Good Luck Baby

There’s a bit of an unmarked tradition in the Devils territory.  It’s a tradition not too many are aware of and it all surrounds the birth of a baby.  Ever since I started covering the New Jersey Devils in 2008, I noticed there was an ongoing trend.  When a baby was born to a New Jersey Devils player during the season, the Devils would go on to win the next game and the daddy would get a point in that game.

When Kaila Patricie Elias was born on Wednesday that was a guarantee the Devils would not only win their next game, but it also meant her father, Patrik Elias, would get a point.  But her father didn’t just get a point.  He got a point for each of his girls: Petra (his wife), Sophia (his eldest daughter), and Kaila.  He scored a goal and two assists in the 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.  That goal, though, belongs to Kaila.

Elias was still wearing the hospital bracelet around his wrist after the game.  Was it his good luck charm?

He looked down at his wrist as if he’d forgotten it was still on.

“Well, no,” he replied.  “That’s for me to be able to go see them and pick the little one up from the nursery.  Otherwise, they won’t allow me.”

When told about the Devils baby tradition, he responded: “I didn’t know about it. We’ll take it.  I’ll take it!  We should have more babies more often.”

Every other game, right?

“Yes, so we can score more.”

As tradition with the goal scoring father, Elias got the puck from his empty netter for Kaila.

“She won’t know about it until she’s probably a teenager,” he said.

How does he plan on describing his goal he scored off of James Wisniewski in an attempt to send the puck across to Adam Henrique so that he could score the hat trick?

“Just unbelievable play,” he said jokingly.

Having a new baby wasn’t the only thing that Elias contributed to his line’s success with Adam Henrique.

“I had a new stick today,” Elias said.  “[It’s a] bigger curve and it worked out.  It’s got good height, so we can reach it.”

New Jersey Devils vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-2

In the Devils’ 5-2 win, Ryan Clowe started off the scoring, tallying the Devils first goal of the game at 6:09.  Jaromir Jagr followed with a power play goal at 7:31, marking his 699th career goal.  Henrique scored another power play goal at 8:54, putting the Devils up three goals before Artem Anisimov was able to get the Columbus Blue Jackets on the scoreboard at 11:36.

In the second period, Marian Gaborik inched the Blue Jackets closer to the Devils with a goal at 11:42, but that hope was diminished when Henrique took a pass from Elias to score his eighth short-handed goal in three years to make him #1 in the NHL.  Cal Clutterbuck, Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Marchand follow him in second place with seven short-handed goals each since 2011-12.

That pass sent across to Henrique was like a golf shot according to Elias.  “That just shows you how good of a golf player I am.  I don’t play golf.”

“It was,” Henrique said of the golf shot pass.  “It was a little pitching-wedge.  No, I haven’t played golf with him.  I’m not too good either.  It was just a great play by him.”

“The fourth goal was the most important one and locked it down for the third very well,” Elias said.

This goal was a game changer for the Devils as they headed into the final period.  Trying to decide who would get that final goal of the game, Elias’ attempt at a pass to Henrique went off the skate of Columbus’s James Wisniewski and into the empty net at 19:24 giving the Devils a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.

Henrique in the Post-Parise/Kovalchuk Era

For a few months now, fans and media have complained about Adam Henrique’s production since Zach Parise left the Devils and during the first season after Ilya Kovalchuk’s departure.

Despite their complaints, Henrique is proving his worth.  He is currently tied for second in goal scoring with Michael Ryder at 16 goals.  Only Jaromir Jagr leads the pack with 18 goals.  As for accuracy, he leads the active roster in shot percentages (15.2%).  He is just four points away from a career 100 points after playing in 176 games since his rookie year.

In comparison, by the end of Zach Parise’s second season in the NHL, he had scored 94 points in 163 games.  In 165 games, he reached 96 points.  By his 168th game, he had 100 points.

The numbers are on par for Henrique to be as close as it comes to being the replacement for Parise on the Devils squad.  He’s not exactly Parise, but he’s on his way to being the next scoring leader for the Devils as he continues to develop.

But there’s more to this game than just scoring.

“We had a good game,” Elias said of his linemate.  “He was good, solid, making good plays, jumping at openings, shot the puck and obviously finished.  So obviously it’s been a good game for us.”

As far as being a team player, each time Henrique was asked about his individual accomplishments, his answers would always revert back to the team.

“As long as we’re winning,” Henrique said of his focus.  “That’s the most important thing.  1-0 or 6-5, as long as we’re putting those points on the board, that’s the more important thing to focus on down the stretch.”

Coming into this season, what were his goals for himself?

“I wanted to be more consistent from the start of the season to the end of the season,” he replied.  “First couple of years, I had a couple of big droughts, you could say.  This year, I wanted to make sure I’m playing every night and playing the right way whether it’s scoring or getting a couple of assists or blocking shots on the PK or doing the little things…just trying to be consistent from the start of the season to the end of the season.

“It’s nice to get a little bit of a break there for the Olympics, come back kind of refreshed and ready to go.  We don’t have that much time at the end of the season.  It’s going to go by quick.  Every game is that much more important for us.”

If he could evaluate himself now, how does he think he’s doing accomplishing his own personal goal?

“Good,” he said.  “I know I am happy with the way things have gone so far.  Personally, obviously I’d like for us to be in a playoff spot right now, but we are a few points out.  But I think we have a good group in here to make the push.  Personally, I just want to keep getting better.  I think my game is better than it was two years ago.  It’s one step at a time, but you keep progressing.  You can always get better.  There are always areas to improve, whether you think there is or not.  I just want to keep moving forward game after game.”

What does he think this team needs to do to make the push into the playoffs?

