"We had our chances offensively and that's important for any team," Lemaire said Thursday following his team's afternoon skate at Prudential Center. The Devils and Flyers will face off in Game 2 on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET (TSN) at Prudential Center.
There was one aspect of his team's game that did raise Lemaire's ire. Despite outshooting and out-chancing the Flyers, the Devils failed miserably in the one area they cannot concede in this series -- special teams.
Zach Parise stressed earlier in the week that the Devils need to win the special teams battle in this series or it could come back to haunt them. But generating just four shots and no goals on five power-play opportunities in the series opener isn't going to cut it.
"Everything is working (for the Flyers PK). Their starting goalie is making the big save at the right time. Their defensemen get to rebounds and block shots. Their forwards block shots and are in the way of passes." -- Jacques Lemaire on the Flyers' PK unit
The Devils mustered just two shots on a four-minute double minor to Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis to open the third and then directed no shots at goalie Brian Boucher during another two-minute advantage later in the period.
The recurring theme on why the power-play struggled seemed to stem from the fact the players were making things too complicated. They all feel the solution is getting more pucks and more traffic in front of a suddenly rejuvenated goalie in Boucher.
"They do a good job of pressuring the guy with the puck throughout the whole zone and, when you get the puck in, there are four guys around us," Devils forward Travis Zajac said. "When you move it to the boards, they don't give you a chance to set up and make plays. For us, it's about moving the puck quickly and knowing where you have to move it before you get the puck. Then, getting shots on goal; those one-timers might make them start scrambling and that's when you can make those nice seam passes."
It actually got to a point Wednesday during the Devils third man advantage of the final period when Devils' fans began chanting, "Shoot the puck, shoot the puck."
"Any bad pass you make, they go right at you, they forecheck hard and they pressure you and sometimes you have to … we're trying to set up in our spots before we even have the puck and we need to get control first," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "You have to wait for your opportunity -- they'll get tired eventually. I don't think it's about getting the puck and shooting no matter what either. Sometimes, you have to tire them out with crisp passes because they pressure so much when you make a bad pass. The trick is to move the puck around and get them tired."
But that's easier said than done. The aggressive Flyers ranked 11th in the League while on the penalty kill and struck for 6 shorthanded goals during the regular season. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren had to be privy to the fact his team would be one of the League's most penalized units this season -- and they finished first in that category -- when he acquired defensive-forwards Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere.
Both played critical roles in support of Boucher -- they each logged over 4:30 of ice time killing penalties and Betts finished the game with two blocked shots and Laperriere four hits.
"We want to do a good job killing penalties because if you do that, they're going to start changing up the way they do things," Betts told NHL.com. "I not only see that over the course of a series, but the course of a game. If you could limit their opportunities and their offensive zone time they have and taking unnecessary risks and maybe shooting the puck from bad angle and trying to make something out of nothing. We have a lot of respect for New Jersey's power play and we know some nights are tougher than others but we're pretty happy with the way things went in that first game.
Lemaire is extremely impressed with the way the Flyers go about their business on the penalty kill.
"Everything is working (for the Flyers PK)," Lemaire said. "Their starting goalie is making the big save at the right time. Their defensemen get to rebounds and block shots. Their forwards block shots and are in the way of passes."
The Flyers finished with 14 blocked shots in Game 1, including a game-high four by defenseman Matt Carle.
"They block a lot of shots and they put a lot of pressure on us, so we have to adjust," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "We just throw it around sometimes; we have to be more patient with it and get them tired a little bit because that's when they start making mistakes. When they tired they all collapse toward the net and then points start to open up. We'll get there because we got enough skills and guys who know what to do on the power-play."
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