Instant Insight: Game One – Devils at Islanders

Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons

Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons

By Jeff O’Connor
What Happened: The New Jersey Devils opened their 2013 season with a gritty 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders at Long Island on Saturday night.  They are now 1-0 and tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with two points.  After a scoreless first period, Travis Zajac finished off a 2-on-1 odd man rush with Ilya Kovalchuk for a 1-0 lead.  After a Travis Hamonic power play tally for New York early in the third, David Clarkson answered 1:05 later for New Jersey, as the Devils held on the rest of the way.

Star of the Game: Mattias Tedenby gets our star of the game.  He showed a lot of energy early in the game and he looked extremely comfortable on the team’s second line.  He got an assist on the Clarkson GWG goal.

Goat of the Game: Let’s get creative here and say the Islanders offseason training.  They had no legs for most of the first two periods.  They were beaten to most loose pucks and could not keep up with the Devils speed.  They showed better spurts in the third period.  I think most Devils fans were worried about how quickly their team could adjust to game speed.  They did easily because the Islanders came out with cement skates.  That helped the Devils feel comfortable at both ends of the ice and it paid off.

Turning Point: As weird as it sounds, the Hamonic goal got things going for New Jersey.  After a strong 40 minutes, they Devils came out flat to start the third.  Henrik Tallinder took the penalty that lead to the PP.  After two a pair of defensemen fell down in the corner, Hamonic buried his shot all alone in the slot.  There was immediate jump in their legs after that.  It quickly paid off as Clarkson, Tedenby and Patrik Elias helped keep a puck in on the right side of the offensive zone.  It finally came to Clarkson who was unmarked and ripped it five-hole through Evgeni Nabokov.

Grades

Offense – A – With all of the questions regarding how the Devils scoring would shake out with no Zach Parise, they came through rather well in Game One.  They got a goal from each of the top two lines.  While it is only a pair of goals, it was clear to see in the first two periods that the Devils passing was very sharp and there where some prime chances they missed out on.  A lot to improve on, but a lot of positives.
Defense – B – The defense for the most part was satisfactory.  They did not allow a lot of quality Islander chances in the first 40 minutes.  It became a bit wild in the third period, however.  Michael Grabner had several great chances and there were a couple other frightening moments.  The next category is the reason the defense received a B.
Goaltending – A – Seven months with no hockey?  No problem for the greatest of all-time.  Brodeur made several flashy saves and was positionally sound all game.  He even looked very sharp playing the puck in the trapezoid.
Special Teams – D – The good thing is it can only go up.  They gave up a goal on the penalty kill and the two power plays they got were polar opposites.  Assistant coach Matt Shaw is bringing in a shoot-first PP.  The first power play was too much passing and no real chances.  The second one was too many shovels to the night that were cleared instantaneously.  It is just one game, but be wary of this power play strategy.

Instant Analysis: Overall, a solid game.  What stands out to me, is that I was more impressed with the offense than the defense.  I thought I would see exactly the opposite.  A few different line combinations out there than what we saw in Game Six against Los Angeles.  I thought each line was pretty good.  A pair of goals came from the top line.  The Gionta line grinded it out as per usual and Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau brought some energy.  Not worried about the defense…a few more games under their legs will do them well.  Also, Tallinder had two assists tonight.  I didn’t see that coming.  A pleasant surprise from a player that normally frustrates me.