Archive for April, 2012

Henrique the double overtime hero for the Devils

- April 27th, 2012

SUNRISE, Fla. — Adam Henrique, as a kid, always imagined scoring an overtime goal in Game 7.
What good Canadian boy doesn’t? And the New Jersey Devils rookie went one further early on Friday morning, scoring at 3:47 of double overtime in Game 7 as the Devils eliminated a stubborn Florida Panthers team in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal with a 3-2 win.
“I think I blacked when I heard the thud at the back of the net,” Henrique said. “NHL Game 7 winner, it’s like playing mini sticks at home. That’s the game you always play. Hallway, in the living room.”
The line of Henrique between David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky had not scored much in the series, but their solid fore-checking led to chances. And so it was as the clock struck 12:17 a.m. at the BankAtlantic Center, as Henrique’s linemates got the puck to him after some dogged determination.
Henrique, who scored his first goal of the series on a deflection early in the first period, beat Panthers goalie Jose Theodore from the slot with a shot along the ice that went between the netminder’s legs.
“He is a guy who is able to raise his game when the game is on the line,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said of Henrique, who was announced as a Calder Trophy finalist this week. “He seems to have that characteristic. We were waiting on that line and him and I think he looked very comfortable.”
The Devils got 43 saves from legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, who was at his best in the third period, despite giving up two goals, and in overtime.
New Jersey will clash with the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with Game 1 on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia. It’s the first time the Devils have moved on to the semis since 2007.
The Panthers, who held a 3-2 series lead after five games, have not won a playoff round since 1996.
New Jersey’s series win marked some redemption for DeBoer, who was fired by the Panthers last April.
Since their most recent Stanley Cup title, in 2003, the Devils have met the Flyers twice in the playoffs and lost in five games both times. Two years ago, the Flyers beat the Devils in the conference quarterfinals, and did the same in 2004.
In their history, the Devils have met the Flyers in five playoff series and have won two of them.
Brodeur played in the 10th Game 7 of his storied career and improved to 6-4.
Stephen Gionta also scored for the Devils.
Stephen Weiss and Marcel Goc scored for the Panthers.
New Jersey appeared to be relatively safe after 40 minutes as they built a two-goal lead and the Panthers had just 14 shots on goal.
But no lead was safe in the series, and the Panthers got themselves off the mat. They even overcame some adversity to do it, as Tomas Fleischmann thought he scored just over a minute into the third. But referee Dan O’Rourke waved the goal off immediately and gave Florida’s Shawn Matthias a goaltender interference penalty after Matthias ran over Brodeur.
Yet the Panthers were not frustrated and scored two power-play goals.
Weiss got the fans out of their seats when he scored at 5:02 after he fired a one-time over the left shoulder of Brodeur.
And the crowd of 19,313, which had booed the Panthers off the ice at the end of the second period, went bananas when Goc scored the tying goal at 16:32 with Devils defenceman Marek Zidlicky was in the penalty box serving a delay of game minor. The goal came just 20 seconds after Zidlicky was sent off.
Brodeur was perfect after that, and his toe save on John Madden in the first period of overtime might have been his best.
“This is not where the hockey people predicted us to be at the start of the year,” Weiss said. “We’ve done some good things. We’re obviously disappointed not being able to move on.
“It stings to lose at home. But we’ve got some bright years ahead.”
Said Kris Versteeg: “I thought we were going to win at the end, and I still thought we were going to win right until the puck went in the net. I still can’t believe we lost.”
The Panthers have a handful of players headed for free agency, but none more important than defenceman Jason Garrison.
Also destined to be free on July 1 are forwards Marco Sturm, Madden and Mikael Samuelsson and backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen.
The Panthers’ financial situation also could come into sharper focus in the coming weeks. There have been rumblings that the team will file for bankruptcy, but there was not much talk of that publicly in south Florida as the Panthers made their first playoff appearance in 12 years.
Interest in the team isn’t exactly shooting through the roof. The crowd was 200 less than the attendance for Game 5 and there were enough empty seats in the upper bowl that the club should be concerned. It was the first Game 7 in the building, and not every seat was full. That’s an alarm bell if nothing else.

Burke didn’t like Florida model

- April 26th, 2012

SUNRISE, Fla. — Curious to see if Brian Burke’s words come back to bite a bit tonight.
The Maple Leafs general manager was asked at his post-season news conference two weeks ago about the job Panthers general manager Dale Tallon had done in turning Florida around and getting the club to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
“They signed a bunch of guys to four-year contracts, had a first-year coach, had a good run, and we will see if they can sustain that,” Burke said. “I like Dale Tallon very much and I admire him, but again, I am not interested in making the playoffs one time so I can stand up here and say I made the playoffs.”
The Panthers and New Jersey Devils are contesting Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal at the BankAtlantic Center.

