Wednesday, February 28, 2007
February in Review & Devil of the Month
The Devils keep on rolling, staying at the top of the Atlantic Division with a record of 40-18-6. During the month of February the Devils had an outstanding record of 10-3-0; another strong performance throughout February. There's not a whole lot to say other than Martin Brodeur continues to be the NHL's best goaltender and arguably the best player in the league. He's had some poor games, but remains in the zone with a GAA of 2.06 (currently 2nd, behind Dominik Hasek of Detroit), a 92.6% save percentage (currently 2nd behind Chris Mason of Nashville), and the NHL's leader in wins (39) and shutouts (12). The month was so good, even Scott Clemmensen got a start and won. Brad Lukowich and Johhny Oduya continue to be good on defense, as are Brian Rafalski, Colin White, and Paul Martin. An injury to Gionta through the second half of the month hurt the Devils' EGG line, but the PZL unit of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner have been getting the goals to help NJ pull through. The only consistent negative about the Devils is their power play and so far it hasn't doomed them. Made things more frustrating to watch in some cases, made games harder for the Devils, but the Devils continue to a be one of the best teams in the league.
Now, who is the Devil of the month? I have two real options. Let me tell you who is option number one. best Devil of the month first: Zach Parise. In the wake of the groin injury to Brian Gionta, it is easy to point out how Zach Parise stepped up. However, a closer look at the numbers from game-to-game shows he has been stepping up throughout the month. Only four games without a point, 8 goals, 4 assists, and arguably the most impressive goal scored by the Devils so far this season.
Now with 26 goals and 23 assists, Parise is the team's leading goal scorer and developing into an excellent player. That said, he's only one of my options. Who's the other option?
Easy. Martin Brodeur. I can't in good conscience deny this man's ability. Look at the scores of the games the Devils have played this month at NHL.com's schedule page.
7 of the Devils' 10 wins were one-goal games. While he hasn't had some good nights, (e.g. 6-5 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 1; 4-1 loss on Feb. 11 to Tampa Bay; 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 16), he has been nothing short of brilliant against Buffalo, the New York Islanders, and the New York Rangers. 3 shutouts, 9 wins, and still leading or close to it in all major goaltending statistical categories. He's even on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News, the Goalie Issue
(in America. Canada gets the infamous Andrew Raycroft on the cover for the annual Goalie Issue. Poor Canada.) Who to choose? Brodeur's consistent excellence or Parise's monster month?
Hell, it's my blog, I'll name them both the Devils of the Month. Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur are the ILWT Devils of the Month.
ASIDE: I like how aforementioned latest issue of the Hockey News has an article on Scott Clemmensen and Martin Brodeur. I am not surprised Mike Brophy's column on why the Devils are just plain bad for hockey; Brophy's "articles" were a good waste of my time reading them when I was a former subscriber to THN. Granted, the Internet has rendered much of THN useless and that had more to do with my decision to stop buying the mag except for special issues (namely, the draft preview). Anyway, another hater in the hockey media. Should we send them pacifiers or notes saying "We're New Jersey and we don't care what you think of us?" As usual, I think it's best to ignore them.
UPDATE TO THE ASIDE: Trendon at On Fire already has a response to this, presumably to Mike Brophy (who I incorrectly called John).
Very powerful, I hope Brophy reads it and learns something from it.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Devils-Centered Trade Analysis
Well, I just got home from class and the Devils won 1-0 over Pittsburgh. I guess Brodeur is better than Crosby. I taped the game, so I should get a postgame recap up tomorrow sometime. Though I may not do one and do a month-in-review instead. Who knows! In any case, here's NHL.com's recap of the game.
First, the one trade that does involve the Devils: Calgary getting David Hale and a 2007 5th Rd. pick for a 2007 3rd Rd. pick. David Hale was clearly the #6 defenseman on the team from the start and there have been many games where he would get less than 10 minutes of ice time. Needless to say, head coach Claude Julien didn't rate him. Given that the Devils are among the top teams in the league on defense, I don't think the loss of Hale will affect them that much. Some cap space is cleared and now perhaps the Devils can call up some of their more high-priced players from Lowell. Andy Greene filled in David Hale's spot tonight and played 10:36. It's my understanding that Greene made the team in training camp, but the salary cap pretty much guaranteed his stay in Lowell. Guess Greene will now stay up with the club. Does this mean Richard Matvichuk will be activated and play in the playoffs? I don't think so. Putting in a defenseman who hasn't played at all in a season right into the playoffs is a poor idea unless he's Scott Niedermayer or Nicklas Lidstrom or Scott Stevens or someone else who is a world-class defenseman. Matvichuk is not one of those guys. The extra third round pick is a decent return for a salary-cap based move. It may be higher than San Jose's third from that cancelled Korolyuk deal.
Pittsburgh was quite active. Pittsburgh acquired Georges Laraque for Daniel Carcillo and an 8th Rd. pick. I thought the draft was only 7 rounds long? In any case, Pittsburgh gets the most skilled enforcer in the league. He can destroy people and is far from a liability on offense and defense. I guess he'll be Sidney Crosby's "protection, though if he hasn't been messed with by now, I don't think anyone will. The Devils sure won't, but Cam Janssen may have someone to try and impress. Not a big deal vis a vis the Devils. Pittsburgh also got Gary Roberts for Noah Welch. Roberts is a veteran forward at the spry age of 41, but he's got experience in the playoffs from way back. Pittsburgh's young, so he'll help. Given he only has 13 goals and 16 assists in the 50 games he played for Florida, I don't think he'll become another feared weapon in the Penguin offense. Of course, if he's rejuvenated by playing on the same team with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, etc.; it could pay off big dividends for the Penguins, and that doesn't help the Devils at all. The Penguins moved Dominic Moore to Minnesota for a 3rd Rd. pick in 2007; that means one less checking/character forward on the Penguins for oppositions to deal with. In other words, it means little in the big picture. Lastly (I won't mention the Nolan Schaefer deal, it's too insignificant), the Penguins get veteran defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski for a 4th Rd. pick in 2007. He can't be as bad as Rob Scuderi or Josef Melichar, so he should give the Penguins defense a boost - something they were lacking. I don't think it will make a huge impact, but it helps the Penguins, which could make them a little harder for the Devils to beat them. The Penguins improved a little bit, not nearly as much as...
...the New York Islanders! Wow, did they get stronger. OK, their pickup of Richard Zednik from Washington for a 2nd Rd. pick in 2007 was a bit of a head-scratcher. The Islanders needed a consistent scorer to help their offense and in turn help their playoff push. Zednik is not that guy. To be fair, he has been injured for stretches of the season. On the other hand, 6 goals and 12 assists in 32 games is nothing special. The Islanders did address this need in a big way, trading Robert Nilsson (a.k.a. the guy they drafted when it should have been Zach Parise), Ryan O'Marra, and a 1st Rd. pick in 2007 for Ryan Smyth. I was amazed he was even on the market, given that he has been the heart and soul of the Oilers since 1999 or so. What's more is that he's still scoring at a great pace. 31 goals and 22 assists in 53 games. He's been having such a good season and the Islanders picked him up. OK, they may have mortgaged the future a little bit, but he definitely makes the Islanders a lot more dangerous. He's a scorer, he's a hard worker, and is coming off a big playoff year. Does this help the Islanders in their push for the playoffs? Yes. And now opponents of the Islanders, such as the Devils, will have to worry about Jason Blake (who was NOT traded), Alexei Yashin, Mike Sillinger, and Ryan Smyth up front. They could cause a lot of damage for whoever they face in the first round, who could be the Devils. While New Jersey has done very well against the Islanders, a lot of those games have been close. Smyth could easily be a difference maker in those games (and in other close games with other teams) in favor of the Islanders. I wish Blake was traded, now I can't laugh at the Islanders giving a 2nd Rd. pick for Zednik. I have to worry about them not only as rivals but also as potential first round opponents for NJ. Sigh.
