Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Devils 6 - Tampa Bay 1
The Devils played all 60 minutes. All 60 minutes.
The Devils played defense solidly all game, both at even strength and on the penalty kill (despite giving up the one power play goal).
The Devils hustled on every shift and pounced on the Lightning's mistakes.
The Devils beat up on the Lightning players along the boards, winning many of the battles for possession on offense and defense.
The Devils put many shots on Johan Holmqvist (and Marc Denis!) and were successful in beating him off a counter-attack, in front, and from the point.
Dainius Zubrus was the third star with 2 assists; John Madden was the second star with 1 goal and 3 assists; and Jay Pandolfo scored a hat trick and earned an assist. Again. Jay Pandolfo scored a hat trick.
The Devils won 6 to 1. Their first win at the Prudential Center and a blow-out at that.
This may be premature but I don't care at this point. The Devils are back
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Monday, October 29, 2007
An Open Note to John Oduya
I realize the daftness of writing an open note to you, as that A) you may not read it and B) you know that I wouldn't know the first thing about playing defense in the NHL. That being said, I have to say this with the utmost respect:
A significant portion of the fanbase doesn't want you playing defense - at least not for the Devils. In short, they want many things to happen to you. Benched. Scratched. Sent down. Traded away. Waived. Or all of that.
I don't agree but I do have to state that you're not playing to your best abilities. While I understand that this is only your second year of NHL hockey, you have made some unfortunate decisions at times. In the first 10 games this season, we have seen the following: you've struggled in positioning on defense - being caught out of position multiple times per game. Instead of playing the body when necessary, you've been playing passive. You have not been reliable on special teams. You sometimes have trouble holding on to your stick.
Unlike some of the fan-base, I don't think you alone are the reason why the Devils' defense has been so poor - just a part of it. According to the stats compiled so far this season, you have averaged 20:04 of ice time a night. You're clearly in the Devils' top 4 on defense namely because you have played a full season for the Devils last season. You have experience, you have the talent, and you're a more attractive option in many situations as opposed to rookies (Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank) and others new to the team (Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski). Even when Colin White - who is sorely missed by the Devils as a defensive stopper - returns, the team needs all the help they can get. That's why so many are unhappy with how you are performing. You can do so much better and that would help the Devils.
As it is, if you want to be a good defenseman for the Devils, I think you have all the tools to do so. You've been given the opportunity to step up your game; based on the first 10 games this season, you have failed to do just that. A quick look at the average ice times will show that this window of opportunity is fading right now. Andy Greene and Karel Rachunek have averaged at least a full minute more than you right now. Vitaly Vishnevski and Sheldon Brookbank has shown improvement in recent games. If you continue to falter, you'll soon end up on the wrong end of the roster. Even quicker when White returns and/or if the Devils make a move for a defenseman.
Again, I'm not saying you are the sole reason why the Devils' defense has been inconsistent at best and unfocused and easily exploited at worst. But you are a part of it and I want you to do better. I think you can do better. For the good of your own career and the team, please work hard in practice, improve your defensive skills in game, and hold on to your stick.
And if you are reading this, tell the rest of the defenseman that I'd rather not write open notes to them in the near future.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Focus in the Slot: Ottawa 4 - Devils 1
The Prudential Center was great. The opening ceremony was what you would expect from the Devils - very basic and fitting. The section where you could write your name on a puck was cool. The view was awesome, the food was overpriced as expected, the Devils Den team merchandise store was sweet, and the only major complaint I would have are the bottleneck-like entrances in getting into the arena proper.
The game itself, well, that was not great. Sure, the first period by the Devils was fantastic aside from the finishing. The second period wasn't too bad, considering the Devils tied it up on a power play goal and it ended 1-1.
But the third period, the Devils broke. The main key being focus. The Senators were absolutely focused when on defense for the entire game. If a Devil got into the slot, a Senator was right there to either close him down or knock him down (without a call, of course). If a Senator was in the slot, the Devils just let him do whatever he wanted no matter how many Devils defenders were in the area. The first goal allowed was off a screen in the slot, the second and third goals came off Senators picking up rebounds (I think) after getting into the slot without a problem. The fourth, well, that was an empty net goal; but you understand my point. The Senators remained focused on defense all night long and forced the Devils to take poor shots, they blocked shots, they didn't allow many rebounds, etcetera, &c. The Devils did not and that was enough for the Senators - namely Shean Donovan and Mike -to pounce on the puck for the goals. It's that simple.
Further compounding this is the fact that the Devils again did not play well for the entire game. Again, they were absolutely fantastic in the first period and the fact that they tied it up in the second was remarkable. But in the third period, the Devils did not play with the same amount of intensity and it showed regardless of their last ditch offensive maneuvers. Most of it is on the players - I'm very confident that head coach Brent Sutter is not telling the defense to just let the Senators forwards get in the slot to do what they want. However, for the offense, the Devils constantly dumped the puck in Ottawa's zone and chased all night. In the first period and at other times, this was successful - and necessary at times. But the Senators eventually figured it out and later dump-ins did not lead to fortunate turnovers leading to sustained Devils' offensive pressure. The Senators simply cleared the puck out into the neutral zone on the other side of the rink. When you put 32 shots on net against the team with the best record in the league, you know it's working to a point. Yet, the only goal the Devils did score was not a dump-and-chase; Patrik Elias (aside: who had a very good game, hustling all night long, hitting guys, putting the puck on net, etc.) fired it from Martin Gerber's left side and Brian Gionta put home a rebound. The Devils need to mix it up when the other team figures out what they've been doing. It's not the reason why the Devils lost, but I think it was a contributing factor and a significant reason (outside of Gerber playing really well in net) why the offense only resulted in one goal.
The first quote in the AP's recap of the game on NHL.com yields the proper conclusion:
"We need to start figuring out ways to win games," Gionta said. "There's no excuses: road trip, new arena; we've just got to win. We're not playing 60 minutes. That's the theme of the first 10 games."
