Thursday, November 30, 2006


Game: Pittsburgh @ Devils

But first, some other stuff:

Jared Ramsden is one of the writers for Hockey's Future, covering your favorite team and mine, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils currently have four prospects in the Canadian Hockey League, the major junior leagues, if you will. Do you know who they are? Do you know how they are doing? No? Well, you can find answers to those first two questions thanks to this article Jared wrote at HF. Go read it.

2 Man Advantage are on top of things. Joe notes that defenseman Alex Brooks was recently waived and enforcer Cam Janssen has undergone an MRI that could keep him off the ice for 1 to 4 weeks. The Janssen MRI I've mentioned before, but Joe is likely referring to this short Mark Everson article in the NY Post about Brooks. Patricia shares an unsatisfactory opinion of defenseman Brad Lukowich.

The New Jersey Devils' official website has an article by's Evan Grossman with a spotlight on Patrik Elias. No matter what you think of his play so far this season, the fact he's still playing hockey is a wonder in of itself.

Lastly before I get to the game, this article by Brendan Prunty at the Star-Ledger notes that A) the Devils are looking forward to getting their offensive groove back and B) Paul Martin sat out practice due to an undisclosed illness. Clearly, it is stated that it isn't serious; my guess is that Martin has the flu or a cold. It's going around (colds are like a Jay Pandolfo penalty shot - no one really wants one) these days.

This leads me to the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN Preview
Devils Record vs. Penguins: 1-1-0

Tom Lycan of Devils Due blog is hopeful for a turnaround in offensive production and in, uh, victory production. I completely agree: once the PZL line stopped being hot, they regressed to the rest of the team's cold production. I disagree with his assertion that Cam Janssen is his Devil of the Month. Yes, he's proof that the NHL isn't soft and it's always good to see someone bring the pain and stick for Devils red; but he wasn't a game-changer in any sense of the word. To each his own, though.

"The Maven" Stan Fischler makes like Madness (or Prince Buster) and goes One Step Beyond. The second half of the Maven's post states that while it's not a crisis, the Devils do need to win tonight's game. He singles out Elias in particular to improve his own results. I don't know, he did set up the two goals the Devils did score against LA on Monday. But overall, he could be doing better. Perhaps that hip flexor was more serious than thought? Perhaps it was the common slump? Who knows, all that really matters is this game.

I've spent a lot of time over the last few days, so there isn't that much of a need to talk about the Devils. A comment from Aaron in the LA-Devils postgame analysis post gives food for thought:
It would be interesting to see them try to move around more on the powerplay. Something along the lines of penetrating the box and darting out would disorient the defense. Maybe even return to the powerplay of 2000 with the give-and-go in the corner and option of Langenbrunner's point shot.
In my opinion, that's a pretty good idea, Aaron. My only caveat is that it seems to me that the Devils have taken a good number of shots from the point only to be easily blocked by the collapsing defensemen. That said, either would be a vast improvement over forcing a pass into the slot hoping for a Devil to A) get it and B) get a shot off on net or making 3-4 passes ultimately to a shot from the point going wide.

Anyway, let's talk about the Penguins. The AP (reporting at USAToday) reports that the Penguins just waived John LeClair, which should make a certain Pen fan I know very happy. Sidney Crosby (10 G, 22 A) has returned from injury and got 2 assists in a 3-2 win over the NY Islanders, according to this article at the Pittsburgh Channel. Their power play has been pathetic, going 2 for 27 over their last 4 games. The Penguins are a team loaded with youth, with Crosby, rookie-of-the-year favorite Evgeni Malkin (12 G, 10 A), offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney (3 G, 13 A), forward Michel Ouellet (6 G, 8 A), rookie center Jordan Staal (7 G, 2 A), and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (11-5-3, 2.72 GAA, 0.915 Sv%). Two vets of note have helped them a lot: Mark Recchi (6 G, 14 A) and Sergei Gonchar (3 G, 14 A).

OK, so aside from a sputtering power play, the Penguins have done well for themselves with a record of 11-8-4; which is really good considering how putrid they have been since 2002. They certainly have the Devils beat in offensive production with 70 goals scored (an average of 3.04/game). The Achilles heel for the Pens seems to be defense, though. The team has given up 70 goals this season (an average of 3.04/game) and the team is 27th in shots against per game with an average of 32.5. The Devils, by comparison, have only given up 28.0 shots per game. The Penguins are actually pretty low in shots for per game with 27.0 (25th in the NHL); but it's no surprise the Devils are dead last in the league with an average of 25.3 shots per game (only shots that hit the net count guys). Based on stats alone, if there's a team to increase that average against, the Penguins are one them.

If you have read my recent posts about the Devils, the recent articles, and the stats in the prior stats you know what I think the key is to this game. Offensive production. The Devils need to put shots on Fleury, put them on net, and - most importantly put - them in the net and not his sharply yellow pads. Enough talk about working on the offense, now is the time to perform.
I have full confidence that the Devils will bring the effort, I just hope it will yield a win. The Devils will go to Philadelphia on Saturday to play the Flyers afterwards, some positive momentum would be good right about now.

UPDATE: My projected lines:


Martin-White (I'm assuming he's healthy. If not, uh, I'm confused)

Brodeur has some interesting news in today's Ice Chips for the Devils: Tuomas Philman is on waivers, Richard Matvichuk is getting healthier - leading to another cap decision, and it's still not clear if Martin is healthy or whether Clemmenssen will see some time this weekend. I didn't see any call-ups from Lowell, so I assume Martin is healthy enough and who knows with Brodeur.



To elaborate on my powerplay suggestion, I'd like to emphasize that by penetrating the box and constantly moving the players (and the puck) around, the PK should get disoriented and leave a shooting lane open. The primary reason why point shots on the Devils' powerplay don't work is that they're stationary, making it easy for the defenders at the point to get in the path of one-timers.

The other suggestion would be to remove the Gionta from the front of the goal; he has great hands but is too easily cleared from the goalie's view (watch the Carolina series last year and you'll see what I'm talking about) and his size doesn't provide the pointmen with the greatest screen. Even Chara has been successful in front of the goal and he has awful hands compared to Gionta. Rupp would be a fine addition to that spot, just like Marshall was.

Try something else because whatever they're doing now isn't working.
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