Buffalo traded their very capable backup goaltender Martin Biron for a 2nd Rd. pick to Philadelphia. Had they waited a day, maybe the Sabres could have gotten more given that a similar pick was good enough for Richard Zednik. The Sabres filled their goaltending hole with Ty Conklin (acquired from Columbus for a 3rd Rd. pick) and young Mikko Lehtonen (from Nashville for a 4th Rd. pick). Conklin can be good, Lehtonen may have potential, but from what I see, the Sabres go as Ryan Miller goes in net. Which is good for them, since Miller is pretty good in net (though he's no Martin Brodeur). Buffalo did get stronger, which makes me mad, getting Danius Zubrus and Timo Helbling from Washington for Jiri Novotny and a 1st Rd. pick. Zubrus is a talented right wing who can step right in and make an impact. He's been very productive in Washington with 20 goals and 32 assists in 60 games. Now he'll be playing for one of the top offensive teams in the NHL. Good for Buffalo, great for Zubrus, bad for the Devils. Plus, Buffalo subtracts Novotny, who from what I understand sucks, so that could be an addition by subtraction. I think this move helps the Sabres try to stay stable in their attempt in securing the number one spot in the Eastern Conference. Which is to the detriment of the Devils, of course. The Sabres remain really good if not a bit better. Bah.
The Rangers made two deals. After acquiring him earlier this season, the Rangers sent Pascal Dupuis to Atlanta for Alex Bourret (prospect) and a 3rd Rd. pick in 2007. Obviously bolsters the Rangers' prospects, and I don't think the loss of Dupuis will hurt the Rangers unfortunately. The Rangers also get some help on defense by trading Aaron Ward to Boston for defenseman Paul Mara. Mara is an offensive defenseman, putting up big numbers in his last two years with Phoenix; but he hasn't been getting it done in Boston. Maybe the scenery change will help, but I hope not. The Rangers adding a good shot from the point isn't good for the Devils. Defensively, the addition of Mara will not bolster them too much. So provided Mara doesn't thrive at MSG, I don't think either deal should give the Devils pause nor cause of concern.
Well, the Devils did make a deal so I was wrong in stating that the Devils will do nothing. As it is, the core of the team remains the same and clearly remaining solid. Now with an 11 point lead over the Penguins, they can focus on trying to catch up to Buffalo for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. There were quite a few big trades relating to the Western Conference you should check out. Detroit adding Todd Bertuzzi could really pay off if he returns to form. All the same, the Devils won and that's what really matters tonight. Just need to pay more caution to the Islanders and Buffalo.
Game: Devils @ Pittsburgh, 6 of 8
The New Jersey Devils will go to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins tonight, the last game for the Devils this month.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM
Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Penguins: 3-2-0NHL.com
That does not matter, as the Devils are playing in Pittsburgh, looking for revenge. The Devils played the Penguins about 2 weeks ago and failed to complete a three-goal comeback to lose the game 5-4 (link goes to my recap of the game).
Since that game, the Devils have done really well with a record of 4-1-0 in their last 5 games. The Penguins continued their ridiculously-hot streak with the win over NJ, but were proven to be mortal again to the Islanders last Monday in a wild 6-5 loss. They recovered with a 2-1 win over Florida, but lost their last game to Tampa Bay by a score of 5-1.
In any case, the big key for the Devils is to not get behind early. Giving up three straight goals to Pittsburgh is what doomed them right from the start, as it gave the Penguins the confidence to take more shots (which they did) and a good chunk of momentum for a good chunk of the game. What's more is that two of those three goals came from guys who are not, in any sense of the word, scorers on the Penguins - Jarkko Ruttu and Rob Scuderi. The Devils will need to be sharp on defense from second one. This means clogging the passing lanes and knocking down anyone who tries to screen Brodeur in the slot. It also means not letting up if an opposing forward's line does not have Sidney Crosby (26 G, 71 A), Jordan Staal (25 G, 7 A), or Evgeni Malkin (29 G, 40 A). Again, that is what doomed the Devils in their last game against Pittsburgh.
That said, the Devils really need to contain Crosby and Malkin. Both are riding 7 game point streaks. When the NHL's leading scorer and the NHL's leading rookie scorer are on point streaks, it means the Devils will need to shadow both of them. In other words, stick the Madden line (Jay Pandolfo-John Madden-Erik Rasmussen) on the two and be wary if Penguins coach Michael Therrien splits up Crosby and Malkin during the game. I shouldn't have to say it, but letting those two do what they want on the ice and with the puck is a great way to lose to Pittsburgh.
As far as offense goes, Marc-Andre Fleury has been iffy. He's 4-1-0 in his last 5 starts, but with a 4.40 GAA according to the helpful preview at NHL.com. That means he's not playing too well and the Penguins have won more with offense than defense. It also means if the Devils can clamp down the Penguins' offense - and if any team can do that, it's New Jersey - then the Devils simply need to put a lot of rubber on Fleury to generate goals. The Penguins' defense is still lacking in some regards so Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and the PZL unit should exploit their proverbial holes early and often.
You may not see a postgame review as class tonight means I'm watching this after the fact. Which sucks because it's going to be an exciting game, considering it is Sidney Crosby's Penguins trying to reduce New Jersey's 9 point lead on the division. All the same, GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Monday, February 26, 2007
NHL Trade Deadline Eve
Tomorrow, at 3 PM EST, all trades must be submitted to the NHL offices. After then, no more trades will be allowed for the rest of the season. That's a trade deadline and we have plenty of action already.
Rumor is that the Devils may be interested in a veteran defenseman; but given that Richard Matvichuk is sitting right there not medically cleared to play and the Devils are up against the salary cap limit as it is, I wouldn't hold my breath for any trades involving New Jersey. In the meantime, let me analyze some of these deals as it relates to the Devils.
Atlanta's acquirement of Alexei Zhitnik and Keith Tkachuk.
The Thrashers were challenging New Jersey for the second spot in the conference about a month or so ago and now they are falling through the conference. Giving up a defenseman with a good future (Braydon Coburn), a character center (Glen Metropolit), and three draft picks for some veteran help is a good way to stop that for Atlanta. Zhitnik will stabilize their blueline and hopefully improve their defensive play and Tkachuk may be an excellent replacement for Marc Savard at a center position. This is not good for the Devils. The Thrashers are intent - and rightly so - at making the playoffs and their team addressed two needs by not just getting veteran help but good veteran help. Tkachuk was once a perennial all-star and Zhitnik is a good defensive defenseman. If all goes to plan and Atlanta rights the ship, they should be able to make it into the playoffs and give whoever they are facing in the first round some trouble. If the Devils fall out of the Atlantic Division lead, a team that traditionally knows what to do against NJ may be the Devils' first round opponent. The Thrashers, I think, just got more talented and that will make any future encounters with the Thrashers that much more difficult.Montreal giving away Craig Rivet, but getting Josh Groges in return.
I'm glad a possible Devils first-round opponent pretty much gives away a veteran defensive defenseman for a young defenseman, a bunch of cap space, and a first round pick. First round picks and cap space don't play in the playoffs; and I don't know whether Gorges will crack the Montreal lineup right away. Clearly, this was a move for the future for Montreal in that I don't see how it helps them now. Now more than ever do I want the Devils to play Montreal in the first round.
Carolina acquiring Anson Carter. Hmm. Carter was nothing in New York and Washington; but he did OK in Vancouver and Boston. Carter has the talent to be a scorer, but his work ethic is inconsistent as he tends to be invisible on some nights and his backchecking ability is non-existent. However, if he is motivated, it gives the Hurricanes another weapon they may need to actually make the playoffs. For a fifth-round pick, I'd take that chance if I'm Carolina, so I understand why they did it. Will it make Carolina a tougher team for the Devils to face? I don't think so, but they are pretty tough as it is. If they make it into the playoffs, they won't be easy opponents - especially if Cam Ward becomes super-hot again.
