‘Devils In The Details’
By Sean Hartnett »
After the misery of Game 3, it was imperative that the Devils came away with a Game 4 victory to even their series with the Panthers. Not only did the Devils accomplish that, they gained the series momentum by ‘the scruff of the neck.’
It’s all about special teams for the Devils. Their abject play on the penalty kill doomed them in Game 3 but they were able to flip the script in Game 4. New Jersey regained the steadiness that made their penalty kill tops in the NHL during the regular season. The overall difference displayed on special teams between Game 3 and Game 4 was like night and day.
“It was important for us to go out and get that first penalty kill, get back to a little confidence and cockiness in our penalty kill. We were relentless,” captain Zach Parise said following the Devils’ 4-0 victory.
New Jersey’s powerplay clicked once again as Parise and later Ilya Kovalchuk beat Scott Clemmensen while the Panthers were shorthanded. The Devils were able to operate as a unit on the powerplay. Their puck movement and possession were greatly improved on Thursday.
When I spoke with players around the Devils’ locker room, they valued the difference that Marek Zidlicky has made since arriving in New Jersey in late February. Zidlicky is able to cause havoc with his blasts from the point and tremendous on-ice vision.
Parise benefited from Zidlicky’s shot from the point that deflected off Travis Zajac’s stick and onto Parise’s and eventually past Clemmensen. Parise credited Zidlicky’s effort as the catalyst on the Devils’ opening goal.
“He’s been making great plays on the powerplay,” Parise said. “He makes really good plays on transition. He’s really good at dragging across the middle, keeping his head up and shooting through screens and through blocks. That’s how we ended up getting our first goal.”
Fellow defenseman Bryce Salvador was able to find offensive success of his own as he registered two assists on the evening. Salvador spoke about how Zidlicky is a difference maker for the Devils.
“He’s a full-dimensional player, so he’s able to control the PP and takes some pressure off (Kovalchuk) and allows Kovy to focus on just being a shooter. So, he comes in and fills a huge role for us,” Salvador explained.
Obviously, Kovalchuk and Parise are the focal points of the Devils’ powerplay but having a defenseman who can be a threat from the point makes a world of difference for any team.
David Clarkson further detailed what separates Zidlicky from most NHL defensemen and agrees that he’s filled a void that the Devils have missed since they lost Paul Martin to the Pittsburgh Penguins via free agency in 2010.
“You watch the plays he makes and it’s impressive how he sees the ice. He’s been a huge boost to this lineup and a great addition. He brings that little bit of presence that Paul did. He has poise with the puck and makes plays. You bring in a guy like that, it definitely gives you more of an offensive jump for sure,” Clarkson stated.
Martin Brodeur was back to his vintage ways as he preserved the Devils’ shutout. Brodeur was able to pass fellow Quebecois icon Patrick Roy to gain sole possession of the NHL’s all-time playoff shutout record at 24.
Listen to what coach DeBoer said about Brodeur’s performance and other topics during his post-game press conference:
“We all knew in the back of our minds that (Brodeur) was going to have a great game. He was on top of his game,” Parise added.
The Devils appear to have rediscovered their best game but the series now shifts back to Florida. It would be hard not to imagine the Panthers being eager to prove a point in Game 5 just as the Devils had to in Game 4. It’s important for the Devils to stay even-keeled as Salvador explained.
“We know we’re going to get a different team in Florida. We’ll come back out and not get too high after this win and stay even-flow and just be ready to go,” Salvador mentioned.
Will the Devils’ momentum carry through into Game 5? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to@HartnettWFAN.