Martin Brodeur has been around long enough to not be offended by the booing the New Jersey Devils fans gave the team in its Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The fans expect a lot, and they got frustrated watching the Devils drop a 2-1 decision on Wednesday night. For many, it was the start to another early post-season exit by the Atlantic Division champion Devils, who haven’t got out of the first round in the last two seasons.
Brodeur understands it, and the winningest goaltender in NHL history is not worried.
As far as the Devils are concerned, they played better than the Flyers in Game 1, limiting them to 14 shots. They just didn’t win the opener in the best-of-seven series that will resume on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
“It’s important to have that feeling and to say: ‘Well that game is over,”‘ Brodeur said Thursday after practice. “Yes, we’re down 1-0 and there’s not much we can do about it. Actually, there is nothing we can do about it. The only thing you can control is the next time you’re on the ice and you have to get yourself ready.”
The one thing the Devils need to improve is their power play. It was 0-for-5 against the Flyers and goaltender Brian Boucher and didn’t generate a lot of chances.
So the Devils focused on moving the puck in the offensive zone in practice on Thursday.
They did not do a job of that on Wednesday when they always seemed to be under constant pressure from the Flyers.
When they did get shots, they were either blocked or missed the net. When the shots got through to Boucher, the goalie either made the save or his defencemen were there to clear the puck.
“You can’t be depressed,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You get depressed, you won’t go far.”
Lemaire went out of his way to say that Washington is the best team in the Eastern Conference. Little separates the other seven playoff teams in the conference.
“What people always forget is you have to win four hockey games,” Devils centre Patrik Elias said. “Every game is different. We still have confidence and we feel we are a good enough team to beat them and that’s how we have to approach it. We have to forget about the loss and do the job that is ahead.”
Ilya Kovalchuk, who probably was the Devils’ best player in the game, took a simple approach. He wants the Devils to shoot more, especially on the power play.
The Russian also knows the Devils can’t lose the opening two games at home.
“We just have to bring our A-game, our double A game,” Kovalchuk said. “We have to bring a lot of energy and be focused right from the first second.”
The Flyers also have to be better. While they have beaten the Devils six of seven times this season, they were awful in the opening period and Boucher was there to save them in his first playoff start in eight years.
Philadelphia picked it up over the final two periods, getting goals from goals from Chris Pronger and Mike Richards while doing an excellent job of keeping the Devils forwards away from the crease.
“It’s just a big opportunity to dig a bigger hole for them,” centre Blair Betts said after the Flyers worked out Thursday. “Our goal going in was to win the first game. We did that and it was a big confidence booster. If we get the second one, it would dig a huge hole for New Jersey.”
Veteran Flyers forward Daniel Briere remains at a loss to explain the Flyers’ domination against New Jersey.
“I don’t know if it’s matchups or what, but we do feel better playing against New Jersey,” he said. “I think we feel more confident against them. Maybe we’re in their heads a little. I really don’t know how to explain it, why we’ve had so much success. But we have to be careful. You don’t want to be overconfident. The dangerous part would be to sit back and relax.”
The Devils insist they aren’t feeling the pressure.
“It would be a different story if we came out and played a bad hockey game that first game,” said centre Travis Zajac, who scored the Devils goal with less than three minutes to play. “We didn’t play bad. We played a pretty good hockey game.”
NOTES: Boucher went nine years and 329 days between playoff wins. It’s the third-longest streak in the league history. “Sugar” Jim Henry went 10 years and one day (1942-52) and Sean Burke went nine years and 347 days in the 1980s. … Pronger and Boucher did not practice for the Flyers on Thursday. … Devils rookie F Vladimir Zharkov, who has been out with an upper body injury, practised and is close to returning, Lemaire said. … Veteran Jay Pandolfo hurt Brodeur with a shot in the back of the skate at practice. The goalie shook it off though and quickly got back in the net. … Devils D Mike Mottau had one of his shots go off the post and rebound back into his own face. “It’s takes skill to do that,” he said.