Tampa Bay getting Shane O'Brien for Gerald Coleman and a 1st Round Pick. O'Brian, from what I understand, is not particularly spectacular. So I'm confused as to how he's worth a goaltending prospect and a first round pick. After doing a little looking, I realize he's a pretty young defenseman so he probably has some upside to being a top 4 d-man; he's been with Anaheim for most of the year, so he's obviously good enough to play regularly. If he develops, Tampa Bay clearly gets better; but I don't think that happens this season. Maybe next year or so? So I don't think this deal makes Tampa Bay that much better or worse, so it shouldn't be a big deal for the Devils.
There should be more moves today and tomorrow. Supposedly, Jason Blake of the Islanders is willing to waive his no-trade clause. The Islanders trading their top scorer in the middle of a playoff push would be tremendous. Also, Bryan Berard and ex-Devil Bill Guerin are the sources of some rumors. If they come East, especially Guerin, the Devils will have another power forward to worry about once again.
Lastly, this blog has at least 5,000 visitors. In fact, we're at 5,154 as of midnight last night. Thanks for reading In Lou We Trust and tell your friends.
Tomorrow, the Devils play Pittsburgh regardless of the trade hoopla, so I'll hit you with that preview then. Enjoy the day regardless.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Postgame: Devils 3 - Washington 2
The New Jersey Devils prevailed over the Washington Capitals by a score of 3-2 earlier this afternoon. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and the official super stats
of that game, linked respectively.
Scott Clemmensen played pretty well in relief of Martin Brodeur. He had no chance on the Brooks Laich goal, as the puck bounced off David Hale's skates right to Laich in an odd play. He should have positioned himself better for Alexander Ovechkin's rocket from the upper half of the zone; but I can not complain about his performance. He made a good number of saves, even some pretty tough ones. I'm glad he got the start and his first win this season.
Brent Johnson on Washington's end had a strong game and provided a big challenge for the Devils forwards. Fortunately, the Devils were able to solve him. The members of the PZL line were responsible for scoring all three goals for the Devils today. Zach Parise drilled one through his five-hole which tied the game up at one, Travis Zajac pounded a rebound home early in the third period, and Jamie Langenbrunner puts home a rebound on the power play. Yes, a power play goal! The Devils were not terrible on the power play, as they converted one of their three opportunities. They looked good, maintained possession in the opposition's zone, and put shots on net during the other two power plays, so I am pleased with how that turned out.
Overall, the Devils showed a lot more effort in this game than yesterday. They didn't come out too strong in the first period again, but the Devils woke up a lot faster and really challenged Brent Johnson. While Parise, Zajac, and Langenbrunner got the goals; Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Sergei Brylin were just as dangerous. Elias was making plays all game long, had six shots on net, and was absolutely robbed on a two-on-one with Gomez in the second period. He only had one assist, but he did a lot more than the stat line would indicate. Gomez didn't get any shots on net, but he too set up a number of plays that were either lacking the finish (shots going wide or not going off right) or were resulted in a save by Brent Johnson. Regardless, by period #2, the Devils started taking control of the game in terms of puck possession, stealing the puck from the Capitals, forechecking effectively, and pushing the tempo of the game forward.
That said, the Devils were not as sharp on defense. They looked sloppy at times and with a goaltender who has only played twice earlier in the entire season, it was a bit frightening to watch. The super stats say the Devils gave away the puck three times. I disagree. I counted about 7 or 8 of those in their own zone. For example, when the game was winding down in the third period, twice did the puck was coughed up or errantly cleared by a Devils defenseman right to Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin! You're down by one, you don't give the puck right to the other team's best player! Hell, forget the lead, you shouldn't do it all! Fortunately, the Devils were able to catch up to some of these mistakes before they resulted in goals for the Capitals.
All the same, while the Devils gave up the first goal, they continued pressing on for the win and ultimately obtained their goal. For additional opinions about game:
All the same, the Devils get to take on Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the NHL's Trade Deadline Day. We've had some big deals so far, but I'll comment about them tomorrow. Tuesday will be interesting in that we'll see how the Devils deal with a Penguins team that has recently proven itself to be mortal.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Game: Devils @ Washington, 4 of 4
The New Jersey Devils will take on the Washington Capitals for the last time this season this afternoon, the second half of a home-and-home with the Capitals.
GAMETIME: 1:00 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record VS. Capitals: 2-1-0NHL.com Preview
The New Jersey Devils played very poorly yesterday afternoon, in a 4-2 loss to the Capitals. The prior post in this blog has all the details from that one. Needless to say, first and foremost, the Devils cannot come out flat a second straight time should they want to win today. They need to establish that they are the team that is going to the playoffs, that they are the leaders of their own division, and that they are a strong team in all three positional areas.
Second, the Devils need to do something with the power play for a change. Put defensemen on the point who can put it on net; as opposed to Jamie Langenbrunner and his "interesting" idea of shot accuracy. Get Mike Rupp off the top power play unit, the havoc he's creating in the slot is not clearing space and he isn't putting home loose pucks. Have the wingers move in and out of the slot to get the opposing defense moving. Insult the opposition by stating that their mother was a newt and their father smells of elderberries. Something different. Anything different. Right now, it is horrible in that the Devils are wasting man advantages - times when you're supposed to at least really put the pressure on the offense, if not putting the puck in the net. The Devils aren't even threatening on the power play, as of late.
Third, give Scott Clemmensen some goal support. I'm confident he'll start today, it's probably the most obvious game right now where he should get a start, and so I'm going to assume Martin Brodeur will get a well-deserved rest. He hasn't had a start in the NHL for months. It would not be wise for the Devils to rely on Clemmensen to come up with the big save every time for 60 minutes. Therefore, it would not be wise for the Devils to focus on counter-attacking for much of the game. If anything, his start should encourage the Devils to take the initiative and attack the Capitals defense and their goaltender (likely Brent Johnson again) as much as possible. That means pounding the puck into the corners, it means maintaining possession around their zone, and it means putting a lot of rubber on net. Let me emphasize that I mean on net - not wide, not into four players where the shot is likely to be blocked, not over the net - the shots need to be on net, obviously enough.
Of all things, the first is the most important. If they do that, I think the Devils will be fine. At the very least, even if they lose, it would not be so disappointing.
Labels: Devils Game
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Postgame: Washington 4 - Devils 2
The Washington Capitals defeated the New Jersey Devils by a score of 4 to 2 earlier this afternoon. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and the official super stats
from that game, linked respectively.
The Devils were poor in this game. In my preview for this game in the prior post, I said that the key would be the Devils giving some effort to win the game. They did not do that. They were leaky on defense, especially with the 18 shots the Capitals got in the second period. The PZL and EG+Brylin lines yielded very little and could not solve Brent Johnson, who to his credit played very well. The Devils were absolutely horrid on the power play, not taking any semblance of an advantage on their man advantages. Even worse, they yielded a breakaway to Thomas Fleischmann right out of the penalty box after the Caps killed the Devils' third power play of the game. Fleischmann scored after Brodeur, who did come to play for the most part, decided that coming out of his net to challenge him with a diving poke check was wise. It was not wise.
And that wasn't even the most infuriating breakaway goal in the game. You want to know how that could a breakaway be more infuriatingl? Matt Pettinger's goal came on a breakaway when Washington was shorthanded. Unacceptable! The power play being absolutely impotent is one thing, but if it's back to allowing shorthanded goals (Pettinger's tally was the ninth shorty the Devils gave up this season), drastic measures are necessary.
Aside from a few great saves by Martin Brodeur and Cam Janssen getting his first NHL goal (off a rocket of a slapshot), there was not much for the Devils or the Devils fans to be happy about. Not even Jay Pandolfo's rebound goal. When Fleischmann scored his first goal of the season early in the third, the game was pretty much out of reach for the Devils. Three goal leads don't get broken up with such an nonaggressive offense and an effort that wasn't nonexistent but definitely less than what the Capitals gave out on the ice.
Patricia Greuter at 2 Man Advantage sums up the game in one word: Ew.