“I think we’ve just got to find a way to get a couple of game breakers.  At key times, you get big goals by the guys whether you’re up by one and you need that second one to kind of shut the other team down or take the wind out of their sails.  Or at big times, guys make big plays.  Going down the stretch then [back in 2012], it was every night, somebody different was stepping up and making the plays or scoring big goals.  I think that’s important going down the stretch here where we get everybody involved: the defense, the goalies, the forwards…everybody scoring.  If it’s not scoring, it’s like scoring big blocks like Sal[vador] did today.  He’s our captain, our leader, and he sacrificed his body to make a huge block and the guys kind of feed off that energy.  That’s important for him to do the little things right and do it every night.”

Individualism = Team

Since the beginning of the season, seasoned Devils veterans have spoken about the need for the newcomers to the team to understand the Devils’ way.  Beyond just playing the system, there is another element involved…being the emblem on the front of the jersey, and not the name on the back of the jersey.

To be a New Jersey Devil, you have to become one as a team.  There are no individuals.  The individual is the team as a whole.

A player thinks of their team first or helps their teammate accomplish their own goals.  It takes a team to make that happen.

Many of the Devils players that witnessed and were a part of Martin Brodeur’s 552nd win list that moment as one of their favorite moments of their career.  This was their teammate’s accomplishment to become the most winningest goaltender ever in the history of the NHL.  He never would have been able to accomplish that feat without his team.

It takes a village to make legends such as Brodeur. That is why the Devils understand that you lose the individualism when you play for the Devils.  You become part of the team as a whole to find success.

Case in point, during Thursday’s 5-2 victory, Elias had a personal desire to score a goal for his newborn daughter.  Henrique had a personal desire of getting a hat trick in that game.

What it boiled down to in the end was not what the individual wanted, but what his teammate wanted and what essentially would be the best for the team overall.

“He told me on the bench,” Henrique said of Elias wanting to get a goal for his daughter.  “He said, ‘If you get the puck, go!’  I had a chance early on in the shift [for a hat trick].  The shorthanded goal probably should have been a hat trick.  I had a great chance from Bernier in the second.  I’m kind of upset with myself that I missed.  Then at the end, you could tell he tried to pass it over, and it went off the skate.  It’s awesome for him.  Second little girl.  It’s been such a special couple of days for him.  To score a goal for his little girl, that’s special.  It’s more important for that.”

The way the whole thing played out, Elias sent the pass across to Henrique so that he could get the hat trick, sacrificing his own desire to score a goal for his daughter.  But as luck would have it, the pass to Henrique went off the skate of James Wisniewski, and the puck went into the net.  Elias got the goal for his daughter after all.

Being a New Jersey Devil requires sacrificing your own desires for your teammate and your team.  It’s in that sacrifice that even doing something nice will be rewarded in the end.

“That’s okay,” Elias said of trying to get Henrique the hat trick.  “You’re trying to do something nice, maybe you’ll get rewarded for that.”

Elias was rewarded for trying to do something nice for his teammate.  The hockey gods rewarded him with a goal for his newborn.

#Believe

Back in 2012, I started the #Believe campaign as the Devils headed into the playoffs.  In that campaign I asked Devils fans to do random acts of kindness and create positive thoughts and positive energy for the team.  Fans jumped on board and spread the message like wildfire.

From the start of the playoffs Devils fans could be seen doing kind things for the people they encountered, especially in Newark, New Jersey.  From little kids handing out little bags of candy to the homeless to people handing their shoes to anyone who needed a pair, fans were showing the City of Newark that the Devils in Newark were a good thing (especially after Cory Booker’s tirade).

As rival fans entered the arena, Devils fans were extra kind to the visitors by buying them drinks, food, train tickets and even giving away game tickets.  They did all of these kind deeds to help their team.

As each act of kindness was done to help the New Jersey Devils, the fans began to believe that the impossible could be made possible.  With the fans believing in the team by doing these random acts of kindness, the team began to believe in themselves that they could make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  And they did.

Throughout this season, I’ve asked players why they credited that Stanley Cup run as their favorite moment as a Devil.  #Believe played a huge part of it.  The team fed off of that energy.

As of now, the Devils are not holding on to a playoff spot, but they could in these last 22 games.  Perhaps if the fans started the #Believe campaign now, maybe they’ll create enough of that positive energy that by the time the Stanley Cup Finals come around, the team will actually lift the Cup.

If it doesn’t happen, you can’t say that doing all of those good things was for nothing or a bad thing.  It’s about thinking of others first, just like the Devils do.  Take a page out of their book.

You can jump on the #Believe trend by doing and tweeting your random acts of kindness so that the team knows you believe in them and you’re creating good karma for them by doing an unselfish act.  You can tweet me (@MichelleKenneth) and copy @NHLDevils to spread the word.  Make sure to use the #Believe hashtag and continue to spread the word to other Devils fans.

For fans in New Jersey looking for opportunities, you can help New Jersey rebuild post-Sandy in their upcoming Occupy Sandy volunteer initiative to rebuild in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  Email: OccupySandyNJ@interoccupy.net.  You can also check out the Jersey Cares program at JerseyCares.org.

How am I starting off the #Believe trend?  One of the security guards at Prudential Center told me last night that she didn’t have a coat and asked if I had one at home I didn’t want.  I went through my closet this morning and didn’t find a coat I wanted to part with so I decided I would buy her a new coat.  Many of the workers at Prudential Center are local Newark citizens and could use some extra TLC from the fans.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and get to know the workers.  They love the Devils just as much as the fans do.

NOTES

Damien Brunner has a lower body injury (charley horse) after playing only 1:35 in the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

In that same game, Bryce Salvador left the game in the third period when he took a puck to the upper body hitting his collarbone.

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