Part one of today's article comes to you from Jim Benton, and is entitled Avs-Devils: The Matchups. It was placed on page 6N. It covers various matchups of the forwards, defense, special teams, coaching, and goaltending, and includes predictions about who will win the series. Part two of this article, including charts (assuming I can figure out how to make them, or maybe just scan them), will be coming tomorrow or Friday. Or later, you impatient crybabies.
More after the jump.
Avs-Devils: The Matchups, by Jim Benton. RMN, May 25, 2001.
Most championship teams are built around a solid defense.
But the Devils can score, too.
New Jersey led the NHL in scoring during the regular season and is the top-scoring playoff club because of its potent counterattacks.
It means that the Avalanche, which won the Presidents' Trophy as the team with the best regular-season record, faces a daunting chore against New Jersey, which played some of its best hockey in the Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh.
"We have to keep the puck out of the middle of the ice in the neutral zone," Colorado defenseman Jon Klemm said. "They are a team that clogs up that neutral zone.
"If you make any blind passes in the middle, you might be in a little trouble because they are going to be breaking out and coming with a lot of speed at us.
"This series is going to be won along the boards. There is going to be a lot of battling along the walls. We have to win those battles."
Colorado's formula for success against the Devils is lengthy: The Avalanche has to keep things simple, has to play four lines and six defenseman to counter the Devils' physical style, has to get quick and accurate passes from its defensemen, has to be sound in its dump-and-chase game, has to have possession of the puck in the neutral zone and has to convert its chances.
"If you play dump-and-chase, you have to be real careful with the puck," center Stephane Yelle said. "Brodeur is so good with his stick. If it's too deep behind the net, he will stop it and chip it out.
"You do have to dump and chase, but you don't want to get caught with turnovers at the blue line.
"You have to be careful. they have some offensive forwards who move the puck well, and they are good on transition. We'll have to be very disciplined at the blue lines."
On the next three pages is a closer look at the matchup between the two teams.
Colorado: The Avalanche has done well so far without the injured Peter Forsberg, but his absence could be significant against the Devils.
Colorado has been getting scoring from its third and fourth lines and the defense. But the first and second units need to get untracked in even-strength situations.
Joe Sakic's line with Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay will draw most of the Devil's attention. Sakic has four goals in the past seven games, but two have come on the power play and one on a penalty shot. Hejduk has three goals in five games, and all three have come in man-advantage situations. Tanguay has not scored a goal in eight games.
Defensemen have chipped in four goals in the past five games, and the third and fourth lines have combined for five goals in the past six games.
New Jersey: The Devils have yet to be outshot in the playoffs.
The top line of Patrick Elias, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora has accounted for 40.7 percent of the team's goals in the playoffs. Elias has a 10-game points streak with five goals and eight assists. Sykora has points in nine consecutive games (six goals and eight assists), and Arnott has seven goals and a three-game points streak.
Bobby Holik is more than a big, nasty, defensive forward. He also has 14 points. Alexander Mogilny hasn't collected a goal in 10 games, but he is always dangerous, and Scott Gomez, last year's Rookie of the Year, has 12 points. John Madden and Randy McKay are talented, in-your-face players who can contribute offensively.
And then there is Brian Rafalski, who leads all defensemen in scoring with 15 points.
Colorado: Patrick Roy is a proven playoff goaltender who is playing very well.
Roy, the winningest goalie in history, has a .932 save percentage, with two shutouts. He is the reason the Avalanche has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
New Jersey: Roy was one of Marin Brodeur's childhood heroes, and he has been playing almost as well as his idol with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .909 saves percentage.
Brodeur has four shutouts and needs one more to set an all-time record for shoutouts in a playoff year. He is tremendous at moving the puck, and New Jersey relies on his accurate passes.
Colorado: One of the Avalanche's biggest strengths is depth on defense and, if Jon Klemm's injured knee allows him to play, it will be a boost.
Adam Foote and Ray Bourque probably will get the assignment of trying to contain the Devil's red-hot top line. Bourque has tied his career best playoff scoring streak at six games (three goals, five assists).
New Jersey: Captain Scott Stevens, last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner, is big, strong and good. He leads a solid corps of defensemen.
Brian Rafalski has been outstanding offensively and defensively, and Scott Niedermayer is a key player for New Jersey because he can be used in any situation. Rookie Colin White is second in the playoffs behind Petr Sykora in plus/minus at plus-11.
me - Breathlessly await the conclusion when I figure out the charts and whatnot.
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