I completely agree. I also agree with her comments and the anonymous comment left on the last post that Brodeur
should not start tomorrow. It doesn't matter who's in net when the effort from the other 17 (Janssen
excepted) Devils is flat and left a lot to be desired - might as well give Marty a break and Clemmensen
the start tomorrow in DC. That's all I want tomorrow, more than an anything; a hardworking game by the New Jersey squad against a team far below them in the standings. Who knows, maybe they'll win.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Game: Washington @ Devils, 3 of 4
The New Jersey Devils host the Washington Capitals in the first of a home-and-home matinee weekend today.
GAMETIME: 1:00 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Capitals: 2-0-0NHL.com Preview
I apologize for the scant preview, the game is early after all. In any case, the Devils are looking good with wins over the New York Rangers on Tuesday and Thursday night. They won four of their last five. Zach Parise continues his emergence as a fantastic hockey player with his 25th goal of the season. Patrik Elias returned from having the flu on Thursday and while he didn't get any points, he looked pretty good on the ice. The big story for the Devils this weekend is Scott Clemmensen. In this article by Rich Chere in the Star Ledger, the back up goaltender has a great chance to get a start this weekend. I hope he starts either today or tomorrow.
The Capitals are pretty much out of the playoff race and the Devils have a good lead in the Atlantic Division, so the points aren't as critical. What's more is that Brodeur could use a break after two tough games against the Rangers. He was messed with, faced a lot of shots (66 total over both games), and did very well. Brodeur is not necessary to beat the Capitals in both games this weekend, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the end of the Chere article, Brian Gionta is still not ready to return from a groin pull. He's not playing today, expect him sometime next week to return, I guess. Also, the mighty Alexander Korolyuk deal that the Devils have done has been cancelled. Korolyuk isn't coming to the NHL to play for San Jose, so there's no deal and the Devils return that extra third round pick to the Sharks.
Now, not to sell the Capitals short - because when I do, they seem to come out hard against the Devils and/or beat them - but they aren't doing so well. They're pretty much out of the playoff picture and their superstar Alexander Ovechkin (34 G, 38 A) is pointless in his last four games. The Devils have even defeated the Capitals in the last two games they played each other. Most significant is that the team has lost their last five games.
The key for the Devils is not who is and is not in the lineup nor it is not who is and is not starting in net. No, the key is effort. The Devils can not play down to the Capitals at all. Far too many times have I've been watching the Devils (since 1993-1994), they have a tendency to sometimes not give an "A" effort against the poorer teams in the league. A loss wouldn't be the end of the world, but the Devils should be able to get a win with the same line up that has gotten two wins over the Rangers in two very close and intense games. The Devils may have their energy sapped a bit as a result of the loss of emotion; but coming out flat is a great way to give the Capitals some sorely-needed momentum in their favor. Once they have that going for them, a team desperate for a win could create some major havoc regardless of whether Brodeur or Clemmensen starts.
Therefore, I hope the Devils come out strong and give a consistently strong effort - which may be sufficient - if not necessary - to beat the Capitals. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Postgame: Devils 3 - Rangers 2, SO
The New Jersey Devils win a home-and-home against the Rangers for the first time in a long while with a 3-2 shootout win. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and the official super stats
from that game, linked respectively.
In some ways, the Devils shouldn't have won this game at all. The Rangers came out flying with three quick shots, whilst the Devils floundered. The low light of that being Marek Malik hitting Marcel Hossa with a pass for a clear breakaway, who beat Brodeur cleanly for the first goal of the game. Where the other Devils? Caught in a line change. The Devils stabilized later on, but it wasn't until the later parts of the first period that the Devils showed some level of strength in the game. The Rangers had to be pleased with their first period performance, the Devils not so much.
The one highlight for the Devils was that they would begin the second with a two man advantage; which they squandered. In fact, the Devils squandered all of their power plays. All five of them. The power play for the Devils was pathetic. The second Rangers goal came from Petr Prucha jamming a puck in after a save on the power play. Brad Lukowich was right there, but he could not keep the puck under Martin Brodeur's left leg pad - nor did he try and block Prucha who was on the post without a man on him. The Devils made quite a few errors in their own zone, with poor clearances, attempts to clear the puck haphazardly, poor passes, and off positioning. Martin Brodeur had to be big and he was big in net.
Overall, the Devils were sloppy in passing and a number of scoring chances went unfinished or not even realized due to passes not hitting sticks, bouncing off sticks, or (worst of all) going to the other team. Yet, past halfway through the second period, Brian Rafalski's slap shot was tipped by Marek Malik just enough to beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the Devils pulled within one. The third period featured more close play, but Zach Parise made the difference by being in the right place at the right time to put home a rebound off Travis Zajac's shot to tie the game.
The Devils, despite their poor passing, despite their defensive miscues, despite their pathetic power play, and they took the Rangers - who needed two points in a very bad way tonight - to overtime. In overtime, Jaromir Jagr decides that sticking out his elbow while driving to the net would be a good idea. Naturally, he hit Martin Brodeur and got a goaltender interference call. The sort of call you'd hear about that for the next few days from some bitter Rangers fans. While Jagr couldn't slow down in driving to the net - in the middle of his "move" - he certainly could have not extended his elbow into Brodeur. But you won't hear much because nothing came as a result of it due to the Devils' absolute ineffectiveness on the power play.
So we come to a shootout. I have to say, I really enjoy the shootout. It's enjoyable, it provides a lot of excitement if only for the pressure, and (most importantly) it determines a winner and a loser. Some may say that a tie would have been fair result in this game; but sports are all about putting together squads of people to see who is better at what they do - decisiveness is desirable, in my opinion. And in the shootout, Jamie Langenbrunner reminded everyone that the goaltender should make sure he has it before cheering. Yes, the initial shot was saved, but it careened up and over Lundqvist for what became the game deciding goal. Patricia Greuter at 2 Man Advantage has a more succinct summary of the shootout here.
So while the Devils certainly can improve upon this performance, it was great to see them not give up, fight back from a two goal deficit on the road against a team who really needed the win to tie the game up, and win it in the shootout. The cliche is true: really good teams find ways to win games in bad situations.
I'll leave you with this fun stat: the Devils have 21 games remaining and Martin Brodeur picked up his 38th win tonight. While I'm sure the shootout makes it a bit easier, it's entirely possible that Brodeur can catch Bernie Parent's single season record for wins - 47. (P.S. Yes, the Devils are now 5-2-1 against the Rangers this season, I messed up my game preview in that regard, sorry about that).
Labels: Devils Postgame
Game: Devils @ Rangers, 8 of 8
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils play the New York Rangers for the eighth and final time this season.
GAMETIME: 7:00 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Rangers: 4-3-1
Anyway, the key for tonight will be defense. Not just defense in the traditional sense; though the Devils can improve there. While holding Jaromir Jagr to 0 shots was impressive, giving up 36 shots to the rest of the Rangers is not. Martin Brodeur was excellent on Tuesday and had to be - otherwise you would be reading on how they lost. I would not expect Jagr to be held shot-less again tonight and I would not expect the Rangers to take it easy - look to them to try and flood the slot to get at rebounds and create havoc up near Brodeur.
In addition to tightening up their positioning and fighting for loose pucks in their own zone, the Devils need to defend themselves from too much emotion. A Devils-Rangers game usually is pretty intense and Tuesday's game was an example where emotions nearly spilled over into a whole lot of fighting. They tried to intimidate the Devils with their physical presence - screening Brodeur (and shoving him in Sean Avery's case) and utilizing Ryan Holleweg and Colton Orr to throw the big hits and sometimes punches. The Devils did a good job on Tuesday not completely losing their heads over it, but the Rangers did come out strong in that third period based on the events at the end of the second period (the game-tying goal helped, of course). However, if the Devils focus on looking for revenge or looking to go after certain Rangers ( e.g. Avery for obvious reasons, Cam Janssen making good on his mind games - as reported by Rich Chere in today's Star Ledger
), they might as well throw the game away.