That's exactly right. The focus, the intensity, and the effort needs to be there for all three periods. In almost every one of the last ten games, the Devils have played well for only a part of it. Now is the time where they need to put it together for the whole game. Hopefully, Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be that first full 60-minute game by the Devils.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, Devils Issues, Prudential Center
Friday, October 26, 2007
The Devils are Going Home
A rough road trip leaves the team at 3-5-1.
Why am I looking so forward to tomorrow's game?
The Devils are coming home.
This is not another new arena. This is truly the Devils home the minute you step into the arena.
An arena that is far from generic, bland, and kind of dank - it is the opposite of the Continental Airlines Arena. This arena was made for the Devils in mind. It doesn't just respect the franchise's history, the Prudential Center honors the past:
And even the present:
The Devils organization has put a lot of effort into making the Prudential Center the Devils' real home. I feel, as fans, we need to really hammer this point home. Forget the last 9 games. We shall cheer on the Devils. We will yell and feel and scream and chant and applaud and emote and sing all in support of the Devils. We all may not be there, but for all of us who will be in Newark and everyone else following along on television, on radio, on the Internet through various means, we will be supporting our team as they play their first game in their new home. In effect, we will be represented tomorrow.
Tomorrow, the Devils are coming home - let us stand up for New Jersey.Let's go, Devils.
Labels: 2008 Pregame, Prudential Center
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Devils @ Rangers UPDATED Post-Third Period Thoughts
It's the second intermission in the Devils-Rangers game tonight. You usually see postgame, pregame, or live-blogging thoughts. But let's try inter-period thoughts instead. Something different.
I am very pleased by the second period play by the Devils. OK, the power play has not been consistent, the offense has been dulled due to some bad luck, bad decisions in passing, bad execution in aforementioned passing, and bad decisions in shooting. While I sound like a smart aleck here, I think you Devils need to get open first before firing a shot. So why am I pleased? They didn't concede a goal this period! Not one! Considering how many the Devils let in during the second period this season, that's an accomplishment.
The Devils have not allowed a power play goal tonight. That's also an accomplishment considering how poorly the Devils have been on the penalty kill.
The defense also hasn't been as bad either. John Oduya actually looks fairly steady. Sheldon Brookbank has been OK, but he's s-l-o-w. I don't know how much more of him we'll see in New Jersey. But the big star of the game tonight has been...
Martin Brodeur! Doubters, critics, those who feel he is overrated or has been "exposed," you are all abject fools! Utter idiots! Know-nothings! Etcetera! Brodeur has been amazing all night long, stopping breakaways, point-blank scoring chances, and doing it all with ease! Not that Lundqvist has been poor; but Brodeur has been stopping what would otherwise be high-percentage scoring chances. He has been stoning blueshirts all night long. If you thought he lost "it" or never really had "it," you're being proven absolutely wrong tonight.
The Devils are still down 1-0 to the Rangers. There are 20 minutes left for an equalizer and maybe an equalizer. Plenty of time for a lot to happen. Go Devils!
UPDATE: Final thoughts for the 2-0 win by the Rangers.
1) If you're going to beat Martin Brodeur, you have to shoot incredibly strong and precisely - Nigel Dawes did it twice.
2) If you're going to get stops on the NY Rangers' offense, you need to respond properly on offense. Obvious, but it is worthy of mention. For once, the defense wasn't the goat and Brodeur brought his A game. The offense - from the first line to the fourth - played very poorly with sloppy passing and even worse finishing. I guess Sutter was right to call out Elias (who I thought was just average) and Gionta (who I thought played very poorly); but he may need to call out Parise, Zajac, Asham, Zubrus, Madden, Pandolfo, etc., etc. The consistency needs to be there for the Devils to succeed.
3) The road trip is over, it didn't go as well as expected, and it ended with a shutout to the team's most hated rival. I assure you, the season isn't over. Yes, the Devils play the Ottawa Senators on Saturday - currently the team with the best record in the league. It will not be an easy game. But with their first home game of the season, the opening of a new arena, and at least 17,000 Devils fans screaming in support of the Devils; I'd like to think the team will get at least a little boost from the game. I'd also like to think it'll be enough to say they are the favorites. But the team needs to show up at both ends of the rink for it to lead to any results. Best of luck to the Devils as they try to get it right for Saturday night.
4) If you want a tiny bit of solace, consider that with the win tonight, the Rangers and Devils now have the same record in the league.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, 2008 Season, Devils Game
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Well, That Was Quick - Mottau Will Sit
Yesterday, in the prior post, I reasoned out who I would think would sit for Sheldon Brookbank in tomorrow's game against the Rangers. As usual, the best Devils reporter, Tom Gulitti has reported that Mike Mottau will sit for Brookbank at Fire & Ice.
Well, I was wrong in my reasoning - Sutter is looking to employ the physical Vitaly Vishnevski to play with the also physical Brookbank on the third pairing. I didn't think Mottau played that poorly, but I suppose when you're already on the third pairing - you're more likely to sit than others. I still don't think Brookbank will turn the entire defense around, but it'll be interesting to see what he'll do.
I am pleased to know from coach Brent Sutter's quotes in Gulitti's post that he understands the veracity of the defensive and penalty killing situations:
The Devils again began practice today with a drill to emphasize defensive zone positioning. The lines were the same as Tuesday.
Devils coach Brent Sutter knows his team needs to do a better job of killing off penalties. The Devils rank last in the league with a 68.571 percent success rate on the penalty kill. They allowed two more power-play goals, including Bill Guerin's overtime winner, in Saturday's loss to the Islanders. "When you give up as many power-play goals as we've given up, it certainly is a concern," Sutter said. "Our penalty killing has to get better...Our penalty killing has been in the bottom part of the league, so we have to get better at it. There's a lot of specialty teams today, so your power play and your PK has to be good."
