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Kovalchuk’s gutsy Game 3 performance draws “world class” reviews

May 4, 2012, 11:08 AM EDT

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That the phrase “world class” came from both dressing rooms says it all about Ilya Kovalchuk‘s effort on Thursday night.

“He is a world class player,” Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. “He is very dangerous. He played hard. When the team needed him, he defended. He took advantage of his opportunities to shoot the puck.

“He is always dangerous. He is a great player.”

As for Kovalchuk’s snap pass that sprung Alexei Ponikarovsky for the game-winning goal in overtime?

“It’s a world-class play,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “Not many guys have the poise to hold the puck there, recognize a line change on the other team and spring somebody.

“There’s only a handful of guys that can make that play, and we’re fortunate to have him on our team.”

In addition to setting up Ponikarovsky’s goal, No. 17 also assisted on the Devils’ opening tally before scoring the second himself. That Kovalchuk did this with a back injury — believed to be a herniated disc — only adds to the aura.

He also played 19:29, not bad for a guy that missed Game 2 because the injury was too painful to play with.

“I feel a lot better compared to almost the whole first series and then the first game of the second series,” Kovalchuk said. “I want to say thanks to all the trainers and doctors. They did a great job. Now, hopefully, I’m just going to move on and feel better every day.”

Sounds like New Jersey’s medical staff is world class, too.

  1. govtminion - May 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I’ve dogged on Kovalchuk for years- and rightly so, I think. He’s been lazy at times, hasn’t shown any kind of leadership, his defensive work is terrible, and how on earth he got that much money from the Devils is beyond me. He scores a lot of points, but… worth THAT much?

    Last night was the game I’ve wanted to see from him for a long time. Even though he was in obvious pain, he had an absolutely dominant game. Very impressive- the kind of game that not only gives your team a win almost singlehandedly, but gives them something to rally around in the future.

    I never thought I’d get to say it without sarcasm, but… well done, Kovy.

    • dipthatchip - May 4, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      yeah man, he definitely seems like the stereotypical enigmatic Russian fwd most nights, but he absolutely killed it last night

      • martysbetter - May 4, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        This year, this is how Kovy has played almost every night. Don’t forget, this guy got heavy minutes on the best PK unit in the league, night in and night out.

        I understand its because the Devils aren’t a high-profile team and no one cares to check them out and realize they are a far cry from the trap teams of the past – but I’m glad Kovy is starting to get some respect.

        I think a lot of credit has to go to DeBoer, he has done wonders in his first year in New Jersey.

  2. tackledummy1505 - May 4, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Lol Ilya has played this way for the Devils all year. It’s because the Devils have no fans or notoriety. They play a boring trap game, so no one watches them. I still have to give Kovalchuk credit though, because everyone hated on him and he’s played a complete game. Though if you play a complete game you don’t win MVP awards. They’re reserved for offensive, one way players lol. Go Malkin!!!!

    • mj2sexay - May 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Ugh. “Boring trap game.” Seriously? It’s called a forecheck. It’s been the same excuse as to why the Devils are successful since 1995. Get with the times man. Blaming “the trap” is as outdated as using a walkman.

  3. cerealrapist - May 4, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Can anyone explain why the Devils performance is such a surprise, or why the Flyers are “heavily favored???”
    Both teams had the same amount of wins this season (48) and the Devils top centre (Travis Zajac) missed nearly the entire regular season.

  4. libuchamach - May 4, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    People have been noticing his play on the offensive and defensive side of the puck from killing penalties to playing over 20 minutes a game as there have been numerous articles thrown out about considering him a nominee for the league MVP. Of course the nominees are more deserving of their nominations and probably about 5 more players out there that are more deserving but the fact that he has changed his game and has been slowly earning respect for his developed style of play is making people realize that maybe he is in it for the long haul with the Devils and maybe the contract will pan out to be a good one after-all. A lot of credit to the coaches he has had here in Jersey, especially Jacques Lemaire and DeBoer.

  5. vindicatus - May 4, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    I love the bandwagon jumping Cryer/Rags fans who know nothing about hockey and hate on the Devils because they “play the trap.” Forechecking /= trap. L2P, noobs.

    • maalea - May 4, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      No, the Devils don’t trap anymore but they still “clutch and grab” and interfere on the other team’s forecheck.

      I lost count of the number of times I saw the non puck carrying Dman pick a Flyers forward who is trying to get to the puck carrier.

      So, when people call the Devil’s a trapping team it’s more the way they take the air out of the ball more than the system they use,

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