The Rangers are playing desperate and more aggressive than usual because they need to get points in the playoff race now. In my opinion, the Devils keeping their cool will allow them to focus on scoring goals and that could easily provide the difference in tonight's game. I'm not suggesting that the Devils lay down and take the pain from New York; just that they don't spend so much of their time and energy trying so that they'll be thrown off their game - the goal of the Rangers playing so physically.
It still won't be easy for the Devils, as the same Chere article notes at the end that Brian Gionta is not playing tonight.
Patrik Elias could return tonight, which would be great; but even if he doesn't he's coming off illness - who knows how effective he'll be tonight. Then again, the Devils are
playing the Rangers, so Elias may be so pumped up about the game he'll sparkle regardless of how much he may or may not ralphed earlier this week. All the same, the Devils will need to keep up the pace regardless of who is and is not on the first line. Letting the Rangers control how the game goes on their own rink will certainly make it difficult for the Devils to win their fourth straight against the Rangers.
In any case, tonight's going to be one exciting game if Tuesday was any indication. I shouldn't have to tell you what I would like to happen, all the same, make sure you watch it! GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Postgame: Devils 2 - Rangers 1
The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers by a score of 2 to 1 last night. The Devils have won their final regular season home game against the Rangers (and quite possibly their last ever home game against the Rangers in East Ruthersford) at the Continental Airlines Arena. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and official super stats
, linked respectively.
Well, I'm late to watching this one, but I'm glad I saw it - it was a classic game with a classic finish. Since I saw it late, I'll refer you to the following for a more complete recap. I'll be brief for a change.
There are three things I want to highlight from the game.
- Scott Gomez is a solid player. Brian Gionta is still out with a groin pull and Patrik Elias had to sit out due to the flu. Did that hurt Gomez' performance? If it did, no one noticed; he was flying all night long and was quite creative.
- Zach Parise took part of one of the greatest sequences of events I ever saw a hockey player do. At the start, the Rangers were swarming Brodeur trying to jam a rebound home. I believe Defense 101 says to knock any forwards attempting to do this right on their bottoms. Parise did just that to Petr Prucha with authority. The Devils then pick up the loose puck and start a fast counter-attack that leads to some key passes in the neutral zone and at the blueline right to - that's right - Zach Parise who skated like hell to get forward in open space. Parise then puts a hard shot on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, goes after his own rebound, and just when you think the chance has gone, Parise directs the puck hard enough and with the right direction to knock it off defenseman Karel Rachunek's stick and into the net. It was easily the most impressive act of the night and arguably the most amazing goal the Devils have scored all season.
- The most impressive stat, however, is as follows:
- Jaromir Jagr, 21:41 of ice time, 0 shots on goal.
- Cam Janssen, 3:54 of ice time, 2 shots on goal.
The win increases the Devils' lead on the division and the Devils get to do it again tomorrow night. It's very comforting to know that the team can still play hard and win without their captain and leading scorer as well as their leading goal scorer and still beat a team who desperately needs points. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Postgame
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Game: Rangers @ Devils, 7 of 8
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils host the New York Rangers for the fourth and final time this season.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Rangers: 3-2-1NHL.com Preview
This week can be crucial for the New Jersey Devils with respect to their position in the standings. The Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the New York Islanders yesterday afternoon thanks to a last-minute goal from Mike Sillinger.
This means the Devils have now played the same number of games as Pittsburgh (59) and the Devils have a 5 point lead in first place in the Atlantic Division. While there's plenty of season left, were the Penguins to pick up a point against the Islanders; they would seriously challenge the Devils over the next two months. If the Devils win more of their games this week than Pittsburgh, it can save them a lot of trouble down the road.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur, who will make his 30th consecutive start when the teams meet tonight at Continental Airlines Arena, has been taunted by Rangers fans for years. Unlike Gomez, he took part in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals when the Rangers defeated the Devils in overtime in Game 7, so he has a little less empathy for the team across the river.
In fact, Brodeur would enjoy helping to keep the Rangers from making the playoffs.
"Oh, yeah. It's a rivalry, you know?" the goalie said. "We were really pumped to take them out of first place (in the division) last season and it was really fun to sweep them (in the playoffs). When you live with their fans, you live with people that bleed Rangers all the time. Definitely when you affect their team, you've got to be happy."
Exactly. It's good that the Devils enjoy playing and beating the Rangers. It's also worth noting is that they are not taking them lightly. Their last game resulted in a win for the Devils, but it took a shootout to get all-important W. The win before that was a 1-0 game where Marty had to be the star. What's more, the Rangers are in a more precarious situation. They're sitting in eleventh place in the conference with 63 points, 3 behind Montreal, the Islanders, and Toronto (10th, 9th, and 8th place teams respectively). They need all the wins they can get and I'm sure they'd love to put one on the Devils before hosting them later this week.
In addition, the Rangers will be without Brendan Shanahan. He had to be stretchered off against the Flyers after a nasty collision with Mike Knuble and has suffered from a concussion. I really hope he gets healthy as soon as possible. That said, the Devils are worried that the Rangers will play bigger than usual without their team's leading goal scorer.
The Rangers still have their leading scorer in Jaromir Jagr (21 G, 51 A); Jay Pandolfo will likely be called upon to shadow him as best as he can. At least, he should be, in my opinion. Martin Straka (27 G, 38 A) and Michael Nylander (19 G, 44 A) have also enjoyed very productive seasons so far, the Devils will need to keep an eye on them. Cam Janssen should also keep an eye on one of the NHL's biggest jerks in Sean Avery. Games between rivals can always get intense and it will likely happen again tonight, but Avery is not someone who should just do as he pleases. The fourth line, namely Cam, should make him aware of this.
The Devils will welcome the return of Colin White to the line up. Welcome back, Colin, please stop hooking opposing players' hands. That goes for the rest of the Devils: giving the Rangers and their eighth best power play (19.3%) many opportunities to score is a poor idea. Brian Gionta will not return, unfortunately. Sergei Brylin played well on the top line in his place against the Islanders, I don't see why he wouldn't start there tonight. Hopefully David Hale is ready to go tonight; if not Mark Fraser may remain with NJ and play tonight possibly in his place.
As far as what the Devils can do overall to win? Break their formation, ASAP. The Rangers have found some success forcing the Devils offense to play to the wings whilst clogging up the middle. One way the Devils can possibly break is move the puck into the corners and then cycle more often to get those Rangers defenders out of position while looking for the open pass. Another would be to hit the Rangers on the counter attack early and often when they have less players back in their own end. Henrik Lundqvist is a good goaltender, so the Devils will have to do something to solve him. I'm not sure what his particular weak points are, so I'll go back to my stock answer of just focusing a lot of open shots on net.
I will not be able to see the game right away as I have a class tonight, so you may not get post game comments for this one. I know, I don't like it either but earning a degree is kind of important to me. All the same, GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Monday, February 19, 2007
Notes & Bits
Or you can direct this and other thoughts to Tom Chorske. Tom Lycan at Devils Due says that Chorske wants to hear from you.
An email address is provided for your use in speaking truth to Chorske: njdevilsradio AT yahoo.com. Do be respectful though, it's good that he's opening things up like this and it would take a big jerk to ruin it just for the sakes of being a jerk. So don't be a jerk.
UPCOMING TRADE DEADLINE ANALYSIS VIS A VIS THE DEVILS: The Devils can't even call up players from the Lowell Devils right now, they don't have the cap space to make any significant deals. So don't expect one.