I hope the practice as well as the extra lift in playing such a hated rival tomorrow will help the Devils achieve a proper result. Martin Brodeur will be in net, the Devils will play hockey, and hopefully they will do so for all 60 minutes instead of one or two periods.
As far as the penalty killing goes, I have an interesting thought. Why don't the Devils play with two forwards and a defenseman on 3-man penalty kills? The Devils defense isn't exactly loaded with experienced defenders at penalty kills. Andy Greene and John Oduya are fairly new; Sheldon Brookbank and Mike Mottau collectively do not even have 23 games of NHL experience; and as far as I know, Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski do not have extensive penalty killing experience. With Paul Martin being the remaining one (well, the remaining one who can play tomorrow), would the unit really be better off with Martin and one other defenseman who doesn't have that experience? Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, Sergei Brylin, and even Patrik Elias all have penalty killing experience. I think the penalty killing has been hurting especially because of a lack of experience and I don't think a 3-man penalty kill is not the best time to give someone that experience unless the game is already out of reach. While I can't guarantee it'll definitely make things better - it can't be any worse than it has been with players on the ice who have a semblance of an idea of what to do themselves and for their teammates. It's just a related thought, though.
And even if the Devils lose - even to the Rangers - it won't be the end of the world. Similar to what I wrote near the beginning of the season, Joe Betchel at 2 Man Advantage stresses perspective in this early season analysis of the team.
3-5-1 on the road to start isn't a season-killing stretch. The Devils were barely at a 50% winning percentage halfway through the 2005-2006 season, yet they went on to win the division (thanks to the timely return of Patrik Elias and the team playing outstanding hockey for long stretches at a time). I would love to see a win tomorrow, given how poorly the Rangers have been playing as of late, a win is definitely possible. That said, I have to admit, short of an embarrassing loss - I won't be too worried for the season.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Who Sits for Sheldon?
A big game against the hated NY Rangers this Thursday. A team that is in disarray more often than it should be on defense. The new system - like any system - needs time for it to take full effect; and new players need time - like anybody new at anything - for them to gel with the unit. But with a team looking to get a what could be sweet - if not delicious
- win over a hated rival, perhaps a change is in order. This could have been - or perhaps not - the thought process of Brent Sutter calling up Sheldon Brookbank to play on Thursday night at MSG (as reported by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice).
Now, Gulitti's post suggests that it could be John Oduya because he was specifically called out for being burnt on the game winning goal in overtime on Saturday. In my opinion, the Devils entirely got burnt by allowing a big winger like Bill Guerin to sneak into the slot without anyone noticing. Anyway. With the way the defense has been playing, a lot of the defenders could sit. I've heard plenty online that it should be Oduya who sits - but the only reason why he's been getting so much time and responsibilities is because he isn't new (like Karel Rachunek or Vitaly Vishnevski), a rookie (like Andy Greene or Mike Mottau), or Paul Martin who already has the ice time and responsibilities. In short, in the absence of Colin White, Oduya is the only available Devil who has played on the top two pairings for a significant amount of time last season. Yes, I agree Oduya hasn't shown that he's capable of doing it for a whole season - but that's the fact of the matter. So unless Sutter really wants to hammer home the message to Oduya, I don't think he's the most likely one to sit.
More to the point, I think there are three more obvious choices. The first two are the rookies, Mottau and Greene. I don't think Mike Mottau or Andy Greene has played that poorly to warrant a scratch - but they also haven't been impressing either. Mottau is still the team's #6 defenseman and if you think Sutter was upset about Oduya in OT, I can't imagine him being any less displeased with Greene for his late penalty. It's too improbable to sit a winger like Mike Rupp to play with seven defensemen; especially in a game where the rivalry will get the two teams very riled up. Rupp or Cam Janssen could see time if only to keep opponents honest, as it were. But the third choice? Vitaly Vishnevski - and seeing him scratched won't surprise me at all.
Brookbank is a big defenseman who does have some skill - as he was named the best defenseman in the AHL last season with Milwaukee. The scouting report in his profile states that Brookbank is a reserve defenseman due to his proclivity to take bad penalties and a lack of skating abilities.
That's not to say he's junk on two skates, he's just not the second coming of Perhaps it's a bit much to expect him to revitalize the defense, but it would be a change at the least.
Nevertheless, why do I think it may be Vishnevski? For starters, I don't think Vishnevski has shown why he's with the Devils. He hasn't been a physical presence, he hasn't been a destroyer, he has just been "there" on the third pairing. Brookbank has size and he can play tough (and fight). Given that he still only has 3 games of NHL experience, putting Brookbank on any pairing other than the third pairing would be a big surprise. So we know he's big, he's tough, he'll likely be on the third pairing, and he has shown he can play well in a minor league. From all that, it seems to me one of the third pairing defensemen will sit. Since Mottau is more of a two-way defenseman, I don't see Sutter playing two physical defensemen on the same pairing. Hence, I think Vishnevski will be a healthy scratch. Of course, as a blogger, I reserve any and all rights to be absolutely wrong.
Speaking of wrong, Rich Chere has reported in today's Star Ledger that Sutter has called out Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta.
I know the offense has been a bit inconsistent at times (so what else is new), but you can't convince me that Elias, Gionta, or any forward are the key symptoms of this team's slow start. The team, as a whole, is shooting - an average of 30.6 shots per game. Would I like to see more of those go in the net? Of course I would. Who wouldn't? Given that the Devils have had games where they come from behind to tie it or win it, the potential is obviously there. But when the team is giving up a total of 14 goals in the second period alone in all of their games, when the team regularly makes major defensive gaffes in terms of coverage and positioning, I would think it's the defense that needs to be "challenged," not the team's two most talented wingers. Perhaps that's why Sheldon is being called up to play in the first place.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The Prudential Center
Season ticket holders were invited to visit the Prudential Center today to check out the new arena, check out their seats, check out the bathrooms, check out the food prices, check out the general atmosphere, and to get autographs from the Devils players and coaches. Naturally, I took that invitation. Here's a short review of the arena.
