Work in Sports
Mogilny the missing piece in Devils' puzzle
Posted: Saturday May 27, 2000 11:14 AM
By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated
PHILADELPHIA -- At least Philadelphia has the second period of Game 7 to remember. It was then that the once-shellshocked Flyers surged up for a final, glorious joust. For those 20 minutes it was as if the evaporation of their three-games-to-one lead and then that awful, surreal first period had never occurred. It was as if Eric Lindros had not been again knocked out, as if the Devils had not stepped out to a 1-0 lead, as if New Jersey weren't the deeper team.
Philadelphia pushed its way into the Devils zone, time after stirring time in that second period. They tied the game at 1 when Rick Tocchet -- wonderful, old, gnarled Rick Tocchet -- drove to the net and knocked in the puck.
What's remarkable is that after Tocchet scored, 20,000 Philadelphia fans stood en masse and whipped white towels through the air. They often do this to spur on their Flyers, and this towel thing may have proved the most portentous symbol of all in the Flyers' ominous season.
Doesn't the waving of the white flag mean surrender?
The Flyers did not surrender, though, not ever. They were beaten by a better team, a team that looks as strong now as it has since its first round manhandling of the Panthers. The Devils look strong because Scott Stevens is hitting big, game in and game out; because Patrik Elias has his dazzle going; because Martin Brodeur is back. And they look strong because right wing Alexander Mogilny finally has some chutzpah about him.
The Devils landed Mogilny for Brendan Morrison at the March 14 trading deadline thinking they had secured a much-needed finisher for the second season. Yet for much of the playoffs Mogilny simply couldn't finish. Coming into Game 6 of the Flyers series he had exactly zero even-strength goals in 15 playoff games. Mogilny has long been the fragile sort, and as each futile game passed, you could see him sag a little more. You could see a little more Bambi in Mogilny's big brown eyes.
"We don't put added pressure on a guy just because we brought him over in a trade," says Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello. "But athletes like that put pressure on themselves. He knows he can do some things as a player and he wants to do them."
In the first period of Game 6, Devils coach played the shaky Mogilny for only 3:05. Two hours later, after Mogilny had deked his way around Brian Boucher and scored the Devils second goal in their 2-1 win in Game 6, Robinson reached out and gave Mogilny an embrace. "His confidence had been down," said Robinson after the game. "We knew that he needed one. He's an important player for us and we think he will be from here on out."
Upon that clutch goal a fine Game 7 was built. When the Flyers were finally beaten it was because Mogilny carried the puck strong along the right wing boards late in the third period, then sent out the centering pass that led to Elias's winning goal.A short time later the Flyers fans dropped their white flags -- now that really does mean surrender -- and watched their team file nobly but defeated into their locker room. The Devils went into their own room and celebrated. But they celebrated cautiously. They have one more Series ahead of them, the big one. They go into it strong, and with Mogilny strong among them.