Monday, February 12, 2007


Postgame: Tampa Bay 4 - Devils 1

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils by a score of 4 to 1 yesterday afternoon., as always, has the official score sheet and the official super stats of the game, linked respectively.

Well, I'm sort of the last one to discuss the Devils game. I wanted a full day to think about how to put my thoughts into non-profane words. In the meantime, I found perspective.

The loss is the Devils' first in their last 4 games, their first loss in regulation in their last 5; and the Devils are still in first place in the division. Plus, the game looked great in HD.

That said, the Devils looked terrible in terms of performance. The loss was poor and the Devils have no one to blame themselves for it. Don't take my word for it. Tim Mo at RaReMaDev, Tom Lycan at Devils' Due, and Patricia at 2 Man Advantage all say as such and they're all right in that the Devils had a bad game. The other common theme is that Colin White played particularly poorly. But I'll get to him in a moment. In any case, read all three re-caps before reading this one.

The Devils did play well for a part of this game: namely the first ten minutes. They scored quickly, on the power play even (!!), and controlled the pace of the game early on. Then John Madden to a puck to the face during a needless (again, I'll explain in a moment) penalty kill. Fortunately, Madden came back to play with a nosebleed Since then the Devils started becoming less and less aggressive on offense with less scoring chances and more dump-ins, more and more tentative on defense, and increasingly lackluster in all aspects of the game. The "lovely" commentary kept pressing the point that the Devils are "trap" team where as Tampa Bay has always been about the "Safe is Death" philosophy. I don't think they were paying much attention (I know, big shock), by the third period, the Devils couldn't trap an ant with a tent and Tampa Bay simply controlled the game from then on.

Martin Brodeur was not sharp. Granted, he had no chance on the Prospal goal or the Boyle goal (Brodeur was screened). But the Vincent Lecavalier goal went through his five-hole. That's never good. But I didn't say he was bad, just not that sharp.

The defense was poor. Colin White has a bad habit. While he can bring the big hit and be a stabilizing factor on defense as well as play over 24 minutes easily, he has the tendency to take incredibly dumb calls. A more disciplined and smarter player would not have taken the two penalties he took in that game. The Devils and White was fortunate that those penalties did not result in a power play goal for Tampa Bay. That said, outside of those calls, White was out of position and was more tentative when he should have taken initiative on defense. But White wasn't even the worst defenseman. You can take your pick of Paul Martin who gave away the puck more than once on his own end; Brian Rafalski who took a hooking call that did lead to a Lightning power play goal; or Brad Lukowich, who was constantly out of position most notably not covering Tarnasky who then took the space he had to score the leading goal for Tampa Bay and screening Brodeur on the power play in which Dan Boyle's rocket shot from the point beat Brodeur clean. Actually, if you didn't pick Lukowich, you're dead wrong in my eyes.

However, I can't blame the poor defense on just one guy. As a unit (and I'm including the forwards as well) they could not deal with the aggressive Tampa Bay forechecking, as Tortarella sent out 2 or 3 players up to antagonize the Devils in their own end to great success. They let Lecavalier and Richards run amok on offense, as the two combined for 9 shots (and that's not even mentioning Vaclav Prospal who had 5 of his own). Vincent Lecavalier is only the league's leading goal scorer, somebody shadow him! I know Madden wasn't playing at 100% for most of the game and it's admirable he kept playing on, but someone needs to keep an eye on #4! If there's any one aspect that needs to be highlighted as the culprit for this loss, it's the defense.

Not that the forwards rocked our world. As the game went on, they became less and less of an offensive force to say the least. The number of scoring chances got smaller and smaller as the game went on, leaving some to think in terms of "if only." If only Patrik Elias settled that puck in the second period and buried it. If only Brian Gionta decided to keep going forward instead of shooting from the circle. If only Scott Gomez didn't give the puck away 4 times.

If only nothing. While a second Devils goal would have changed the momentum of the game and possibly the end result, what was unacceptable was the way the Devils puckered with the puck going forward. The Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner unit totalled a whopping 6 shots, only 2 from Parise in the first, 1 from Zajac in the second, and 3 from Langenbrunner (1 in the first and 2 in the third) - all of them non-threatening if I recall correctly. At least you could tell Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez were trying, I can't say the same for the Devils' second scoring unit. Still, dumping the puck rather than trying to pound the puck on net when you're down by 2 or 3 goals is no way to win hockey games regardless of who you are. The offense, in a word, was poor outside of those first ten minutes. Not as poor as the defense, but poor. Given the Devils' penchant for coming back to tie or win games, you'd think being down one or two goals wouldn't demolish any sense of desire to win the game especially when it's only in the second period but the Tampa Bay game provided evidence that it did.

So, again, to sum all of these many words up, the Devils had a bad game. I'm confident the Devils will turn it around for their next game on Wednesday, however. Why?

They're hosting the Montreal Canadiens.

I don't think I should have to explain any further.

ON A BRIGHT SIDE ASIDE: writer John McGourty makes the case for who he thinks is the favorite for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward in the league. I'll give you a hint as to who it is: he knows how to handle Jaromir Jagr but not much in terms of goal scoring.


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