Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Postgame: Kings 3 - Devils 2 (SO)

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in a shootout by a score of 3 to 2. NHL.com has your official score sheet and official super stats here.

The Devils, in my mind, seemed to have played better than the two teams but the Devils could not put the puck in the net more than twice and got beat in a shootout. It's odd for me to complain about offense in a game where Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta were productive (2 assists for Elias, a goal for Gionta) and the power play went 2 for 4, which is impressive considering how bad it has been in so many other games this year (and last year, and the year before that, &c.) But I must. The Devils came close a number of times to pull ahead, but almost doesn't count on the scoreboard. Shots either were deflected just wide, shot right into Kings' ankles, or Garon/Kings' defense somehow got a stick/body part on the puck.

The shootout itself highlighted the lack of offense by NJ. Anze Kopitar waited until the last possible second to shoot and beat Brodeur and Alexander Frolov made at least 40 moves before sliding it past Brodeur. They got the goals. The Devils shooters (Elias and Gionta) didn't do much against Garon on the shootout and he made the easy save. At least the Devils got a point out of the game. Which is good otherwise it would have set a new record.

Rich Chere's article in the Star Ledger notes that the 5 game road trip was the worst in almost 21 years. When you have to go back to 1985 to find a road trip as bad as that one, it's pretty bad. In the Devils' defense, it's not as if they lost the last 3 games by being completely owned. They did not get outplayed, they just could not generate enough offense to win (and in the case of the Anaheim game, they could not defend during and just after power plays). Tom Lycan of the Devils Due blog has a good summary of the prior 5 games, I suggest you should check it out. Though, I don't think NJ has used up it's karma. Then again, I don't believe in karma, so that's a rather moot remark on my end. It's no wonder Joe Betchel of 2 Man Advantage is happy the road trip is over.

Which leads me to what I want to talk about today. The offense has been a growing problem. The team is averaging approximately 2.3 goals for per game. When watching the game on Versus, it was said that the Devils have not scored more than 2 goals in the last 12 games. That's a franchise record for offensive futility. While the games themselves have been excellent in terms of a game - I can not stress enough that it's offensive production not effort that I'm focusing on - it's frustrating to watch. We know the Devils can score goals. We've seen it last year. We've seen it in prior seasons. Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner. Those are the top 6 forwards. We've seen them all be productive to some degree in the past or earlier this season. Head coach Claude Julien has tried switching up the lines to try something different. He's tried only putting EGG and PZL out on the power play. He's tried switching up line combinations during the game. Clearly, it's not working well enough which is frustrating because the talent is there - just not the expected performance. I disagree with Joe, though, I don't think Julien is being too conservative. Yes, he's defensive-minded; so has every coach who was not named Kevin Constantine for NJ in the last 11-12 years. I think the on-ice decisions by the players are the cause of the poor offensive showings.

The Kings played firewagon hockey for 65 minutes, bringing up Lubomir Visnovsky (among other defenseman) up on the offensive play to varying success. Why NJ did not try to immediately counter when the LA D drops in is beyond me. You don't need to design plays for that, the players should be smart enough to realize that Mike Cammalleri is all alone on the blueline, get the puck and drive as fast as you can down ice. Hell, I still don't understand the decision by whoever is on the point to take a slapshot when there are at least 3 Kings in front of you and the probability to fire the puck on net is low. You can't blame the coach for, say, Johnny Oduya launching bombs from the point that never hit the net. You can argue that the Devils really need a coach like Pat Burns (or their GM/CEO/President Lou Lamoriello) behind the bench constantly chewing them out. I think the players have been through enough that they should realize these things on their own; they are on the ice, aren't they?

Collapsing defenses continue to give the Devils fits and I hope in the 3 day break (including today) prior to Friday's home game against Pittsburgh, the team figures out how to beat collapsing defenses, how not to just blindly pass into the slot or shoot from the point, and how to generate effective counter attacks that the Devils are normally known for - there's a reason why the team's overall speed is generally fast.

Most importantly, I hope the guys getting the big money (Elias, Gionta, and Gomez) start picking up their games on offense. I know they got some points last night, but they could be so much more productive - split up or not. With the way EGG dominated teams last season by themselves, it's mind-boggling that their performance is inconsistent and so generally unproductive.


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.
That's actually not a bad idea. Would it be OK for me to use this in a future post (OK, tomorrow's post), Aaron?
Go for it! I've been saying it for the last 5 years and nobody's heard me.
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