Well. It was better than the Boston game. Unfortunately, the Devils are officially on a losing streak of 3 games. The last such losing streak the Devils endured was back in December from December 12 through December 16: losing to the Sabres, Bruins, and Red Wings in that span. The fact that it took over 2 months before the Devils lost more than 2 games in a row is a good testament of how consistently good the team has been performing. All the same, it's not a good thing that the Devils drop 3 games in a row. I believe this may be a short "bump" in the road of victories, these things do happen a number of times over the course of an 82 game season. I emphasize the following quote from Rich Chere's post-game article in today's Star Ledger by Jamie Langenbrunner:
"It's not a reason to panic," Jamie Langenbrunner said, "but this team prides itself on not losing two in a row, let alone three in a row."
I must agree. This is no reason to panic. The Devils still hold a lead over Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division and I don't think many teams in the league look forward to playing New Jersey. They still are the team who can hit you up front with Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Zach Parise; play strong defense thanks to Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin, and Colin White; and has the best goaltender in the league in net with Martin Brodeur. Things will turn themselves around. Now, if the Devils lose six or seven straight, then drastic action would need to be taken.
Now, last night's loss wasn't even the worst news of the night. In the same Chere article and also pointed out by Tom Lycan at Devils Due
: Brian Gionta left the game early, re-injuring his groin. While the Devils have done fairly well without Gionta, losing a sniper on your right wing in the middle of a game is a bad thing. Hopefully it is a minor injury and may be ready to come back soon. Sergei Brylin may be a good stop-gap measure up on the first line, but it's just that: a stop-gap measure. Mike Rupp is not a viable option up there, no matter how much space he takes on the powerplay. Why not put Jamie Langenbrunner up with Elias and Gomez and stick Brylin with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac? Langenbrunner sees quite a bit of rubber when Elias and Gomez feed him on the power play. Maybe on a regular line, it would prove to be more effective.
In any case, let's talk about the game. Patricia has thoughts on the game at 2 Man Advantage with an apt title. Tim Mo at RaReMaDev has an excellent in-depth report of the on-goings of the game.
I want to make one thing clear: I will not accept that the Devils offense failed in this game. Yes, they should have put one in on of their three powerplays; Jamie Langenbrunner had a gimmie shot that was miraculously (and luckily in Biron's case given how out of position he was) saved in the third. But concerning the offense, overall, I have no problem.
That said, look at that score sheet real closely. Patrik Elias surely showed up: 5 shots, one goal, Sergei Brylin tipped in an Elias shot for the Devils' third goal, and he assisted on the game tying goal. The only thing anyone could have possibly criticized was when Elias chose to pass to Gomez on a two-on-one. Even that is a defensible decision as the angle didn't favor Elias, Biron was in position, and Keith Jones' stick was right on the ice ready to deflect any kind of shot Elias would have taken. If anything, Gomez should have done better with the pass. Even so, Scott Gomez surely showed up with 3 assists and going coast-to-coast many times; he was named the second star of the game! Zach Parise and Travis Zajac showed up to break their three-game pointless streaks with a goal and an assist respectively. Overall, the Devils dropped 41 shots on Philadelphia with an astonishing 20 shots coming in the third period. The offense was fine.
The defense. My goodness gracious, it was horrible. Sometimes you see the Devils give up 30 shots in a game. Last night, the defense had Brodeur face 30 shots in the first two periods alone! Positioning was poor, shooting lanes were not clogged. I got to hand it to the Flyers. They are dead last in the league, but they came at the Devils hard and with aggression. They earned their win in overtime. The Devils were lucky to come out of this one with a point. Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya didn't look good, allowing Geoff Sanderson on a clean breakaway early in the second period. Andy Greene took a silly penalty which led to the Flyers' sole power play goal of the night. Then the Flyers put one off Brad Lukowich - yes, that Brad Lukowich - which went right into the net. Then Colin White (or Brian Rafalski, take your pick) felt he didn't need to cover Scotty Upshall in the slot, who then potted an easy goal to re-take the lead for Philly. This happened within the last two minutes of the second period. I don't care that Lukowich scored the game tying goal; I don't care how Oduya and Greene are rookies; I don't care how well White, Rafalski, and Martin have looked recently. The defense was awful last night and proved to be a liability for the Devils, instead of a strength as they usually are. They should be held accountable for putting 44 shots right on Brodeur alone, much less their myriad of mistakes.
Overtime? Brodeur should have held onto the puck, perhaps. Perhaps, someone on New Jersey should have knocked Simon Gagne right down in front instead of watching him whack at that puck - which eventually went in. Again, the Devils were lucky to have earned a point.
I don't care how you feel about Elias, Gomez, et. al. or the offense in general. The defense clearly cost the Devils this one. That said, it's in the past and the Devils need to be ready for Pittsburgh. The Penguins are the only team that can likely fight the Devils for that Atlantic Division title right now and it's on the road. The Penguins coming back to beat Ottawa in a shootout surely boosted their confidence; it'll be up to New Jersey to play a good game at both ends of the rink.
Labels: Devils Postgame