My only criticisms of the arena is that the section numbers are a bit hard to immediately see and the men's bathrooms only have 3 toilet stalls. I don't know about the women's rooms, so don't ask. Yep, those are my only complaints. That's it. Really. Because everything else about the arena is absolutely fantastic! It's like the designers took what was good about Continental Airlines Arena, put that in this arena and improve everything else. This is truly the Devils arena, the logo is everywhere, the Fire & Ice bars seem well set up, there's Devils art (and one amazing mural) that looks good, the general architecture is fresh, and the sightlines are absolutely great from everywhere in the arena. But don't take my word for it.
Take it from the last row in the arena:
And from where I'll be seeing the action for this season:
I got plenty of more pictures, including pictures of myself with the players and coaches I met. I thank them all for coming out to sign shirts, jerseys, pieces of paper, and taking pictures. But the biggest highlight for me? Well...
I met Lou Lamoriello! And yes, I thanked him for all of this - the Devils success and the new arena and for being the reason I named this blog In Lou We Trust. Yes, I shook his hand and it was so regular yet with a quiet power underneath. If only the expletive flash went off and there wasn't such a back-light, this would be a much, much better picture. But it made my day and likely even the next 4 days.
Labels: Devils Issues, Media, Personal/Site News, Prudential Center
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Devils 3 - NY Islanders 4, OT
Apologies for the lack of recent content. I was yelling and jumping and hoping and worrying and euphoric in Piscataway, New Jersey when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeated the #2 University of South Florida Bulls 30-27. So I missed the Devils-Flyers game from Thursday. From the accounts of Patricia Greuter
, Hal Stern
, Jeremy Kenter
, and others who have told me about it, I don't think there's anything more than I can say. At least, there isn't anything that isn't profane I can say about it. So I didn't.
Anyway, tonight should be interesting to say the least. This where I say that Martin Brodeur will likely have a big game because he usually bounces back well after bad games. But that's not true. Per Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice, Kevin Weekes will get the start tonight.
However, also per Gulitti, that may be the only change - tonight's lineup should be similar if not exactly the same as it has been in the last two games.
In either case, I still think Karel Rachunek should stay far, far away from penalty killing duty; and the defense as a whole needs to be a lot better than it has been. But I think anyone who has been watching the Devils so far this season pretty much knows that already. Previews for tonight's game have been made by Joe Betchel
, Jeremy Kenter
, and Steve at Battle of NY.
Me? I'm going to attempt at a live-blog of this game if only because I always wanted to try it. For an experienced live-blog, 2 Man Advantage
is your place to go.
7:00 PM: The game is just about to begin, my TV is set to FSNY because I haven't switched to the Devils feed yet so I have the Islanders feed to start. Brent Sutter returns to Long Island, where he was a captain for the franchise in the past. As does Aaron Asham where he was, uh, a fourth liner. Bill Guerin faces off with his former team as the current captain. The Islanders found success by pinching Bryan Berard and Chris Campoli and having them jump up on offense. Good luck to the Devils in the hopes that they can exploit that. For what it's worth, the Isles announcers say the forwards to watch from NJ are Zach Parise (fair) and John Madden (really).
7:07 PM: Found the Devils feed. Steve Cangelosi is more familiar than Deb Kaufman, though I prefer Deb (sorry Steve). Daneyko believes tonight could be a goaltender's duel (Weekes vs. DiPietro, I can dig that) and that the team needs to shore up the defense. Daneyko also likes Elias on the point of the power play - perhaps we'll see more of that tonight. Perhaps we'll see a game soon to satiate my impatience. Start!
7:11 PM: Finally! Wow, are the Islanders jerseys ugly on the ice. Too busy. And the Devils win the crucial opening faceoff! And wow, the Devils get the first scoring chance! Then the Isles! Then the Devils It's already back-and-forth hockey and it's not even a minute in!
7:12 PM: WOW! The forecheck is successful, Zach Parise looks pass, throws it at the net, and it's underneath the crossbar and in! 1-0 NJ! Whoo and all that!
7:13 PM: Miroslav Satan on the Islanders' third line? Um, interesting
7:16 PM: And we see Campoli act as a surrogate left winger on that last rush. Yep, the Islanders are going to use some of their defenseman to jump up on the offense. Again, I hope the Devils adjust for that to A) stop them and B) strike back while the d-man is too busy rushing back.
7:20 PM: First commercial break and the Devils are looking good. They look crisp, they look fresh, they are succeeding on the forecheck, and they are doing well at stopping the Islanders from getting good looks on Weekes. Hopefully, they won't be like a can of soda in that it's great when you just get it from the machine but becomes flat about and hour and a half later when left out of the confines of a cool machine. Yes, I am saying it: Don't be like soda, Devils.
7:24 PM: The Islanders prove once again that a great way to disappoint the home crowd is to go offside in the middle of a 3-on-2 offensive rush. Poor Isles fans.
7:28 PM: Another commercial break and a promo for Tuesday's events on Versus. A half-hour interview with Sidney Crosby (with a 70% chance of LOLs for IPB Irregulars) before the Penguins-NY Rangers game. More importantly, Steve Cangelosi is reporting that Lou has that Jamie Langenbrunner is skating on his own now. Excellent.
7:31 PM: Dang. The Devils take the first infraction of the game. Andy Greene caught holding an Isle. Good luck Devils PK unit, you need it.
7:34 PM: My goodness, they killed a penalty!! Apologies, it's just that such a thing isn't common with this team so far this season. Take every little victory so far. (Mini-note: Was that the first Monty Python reference of the season from Doc & Chico?)
7:42 PM: Eep. Mike Comrie comes quite close but hits the goaltender's best friend, the pipe. To be fair, that was the most dangerous the Islanders have been all period. Hopefully, the Devils will dull any momentum that shot may have given to NY.
