Work in Sports
Little things mean a lot
Devils got away from basics in losing Game 4
Posted: Thursday May 04, 2000 07:07 PM
WEST ORANGE, N.J. (AP) -- Losing Game 4 to the Toronto Maple Leafs didn't bug Larry Robinson as much as the way the New Jersey Devils lost it.
All the little things that make up Hockey 101 somehow were forgotten by Robinson's team at the most inappropriate times Wednesday night.
The cost was a 3-2 loss as the Maple Leafs tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal at two games apiece.
Robinson didn't go through the mistakes one by one, but they are the kind of errors the Devils can't make if they want to win what is now a best-of-three series, starting on Saturday night in Toronto.
"As you get older, the easy things turn into the big things," Robinson said Thursday after giving the Devils a day off. "When you try to do too much, that's when you make mistakes. You try to cover for somebody else and the next thing your man is open.
"This is a very simple game. I have said that right from the start," Robinson added. "Five and 6-year-old kids play this game, so it can't be that difficult."
But the loss Wednesday night was tough because the Devils made mistakes you'd expect from those young kids.
On Tomas Kaberle's winning goal with 1:35 to play, the Devils got caught chasing the puck and were out of position for the defenseman's shot from above the left circle.
New Jersey lost a battle along the boards in its end and two defensemen were caught on the same side of the ice on Darcy Tucker's goal that gave Toronto a 2-1 lead late in the first period. That forced New Jersey to play catchup the rest of the game.
The Leafs' first goal was another mistake, with Jonas Hoglund splitting the defense to tie the game 1-1 midway through the first period.
"Playing in the playoffs is a mindset," Robinson said. "As [Devils forward] Randy [McKay] said, you have to believe in what you are doing, and believe what you are doing is the right thing. That's what the playoffs is all about, having a mindset and a focus to do the right things and what it takes to win hockey games."
For the most part, the Devils have done the right things, only to be stymied by Curtis Joseph in goal. He's had 66 saves combined in the Maple Leafs' two wins.
"If you have a goaltender who is playing well, he can carry you all the way," Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said. "That was pretty evident last year with Buffalo. You're not going to tell me the Buffalo Sabres should have been in the Stanley Cup finals, but Dominik Hasek put them there."
With the exception of Monday night's 5-1 win, 'Cujo' has been just as dominating this series.
However, Robinson and Daneyko seemed more concerned about the Devils than either Joseph or the Leafs' home-ice advantage in the series heading into Game 5.
"We could be playing in Siberia, it doesn't really matter," Daneyko said. "We just have to play our game and worry about what we do and the end result will take care of itself."
And the Devils' game is taking care of the little things. Hockey 101.
"This series easily could be over," Daneyko said. "The Leafs are an opportunistic team that can be outplayed and they'll win 2-1 and 3-2 type games. We have to be sharp early, because one goal can be the difference the way Joseph has been playing."
Beating New Jersey on Wednesday also was a major confidence boost for a Maple Leafs team that had been written off in many circles after losing badly Monday night.
"Whoever said it was over is crazy," Tucker said. "We've got a team in this room that's come back from adversity all year long. We've gained a lot of respect for each other, as teammates and individuals. Our hockey club has its own identity and we have a lot to accomplish. The guys are ready to take that task in hand."