Devils-Senators: This Moose Call Is a Sweet One for New Jersey
Saturday, February 25, 2017
By Stan Fischler
Where would the New Jersey Devils be without Johan "Moose" Hedberg?
Well, for one thing they wouldn't be feeling as good about themselves today as they do because Moose delivered the sweetest call of all with a 1-0 masterpiece triumph over the Senators on Tuesday night in Ottawa.
The winning goal was produced by Ilya Kovalchuk -- his 31st and 400th of his career -- on a second period power play slapshot from inside the left side of the blue line after a nifty pass from defenseman from Marek Zidlicki.
"It was a textbook Kovalchuk goal," said coach Peter DeBoer.
But the story was Mister Backup Hedberg who produced a hermetically-sealed 34-save performance. As cool as a cucumber, The Sweet Swede stoically kept his skaters in the win column despite an Ottawa five-on-three advantage late in the third period followed by a
five-on-four as the clock ticked down to the final buzzer.
"I don't know where we'd be without Moose," added DeBoer.
Considering the manner in which Hedberg has played all season, he could be a starter on half the NHL clubs. At times he has appeared to be superior to the man he so ably backs up, Martin Brodeur.
"My penalty-killers played tremendously," said Hedberg who stopped a penalty shot early in the first period to set a template for his entire performance.
"That helped my confidence for sure. I tried to control my rebounds as much as possible. My guys were especially good in the third period. We did the job shutting them down."
Whether Hedberg or Brodeur will be in goal when the Maple Leafs visit The Rock on Friday night is a moot question but the falling Leafs need to face Hedberg like a moose needs a hat rack.
MSG's analyst Glenn (Chico) Resch pointed out that Hedberg is "too humble" when deflecting attention from his own superior work. "The fact is," added Resch, "Moose's teammates love him because he never gives up and he's the perfect team player."
Hedberg had to be flawless because Ottawa's young goaltending prodigy, Ben Bishop, has proven to be one of the best finds of the season and was hardly at fault on the Kovalchuk goal.
"He (Bishop) was screened," Kovalchuk, who now has played 771 NHL games, explained.
No less vital was the defensive work of Bryce Salvador who was a shot-blocking genius, deflecting enemy drives at the most propitious moments. Ditto for Anton Volchenkov, excelling against his former team.
"This was a big win for us," said Salvador, who missed all of 2010-2011 with ear-concussion symptoms. Asked about his shot-blocking prowess, Bryce smiled, "As Volchenkov likes to say, 'That's hockey!'"
Nonetheless, the contest revealed a weakness that must be fortified by coach Peter DeBoer; scoring. After all, New Jersey's only goal was on a power play and against the Rangers on Monday night, the Devils couldn't erase a one-goal deficit throughout the third period.
"We have time to work on these things. We can played better and we have eight more games to make improvements," added Kovy who almost lauded his goaltender-of-the-night as much as the coach.
"What else can we ask of Hedberg?" added DeBoer. "He pitched two shutouts in the last two games. In this win we figured the first team to score would win.":
Kovy did and Moose did the rest!