7:43 PM: Hope answered. Two Islanders run into each other, Asham misses on a slapshot, and along the way, the Islanders take a penalty late in the period. Isles are good on the PK so far, but hopefully - theres that word yet again, I'm a hopeful fan, I can't help it! - the Devils can break through.
7:47 PM: End of the first period and nearly the end of the power play. The Devils are definitely looking good so far with the lead and with how they are playing. This is how it's supposed to be with the new system. The high-pressure forecheck is causing the Islanders to make bad passes and turn over the puck. The Devils are playing a tight checking defense to much success, stopping the Islanders from generating any consistent offense. This is great. But the Devils cannot just keep it up. The Islanders will most likely adjust their game to turn the game around. It will be up to Sutter and the players to recognize any adjustments and respond accordingly.
8:09 PM: Great, I go out to get something to drink and not only do I miss the start of the second period, I just arrived to see the Islanders get an equalizer. It's 1-1, no thanks to Josef Vasicek. Now it is time for the Devils to respond. No, being hit hard by Chris Simon isn't the response, Karel Rachunek.
8:12 PM: NO, the response is NOT to let Miroslav Satan power through Paul Martin into the slot, dangle the puck wide, and put it past Kevin Weekes. 2-1 Islanders and now is the time to be concerned. The Islanders have adjusted their game, now the Devils have to re-adjust themselves to fight back.
8:20 PM: The Devils didn't need an hour and a half to go flat; they have done it much faster than that. The Islanders are now looking good with 10 minutes left in the period; and the Devils need to start stopping the Islanders on defense and/or start generating more offense on their own. Otherwise, this could get a lot worse before it can get better for New Jersey.
8:24 PM: Karel Rachunek will go to the shame box for 2 minutes. I believe it's a hook because it was a big, obvious, and incredibly stupid hook on Bill Guerin. This PK will be huge and so I worry because the PK has not been kind for the Devils so far this season.
8:27 PM: PK failed. Shot from the point hits the crossbar, drops down, and the Islanders put the loose puck home. Why Mottau didn't do all he could to smother puck is beyond me (why not Weekes? Well, it was behind Weekes, I believe.) Doesn't matter, it's 3-1 Islanders. 13 shots to 2 for the Islanders. Yep, the Islanders are now clearly dominating.
8:30 PM: And the Devils finally get something going their way. Satan trips up a Devil and that's 2 minutes in the shame box for him. A big power play for NJ here - a goal puts them right back into the groove of this game. And right as I typed that, DiPietro robs Jay Pandolfo on a rebound. Also, Pandolfo is on the power play?
8:34 PM: Since you didn't see any signs of success, it's safe to say the Devils didn't do it. But they aren't being as dominated as the period is winding down. Still, the Devils need to turn this game around and turn it around it fast. A 2 goal deficit against a top goalie like DiPietro and a team that's now playing well is a very difficult task.
8:41 PM: Sutter has mixed up the lines as the period winds down, the Islanders commit an infraction. Short of a quick strike, the Devils will start the third period with a man advantage. They don't get it, but a man advantage is good. They need all the advantages they can get if they want to get back into this game. The second has been very poor for the Devils, a sharp contrast - if not an exact opposite - of the first period. The Devils have a lot to do to try and get two points out of it. Hopefully - there's that word again - they can get it done.
8:48 PM: In lieu of a meaningful intermission, I would like to suggest some live power metal from YouTube: Dragonforce playing Revolution Deathsquad. Yes, they do have a bassist.
8:59 PM: Patrik Elias only had 6 shifts that period? Maybe that's why the offense sputtered. By that logic, maybe Sutter will bench some defensemen to send the message of...something, I'm not sure. Speaking of things I'm not sure about, how come FSNY/FSNY2 has so much trouble with their clocks on their graphics?
9:02 PM: JAY PANDOLFO IS THE GOAL SCORING MACHINE!! He just gets one with a floater that goes up over Rick DiPietro and just under the crossbar. Chico says it was just a wicked shot. Any Pandolfo shot that goes in is wicked, if you ask me. Now that was a response! 3-2, let's go Devils!
9:05 PM: Rod Pelley assisted on Pandolfo's goal (along with Brylin). That was Pelley's first point in the NHL, congratulations to him.
9:06 PM: How did Comrie miss that!? I'm glad he did, but that should have been the Isles' fourth.
9:08 PM: Fun fact: Pandolfo's goal is his third of the season. At this rate, Pandolfo will have 30 goals this season. I love ridiculous early-season stat extrapolation.
9:09 PM: Madden on a breakaway and the shot is tipped over the bar! So close! But the Devils are looking a lot better so far this period. Keep on attacking!
9:14 PM: Gionta's stick catches Comrie's face and it drew blood. Intention doesn't matter; that's a double minor. I know the puck was in the air, but the stick has to be controlled. That was a dumb decision by Gionta to try and bat it down to begin with and now it has led to this unfortunate four-minute penalty kill. Good luck to NJ. If they can kill it, it will be a momentum boost for sure.
9:18 PM: The kill has been great so far. The clearances have been solid and the Islanders haven't been able to get too much going. Then Oduya made a clearance that went high and over the glass with a little over 30 second left. Fortunately for the Devils and Oduya, the puck seems to have taken a deflection off the glass so no delay of game penalty.
9:19 PM: PENALTY KILLED! Awesome! 8 minutes left for an equalizer, go Devils!
9:20 PM: I SPEAK TOO SOON! BRIAN GIONTA OFF THE DEFLECTION! Great drive to the net by Zubrus, great job by Martin to pick up the rebound and for the shot, and great job by Gionta for the re-direction! 3-3! Don't stop now, Devils, there's a lot of time left for a lot to happen.
9:28 PM: A little less than 4 minutes left and the Islanders are surging a bit; but the Devils aren't being steamrolled on defense like they did in the second. They're getting chances too. Great hockey game, but I would love a Devils goal very soon to really put the screws to the Islanders.
