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Game 81 Recap: Devils finally drink a Cup ‘O Joe

(headline by @amazingjr87)

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Alexei Ponikarovsky (Goal)

2nd star: Jiri Hudler (Red Wings – Assist)

1st star: Martin Brodeur (23 saves)

Well, where to begin?!  It seems that so much happened on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.  First of all, the Devils beat the Red Wings in Detroit for the first time since 1996 (they also won there twice in the spring of 1995 en route to winning the Stanley Cup).  If you want some more statistics, keep on reading.  But regardless of stats, the Devils went into Joe Louis Arena, which is regarded as one of hockey’s toughest buildings to play in, and played a very solid road game, doing something that seemed impossible early in the season: winning in Detroit.

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Game 81 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings

New Jersey Devils (46-28-6, 98 points) vs. Detroit Red Wings (48-27-5, 101 points)

7:30 PM E.T.

TV: MSG Plus

Radio: WFAN 660 AM

Matchup:

Thursday night will be the first and only meeting of the 2011-12 season between the Devils and Red Wings.  Of course, Devils fans remember this matchup from the spring of 1995, when the Devils swept Detroit en route to the first Stanley Cup Championship in Devils’ history.  Last season, Detroit won both meetings between the two teams: a 4-1 decision in New Jersey and a 3-1 final in Detroit.  The Devils last beat the Red Wings on December 5th, 2009, a 4-3 shootout victory for New Jersey.

Surging Devils?

All of the sudden, the New Jersey Devils are heating up at the end of the regular season.  This is probably the best hockey a playoff-bound Devils team is playing since the infamous 11-game winning streak at the end of the 2005-06 regular season.  They haven’t won 11 straight (yet), but they’ve won a slightly-more-modest four in a row, although the schedule did ease up a bit.  Playing the Red Wings in Detroit will be a big test for the Devils.  Although the Devils only scored two goals on Tuesday against the Islanders (plus an empty netter), the team looks to be playing well right now, as they’ve netted 14 total goals in the last three games, and held the Islanders to just 20 shots on Tuesday, following a shutout of the Hurricanes over last weekend.

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Best to Wear # 2 – Viacheslav Fetisov

Viacheslav FetisovNUMBER: 2
HEIGHT: 6′ 1″
WEIGHT: 215
POSITION: Defenseman
SHOOTS: Left
BORN: April 20, 1958
BIRTHPLACE: Moscow, Russia

The Devils Army overwhelmingly voted Viacheslav Fetisov as the best player to wear #2 for the New Jersey Devils. Fetisov recorded over half of the votes (56.6%) and the next closest, was over 240 votes behind.

Before entering the National Hockey League, Fetisov played with Russian Club,  HC CSKA Moscow for 11 seasons. He had expressed his interest to play in the NHL; however, due to Soviet rules, he was not allowed to. Fetisov says the Soviet Minister of Defence at the time gave him an ultimatum to either apologize or be sent to play in the Ukraine.

Eventually, Fetisov led a group of eight Soviet hockey players into the NHL. Soviet hockey officials decided to allow Soviet players to play in the NHL, as long as they competed for the Soviet Union in International competitions.

In the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, not only did the Devils pick John MacLean at sixth overall, but they also picked Fetisov in the very same draft….. 139 picks later. Fetisov was drafted in the eighth round, at the 145th overall pick. Here’s a little piece of trivia: Fetisov was actually drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1978, but was not able to play in the NHL at the time.

In Fetisov’s rookie season in 1989-1990, he collected a career high eight goals, and 42 points.

Fetisov played with the Devils until the 1994-1995 season when he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, the Devils eventual opponents in the Stanley Cup. Here’s interesting trivia, part two: While playing for Detroit, Fetisov’s defense partner was Mike Ramsey. The two played against each other in the historical Miracle on Ice game. 

Career Stats with the New Jersey Devils
GP G A P +/- PIM PP SH GW S S%
546 36 192 228 -6 656 8 2 4 662 5.4%

I want to thank everyone who voted in this poll, and I also want to say that there will be no Best to Wear #3 or #4. Check back on Tuesday, we’ll be voting for Best to Wear #5.

Farewell Rafalski

Brian RafalaskiAfter 11 seasons in the NHL, 37 year-old former New Jersey Devil Brian Rafalski announced that he will be retiring. With a couple of injuries and wanting to focus on his family, he decided it would be the best decision.

In 1999, Rafalski was named the best hockey player not playing in the NHL by the Sporting News. Later that year, the Devils signed him as a free agent. He was a pretty old rookie starting the 1999-2000 season at 26 years old, but he had four years of European hockey experience to back him up. He was paired up with Scott Stevens and played with other rookies, Scott Gomez, John Madden and Colin White. White remembers seeing Rafalski for the first time and thinking he had nothing to worry about when it came to the new small D-man standing at 5″10 and 195 lbs – until he saw him play. Rafalski led all rookie defensemen with a +21 rating, ended the season with 32 points and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. Oh, and he helped in winning a Stanley Cup, too.

Rafalski went on to win another Cup with the Devils in 2003 before being signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 2007 to a five year contract. In 2008, he was a part of another Stanley Cup winning team. The next year would mark his fifth trip to the Finals in nine seasons – pretty impressive.

Injuries got in his way this season. Rafalski was on the training table every day and said that it got pretty tiring and affected the way he played. This didn’t stop him from picking up 48 points in 63 regular-season games though.

In his career, he’s also picked up two Olympic silver medals playing on Team USA (2002, 2010) and has been selected for three NHL All-Star Games. With an overall of 79 goal and 436 assists, giving him 515 points in 833 career games, Rafalski is definitely going out on top with a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Round 2. Where Do You Stand?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 of the playoffs is over and now we’re heading into Round 2. We as hockey fans, that is. Since the Devils are out, we have to root for (or against) other teams.

In case you weren’t paying attention – I’m sure you all were – here’s a super quick recap of Round 1.

Caps knocked out the Rangers in 5, awesome!
Tampa eliminated the Pens in 7, great!
The Flyers are still in it over Buffalo in 7, no!
Boston beat the Canadians in 7, nice! (We don’t really have a rivalry with these teams, but after a particular Habs game this season, I had no choice but to root against them!)

As for the teams we don’t have an immediate interest in: Detroit swept the Coyotes, the Preds beat the Ducks in 6, Canucks eliminated last years champ the Blackhawks in 7, and San Jose beat the Kings in 6.

The teams we root against are obvious but everyone has a different stand on who to root for. I’ll be rooting against the Flyers (duh!) and for the Canucks and Caps. I’m torn on the Detroit/San Jose series but I’m leaning towards San Jose. To be honest, I just really like their jerseys and since I have no vested interest in either team, I think that’s a decent reason to base my decision on.

Not only do we want to know who you’re rooting for, we want to see it! Send us pictures (devilsgenerals@gmail.com) of you supporting your Round 2 teams and we’ll post them here. Let us know where you stand!

(Pst, pick 4 teams!)

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