I've made some additions to the side bar here. I linked a long, rambling post about Stevens Night I did earlier this month that I still like to reminisce about from time to time. (No, not the post; I should have been clearer, I mean Stevens Night) Also, if you like your sports blogs with an edge similar to, say, Deadspin
; you probably should start reading Big Body Presence
. It's by a number of guys from Something Awful
and while I wouldn't recommend it to, say, a family-friendly audience; if you're into the Deadspin-like style you'll likely enjoy it. All the same, it's there. Also, I finally take another page out of Devils Den and provide a link to James Mirtle's blog
. He's a hockey journalist and a good one, so that's there too.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Postgame: Devils 2 - Islanders 0
Well, I said that the New Jersey Devils needed to improve on the defensive side of things and did just that. They were perfect on the penalty kill, and not many of the 26 shots the Islanders did get on net were all that threatning. Paul Martin and Brian Rafalski played very well, as did Johnny Oduya and Brad Lukowich. Good job Devils.
What's more and obvious is that Martin Brodeur got a shutout. His eleventh shutout of this season, the ninety-first of his career, and his third this season against the Islanders. Clearly, he was the first star of the game and furthers my thesis that Brodeur is solid after a bad game. Tom Lycan has a quick recap of the game summing it all up at Devils Due.
He even notes my concern over Brodeur needing a rest. Well, good thing head coach Claude Julien started Brodeur. I'll happily eat crow over that remark about needing a rest as Brodeur was sharp all game long (and not switch opinions, Tom - heh). That said, next weekened provides a good time for Brodeur to sit at least one game.
Back to the 2-0 win at hand, John Madden got the game winner - so I'm sure he feels a lot better about this game than the Penguins game. The play was very well done, as Madden crossed the blue line, dished it to Jay Pandolfo, who moved it to Erik Rasmussen, and Erik's soft hands moved the puck between the defenseman's legs right to the tape of Madden's stick. The rest was elementary and a good looking goal was the result. I'd like to give head coach Julien a lot of credit for shuffling the lines a bit. Last night saw Sergei Brylin in Brian Gionta's spot on the first line and Sarge looked pretty good and comfortable. He was on the first line as a center earlier this season when Scott Gomez was hurt, so it truly was nothing new for Brylin. Rasmussen took Brylin's spot on the third line and looked much better, he's more of a defensive player than an offensive player in my opinion. I think those changes really helped the Devils forwards out in the game.
The Devils even looked pretty good on the power play. OK, they didn't score on 3 of 4, but the Devils were trying to make the most of them in that I didn't want to throw a shoe at the TV whilst NJ had the man advantage. Sarge put home a rebound after a jaw-dropping save by Rick DiPietro for the game's second goal. The Devils were active on offense all night and put quite a few shots, 30 to be exact, on Rick DiPietro. A lesser goaltender would have given up more than just two; DiPietro is very talented and while the length of his contract is comical, his performance is consistently good and such was the case tonight. The Islanders offense just could not break Martin Brodeur again and ultimately (and again, obviously) made the biggest difference in the game.
Last point I want to touch on was the toughness. Division games between opponents fighting for position - the conference for NJ and just making the playoffs for the Islanders - are always intense and that resulted in three fights between the two teams. Personally, I wouldn't miss fighting all that much if it was eliminated - hockey is more about the shooting, the scoring, the goaltending, positioning, and checks moreso than throwing haymakers - but I don't object to fights if they mean anything. That said, while the Devils won the majority of fights (Cam Janssen over Aaron Asham, Mike Rupp over Drew Fata, and Chris Simon over Mark Fraser); the Islanders out-hit the Devils by a margin of 29 to 11. Fortunately for the Devils, the hits did not really disrupt the Devils' game (which is key) and games are won on the scoreboard. Further emphasizing that Brodeur was once again The Man™ and such led to another Devils win.
The Devils get a little break before taking on the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Then they get to go to Madison Square Garden to hopefully defeat (hopefully for the second time that week) the Rangers on Thursday. Then the next week ends with a back-to-back matinee weekend with the Washington Capitals.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Game: Devils @ Islanders, 6 of 8
The New Jersey Devils get to visit the Nassau Coliseum to take on another team who has been doing well recently, the New York Islanders.
GAMETIME: 7:00 PM, EST
Local TV: MSG (Fox Sports NY if you want the Islander feed for some reason)
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Islanders: 4-1-0NHL.com Preview
The New Jersey Devils had a rough time last night but came alive in the third period to make it only a one-goal loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-4. My comments for the game are in the prior post. Rich Chere has his recap of the game in today's Star Ledger
with this telling comment that explains it all (but not why I didn't use it in my own recap, really it's that telling):
"We came back strong and put pressure on them," said goalie Martin Brodeur, who was pulled for an extra skater with 1:05 left. "But anytime you spot a team three goals, it's tough. It's not a position we've been in a lot this season. It happened so quick. It's not easy for anybody to be positive after that.""We did a good job against their top line," Brodeur said. "It wasn't (Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) that beat us. They're a more complete team."
Yep. Says it all, really. In any case, the Devils get to take on a team that has been 6-1-4 since the All Star Game. The Islanders won their two most recent games (4-1 against Boston, 3-2 against Toronto) and are sitting in ninth place with 64 points with the exact same record as Toronto (who is in eighth place by virtue of the season series favoring Toronto). They are getting hot at the right time, as the playoff race is heating up and the Islanders obviously don't want to be on the outside looking in. The loss to Pittsburgh means that the Devils only have a five point lead in the Atlantic Division, so a win here would make things less "exciting" in the future. A win would also be a good way to bounce back from the 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh, obviously enough.
Anyway, back to the Islanders. Incidentally, their one regulation loss since the All Star Game was against the New Jersey Devils, a 2-0 win back on February 8, 2007.
As evidenced by the Devils' record against the Islanders this season, New Jersey knows what to do to beat the Islanders. It requires a strong defensive effort to repel their top forwards: Jason Blake (27 G, 23 A), Mike Sillinger (19 G, 26 A), Miroslav Satan (20 G, 23 A), and (sigh) Viktor Kozlov (20 G, 18 A). The Islanders skate hard and tough, so the Devils will really need to be up for this game from the first shift on. We saw what happened when they weren't last night (for a period, if you want to expand things a bit) and I don't think the Devils can make up a 3 goal deficit. Not many teams can nor should they be put in a position to do such a task.
In the past, I've said that I think Brodeur should play as long as he feels he's not tired. After last night, I'd like to reconsider. I think Brodeur needs a game off here and there because he hasn't been sharp in the last few games. Scott Clemmensen may have more rust than the proverbial metal shack in a rain storm, but he's the guy when Marty needs a rest. Whoever in net tonight will need to play well as the Islanders are a threat up front. I can't say who I prefer in net. Brodeur usually comes back from a bad game with a really good one; but I also think he could use a night off. Hence, my vagueness on the goaltending.
In any case, the defense both on the ice and in net needs to be strong tonight for the Devils to win. The offense, I don't have much to say, other than that they did well last night - power plays excluded. I don't think Brian Gionta is coming back tonight, but he's questionable. All the same, Rick DiPietro (24-17-5, 2.61 GAA, 91.7% Sv., 5 SO) is a good goalie, but if the Devils can rattle him early with shots, it'll definitely improve the Devils chances of getting two points out of this one. They could help at this juncture.
Labels: Devils Game
Postgame: Pittsburgh 5 - Devils 4
The Pittsburgh Penguins remain on their current hot streak via holding on for the win by a score of 5 to 4. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and official super stats
from the game, linked respectively.
Well, the Devils at least came back close enough to keep it close when it could have easily been a rout. The first period was one of the worst first periods the Devils have had all season. Three goals given up, all of them stoppable, and they came from the likes of agitator Jarkko Ruutu, pylon Rob Scuderi, and sniper Jordan Staal. OK, the last one doesn't feel as bad. Though, I was surprised to learn that was his 24th goal of the season. My, the Penguins do well when they draft high. All the same, the Devils seemed sloppy in passing, in their shots, and especially (and obviously) on defense. For all three goals, I didn't know whether to blame the poor positioning by the defensemen or blame Martin Brodeur for not stopping them. I will collectively blame them both. I know Brodeur has been aces all season long, but 3 goals out of 10 shots is symbolic of a poor game no matter who you are. Even on penalties the Devils were sloppy. David Hale knows better than to hook somebody's hands and Cam Janssen knows better to skate at full speed from 10 feet away and jump into the boards for a check. Poor period all around.