9:33 PM: Sergei Brylin dishes it to Jay Pandolfo on the off-wing and a shot to DiPietro's glove. Yes, Pandolfo is looking for the winner. I love it. Less than 2 minutes left. Keep up the pressure, Devils.
9:34 PM: Sean Bergenheim may have just become the goat. 2 minutes for interference. You can't hit players away from the play, even if it wasn't much. Devils on the power play with 1:10 left.
9:38 PM: And we are going to OVERTIME. 42 seconds of power play time will carry over for the Devils. If I'm Sutter, I push my team to get the goal here rather than go into a shootout. I don't know how good Weekes is good in shootouts, but I do know DiPietro can definitely handle their own. These 42 second will be crucial.
9:39 PM: Devils didn't get it, but the power play did their best. Hopefully the Devils can hold the Islanders back from their offensive pushes.
9:39/9:40 PM: KAREL RACHUNEK HIT THE POST?! OR DID IT GO IN!? Can we get a review on that, refs? That was ODD.
9:42 PM: Sergei Brylin loses his balance on a breakaway, that could have been something but no dice. Also: a replay showed that Rachunek did just hit the post - my mistake earlier. Got my hopes up.
9:44 PM: Late call by the ref! Andy Greene will sit for the rest of overtime for tripping. This penalty kill is obviously crucial. Good luck, PK unit.
9:47 PM: The Islanders win the game in overtime by Bill Guerin sneaking into the slot behind Martin to put home the rebound. The penalty kill failed and the Devils lose the game. They get a point, but it's still a loss.
9:49 PM: Recovering from the second period to tie the game was great. Losing the game shorthanded was not. The game ends 4-3 and the Devils will play their next game next Thursday against the Rangers. I hope the team will finally get their heads on straight and perhaps be able to put together a solid 60 minutes of hockey during their relatively long rest.
9:55 PM: This concludes my first attempt at liveblogging - the title has been altered to account for this and I hope you all enjoyed it. The game didn't end well, but considering how terrible the second period was for the Devils - you have to admit that taking them to overtime is a lot better than seeing the team roll over in the third period. While everything the Devils did in the second period was poor, the Devils did give a much better performance on offense and defense. Their never-give-up approach in the third yielded results. As a whole, the Devils clearly need to do improve in terms of discipline (Who trips up a player with less than a minute in overtime, Greene? Bad hockey players, that's who.) and playing a consistent level of hockey. Again, I hope they can work on this for Thursday's game against the Rangers in MSG.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, 2008 Pregame, 2008 Season, Devils Game
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Devils 5 - Pittsburgh 4
The Devils won an incredibly weird game against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight by a score 5-4.
The Devils put 35 shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and made more of their chances than Pittsburgh. But it was different in that we saw Zach Parise play center and pick up 3 assists, Jay Pandolfo getting a goal, and seeing both Travis Zajac and John Madden get braces. They also took far less penalties with the Penguins playing absolutely undisciplined as the game got on - especially in the second period. There was also controversy with Travis Zajac's second goal of the night - and the equalizer - as Brian Gionta was shoved into the net while the puck was being put in. Not to mention a 2-on-0 breakaway goal being taken away for a too many men on the ice call on Pittsburgh, helping the Devils dodge a bullet.
Nonetheless, I will be brief. The offense was good. I have no real issue with how the forwards played. OK, their passing and possession on offense could be better; and the power play could have been a lot more effective at times despite going 2 for 7. Still, they did their job. Patrik Elias did well. Zach Parise did well. Aaron Asham did well. John Madden did well. Travis Zajac did very well and probably was the best player on the ice tonight. Etc. Etc.
The defense needs to get better. Martin Brodeur was either screened, had a defenseman try and cover an open man without a stick, and got beat by two deflections. Brodeur did what he could, but those are ridiculously hard to stop. The defense played very porously. I really would not like to see Karel Rachunek get serious time on the penalty kill until he gets better, period, end stop. The defensemen group as a whole looked a bit lost all night long and they had trouble at times with playing the puck which led to costly turnovers or further Penguin offensive pressure. I felt that Paul Martin in particular played very poorly tonight. I know he got an assist tonight, but he really could have played a lot better on defense. For someone who will likely be playing 24-26 minutes a night (and he played 26:06 tonight
), he needs to step it up.
The Devils won two games in a row and scored a total of 11 goals in doing so. That's good. But both games weren't strong wins and New Jersey succeeded in spite of their defense. That's ugly. That can't continue to happen. That needs to get better. Perhaps it'll be better tomorrow when the Devils will play Philadelphia. Best of luck to them and to the expected starter, Kevin Weekes.
(Note: link goes to Gulitti reporting on the line-up changes, further proving that Gulitti's blog may be Fire & Ice, but he's still on fire from his excellent preseason coverage.)
Labels: 2008 Postgame, 2008 Season
Monday, October 15, 2007
Missing Colin White
According to Tom Gulitti's blog the Devils have taken the day off.
Given that the Devils have their first inter-division games this week in a short period of time. They visit Pittsburgh to play Sidney Crosby & Friends on Wednesday, Thursday to play the Flyers, and then go to Long Island to play the Islanders. Not the easiest stretch of games against the easiest of teams. Counting out the Flyers and/or the Islanders is something that you or I may do with no cost to the team. Both of those teams gave the Devils some tough games despite struggling last season (yes, I know the Islanders made the playoffs, it only took them 82 games to get there). Some extra rest in preparation of that stretch is a good idea because they won't get it in a few days.
Last night, I was on the radio on Rob Kowal's NY Hockey Talk. The show has been uploaded in an MP3 format on the show's website
, so if you missed it - you can hear it at your own convenience. Of the many questions Rob asked me, the topic of Colin White came up. We have not heard any word on how severe the eye injury that White took during training camp. I mentioned that this is a big reason why the Devils have performed so poorly on defense to start the season. Frankly, I think the team misses him. I'd like to elaborate why I think this since I just quickly said as such last night.
