3/14 Morning Skate

Dave: So Jeff, we finally saw this team give a dominating performance for the first time in what feels like forever. They got going early and never looked back. What are your initial thoughts after this 5-2 blowout win over the Flyers?

 Jeff:  I don’t want to downplay a win, but I think the Flyers are a perfect matchup for this club.  We saw it in the playoffs last year.  Their defenseman are slow-footed and they are not smooth with the puck.  I thought the forecheck was even better than it was on Sunday against Winnipeg.  This team plays LIGHT YEARS better when they get the first goal and add to it.  When they jump out with a lead, they can be more aggressive and take more chances, which we saw last night led to great scoring opportunities.  Let’s be honest, that game could have been 7 or 8-2.  It was really encouraging to watch.  Just about everything went well.

Dave:  It really does seem like the Devils have the Flyers number at this point. From the very beginning when the Zajac line got the puck in deep, they kept the pressure on Philly for practically the entire game. It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for this team. They look much more like the team that started 8-1-3 than they do the team that went through that losing streak. With this team confident again, do you think we’re going to see them get on a bit of a roll here?

 Jeff:  I do.  Not a crazy one in the beginning of the season, but I don’t think a 5-2-2 stretch or something to that effect is out of the question.  We said it weeks ago, they just needed that ONE win to get them going.  Now they’ve won three of their last four.  They are knocking on the doors of the Sens and the Leafs for sixth and fifth in the conference.  If they can put that string of games together, maybe they can begin to separate themselves from the bottom of the conference so they won’t be sweating out a playoff berth in late April.

Dave:  I think its going to be a tight race regardless. You may even see teams 6 through 9 separated by 4 or 5 points when all is said and done. Is it good that they’ve started to right the ship? Of course, but it has to continue now. Every game is crucial. The nice things from last night though were seeing Hedberg play probably his best game since Brodeur went down and then seeing Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov lead the way offensively. Looks like Loktionov is here to stay, would you agree?

Jeff:  He is incredible.  He is shifty with the puck and crafty.  What he can do that I was a bit surprised it…he uses his body well.  He can protect the puck and create something that way.  he doesn’t have to be in motion to make something happen.  His passing is pretty sharp.  And boy, is he really young and still learning.  He doesn’t have to be an 80-point player in the regular season, but I think he will be a nice piece for Lou to keep here for quite a while.

Dave:  Technically Ponikarovsky is Ukrainian…but i’m sort of liking this “From Russia With Love” line they’ve got going. I think they’ve started to find some balance on these lines. Really, it’s just the Carter-Zajac-Clarkson line that needs to get going and they played well last night too. What else did you see out there yesterday that you liked?

Jeff:  The fourth line.  Some might see Stephen Gionta as “stuck” on the 4th line, but after a few games, I disagree.  I think he makes that line BETTER.  Krys Barch played a really nice game yesterday.  He even had a pair of golden scoring chances.  Tom Kostopolous is such a nice fit on this team.  He doesn’t have great hands but he’s more than capable of keeping a puck in the zone, or using his body along the boards.  The fact that he can hit not only hard, but effectively, is important as well.  I don’t think this line can be what Bernier-Carter-Gionta in the playoffs last year, but they may be a solid unit to throw out there if the opposition has one of their bottom two lines on the ice.

Dave:  Yeah, the fourth line was certainly serviceable last night and they logged quality minutes. That’s all you can ask for. I would assume you’ll see the “fourth line” back together for the playoffs perhaps, especially when Dainius Zubrus comes back. The player that I thought had an underrated game last night was Peter Harrold, he was strong in the defensive zone and made some nice passes on the power play. I can’t see him sitting again at this point.

Jeff:  Yea, it appears the Devils are just going to have to “eat some money” in essence in regards to some of their defensemen sitting.  Tallinder has sat a lot, so has Volchenkov, with both making a lot of money.  Right now Mark Fayne is the guy sitting.  Pete Harrold gets more physical than a lot of guys on this team.  This team tries to dig the puck out too much without giving back some of the punishment they take.  I would like to see more physicality out of this club and Harrold is fearless.  LOVED the check Volchenkov threw on Wayne Simmonds last night; not only hitting at a standstill but doing so while the team is on the counterattack.  It makes them think twice about carrying the puck in or dumping it and chasing it instead.

Dave:  Not to be cliche but they played with some swagger last night. I think the light went back on and this team realized… if they play their game, they can be a nightmare when they’re at their best. They also brought their division record to 8-2-1 which is impressive. Looking forward a bit to the two games this weekend, what do you think we’ll see and do you think it’s not out of the question that this team could grab four points?

Jeff:  No, not at all.  While four would be great, I think three would be a very solid weekend.  Even though they dominated Philly all three times, you have to expect Friday night to be walking into a  bee’s nest with a team that’s really angry and playing in front of their home crowd.  Would like to get at least a point there.  Then on Saturday, it’s time to avenge the OT loss from earlier in the season against the Habs.  Montreal has played them very tough in NJ over the last few years and their fanbase travels really well.  I want to win Saturday’s game even more so than Friday’s contest.  Two wouldn’t be bad, three would be realistic and four would be ideal.


Dave:  I think its a tall task, but this team seems ready for it. If they can go out and have a strong weekend, the losing streak will be a distant memory. Yeah, the Flyers are going to be VERY angry and they know if they drop another one and fall to four games under .500 they’re probably toast. Montreal has been VERY good and their power play is exceptional. They have three elite level offensive defensemen so it will be a tough game. Should be a very exciting weekend, that’s for sure.

Jeff:  Yea, even if the results aren’t what we want, I just hope this team can keep improving on what they’ve built now over the last week and that the reinforcements in Zubrus and Brodeur are on their way.

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