Devils Come Back to Win in Shootout

The Devils have started off their season sub-par. In the back of the minds of many, it could be worse. Last season was one of the worst seasons that anyone has ever witnessed coming from the Devils. From the problems with Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract to losing Zach Parise for the season to not being able to find a win to firing a coach to hiring a new one…the Devils saw its worst since their Stanley Cup winning days. A turnaround mid-season wasn’t enough for them to qualify for the playoffs.

Now, the Devils aren’t the worst team in the East, but they are in a spot where they are just one win out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Before their win over Ottawa on Thursday night, they were in 12th place. With a new coach as well as a new crop of young players joining the team, this season has been a bit of a learning curve in how to become a better team.

As the prior season still haunts the land of the Devils, this season becomes the season to learn from their prior mistakes and develop a new way to win. If you could use the word ‘rebuild’ accurately, the start to this season has been all about that rebuild, but that word is not being used as an excuse. It’s being used to redefine the new generation of the Devils and how they are using that new dynamic to create a new winning formula.

Sure, Jacques Lemaire’s coveted ‘trap’ system worked for years, but the rest of the teams in the league caught on, so it stopped being as effective as it was before. The Devils needed something new, something different…even if it meant changing the way that they do business.

Martin Brodeur once wrote that Lou Lamoriello told him that the Devils never go after the top guys to play for their team. That’s what the New York Rangers did. But that philosophy changed when Ilya Kovalchuk came onto the market. Kovalchuk knew the Thrashers were moving. He didn’t want to move with them, so he asked to be traded to a team that had a history of winning. That team happened to be the Devils.

The Devils offered up an uncharacteristically insane contract to one of the most coveted players in the NHL. They did exactly what the Rangers would have done and have done in the past. What changed? Gone are the days of Martin Brodeur being the face of the franchise. He’ll be retiring sooner rather than later. He’ll be the legend that stayed with one club his entire career. He’ll be gone…so who is left to become the new face of the franchise?

The Devils have been hurting since their move to Newark. Between the issues with rent for the arena, revenue issues with the city, rumors of bankruptcy and financial problems, one owner wanting to sell his shares (which could possibly force a sale of the team), to a struggling economy that keeps many fans from being able to make it to the games…the Devils are being hit hard. Forbes recently came out with their NHL team valuation reports. The Devils were flying high at the start of their new venture in Newark, ranking as one of the top teams in the NHL. Now, they have all of a sudden fallen to 20th place in the league.

While team values have reached an all-time high throughout the league, the Devils reported a loss last season. If they had made the playoffs, they would have netted a profit rather than a loss. It’s the post-season in the NHL that is the moneymaker in hockey.

Their revenue of $100 million is amongst the highest in the league, but their operating income was -6.1 million, according to Forbes, bringing their valuation down to $181 million, pitting them as the 20th most valuable team in the league.

Reports like this give rise to talk that the Devils’ future may be in jeopardy. There have been whispers about it over the past couple of years, ever since they made the move to Newark. The danger really lies in the city. The city is broke and has taken the Devils to court to try to resolve the issues regarding unpaid rent and parking revenue. The irony is that the city needs the team in order to rebuild downtown Newark.

While the Devils deal with their financial woes, the team itself has to focus on becoming the renewed Stanley Cup contenders. Every win leads to a potential spot in the post-season. That equals more revenue for the team. A loss…well, you get the picture.

New Jersey Devils 5, Ottawa Senators 4

No one thought the Devils would win this one. With the Ottawa Senators scoring three straight goals in the first 30 minutes of the game, the Devils coming back from a three goal deficit seemed like a pipe dream. Well, dream away, because the Devils won this match.

At 6:31 in the first period Milan Michalek was the first to get the Senators on the scoreboard. Nick Foligno got a lucky break at 17:45, catching Brodeur face down on the ice and Mattias Tedenby behind his goalie in the net, giving Ottawa a two goal lead at the end of the period.

Coming into the middle stanza, Brodeur was pulled and replaced by Johan Hedberg.

The Devils were able to find the back of the net at 8:03 from Petr Sykora, but the goal was waved off thanks to a holding call by Tedenby along the boards. Sykora, not happy, wound up sitting next to Tedenby in the penalty box at 8:49 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Daniel Alfredsson was the Senator to notch the third straight goal for Ottawa on the 5-on-3 advantage at 9:41.

With the Devils being called for too many men at 14:02, Zach Parise was able to score a shorthanded goal for the team at 14:59.

Dainius Zubrus followed with another shorthanded goal on another penalty kill at 2:59 in the third period. At 9:08, the Devils got a lucky break when the puck bounced off of Tedenby and went across the goal line. Kovalchuk brought the Devils ahead at 9:45 to seal things up…but with only 4.9 seconds remaining in the game, Jesse Winchester tied the game with a shorthanded goal (that’s three shorthanded goals in one match), sending the game into overtime and then to the shootout.

The Devils chose Kovalchuk, Parise, and Patrik Elias, while the Senators chose Michalek, Jason Spezza and Alfredsson as their first three shooters. Only the first round shooters (Kovalchuk/Michalek) did not score. In the fourth round it was Adam Henrique vs. David Rundblad. Henrique scored and Hedberg made the save on Rundblad, which awarded the Devils the 5-4 win over the Senators.