Colin White is a defensive defensemen who not only brings size and Sean Avery-crushing hits
to the team. He is a sound positional defenseman and that can never be understated. It's arguably one of the biggest aspects of a game that can be overlooked, except when the positioning is poor. When the player is in position, the other team's attack can be stifled or slowed down - sometimes to the point where you When the player is out of position, almost anybody will notice it when the other team takes advantage of it for a scoring chance or a goal. Consider Nicklas Lidstrom, for example. He has been a dominating defenseman for all these years for Detroit if only because he is rarely - rarely
- out of position. He's usually in the right place at the right time to make the right play to turn what could have been dangerous for his team into what isn't dangerous at all. And it's a trait that requires not only vision and timing, but also experience - which is why I think it takes longer for young defensemen to acclimate themselves to the NHL than young forwards. White (or anyone else) isn't nearly as adept at the abstractness of defense as Lidstrom; but White is good enough to bring stability to the blueline. Good enough to be a defenseman who can handle the other team's top forwards on every night and do a good job.
More to the point, no one else on the team is as good at it as White. Paul Martin is a two-way defenseman who's getting used to being in the #1 spot - even so, he's played much of his career with a more defensive or more experienced defender on his pairing. So far this season, it's been John Oduya, who is still fairly young and expecting him to play solid positional defense for 22+ minutes a night is asking a bit much for now. Ditto Andy Greene, who is even younger and less experienced than even Oduya. Karel Rachunek has never been known for being so good defensively, so he can't compare to White. Vitaly Vishnevski's specialty is being physical - not necessarily defensive, as he was generally on the third pairing in Nashville last season. Mike Mottau has had a great start, but the team can't rely on a player who's last appearance in the NHL was 4 games with Calgary back in the 2002-03 season for being a strong defenseman. Richard Matvichuk once was as defensive, but he's far too slow to be effective; hence, he's due to be traded from New Jersey.
Sheldon Brookbank? Forget it.
I'm not saying all the Devils defenseman are bad; just that they don't bring what Colin White brings to the table on the defensive side of things - especially in positional defense. So far, given that the Devils have given up an average of 28.4 shots per game and 16 goals, it has been clearly hurting the team. If the Devils are looking to improve in one area right away that could improve the team, it has to be a defensive defenseman. Not a physical defenseman or a two-way defenseman, but someone who can be a shutdown player against the opposition's talented forwards. Outside of White, I don't think there is any defenseman on the Devils who fits that role - someone will have to either step up or the Devils will have to make a deal to bring someone like that to the team.
Assuming White will return to hockey - I hope his vision returns at the very least - the Devils could certainly look to improve in that area should they consider a trade in the future (aside from Matvichuk, I really don't think the Devils will get someone who can step in right away to bolster the defense. If White's injury continues to keep him out of the line up - and I fear it might be - the Devils will have to get their current roster of defensemen to improve that regard. Even then, they may still have to get help at that position. White's skillset is valuable, and his loss really hurts the team.
Hence, my reasoning for saying that the Devils miss Colin White.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues, Media
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I Will Be Heard
This is the post where I normally would discuss last night's game, the crazy and wild 6-5 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.
This is where I would normally discuss how the Devils found great success by constantly shooting the puck (35 shots) and being effective on the power play (3 for 7! Yes, the Devils
went 3 for 7 on the power play). I would note that Patrik Elias has had a big game with the game winning goal in two power plays goals and an assist; proving all his critics quite wrong. Also, I would normally mention how the defense really needs to get back to basics in terms of positional and zone coverages as the Devils got lit up, despite the loss. Giving up three in a period is not acceptable.
But I won't. Well, except for those words, of course. Namely, I want to engage in some self-promotion. I will be heard on the radio tonight. Yes, the actual radio. I will be on Robert Kowal's New York Hockey Talk
on 1240 AM, WGBB
tonight. The show runs from 9 PM to 10 PM; I'm not sure exactly when I'll be on, but I'm slated to appear on the show anyway. You can listen by tuning into 1240 AM or through a stream at the NY Hockey Talk website.
Please tune in as I try very hard to avoid sounding utterly silly, stupid, or too nervous to speak.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, Media, Personal/Site News
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Why Tonight Favors the Devils
Sometimes, I find that the best way to get prepared for a game is to read the preview at NHL.com. They're good at pointing out recent trends, injuries, and provides an overall view of each team's situation. Here's the one for tonight's Devils game in Atlanta.
If you think the first four games have been poor for New Jersey, check out Atlanta's start to the season. In addition to losing considerable talent, they have not even won a game yet. They have scored only four goals while giving up 17, one of their most talented players - and one of the best wingers in the league - Marian Hossa is injured, and their most recent game was a 6-0 rout by the Daniel Briere-less and Chris Drury-less Buffalo Sabres. If you think it's dim for the Devils, then it's completely dark for the Thrashers. I believe it's fair to say that the Thrashers are playing poorer hockey than New Jersey and for that reason alone, the Devils should be favored to win. I'm quite confident that Brent Sutter, whom I hope is feeling better
, will not allow his team to sleepwalk through a second consecutive game. Assuming that Atlanta continues to play miserably, of course. My first inclination is to believe that Atlanta will be hungry for a win after such a big loss, but considering how poorly they have been playing, I can't even count on that. I'm not guaranteeing or predicting a win for the Devils, I just think they are likely to win. As a fan, I reserve the right to be wrong (heh).
Before tonight's game, check out the following:Trendon Lynch at On Fire has an update on six Devils prospects.
It's quite positive, as these six have started their respective seasons very strong. It's definitely worth checking out. Patricia Greuter at 2 Man Advantage is holding a contest.
Give her some info, she'll give you a sticker, you put it somewhere and take a picture, and you can win some merchandise. I'd like to give you a hint and inspiration from Brian Ellis Rules
, but apparently, the stickers section isn't working. Ah, well. You'll come up with something.