In the second period the Devils showed some life with maintained possession on offense and putting some quality chances on net. Brian Rafalski finishes a good play to put the Devils up one. But then a few minutes later Mark Fraser stupidly roughs up who I think was Eric Christensen. 6 seconds later, Fraser's mistake is paid for, signed for, and delivered by Sidney Crosby. Patrik Elias responds with a sweet backhand going high on Marc-Andre Fleury to respond. However, whilst the Devils were gaining momentum looking to pull within one, Pittsburgh's fourth line continued to shine. Jarkko Ruttu pounds the net and a loose puck home to make it 5-2. Jarkko. Ruutu. Scored. Two. Goals. On. Martin. Brodeur. Amazingly, it was that line more than any other that gave the Devils fits. I can't explain it and I hate it. At the behest of their performance and my good friend Andrew (whom I went to the game with) I'll give Ruutu, Ronald Petrovicky, and Dominic Moore (with four shots!) their due. Begrudgingly, I give them their due. Argh.
In the third period, the Devils made sure there wouldn't be much of the proverbial bad taste in Devils' fans mouths by mounting a comeback. Of the four power plays the Devils got against Pittsburgh, they were bad on three of them. But they made the most of a Jarkko Ruutu (him again!) hooking call, as Zach Parise made it 5-3 on the rebound. Travis Zajac took a long shot that Fleury just couldn't handle to make it 5-4. Seriously, it just bounced off his glove and in. Penguins fans were stunned, Devils fans like me were thinking: it could happen! A comeback could happen! Well, despite their best efforts, the Penguins increased their efforts in protecting their lead with a good use of the 1-4 formation on defense. The Devils pulled Brodeur late and tried to make something happen, but it was not to be despite the havok the six Devils created.
To be fair, the Devils fighting back to only lose by one goal is a bit heartning, especially given how poor they were in the first period and how poor they were on defense overall. I have no problem with the offense or the forwards save for their power play efforts. John Madden didn't think he played well as Rich Chere reported in today's Star Ledger;
I disagree somewhat. One giveaway and no takeaways hurts, as does his -1 in the game. But he wasn't a liability on the ice for the 17:33 he did play and he did get 5 shots on net. Yes, the one they scored on was good; but the others included a lot of time in their own end - which is obviously not good. Seriously, Jarkko Ruutu scoring two goals - including the - out of five given up is not a good sign. They limited Crosby and Evgeni Malkin somewhat (Crosby did have a goal and an assist, Malkin with an assist); but Brodeur clearly needs a rest and the defense really needs to perform better. Only allowing 24 shots from Pittsburgh would normally be considered a good thing, but not when 5 of those go in the net.
In summary, the Devils did exert their physical game (21 hits to the Penguins' 12), they did put quite a few shots on Fleury, and they did expose the defense when they could. However, the defense and Brodeur did not bring their A games (more like their C- games) and that ultimately created a deficit that was just a little too much to overcome. An exciting game, yes; and I did enjoy going to the game. I really liked my view in Section 213, though the fans (I'm looking in your direction 223 and 218) really need to stop doing the "Rangers Suck" chant at games where the Devils are not playing the Rangers. They were playing the Penguins, guys; at least say Penguins suck or something. Otherwise, it makes Devils fans seem real stupid. In any case, I hope the team shapes up in time for tonight's game in Long Island.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Friday, February 16, 2007
Game: Pittsburgh @ Devils, 5 of 8
The New Jersey Devils end their six game homestead against a really hot Pittsburgh Penguins squad tonight.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Penguins: 3-1-0
The New Jersey Devils do not get an easy one on the first half of a back-to-back series to end this week. The Pittsburgh Penguins are 12-0-2 in their last 14 and they are rising up the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division standings. To say they have momentum is an understatement. They just won 5-4 against Chicago via a shootout recently to keep their streak alive. The fact that the Chicago Blackhawks of all teams put up 4 goals on an already-hot Pittsburgh squad and only lost through a shootout may mean Pittsburgh may be near the end of their streak. Which is nothing but potentially good news for the Devils, as a Pittsburgh win would definitely put them right behind New Jersey for that all-important Atlantic Division lead.
Now, the Devils will be pretty much short three players as I understand it: one of the top shutdown centers in John Madden, one of the Devils' top 4 defensemen in Colin White, and team-leading goal scorer Brian Gionta. No Madden to keep Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin quiet does not help the Devils in any sense of the word. The same can be said for the Devils blueline sans Colin White, meaning that Johnny Oduya, Brad Lukowich, Paul Martin, and Brian Rafalski are going to have to bring their A games tonight. A lack of Gionta obviously hurts the Devils offense. A lack of cap space means we're pretty much going to see Mike Rupp on the top line tonight. If he played like he did against Montreal, though, that's not a terrible thing. Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger says all three are questionable; hopefully one of them can return to NJ can play with a full roster.
That said, I think the Devils have a great chance to end Pittsburgh's mighty streak. First and foremost, Martin Brodeur will almost definitely start for the Devils tonight. Brodeur is having a monster year and is known to come up big in the big games. For both teams, this game could decide whether Pittsburgh will chase NJ for the next few weeks or whether the two will trade of positions in the standings. It's a big game, for sure. I don't know about you, but I definitely trust Marty in net even without Madden and White helping out on the defensive side of things.
Second, the Devils outplayed a Montreal Canadiens team desperate for a win without Madden and White for 60 minutes and without Gionta for about half the game. The Devils put up a lot of shots on Montreal goaltenders Cristobal Huet and David Aebischer without them whilst holding Saku Koivu and Co. to only 21. The Penguins offense is definitely more potent with Crosby, Malkin, Mark Recchi, and Sergei Gonchar on the point; but the Penguins defense is definitely worse than Montreal's, with defensemen like Rob Scuderi and Josef Melichar usually looking more confused than composed in their own end. What I'm saying is that while missing those three players hurts the Devils, it isn't a fatal blow. They can still play and play very well at both ends.
Third, which is more of a highlight of something I just noted, the Penguins defense isn't all that strong. Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is a good goalie, but he'll need to be great tonight. The Devils offense, without Gionta, needs to be aggressive and put a lot of shots on net like they did to Montreal. The Penguins defense features Scuderi, Melichar, Ryan Whitney (good but prone to mistakes due to inexperience), Gonchar (who is average in his own end), and Brooks Orpik (prone to hooking players). Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and the PZL line should exploit the weaker defense with shot after shot after shot. Especially on the power play. If the Pittsburgh offense gets hot and puts a few in on Brodeur, it is vital that the Devils keep pace and make Fleury work for 60 minutes. He gave up 4 to Chicago earlier this week, he isn't invincible; and the Devils can make sure of that. They just need to be aggressive and take more shots as opposed to making fancy plays.
Fourth, physicality is in favor of the Devils. The New Jersey Devils don't win with much grit and usually they don't need to. But they have a lot more on the tougher side of things than Pittsburgh. In the last Penguins game, after Cam Janssen drilled a Pen, Sidney Crosby of all people tried to face wash Janssen. Why Crosby? Some say it was being a leader, but it was also because no one on the Penguins can be in that tough guy/heavy hitter/enforcer role. With Mike Rupp likely playing up with Elias and Gomez, Rupp should be able to (and be allowed to) create as much space and mayhem needed so Elias and Gomez have room to work with. Janssen and Erik Rasmussen should have no problems wrecking Penguins to create energy and exert dominance in that form. I don't want the Devils to try and out-muscle the Penguins, but it's another area where the Devils can exploit Pittsburgh to their own end. If only to change the momentum of the game towards New Jersey's way and create some necessary space.
