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KELLEY: Experience pays off for Burns, Devils

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
New Jersey coach Pat Burns has been around pressure situations long enough to know how to handle them without creating a sense of panic. That's why he was patient and somewhat diplomatic in the down-time between Games 1 and 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals playoff series between his and the Ottawa . Burns warned anyone within earshot that one loss (the lost the opener 3-2 in overtime) is hardly a trend in the series and that his team would be back and that it would make adjustments to correct some things that went wrong in Game 1. That's the other thing about Burns, he's been around long enough to know that standing pat after a loss can lead to another loss and being down 2-0 in the first two games of a series can cause panic, especially within the ranks of the team that's trailing. No doubt that's why Burns made some tweaks to his defense Tuesday night, pulling out the offensive-minded Oleg Tverdovsky and the game-but-slow and replacing them with the more offensive-minded and the game-but-slow (yet presumably fresher) . A couple of things happened because of that. 1) Albelin scored the first goal of the game and his first in the playoffs since the won the Cup back in 1995. That seemed to give the quite a bit of life in this game en route to a 4-1 win. 2) The combination of Albelin and Smehlik seemed to cut down on the rather large amount of giveaways in the defensive zone that plagued New Jersey in Game 1. Those weren't the only reasons the won, some power-play success and a strong physical game played a role as well. So, too, did the fine goaltending of and the not-so-fine effort from Ottawa's . Let us be perfectly clear on this. Lalime was in no way -like in this game, but it was not one of his better efforts. "We had a great start tonight and a great effort from Marty," said New Jersey captain in a televised interview immediately after the game. "He had a great game and he was probably the reason we won tonight." Brodeur played well in Game 1 as well, but he was nearly unbeatable in this outing. It was a performance that Lalime didn't match. He was screened on the Albelin goal, but he didn't look particularly sharp on the second New Jersey goal by and appeared asleep at the switch when scored the third goal (which came almost immediately after had given the some life with a tally in the second that made the score 2-1). The Madden goal was a killer for the , as they appeared to let up on the play anticipating a stoppage for an impending penalty call. There was a call coming, but it was on them and in that moment of hesitation, Madden was able to break away and go in alone on Lalime. The goalie, too, appeared to be anticipating a stoppage because his lack of movement on the play was appalling. That was pretty much all the needed. With the lead safe in hand, they reverted to their defensive-minded physical game, taking a toll on the that was most noticeable when Stevens caught a piece of the left leg of Ottawa defenseman . It seemed to be a controversial hit, as knee-on-knee hits are both illegal and frowned upon in the NHL. But there was no penalty on the play apparently because Redden moved to avoid Stevens and may have put himself in harms way for that kind of injury. Not that the were in the running for choir boy of the year award anyway, but the nastiness paled in comparison to the mental mistakes and overall lack of sharpness on display in Ottawa's game. The didn't have that many shots on goal in this one, but still managed four goals and tied the series at 1-1 with the next two games in New Jersey. That's not exactly terrifying to the , they are a pretty darn fine road team, but any thought that they might be able to create a sense of invincibility against the in this series went by the boards because of this game. You could see a rise in confidence in the , as well, especially since they got the split they needed on the road and are unbeaten in six playoff games at home. You can't attribute all that to a couple of moves on defense by a wily coach, but they did play a role. Burns is a master of tweaking his lineup both for situations that he can control on the ice and for the psychological affect it tends to create in his team in the locker room. When there's change, especially in the veteran ranks, the impact filters down throughout the roster. The thinking is if a veteran like Daneyko, in many ways the heart of the old-guard , can be scratched, it can just as easily happen to someone else. Players tend to play better when they have that kind of edginess in their locker room. Burns knows it, he uses it. In this game, it paid off. Props to Brodeur and teammate Jay Pandolfo, both of whom had a big night, and to Burns whose adjustments did cut down on the turnovers that were so obvious in Game 1. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Devils, Senators, Flyers, Martin Brodeur, John Madden, Radek Bonk, Wade Redden, Patrick Lalime, Jeff Friesen

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