Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kovy gaffe and contreversial call burn the Devils

Before getting to anything else and the nonsense that was the third period of this afternoon’s game, I have to say this home-and-home with the Isles certainly lived up to the billing, at least in the respect that both games were competitive down to the final buzzer and each team had numerous chances to score. Not only did the teams split their weekend series, but there was controversy at the end of this afternoon’s game to boot. Basically these two games had just about everything you could want, including chippiness – most of it from the Isles’ John Tavares who really acted like a punk this weekend and got unpunished for it other than a chintzy fine for his two-handed slash on Zach Parise in yesterday’s game.

With the number of scoring chances in each game – particularly this afternoon’s contest – the fact that the scores were only 1-0 and 3-2 were a credit to Isles goalie Al Montoya (thrown right into a back-to-back off of injury) and Devils goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg. Even though Hedberg threw a shutout yesterday, in many respects Brodeur was just as spectacular today – stopping at least two or three breakaways, including a staggering double save towards the end of the second period on Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo with his team trailing 2-1 at the time. After stopping Grabner on yet another breakaway, he had the presence of mind to throw up the glove just in time to stone Okposo trying to swat the rebound in.

That sequence seemed to give the Devils momentum going into the third period and when Ilya Kovalchuk sprung Adam Henrique on a breakaway, the super rookie again converted to tie the game at two. With a power play minutes later, it seemed as if the Devils were on their way to completing the comeback and getting the two points. Instead, a bizarre sequence began with Kovalchuk swatting the puck back into his own end, then after recovering it wound up trying to do his usual fancy-pants stickhandling right in front of Brodeur. Of course, he got stripped and gave up an easy breakaway chance for Grabner – who wouldn’t miss this time, giving the Isles their third lead of the game.

Even with his two assists earlier in the game (though it wasn’t like he made a particularly stirring play on either), that sequence finally proved enough for those in attendance, who booed the $100 million man mercilessly the rest of the game. Kovy even got booed during intermission when one of those taped messages popped up wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and he got the Scott Gomez treatment with repeated boos when he had the puck on his stick. To this I say good. I’m not an advocate of booing your own players unless it’s a case of a lack of effort but Kovy’s repeated lah-de-dah giveaways that have led to shorthanded goals against tell me he’s not thinking, and therefore not trying. The experiment of him playing RW on a line with Henrique and Parise needs to end now as well. Kovy refuses to play off the right side, frequently drifting left and therefore shadowing Zach and blunting both their effectiveness. It’s telling that Henrique’s been by far the best player on that line.

Kovy compounded matters by acting like a baby later on in the game when Tavares again took a swipe at him and knocked him down in the corner, and again didn’t get called (when, exactly did Tavares become as teflon as Sid Crosby?) Kovy just sat in the corner and wiggled around like a soccer player. Eventually he drew an unsportsmanlike minor on himself, again hurting the team’s chances to win with just minutes remaining by forcing them to have to kill another penalty. And again, that’s not being a team player and boos only multiplied. It is amazing that even a schlep like Brian Rolston never got booed by Devils fans but Kovy drove everyone – including me – to the point of no return this afternoon.

Even with Kovy’s best efforts to give the game away, and some other people’s careless turnovers as well, the Devils still found themselves within one with five seconds remaining and a faceoff to the right of Montoya. Patrik Elias lost the faceoff but the puck somehow bounced right to Danius Zubrus by the boards, and Zubie threw it in front towards Parise, who whacked the puck in with barely two seconds left, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Except that Toronto decided to get into the act (again). After allowing an Isles goal in the second period despite contact with Brodeur and the net coming off its moorings – with a ‘review’ that lasted approximately thirty seconds – they took a couple of minutes then decided they saw enough evidence of a distinct kicking motion that they overturned the goal.

Really it was a dubious call (to put it mildly, since this is a family blog), the only ‘kicking motion’ came when Parise was falling to the ice and he had no way of knowing where the puck is when he is supposed to have kicked at it. You’re supposed to have no doubt when you overturn a call on the ice. I was so annoyed I didn’t even notice the captain’s frustration toward the refs after the play was overturned and when the clock ran down. In some ways I’m glad he went off, maybe it provides the spark for the captain to get going – though his anger was a bit misplaced since it wasn’t the refs who overturned the goal but the men eating donuts in Toronto.

As hideous as that ending was, the fact is the Devils would have gotten at least a point out of the game if not for Kovy’s umpteenth gaffe and this home-and-home confirmed something I’ve feared for most of the season…while the Devils have the best goaltending tandem in the league with Brodeur and Hedberg, they’re a bottom third team in the other two phases (offense and defense). They’re only going to go as far as Marty, Moose and a resurgent Elias can carry them. Not to mention the extra shootout points, that might be necessary just to get us in the playoffs. Unless some other people get going – like the captain and of course, the $100 million man, who’s starting to look like he can’t get it going under any coach besides Jacques Lemaire. Of course it would help if said coaches left him at his natural LW position. Even if that means (gasp!) putting him on the third line, since the Elias-Zubrus-Petr Sykora line is rolling and moving Parise off of LW is just as dubious. If Kovy’s not going to earn his icetime, then at some point we’ve got to take a stand. The fans have started to voice their displeasure, when does the team?

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