Well, last night didn't go so well for the Devils against Atlanta, losing to the Thrashers by a score of 5-4 via the shootout
(link goes to official score sheet at NHL.com). Positives include the power play (2 for 3), scoring four goals (on 40 shots), the second line and Patrik Elias getting back to being productive on the offense, and managing a point out of the game. Negatives include discipline (7 penalties, including an "abuse of officials" minor for the team), the penalty kill (Atlanta was lethal going 3 for 6 on the power play), and the defense (of what I'm seeing of the game so far, Atlanta runned and gunned to the tune of 40 shots). Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger sums up the game fairly well and why NJ did not win, it seems
. Tim Mo gets to the heart of the matter as well at RaReMaDev.
Sloppy play is not Devils hockey and they rarely win when they are sloppy.
Regardless of their last two losses, January was a strong month for the Devils. They moved into first place in the Atlantic Division just before January and has ceased to give up control of that position. The first game of the month was a disappointing shootout loss to those Rangers I so despise.
But the Devils regained their bearings with wins in their next three games: a close 4-3 win over the Islanders
, a close 3-2 win in Ottawa
, and a solid, dominant 3-0 victory in Montreal the very next night.
The Devils unfortunately could not sustain the winning streak, losing 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues
after their successful back-to-back game excursion in Canada. The Devils then finally broke a season-and-a-half long winless streak against the Atlanta Thrashers halfway through the month with a 2-1 win.
As expected, they used that win to propel them to win their next two: a 2-1 win in a goaltenders duel against the NY Islanders
and a 1-0 shutout victory over the Rangers.
Again, momentum was sunk in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but restored soon after in a 4-3 shootout win over the Flyers.
The All Star break gave all the Devils not named Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise, and Brian Rafalski a good rest. Whilst being shelled to the tune of 6 goals in the All Star Game, Brodeur bounced back in a brilliant performance shutting out the Lightning 2-0.
The Devils end the month on a down note, however, losing 4-2 to the Florida Panthers where the Devils were flat and the Panthers were anything but
; and the recent 5-4 shootout loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Devils finish the month with a record of 8-2-3, with the Devils sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division with an overall record of 30-15-6. That's not a bad record at all. Lou's happy with the team so I certainly can't complain with the roster as of right now. They're winning games and more importantly close games; which I believe is crucial in the playoffs. If your team remains calm under the pressure and intensity in the post-season, that's a great sign because everything gets taken up to the proveribal "11" in the playoffs. Goals become harder to come by as there is usually at least one goalie in every playoffs who is seemingly unbeatable in the post season. Winning close games is something you got to like if you're a Devils fan in this regard. February features the Devils playing 13 games, just like in January, with 8 home games (6 in a row!) and 5 away games. The St. Louis Blues are the last Western Conference team the Devils have and will face this season, unless the Devils go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils should make a point of it to win as many games as possible in February, if only to make their 14 game (and mostly away game) March schedule have a little less pressure on it.
In any case, notice that 6 of the 8 wins in January the Devils had earned were one-goal wins. Featuring 3 shutouts and climbing to the top (and sitting near the top) in every statistical category, the Devil of the Month is Scott Clemmensen.
Just kidding, it's Martin Brodeur! Again, how can you not pick Brodeur? He started in all of the Devils games in this past month and was strong in all of them except for the last two games. He continues to make saves that were so impressive that I'm still trying to figure out. (e.g. How did he rob Eric Perrin on the rebound midway through the third period in the 2-0 win over Tampa?) He wins games, he single-handedly shuts down the opposition's offense, he gives the Devils the chance to still make comebacks to win games, and he shrugs off bad goals given up and bad nights to play very well in the next night. He has even gotten some pub for being nominated for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player in the regular season The answer is elementary: Brodeur is the Devil of the Month.
Incidentally, the Maven has a new blog but it's on Typepad; so here's the link to that
. I'll update the sidebar of links shortly to include this change.