the first goal: Since the Capitals haven’t won a game they’ll get further demoralized. By putting pressure on them the chances are that they’ll grip their sticks even tighter.
2. Keep Ovechkin from shooting. If that fails, block his shots. If that fails, it’s all up to Marty.
3. Get to their goalie, Braden Holtby — or Michal Neuvirth. So far Holtby has not been as sharp as he was in the playoffs last year.
FOUR MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
1. Devils penalty-killers vs. the Capitals power play.
2. Holtby-Neuvirth vs. Brodeur
3. Bryce Salvador vs. Alex Ovechkin
4. Mike Green vs. Ilya Kovalchuk
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: A win for New Jersey — putting them at 3-0 — would be a significant step forward while the club bides time for the return of promising Adam Henrique. Pushing the Caps further down while the reel under a new coach and new system would be ideal. But it all comes down to how really real were the first two wins. Who knows; Brodeur may actually be pulling off The Miracle of Age 40-41!