Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Devils Keys to Victory

I thought I'd try something different. Since every Sens fan and their dog knows the key to an Ottawa victory, I thought I'd try to concentrate on ways in which New Jersey can succeed. The Senators' purpose is evidently to avoid creating circumstances in which the Devils are allowed to prosper.

1. Discipline
The Devils are already the most disciplined team in the NHL, so this is more keeping up good habits than having to radically adjust their game. While Ottawa doesn't have the lights-out power play of 05-06 and years past, they still ranked second overall in the playoffs with 25% efficiency, and a remarkable 33% efficiency on the road. Staying out of the box is the first step to neutralising Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson. Even if they do take penalties, NJ has a top notched penalty kill (4th in the league during the regular season). Keeping up with more of the same will ensure they win at least half of the special teams battle.

2. Assault 2nd and 3rd defense pairings
Phillips-Volchenkov will likely be matched up against the Gomez line, and shoulder the bulk of the ice time. But while Corvo and Preissing had a strong series against Pittsburgh, they can be had. All 4 defenseman not named Phillips or Volchenkov have been shying away from physical contact lately, both in delivering and taking hits. Play them hard and aggressive, and, even if they don't back down, they will make mistakes. Meszaros, Corvo and Redden in particular have proven to have shaky confidence throughout the season, and all it may take is one undressing to throw them off their game. The Parise line in particular can make quick work of any of these guys with a little effort and determination. Get under their skin, rattle them up, and they might just break.

3. Refuse to let Ottawa take control
Unlike teams like Tampa Bay or Buffalo, Ottawa has shown great willingness to play New Jersey's game, particularly in the last meeting between the two clubs on April 3rd. Perhaps Ottawa won't let this happen, but NJ needs to do their best to maintain control of the style and pace of the game. Ottawa has proven they can play defensive hockey, and might be willing to go toe-to-toe with NJ. Problem is, no one does defensive hockey better than the Devils. Force the Senators to play conservative, pounce-on-the-first-mistake hockey, and the Devils will come out on top more times than not.

4. Win the Goalie Battle
This shouldn't be too difficult for Brodeur. He's proven over the past 12+ seasons that he's a Hall of Fame goaltender, coming off perhaps his best ever season. For all of Emery's swagger, Brodeur has the stats, silverware and consistency to back his confidence up. Ottawa has proven time and time again that a hot goalie can be their undoing - a hot all-star goaltender all the more. Hold them off for the first game or two, and they'll fold under their own disappointment.

5. Take Advantage of Home Ice
Over the past couple seasons, Ottawa has been a very strong road team in the playoffs, but only average at home. Since New Jersey has home ice advantage in this series, if they can keep Ottawa in check at the Meadowlands, a series win will not be out of the question. The crucial game 7 will also be in New Jersey.