New York Hockey: Winnipeg Jets

Time for Devils to make a statement

January, 17, 2012

Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't forgotten how badly he and his Devils teammates were bludgeoned by the Bruins the last time the two teams faced one another.

"We remember that game. It was embarrassing," Kovalchuk told MSG Network after pumping in a pair of goals on Tuesday night in New Jersey's 5-1 whooping of lowly Winnipeg.

On Jan. 4, Boston blew the Devils out of their own building, 6-1, in what was without question their worst performance of the season. The Bruins dominated them in every facet of the game.

The Devils will have a chance to get their revenge when they meet the Bruins on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

Ed Mulholland/US PresswireMartin Brodeur and the Devils face a big challenge when the champion Bruins come to town Thursday.

"We weren't happy with our effort [last time]," Patrik Elias told MSG Network. "We just have to give a better effort. It's a great challenge, so we have to rise to the occasion."

The defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins are as complete a hockey team as you'll find. Boston has scored the most goals, and allowed the fewest.

"We have to be ready, we have to be ready to win a lot of 50-50 pucks on the wall," captain Zach Parise told MSG. "That's where that team is really good. We have to be mentally ready."

"They have four very good lines. We have to come out with a good effort, be patient and play our game," Petr Sykora added.

The Devils are hot, having won three in a row. They went 3-1 on their four-game road-trip, and then took care of the Jets with ease.

Their stars are playing like stars:
• Kovalchuk has seven goals in his last six games;
• Elias has a six-game points streak (four goals, six assists);
Martin Brodeur is 9-3-1 since Dec. 6.

Brodeur, who is 39 and in the final year of his contract, confirmed what he told the New York Post to MSG Network after Tuesday's game when he said, "I'm leaning toward maybe playing a little more. I'm having fun."

The Devils (26-17-2) have had their fair share of victories this season. That's why they’re in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

But they've struggled against the top teams in the East, going 1-4 combined against the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers.

Sykora said he thinks the Devils can beat the Bruins.

Now, it’s time to prove it and make a statement that this Devils team is a force to be reckoned with.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Jets 1

October, 24, 2011

What it means: What could have been a crippling road trip for the Rangers instead provided six points in the standings as New York completed its Canadian swing with a 3-1 record following a 2-1 win over Winnipeg. Most encouraging? Despite the trio of wins, the Rangers don't seem to have played their best hockey yet.

Shots (or not): The Rangers weren't exactly a prolific team in the shots department last season, averaging just 29.9 per game, good for 19th leaguewide. But this season the Blueshirts' shots have been scarce to say the least. Monday night the Rangers mustered just three in the first period and 11 through 40 minutes.

The Rangers' offense is more or less predicated on blue-collar goals, putting the puck on the net and hammering after rebounds. When the first part of that equation is absent, it's sure tough to generate any rebounds. New York finished with just 17 shots Monday, but earned the win when a Ryan Callahan shot glanced off a defenseman's skate and redirected into the net. Good things happen when you put the puck on the goal. The Rangers should remember that when they return home.

Discipline: Perhaps for the first time this season the Rangers curbed their penchant for taking penalties. New York only had to kill 1:17 of shorthanded time. Moreover, they drew five minor penalties from the Jets and capitalized with two power play goals -- a rarity for a unit that had produced just one goal with the man advantage in the 2011-12 campaign.

Biron at his best: Martin Biron got the nod in net, the first of some 20-plus starts the Rangers hope to get him this season. He certainly showed no signs of rust, finishing with 28 saves on 29 shots, flummoxed only by a lightning-fast release from Nik Antropov when the Rangers had trouble clearing their zone late in the second period.

In and out: Wojtek Wolski returned to the lineup Monday, skating a little over 15 minutes and leaving little in the way of a statistical imprint, registering just one takeaway. Meanwhile, Marian Gaborik missed much of the third period, skating fewer than three minutes in the final frame. The reasons for the sniper staying on the bench were not immediately clear in the wake of the game.

Up next: The 3-2-2 Rangers (finally) return home for their Garden debut on Thursday against the Northeast Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs.

W2W4: Rangers at Winnipeg Jets

October, 24, 2011

As the Rangers try to rebound from a less-than-stellar effort in Edmonton, here are three factors to focus on when the Blueshirts return to Winnipeg for the first time since Nov. 17, 1996.

Not Sucking
John Tortorella summed up Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the youthful Edmonton Oilers for the media by stating, “We sucked from head to toe. I’m not going to dissect it with you guys.” Presumably that leaves a lot of room for improvement Monday night in Winnipeg. A good place to start would simply be to get some pucks on the net. The Rangers have averaged just 23.2 shots on goal per game, the second lowest mark in the NHL. It could be a sign that the Blueshirts are struggling to win the puck possession battle. It could also be a function of the Rangers spending nearly 55 minutes on the penalty kill this season, compared to just 21:25 with the man advantage.

High Percentage Shots
The Jets have done a pretty good job of keeping their netminder’s workload to a minimum, capping the opposition to just 27.7 shots on goal per game. Only problem is, a disproportionate amount of those shots have found the back of the net. Winnipeg’s mark of 3.43 goals-allowed per game is the third worst in the league, better than only the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators. It could be an opportune time for the Blueshirts to break out offensively.

Startin’ Martin?
With Henrik Lundqvist departing the Edmonton game due to an equipment–related minor injury there’s some thought that Martin Biron will get the nod to wrap up New York’s extended road trip. Biron made 15 starts last season before a broken collarbone ended his season. He finished with an 8-6 record that belied his stats. His 2.13 goals-against average and .923 save percentage were more than serviceable for a backup.