It was a busy but very successful weekend for the Devils. Saturday morning the Devils were in second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Come Monday morning the team is now deservedly at the top of both after two big wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a home and home series.
Let's start with Saturday.
It was a momentous game for many reasons. Martin Brodeur become the first goalie to ever play in his 1,200 game - another record he holds (and let's not forget he's done it all on one team). He played exceptionally making great saves, and the Devils defense came up huge in front of him blocking shots and keeping the Pens at bay.
The game also saw young Stefan Mattaeu score his first NHL goal on a great shot/pass from Andy Green into the slot. How about that? Getting your first NHL goal over the Pittsburgh Penguins - pretty awesome if you ask me. Not to be outdone, the super-fast Bobby Butler scored his first goal as a Devil on Saturday. The third goal came from Ilya Kovalchuk, who has a real hot stick right now.
Sunday, things were a little different. David Clarkson, after spending Saturday without a point (only the second time this season), scored two goals to make up for it. The third on Sunday came from Ilya Kovalchuk - did I tell you he's got a hot stick right now. The Devils rested Brodeur and Johan "Mooooooooooossssse" Hedberg was pretty outstanding in the Devils win.
However, it wasn't the goal scoring that made the difference for the Devils, it was how they dictated the pace of the game. The Devils have an interesting system based around the forecheck. It is pretty simple - if you keep the puck in the offensive zone your opponent can't score. The Devils have the advantage of having one of the most solid third lines in the league (the Gummo line Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier) and a fourth line that is firing on all cylinders (Krys Barch-Jacob Josefson-Bobby Butler). The difference this year with the Devils fourth line (I'm not talking about how when Gionta came in the fourth line became a force to be reckoned with - I'm talking about the pre-gummo days) has the ability to score. Yes even Barch. Butler is one of the fastest skaters I've seen in awhile and Barch isn't your typical goon. The guy has some skills and is usually in the right spots. And Josefson, well, just look at the minutes he's getting on the power play and penalty kill. The guy is no joke and can easily move his way up in the lineup.
On the defensive side of things, look at all of these blocked shots the Devils are getting. Anton Volchenkov must be the most black-and-blued player in the league. The man simply puts his body on the line to stop the puck from reaching the net. And where did Andy Greene come from? The guy has eight points on the season (two of which are goals). Greene has upped his game recently and it has paid off for the Devils.
The season is now a quarter of the way done and out of a possible 24 points, the Devils have earned 19.
The Devils can't let up now. Every game is important. If they can keep playing this solid style of hockey. Keep dictating the pace of games, the success will continue.
Let's go Devils!