Hurricane Warning in New Jersey

The New Jersey Devils are down 2-0 in the 1st round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes. How can this be? What is going wrong? Are the Devils in a bad position?The Carolina Hurricanes have certainly been the biggest surprise of the East. Sure the Canadiens are the team with the most attention given, but most people do say that the Canadiens have the chance to beat the Bruins. What about the team that is considered to be the easiest one to play against?

Players like Erik Cole, Ward, Wallin, Malik, Brind’amour, Battaglia, and the elite goaltending of Artus Irbe in the playoffs, have defeated the struggling Devils for two straight home games in the series. Sure, they were out-shot once again, but shots mean little in the playoffs. Goaltending, fore-check, defense, and goals are the main factors in the playoffs. This time the Devils had Joe Nieuwendyk and Peter Sykora back on the line-up, both at 100%? No, but they still should have made an impact.

The player who should get as much attention as Saku Koivu now is Erik Cole. This young rookie who has the potential to be a superb power forward is a threat to the Devils. A power forward who will hit, play the PK, the PP, cause the opponents to make bad plays. Cole score a “missed shot” goal, but does that really matter? Cole outplayed Scott Stevens once again in game two, and now it is Scott Stevens who will back down when Cole is on the ice. It is Scott Stevens who will hesitate to make a play when Cole is 4 feet away from him, as he did last night taking responsibility for a dangerous turnover. Where is Elias? Wasn’t Elias the main scoring power for the Devils? Holik? Holik has done a great job so far, but he can’t do more to make the Devils win. Where is the Devils power play? The Devils were 0-4 in the first three periods and had the best chance to win the game in OT when Brind’amour took a retaliation penalty. The Canes understand the way to play against the Devils, how to beat them and how to start the game, with a jump. The Devils might be taking more shots, but they did get outplayed too many times. Where is the confidence for this team? The offense has been a dramatic downside of the Devils and could be the exact reason why they might not make it to the next round or win the Stanley Cup. Who is the real underdog now? The Canes stormed their way in Raleigh and sent the Devils back to Hell (New Jersey) with a 2-0 advantage on the series. Show is not over yet, but the Devils mustwin game 3. Game 3 is their land, their stadium, their ice, and they need to have the first steps in the game the first jump. Why does Constantine keep playing Gionta? The kid showed his talents, but his size and the rookie mistakes (causing the OT winning goal last night) are not what the Devils need. Bring in Berglund. Berglund is the Swedish player who will make the smart plays, few rookie mistakes, who won’t get pushed around, but gives his heart out every night.

One thing that shocked me the most was the Carolina Hurricanes fans. That stadium was as loud as any other stadium and completely filled, two straight sell out games. The fans are important to the team, and the cheers motivate them and give them the momentum. What about back in the swamps, or hell? Does anyone want to see Devils hockey? Tickets are still on sale! How can that be!!!? One of the best teams in the NHL, two straight seasons in the finals, and the first home playoff game could not be a sell out? Where are these fans? The team needs confidence, they need that crowd to pump them up, where is it? Is it like in Washington where they tell Pittsburgh fans to buy their tickets, or however that story went? The Devils are not playing up to their potential, they are being manhandled by Erik Cole, a rookie. Every time that kid is on the ice, something happens. This could be the biggest upset in the East. We all know that the Canadiens can beat the Bruins, but the Hurricanes vs. the Devils? What are the chances of that happening? Now, those chances look good. I still think that the Devils will rebound, but one home loss means that they are the underdogs, Devils the underdogs? Against the Hurricanes? I want to see Berglund on the ice. I want to see Elias score, Sykora, and newly acquired Langenbrunner. Holik has been doing his job, besides his goalie interfering. Devils fans, if you want to see Holik as a Devil next season, start buying tickets!

Micki Peroni