Devils (1) vs Canadiens (8) - 1997 1st Round
So the Devils aren't in the playoffs. Doesn't mean we can't talk about Devils playoff hockey (I guess it could mean that depending on everyone's mood). Time to relive some good and maybe some bad. As always...could be a running feature or a one off.
The 1997 series vs Montreal would be the Devils first taste of playoff hockey since winning their 1st Stanley Cup in 1995. After a disastrous lockout-shortened season left the Devils as the first Stanley Cup winning team to miss the playoffs since 1970, the Devils responded by finishing first in the Eastern Conference with 104 points. The Devils continued to show all the traits of a Jacques Lemaire hockey team, 1st in GA, 1st in PK, but offensively challenged.
Earlier in the season, with the Devils power play a mess, and the Leafs looking like a giant bowl of sh!t, Lou pulled off one of the biggest trades in franchise history acquiring Doug Gilmour, an aging all-star, Dave Ellett, and a pick for Steve Sullivan, Jason Smith and Alyn McCauley. Smith and Sullivan had become Devils regulars and McCauley was expected to have a giant future ahead of himself. But the Devils were getting a true #1 Center -- a point-per-game player at the least in a position they needed the most.
The Devils 1st round opponent was one of the worst teams to set foot in the playoffs record wise. The Canadiens squeaked into the playoffs with just 31 wins and 77 points edging out the Hartford Whalers in their final season.. The whole league seemed mediocre for that matter with just 6 of the 16 playoff teams having 90 points. Hard to remember if that was the norm or if shootout wins really inflate how good teams are. Like New Jersey, the Canadiens made a giant trade of their own early in the season, dealing captain Pierre Turgeon, Craig Conroy and Rory Fitzpatrick (vote for Rory!) to the Blues for Shane Corson, Murray Baron and a 5th round pick. This easily had to be one of the worst trades ever and can be added to a number of awful deals that led to the Habs irrelevancy. Turgeon was their captain, French Canadian, was an all-star the previous season with 96 points. And you trade an all-star for Shayne Corson?!
Well...the 1996-1997 Habs, unlike New Jersey, had a pretty good offense (ranked 9th) even without Turgeon (68 points in 60 games in St Louis and with Shayne Corson (6 goals in 47 games), but their defense was easily amongst the worst in the league (Murray Barron couldn't help much and eventually traded later that season). So the Canadiens might have had an edge on offense, the defense and goaltending battles were decisive wins for New Jersey. Marty Brodeur had just finished what would arguably be his best season ever (.927 GAA, 1.88 GAA, and 10 shutouts). The Canadiens countered with Jocelyn Thibault, the man who had the worst job in the hockey -- being Patrick Roy's replacement.
Game 1 5-2 New Jersey (Chambers, Guerin, Rolston (2), Brodeur) (Brunet, Corson)
Game 2 4-1 New Jersey (Carpenter, Guerin, MacLean (2)) (Savage)
Game 3 6-4 New Jersey (Elias, Holik, Rolston, Zelepukin (3)) (Koivu, Recchi (2), Thornton)
Game 4 4-3 (3OT) Montreal (Elias, Niedermayer, Odelein) (Recchi (2), Stevenson, Brisebois)
Game 5 4-0 New Jersey (Dean, Holik, MacLean, Odelein)
- Devils playoff debuts for Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Jay Pandolfo, Denis Pederson, Doug Gilmour, Steve Thomas and Dave Ellett
- One Devil who would not make his debut was Dave Andreychuk, who missed the entire series after breaking his ankle in the last game of the regular season. He returned for game in round 2. Elias, who played just 17 games in his first NHL season, was his replacement (chosen over Petr Sykora). He scored his 1st playoff goal and added an assist in a game 3 win. When Guerin was injured in game 3, Petr Sykora was inserted into the lineup.
- Martin Brodeur became the second goalie to ever score a playoff goal (Hextall the first) in the 5-2 Game 1 win
- Valeri Zelepukin would score a very unlikely game 3 hat trick
- Mario Tremblay went with Jose Theodore (his playoff debut) after 3 straight losses for the Canadiens and Thibault. Theodore played exceptionally well stopping 56 of 59 in a game 4 OT win and 45 of 49 in regulation in the decider
- Patrice Brisebois (1 of many random defensemen to score OT playoff winners against the Devils...this one the least painful) scored the game 4 OT winner to extend the series
- Injuries to Bill Guerin (broken toe) and Valeri Zelepukin (broken thumb) led to Scott Niedermayer playing LW in game 5 in a role to shadow the Habs best forward, Mark Recchi who had 4 goals in the first 4 games.
- Devils fans tried their own variation of the Detroit octopus or the Florida rat when after a John MacLean goal made it 2-0, a boar's head was thrown onto the ice in game 2
- This series was pure domination for the Devils outshooting the Canadiens 219-142 in just over 17 periods of hockey
- Former Devil fan favourite Stephane Richer was held scoreless in 5 games for the Canadiens. The player he was traded for, Lyle Odelein, finished the series with 2 goals and 2 assists.
"I was freaking out," said Brodeur, whose empty-net goal came with 44.6 seconds to play. "It was unbelievable. When I shot it, it went over everyone and I kind of lost it. I saw John MacLean raise his arms up. I said: `Wow, it's got to go in if he's doing that. "Guys in front of me went to the side and I saw it go in. I'll never forget that moment."
But for the moment, there was laughter in the Devils' locker room. ''Was that a pig's head?'' MacLean asked after the game. ''Maybe it was Sammy the Bull,'' he added with a laugh in a reference to Sammy Gravano, the mobster who turned informer on John Gotti
During the game, Manson was whistled for four minor penalties, and the Devils took advantage by scoring on three of them.
Afterward, an angry Manson said of Walkom, ''It's just a case of I think I know who he bet on to win the Stanley Cup.''
For extra measure, the 11-year veteran called Walkom a ''joke.''
''I can't take credit for this one,'' Lemaire said about the decision to play Niedermayer on the attack and have him shadow Recchi, who had 16 shots in the first four games and was limited to just two tonight. ''The idea came from my assistant.'' Lemaire was referring to Robbie Ftorek.
Two of the best NHL play-by-play men got to call Marty Brodeur's goal. Only felt it was right to include both.
Feel free to share any thoughts or memories from this series. All quotes came from NY Times recap articles written by Alex Yannis.
Edited by devilsrule33, 17 April 2014 - 07:37 PM.