The New Jersey Devils are at the Bell on Saturday night. I wonder if they’ll bring their smoke and mirrors with them.
It’s a team, these Devils, that doesn’t believe in flashiness or full-throttle offence or giving the paying customers their money’s worth. They just seem to get it done, although it doesn’t look like it while they’re doing it..
The last time the Canadiens played the Devils, on December 16th, Montreal took an early 1-0 lead and the Devils looked like they were miles from being a team that held top spot in the east. Pretty ordinary. But as the game went on, the Devils gave themselves a chance because try as the Habs were, they couldn’t beat Martin Brodeur and the Devils were only a goal away.
The tying goal hit the crossbar, then bounced out and hit Carey Price on the back of his leg and in it went.
The second goal, the winner, was a rare fire-wagon rush that saw of the Devils’ offensive guys, Patrick Elias, finish it off with only a few minutes left and New Jersey wins once again.
What just happened? The Habs looked perfectly fine, the Devils looked extremely ordinary, but alas, the final result showed that New Jersey had won and remain in top spot.
If only Montreal could have scored a second goal to make it 2-0. But it didn’t happen, mostly because it was the Devils, a team that thrives on being stingy.
Smoke and mirrors. A bonafide star in Zach Parise and a sure-bet Hall of Fame goalie, Martin Brodeur, who loves to play against the Habs. Then there’s a bunch of guys who play a disciplined taking-care-of-business when it comes to playing Jacques Lemaires tight, defensive and really boring system. You’d think Jacques Lemaire was an old Soviet coach with the way he gets his players to do what he tells them.
If the Canadiens are going to make it happen this year, they first have to show that they can beat teams like New Jersey. They have to crack Lemaire’s checking system and they have to solve Brodeur. And after two or three games of a mini-slump, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec have to start scoring again, although my power of positive thinking says they will with no problem whatsoever.
We’re into the new year now, more than halfway through the season, and so it’s time to take a stand. Beating New Jersey would get the Habs a lot of brownie points with fans.
Andrei Kostitsyn has had knee surgery and will be out indefinitely. And the beat goes on.