Work in Sports
Devils blitz while Leafs wilt
Posted: Tuesday May 09, 2000 12:36 AM
By Ken Klavon, CNNSI.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All it took was 43 seconds.
Forty-three seconds in which the Devils' top line of Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora put the Maple Leafs out of their misery.
In a tale of two premier lines, the series essentially came down to one that produced and another that didn't.
New Jersey's best line, which accounted for 30 percent of the Devils' regular-season goals, racked up 16 points in this series. In contrast, the Steve Thomas-Mats Sundin-Jonas Hoglund notched just three points.
Not exactly the numbers coach Pat Quinn expected from a unit that provided 28 percent of the Maple Leafs' regular-season firepower.
"It's tough to shoot when you're playing around the red line," said Sundin, who had no goals and one assist in the series. "I'm obviously very disappointed that our line didn't create chances in six games.
"They made us play the way they wanted. It's alright if you're creating and missing chances, but we weren't even doing that."
Part of that can be attributed to the Devils' defensive tandem of Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, which shadowed the Leafs' top line.
"Against Ottawa, they had a lot of room to move. We didn't give them that room and that was the difference," he said.
The stark difference in lines was never more evident than in the opening minutes of the first two periods.
The national anthems had scarcely finished when the Maple Leafs found themselves down 1-0. Just 18 seconds to be exact.
"We capitalized on the first chance we got," Elias said. "It took a load off our back."
The Devils pressed from the onset, forcing Toronto defenseman Dimitri Yushkevich to retreat behind goalie Curtis Joseph for the puck. Yushkevich lost track of the puck, allowing Elias to attempt a wraparound.
"I was just trying to get to the net. I stepped on something -- a stick maybe -- but the puck slid to Sykora," Elias said.
Sykora didn't waste his opportunity.
Then, 25 seconds into the second period, the Devils' made it 2-0. Sykora wrapped the puck around the boards, again forcing Yushkevich and Tomas Kaberle to chase. Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko pinched, threaded a pass back to Sykora behind the net, who then dished the puck to an uncontested Jason Arnott in the slot. Joseph had no chance.
"It was a pass, a bang-bang play," Joseph said.
Said Stevens: "It's a very dangerous line. They control the puck, they move it, they're so quick in their puck movement. I see it when I go against them in practice."
In the meantime, Toronto once again got nothing from the Sundin line. Things were so moribund for the offense in general that goalie Martin Brodeur was called upon to make just six saves -- one from Thomas -- the entire game.
"It was frustrating," Thomas said. "We'd chip it in and they'd chip it out. Our team looked to our line to show leadership and get it done. It's hard to figure out. I accept the responsibility. But I don't take all of it."