After being routed in Game One, the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey must make some changes before taking the ice against the homestanding Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Making Devils coach Larry Robinson’s task even more difficult is the injury suffered by second line right wing Randy McKay, a broken hand which is likely to keep him out of the next two games if not the entire finals.
“All indications are he is out for the series, “said Robinson.
That means the coach will have to do some shuffling of his lines.
One thought is to bump up the third line with Scott Gomez, Sergei Nemchinov and Alexander Mogilny. Another is to replace McKay with Bob Corkum.
Said Robinson: “Well, probably I might move up the Gomez line, but what I will probably end up doing is putting in Corkum.
“He seems to be a legitimate choice, a right handed shot, and he gives us another penalty killer. And he is also a good center man in case we need a big faceoff. So he seems the most likely candidate.”
McKay played with center Bobby Holik and left wing Sergei Brylin on New Jersey’s second trio, the unit generally credited with keeping Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr off the scoreboard in the semifinals win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Holik shadowed Lemieux and worked up front with Sykora and Elias on the first power play unit. McKay crashed the net on the second power play shift, and harassed the Penguins’ Martin Straka, Robert Lang and Alexei Kovalev when they tried to skate the puck into the Devils’ end of the ice.
New Jersey was able to stop Pittsburgh from carrying the puck into the Devils’ end, but Colorado won that battle in Game One, a 5-0 loss for the Devils.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur said: “They had a good game plan and they executed it very well. They didn’t dump the puck in, they controlled it and they circled back and looked for Joe (Sakic) and made plays. They got it deep behind our net and we had no transition at all.
“We need to make some adjustments, maybe stand up better at the blue line and stop them coming into our zone.”
Scott Stevens, the Devils captain and lead defenseman, said: “They really stretched us out. They put a guy up high at post and tried to get the puck to him.
“He either tips it to the middle or dumps it in and the other two guys are coming at great speed. It was tough for the D (defense) to stand up.
“We have to make adjustments and that’s why it’s a seven-game series. This was just one game.”
Both Brodeur and Holik considered Colorado the best team New Jersey has faced of their eight playoff opponents over the last two seasons.
“We’ve never played a team like that so far in the playoffs,” Brodeur said. “Based on that one game they are the best team we have faced in two playoffs years, but the question is: Can they maintain it over the long haul?”
Said Holik: “This team was by far the best team we have played. They manhandled us physically and played with much more intensity than we did. The crowd and this building with its noise makes home ice mean something.”
Brodeur agreed. “You can’t hear out there and you can’t communicate with your teammates,” the goalkeeper said. “It makes it tougher. This is the best home arena we have played in, including Toronto.”
All of which makes Game Two a challenge.
“I’d certainly rather lose the first game 5-0 than the seventh game in the playoffs,” Robinson said. “The only thing we can do is get ourselves home ice advantage by going after the second game.”