Fifth, the Devils are at home. They have lost 9 games at home all season. That's nine games. Nine. Less than 10. Considering how late it is in the season, that's incredibly impressive. What's more is that 5 of those losses were in the shootout. What I'm saying is that it's not going to be easy for someone else to come into the Devils' house and exert their power regardless of how they did in their last 14 games. Pittsburgh didn't come out with a smooth win over Chicago and now get to play in a place where teams normally don't win against a team who has beaten them 3 out of 4 times already this season. The Devils know what to do: contain Crosby and Malkin as much as possible and force the Penguins to play more in their own end than anywhere else. They have experience beating Pittsburgh and they're in a good position to do so tonight.
It's going to be a great game tonight, that's for sure. And I'll be there in person; so my review will feature that as well. All the same, while it won't be easy for the Devils to win, they can definitely do it. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Postgame: Devils 5 - Montreal 2
The New Jersey Devils completed their season series sweep of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 win last night. As always, NHL.com has the official score sheet
and the official super stats
, respectively linked.
What a win, what a win, what a win! The Canadiens were floundering and despite their aggressiveness and scoring the first goal, the Devils did so many of the right things to convincingly win this game.
First and foremost, my contention that the Devils had to get a fairly large lead early was off the mark. That said, they came out strong, played through the second strong, and won the game, uh, strong. They did it without John Madden (which I knew), defenseman Colin White (which I knew just as the game started and not beforehand), and - unfortunately - winger Brian Gionta (which was the result of either Mike Komisarek's trip). I'll get to the latter in a moment.Tim Mo at RaReMaDev beats me to it by expounding the following:
Wait a minute, the Devils scored THREE GOALS on the Power Play? Since when? Since what? Well, if you keep in mind that 66.66% of those goals scored were on a 5-on-3, it's not quite as great.
Well, I disagree with the 5-on-3 assertion. Those are situations where you should score on the power play with all that extra space and fewer defenders. That said, the fact that the Devils scored 3 power play goals out of the 7 power plays Montreal given up to New Jersey is worthy of praise. It ultimately decided the game. Bra-vo Devils power play units. Note to Les Habs: Taking incredibly undisciplined calls such as interference (by way of hitting people into the boards from behind), clearing the puck over the glass, and hooking is a great way to add your recent playing woes.
The offense as a whole did what they needed to do to score 5 goals in a game: the pounded Montreal with shots. 3 goals out of 20 shots on Cristobal Huet before he tore a hamstring and had to leave the game. His replacement David Aebischer fared better by only giving up one goal out of 20 shots; but all the same the Devils put 41 shots on Montreal. That's proof of a great effort from the offense. What's more is that NJ kept firing on net in the second and third periods, even after taking the lead and even after Brian Gionta's injury meant Mike Rupp had to play on the top line with Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez. Mike Rupp deserves extra credit for doing a great job emulating Brian Gionta, going to the net and not afraid to take the big shot up the wing (one of which Elias drove to the net and scored on an ensuing rebound). Jim Dowd did a good job filling in for John Madden. My only complaint on the offense is for Jamie Langenbrunner: When you have the empty net, DON'T HIT THE POST. Fortunately, Langenbrunner redeemed himself by recovering the puck behind the net afterwards and dished it to Sergei Brylin, who got the easy and fifth goal of the night. All the same, I think Langenbrunner could use some practice to help his shooting accuracy.
Defense was strong even without Colin White. Mark Fraser was an emergency call up to take up that sixth spot on the blueline and looked OK. He even had a shot on net. David Hale got serious minutes - 16:37 of ice time - and also looked real good with four blocked shots. A couple weeks ago, we saw Hale get less than five minutes of ice time. Hopefully coach Claude Julien will reward Hale with more ice time in the future; he certainly showed he can play well against Montreal. The best defenseman of the night was clearly Brian Rafalski: he scored two of the three power play goals by coming in at the right time to take a well-placed shot. Great job by Rafalski, he only made one mistake last night. Trying to clear the puck away from a fallen Martin Brodeur from behind sent the puck up the middle to Sheldon Souray who put the puck right past Brodeur just enough to beat him for the game's first goal. He certainly made up for that gaffe, that's for sure.
Brodeur was solid except for the Samsonov goal, Montreal's second goal. I felt Brodeur should have had it. Nevertheless, he made the saves he had to make to keep the Devils in it, which is exactly what Brodeur does. The defense really helped him out by limiting Montreal to 21 shots. Yes, the Devils outshot the Canadiens 41-21. They were that good last night. Good win for him, and a good win for the Devils.
The win did come at a cost. Rich Chere's recap of the game in today's Star Ledger focuses much on the injury to Brian Gionta and with good reason.
Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek tripped Gionta up and Gionta then crashed into the boards elbow first followed shortly by his shoulder. He was slow to get up and while he skated off the ice under his own power, he stayed on the bench in pain, went to the locker room, and never returned. The Devils say it's a minor groin pull, which is a possible result from the trip. For all we know, that's the official story and it's really Gionta's arm that's hurt from the collision. I don't know and it doesn't matter much as he's injured all the same. Given that the Devils will play Pittsburgh tomorrow and the Islanders on Saturday, the injury comes at a bad time. A team-leading goal scorer would be nice for those games. Hopefully, Madden returns and gives the Devils some stability there and 12 forwards to work with. Since the Devils are so close to the cap, I don't think Nicklas Bergfors can be called up to take Gionta's shifts on the top line. I guess we'll try to cheer on Mike Rupp and hope he continues playing like Gionta.
Nevertheless, it's a good win by the Devils and I'll end it with this fantastic line from the second intermission by former Devils captain Don Lever:
It used to be a race back to the locker room after the game to see Chico [Resch] lift up his weave and blow dry it.
What I wouldn't do for a picture of that. Heh.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Game: Montreal @ Devils, 4 of 4
The New Jersey Devils have an opportunity to sweep the season series tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Canadiens: 3-0-0NHL.com Preview
The Devils may have played poorly against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, but I expect things to turn around tonight. The Devils have been strong against Montreal all season long, especially Martin Brodeur. He's 32-12-5, with a 1.77 GAA, a save percentage of 93.3%, and 7 shutouts in his career against Montreal. What's more is that usually Martin Brodeur bounces back from a bad loss with a big game, and the 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday was pretty bad as losses go. At the very least, it's likely that Martin Brodeur will have a big game tonight.
The Montreal Canaidens are not doing so well. They are 1-5-1 in their last 7, including a 1-0 loss at home to the Florida Panthers last night. The Canadiens have been playing poor so far in 2007, with only 7 wins by my count this year (and only 1 this month). They aren't scoring goals, they're letting too many in, and the team (as you can guess) is losing games. This article from Canada's The Sports Network (yes, that's what TSN stands for) states it clearly: Montreal is desperate for a win.
The fact that New Jersey is at home where the Devils are 20-5-4 and they do well after bad losses does not bode well for Montreal. Injuries will affect the Canadiens tonight as well: Alexei Kovalev (13 G, 25 A) is questionable for tonight with an upper body injury and defenseman Craig Rivet is still battling pnuemonia.
In any case, I believe the key for tonight's game is for the Devils to come out "guns a-blazing." In this, I will assume the Devils' defending will improve to where it should be in comparison to what we saw on Sunday. I think the Canadiens are going to be aggressive due to their frustrations in scoring goals and winning games this month. They need to be: they really desperate for a win as their playoff hopes are falling if this keeps up. It is imperative that the Devils forwards make sure Saku Koivu, Sheldon Souray, Michael Ryder, and Co. do not get points early. The EGG and PZL lines need to pound expected starting goaltender David Aebischer with shots and get him moving. The faster the Devils put up 2 goals or so, the easier the game will become as being down a couple goals early will surely demoralize the Canadiens. Holding a one goal lead for 60 minutes is not wide, however. While they didn't equalize last night, they put 16 shots up on Florida in the third period; they do not necessarily give up if the game is still within their reach. A larger lead will make it easier for New Jersey to hold on for the win, if necessary.
Recent history has shown that the Devils know what to do to defeat the Montreal Canadiens. Hopefully, history will repeat itself. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game