Anyone who watched Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky play for the Mighty Ducks last season has to be shocked to see the impact those players are having for New Jersey in this year’s Stanley Cup finals.
With three goals in two games, Friesen has turned into the second coming of Mike Bossy. Tverdovsky has been playing with passion now that he understands that he’s a better all-around player when he’s more responsible on the defensive end.
The two former Ducks have helped make life miserable for their old teammates, who were shut out in consecutive games by New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur and find themselves trailing, 2-0, in the best-of-seven series.
A breakdown of Game 3:
DUCKS’ MOVE -- The Western Conference champions have to stop turning the puck over. In the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Ducks played like a veteran team working together. Passes went tape to tape as teammates consistently hooked up in unlikely ways.
It was a different story in New Jersey. The Ducks managed only 32 shots at Brodeur in Games 1 and 2, mainly because they could not control the puck long enough to mount consistent attacks. The NHL doesn’t keep statistics on turnovers, but it’s easy to see that the Ducks have been losing puck possession much more against the Devils than they did against Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota.
Coach Mike Babcock’s team should get a boost tonight by having the last line changes, but the key for the Ducks will be getting more quality scoring chances. The Devils’ forwards have looked like speed demons because they’ve done such a good job playing the passing lanes. The Ducks have to find a way to make John Madden, Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez pay for playing so close to the blue line on defense when the puck has been in the Devils’ zone.
NEW JERSEY’S MOVE -- The Devils have demonstrated Coach Pat Burns’ never-give-an-inch attitude on the ice. Their closing speed to the puck and resulting hits choked the Ducks’ flow on offense in the first two games at Continental Arena. It will be interesting to see if the Devils still have that extra juice tonight in front of a Duck crowd at the Arrowhead Pond.
Early in their series against the Wild, the Ducks had problems with Minnesota’s poke-checking.
The Ducks are having even more trouble against the Devils, who have feasted on the sly move with their sticks to the puck all over the ice, especially around goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The Devils also have held an edge over the Ducks when it comes to staying with a play. Each New Jersey player has been attacking his shift as if it’s his last. That hasn’t been the case for the Ducks.