Panthers’ Theodore, Garrison to play in Game 7

- April 26th, 2012

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers expect to have their No. 1 goalie and highest goal-scoring defenceman in the lineup for their biggest game of the season.
Jose Theodore, who missed Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New Jersey Devils after tweaking a minor knee injury, and Jason Garrison, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury, should return for Game 7 on Thursday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
“Garrison and Theodore looked positive this morning,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “That’s encouraging for our team.”
Scott Clemmensen played Game 6 in New Jersey and played admirably in a 3-2 overtime loss, as he faced 42 Devils shots.
On the small chance that Theodore is ruled out, Clemmensen will make his third start of the series.
Garrison scored 16 goals during the regular season. If he plays, he will provide the Panthers with a presence on the power play, given his one-timer that Florida likes to set up.
For the Devils, facing Theodore won’t be disruptive, even though he shut them out in Game 5.
“Not really,” Devils forward Patrik Elias said whether he had any thoughts on facing Theodore. “He has been playing solid. Last game he had a really good game here against us, but it is more about us and the way we have to play.”
Martin Brodeur, who has a 5-4 record in Game 7s, will be in goal for the Devils.
Panthers forward Stephen Weiss hadn’t played in an NHL playoff game prior to Game 1 of this series, let alone a Game 7, and acknowledged he was going to have a hard time getting to sleep for his pre-game nap. Though Weiss played in Game 7s during his OHL career with the Plymouth Whalers, he pointed to a couple of other memories that did not involve him as a player.
“Probably two of them,” Weiss, a Toronto native, said. “The Rangers winning in 1994, being somewhat of a family friend with Adam Graves, it was good to see him win that. And I remember being at the SkyDome in Toronto (to watch on the Jumbotron) for Game 7 when the Leafs played L.A. (in 1993). They ended up losing, and it was a bad memory, but a cool experience going to watch that. It was terrible. About 60,000 people felt the same way I did.”
If the Devils lose, it could be the last game in a New Jersey sweater for captain Zach Parise, who is an unrestricted free agent in July. That was not on Parise’s mind following the morning skate.
“The expectations are just to win,” Parise said. “You don’t want to try to go out there and do too much. We have to play like we did the last game, with the desperation we had. We can’t afford to come out lifeless without any energy.”
Perhaps Panthers rookie defenceman Erik Gudbranson put it best.
“It’s a one-game series now and there is no screwing around out there,” Gudbranson said. “You just have to do your job and not come back into the room with anything left. We know it is going to be an absolute war out there tonight.”

No revenge, DeBoer just wants to win Game 7

- April 25th, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. — That he could eliminate from the Stanley Cup playoffs the team that fired him just over a year ago doesn’t necessarily motivate New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer.
DeBoer coached the Florida Panthers for three seasons, his first head coaching job in the NHL, and was dismissed by the Panthers on April 10, 2011 after failing to make the playoffs once.
“I don’t have a lot of thoughts on that,” DeBoer said on Wednesday. “I think when you finish seven or eight points above a team in the standings and have to play Game 7 in their building, that is not always easy to swallow. But that’s how the NHL works that. We don’t have any complaints about it. We’re a good road team and we will be ready.”
The Devils had 102 points in the regular season, eight more than the Panthers. But Florida has home-ice advantage in the first round because it won the Southeast Division. New Jersey won 10 more games than Florida, which boosted its points total to 94 thanks to a league-high 18 losses in overtime or a shootout.
If there is one fairly unique aspect about Game 7 on Thursday night at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., it’s that it will start at 8:30 p.m. for television purposes.
“We could have been on vacation, so we will take 8:30 in Game 7,” Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “I’ve never (started a game) at 8:30 before. It’s a late one.”

Panthers look to Clemmensen again

- April 24th, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. — Peter DeBoer couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any more squarely on Tuesday morning.
“Expect the unexpected,” the coach of the New Jersey Devils said, referring to the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as a whole.
Within a half-hour of DeBoer’s comment, the unexpected came out of the Florida Panthers’ dressing room.
The Panthers will clinch the Eastern Conference quarterfinal at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night with a victory, and if that happens, it appears it would be without their No. 1 goalie.
Jose Theodore has had knee problems this season, and whether that is the problem again, did not participate in the morning skate.
Scott Clemmensen was told by the team on Monday to prepare to start, and the Panthers also recalled Jacob Markstrom from San Antonio of the AHL.
The Panthers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.
Clemmensen won Game 3 in relief of Theodore a week ago. But Clemmensen could not come up with a similar performance in Game 4, which the Devils won 4-0 with a 26-save shutout by Martin Brodeur.
“It’s not like I have been on the bench for three weeks now,” Clemmensen said. “I have been playing pretty regularly throughout the course of the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. My game is still right there. I don’t anticipate there being any rust.”
A former Devil, Clemmensen noted that in 2008 with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL playoffs, he was 4-0 in games that the Marlies needed to win in order to avoid being eliminated. But like the rest of the Panthers, he wants to finish off the Devils on Tuesday.
“(The Devils) want to win just as badly as I do,” Clemmensen said. “I have good friends over there, and they want to beat me. I want to beat them.”
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said a final decision on Theodore would not be made until later in the day once he received a medical report. Theodore was sharp in a 3-0 shutout in Game 5 on Saturday in Sunrise, making 30 saves. And he got through practice on Monday without problems, Dineen said.
“We decided to give Theo the morning off and see where he is tonight,” Dineen said. “He is a little bit tender right now. We will evaluate as the day moves on to see if he is ready to play or not.
“We are leaning toward a side of precaution. We felt we needed an extra backup and that is why Jacob is out there.”
Still, few observers figured Theodore will be in goal. Clemmensen sounded like someone who knew he would start.
The Devils didn’t know of the possible goaltending change, and they were more concerned with themselves anyway.
“Everybody is judged on their playoff success,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think anyone is going to go home patting themselves on the back if the season ends tonight.
“(We are) a little angry and focused. As a group we have put ourselves in this spot and we have to get ourselves out of it. I anticipate a strong effort from everybody. There is a lot of pride in that room and I expect this to be our best game.”
Said Devils forward David Clarkson: “We know what we have to do. We know what is ahead of us. This is it, do or die. We have to come out and not try to do too much. We have a lot of confidence in each other.”
Panthers defenceman Jason Garrison (lower body) will not play. Defenceman Keaton Ellerby (lower body) will be a game-time decision.
Meanwhile, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, who overhauled the Panthers roster last summer, has been named as one of three finalists for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award. Also in the running are David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues.