Friday, December 11, 2009

Clemmensen's return to NJ a success for Panthers

Early this morning, what I suspected might happen (given that the Panthers have another game tomorrow) came to pass and Scott Clemmensen was named the starter for tonight's game in New Jersey. While a lot of players can't wait to play their former team, tonight's game had special meaning for the Panthers goaltender given that the Devils drafted him - not to mention he played with many of these players last year while having a career season of 25 wins filling in for an injured Martin Brodeur.

Rising to the challenge for Clemmer, the Panthers stepped up their game and beat a hot Devils team 4-2 in New Jersey. Florida had won only eight of their prior thirty-seven games against the Devils and has been struggling this year but hey - the other team gets paid too, gotta lose sometime. For his part, Clemmensen had the kind of game he showed last year for the most part - solid despite one clunker goal given up.

While I wasn't at this game (usually I don't go to three in a week, much less three in four nights), I have it on good authority - via Doc Emrick on the FSNY telecast - that Clemmensen got a nice ovation, and well deserved. If nothing else because Devils fans really didn't get a chance to do this last year, since Clemmensen's final few games were on the road and he got pushed aside and didn't play a minute at home once Brodeur returned.

Also there was a nice little twist on the normal goalie chant that originates in 208 according to someone else who was there. Normally one fan will go 'Hey goalie x, you s*ck!'...and the guy next to him will go 'And I hope you die!'. I know, it sounds vulgar but hey - nobody in their right mind means that literally. Tonight though it was, 'Hey Scott, we miss you...and I hope you live!'

Despite having won nine of ten at home and seven of eight overall, early on you could feel something amiss. Oh, the Devils did come out pretty decently the first few minutes and got some chances but nothing particularly troubling for Clemmer. However after less than four minutes, a puck that deflected off the stick of Mike Mottau found its way to Jordan Leopold in the slot, and his shot ended the inane talk of Brodeur getting a shutout (already!) after just 3:53. I mean I get how important this record is but to me it's more of a statistic than anything else, and shutouts shouldn't be mentioned until at least the second intermission. Not because of any mythical Chico Resch jinx, it's just common sense.

Even though the Devils outshot Florida 9-4 in the first period they created few good scoring chances, as the Panthers' D was (for once) up to the task. Midway through the third period, I noticed a staggering difference: Florida had 14 blocked shots to the Devils' three. And early in the second period the Panthers showed the jump during the first few minutes that effectively decided the game, as they outshot the Devils 9-0 in that time and beat Brodeur with two deflected goals, the first one by Michael Frolik on the power play at 2:24, then sixty-five seconds later another by Shawn Matthais. An ill-fated Mottau saw a puck bounce past him off the boards on the Matthais goal and honestly he's played poorly over this recent stretch. Unlucky or not, when you're playing like that, usually bad things happen.

Granted, none of those three goals was Marty's fault, but why he was even in this game is mind-boggling. If you can't play Yann Danis in the middle of a seven-game in eleven-day stretch against a second-division club when you're on a roll then when is he ever going to see the ice again? Since early November he's played exactly twenty minutes total. I swear you'll probably find him riding shotgun with Waldo by this point, same as any other former Devils backup goalie.

Now down 3-0, the Devils started to pick it up but got lucky to get on the board when Brian Rolston's half-speed slapshot slipped through Clemmensen at 7:16 for Rolston's eleventh goal of the year. Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner got the assists on the goal, which sparked the Devils with a new purpose and almost immediately they earned back-to-back power plays. However, the offense could do little with either despite constant pressure. Even being shorthanded proved frustrating for the Devils' offense late in the period when Jay Pandolfo found himself with the puck on a two-on-one...and couldn't get it high enough to beat Clemmer. For as good a career as Pando's had with us, you wonder just how terrific he'd have been if he had some semblance of an offensive game since he seems to get two-on-one chances every other game and can't convert.

Despite failing to cut into the Panthers' lead late in the second, the Devils still came out determined in the third and a bank shot by Dean McAmmond after just sixty-five seconds (assisted by Illka Pikkaranen) cut the Panthers' lead to one. Before the Devils could make the Panthers nervous however, Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador both got caught up ice as Nathan Horton sprung Frolik for a breakaway and he scored his second of the night at 2:23, restoring the Panthers' lead and giving Clemmer a cushion he wouldn't waste. Again the Panther defense stepped up, allowing only eight shots in the third as the Devils finally looked like a team playing its sixth game in ten days.

Perhaps to a degree though, justice was served with the Panthers' 4-2 win since Clemmensen got the victory lap he was denied last year. Of course the Devils get no time to dwell on this loss for they're back at it less than twenty-four hours later against a struggling Flyers team, but it'll be the Devils' seventh game in eleven nights. And the Flyers are 2-0 against the Devils this season. Of course that was before their coach got fired, their goaltender got injured and Chris Pronger (among others) started making a mess in the locker room.
BoNY Three Stars:
  1. Michael Frolik (two goals, +2 and 7 SOG in 20:31)
  2. Scott Clemmensen (26/28 saves)
  3. Jordan Leopold (goal, 23:28 TOI)

1 comment:

Derek Felix said...

Didn't see but of course was surprised. Guess the hectic sched finally took its toll. Good for Clemmer on getting a win. rofl at that goalie chant. Agreed about Danis. :-P You don't want to burn out MB30.

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