From the AP, Jesse Boulerice of the Philadelphia Flyers has been suspended for 25 games for cross-checking Ryan Kesley of the Vancouver Canucks in the face.
No, that's not a mistake. A man actually cross-checked another man in the face on purpose. The suspension is among the longest in NHL history. Good. It should rank among the longest in NHL history as it's among the most violent acts in a game. Along with the Steve Downie suspension, it's nice to see the league actually deal out appropriately long suspension periods for a change. Greg Wyshynski at the NHL Fanhouse has some further ideas regarding suspensions.
I don't know how serious he is, but I definitely would agree with fining the team (in this case, the Flyers) and considering some kind of suspension or reprimand for the referee's for the game going out of their control.
Lastly, and also from the NHL Fanhouse, Jes Golbez has pictures of the Anaheim Ducks' Stanley Cup ring. Take a good look at those, everyone. They're not just gorgeous, they represent total victory. That's the goal the Devils - and every other organization (at least it should be) in the league) - to earn the right to own and wear the championship ring. Proof that they were better than 29 other teams last season. Last I checked, nobody has won them for this season just yet. Keep that in mind even if the Devils do lose to Atlanta tonight. There's a lot of hockey left and to condemn the season as a loss just because the first five games didn't go well is daft in the bigger picture.
Labels: 2008 Pregame, 2008 Season, Hockey - General, Hockey Issues
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Well, That Sucked
The Florida Panthers just defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-0. The game summary is complete at NHL.com.
It was their first win of the season and the team's first shutout. As the score would suggest, the Devils certainly did not play well. Let's count the ways:
1. The Devils gave up 31 shots, including 16 in the second period.
2. The Devils were Vokoun-ed (say it out loud, it makes sense, really) all of their scoring chances.
3. The Devils committed 8 penalties for 7 power plays - including a two man advantage (the bad kind, not the blog) as of a result of Brent Sutter presumably yelling at the referee about the interference call on David Clarkson (which was sketchy considering he was bumped into the goalie). I'm not really sure, but I think it was something that I think included a duck, a shoe, a mother, a bull, and fecal matter
4. The Panthers scored two power play goals - which sunk the Devils.
5. The Devils had 5 power plays and did little with them after the first period.
6. The Devils got out hit 24-20...OK, that one wasn't so terrible considering the first five points.
As it is, the game is over and the Devils need to re-tool for Atlanta. Tonight, Sutter mixed up the lines by switching Zach Parise and Patrik Elias at left wing, put Aaron Asham on the second line with Dainius Zubrus and Parise, and slotted David Clarkson on the checking line. The lines didn't look too bad. But considering the Devils lost by the Panthers chiefly capitalizing on poor discipline, the Devils have a lot of work to do to improve in all facets in the game. Replacing Parise and Elias again or moving some other players along the forward lines and defensive pairings alone isn't going to improve the situation. The players need to keep their focus for 60 minutes, keep their focus to avoid taking eight penalties, keep their defensive coverages straight, keep driving to the net, keep putting shots on net, and to keep trying to make a comeback instead of throwing down the gloves or giving up altogether. How to do that, I don't know; it's not up to me - I'm just the fan. Regardless of what I think. the Devils need to get ready for Atlanta and hopefully continue the Thrashers' losing streak.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, 2008 Season
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Matvichuk's On the Outs, Is Anyone Else?
Tom Gulitti has reported at Fire & Ice that Richard Matvichuk is no longer in the team's plans and he will be moved.
The 34 year old defensive defenseman was on injured reserve until the last game of the season and the playoffs. While he certainly looked good in those games - which is saying something since the Devils defense resembled a paper tiger in last season's playoffs - Brent Sutter isn't interested in his services. That explains why he has been a healthy scratch for the first three games this season. I can't say that Matvichuk gave the Devils a lot in his short tenure in New Jersey; but he did improve greatly after a horrible first-half of the first year he was a Devil and he did show up to play in the playoffs last season. I wish him the best of luck in his new home.
Which leads to the perfectly logical question of what will the Devils do with Matvichuk. From Gulitti's post,
we know Matvichuk won't be placed on waivers. Well, not for now, at least. Also, as Gulitti notes, it's unlikely that the Devils will deal Matvichuk to create more cap space to sign the surprisingly available Danny Markov.
While you can't really guess what Lou Lamoriello plans to do, if Gulitti is ruling it out this early; I wouldn't expect Matvichuk to be traded for a low draft pick and have the Devils immediately sign Markov. That's what I would shoot for; even though I'm not confident as to whether Markov is in shape enough to immediately step in and play or if he will be a better fit in the system than Matvichuk.
So what should we expect? Again, since you can't really guess what Lou plans to do, it's entirely possible that Lou has an idea of who he wants on the team. As noted Matvichuk is out because he doesn't fit Sutter's new style of play. While Matvichuk's age and salary ($1.368 million) isn't desirable, there's always a need for veteran defenders who are tough and can play tough hockey. Or, failing that, he'll end up in Toronto. In any case, there's no reason the player coming back needs to be a "name" player. Just somebody who would fit the system and not cost the Devils a lot. The problem is, given that this information is out, I would imagine any potential trading partners would know that the Devils are trading from a point of weakness: trading away a player, to be precise. As an aside, it makes me wonder why this information was allowed to come out to begin with, now that I think about it. Normally, the Devils are very good at keeping secrets secret - unless I'm missing the obvious and it wasn't supposed to be a secret at all.
If the Devils have anyone of significant value in mind - and they usually do - someone else will be joining Matvichuk in a deal. Not anyone major, unless the Devils are looking to pull of a big deal. Given that the Devils have traded draft picks in the past; I don't think it'll be any major picks from this coming year. Probably a prospect in the minor leagues or a fringe prospect in juniors/college. I don't think we need to worry about whether Nicklas Bergfors or David Clarkson will have a new team to join, or anything like that. If it were up to me (and it's not, but humor me anyway), I'd try to package Matvichuk and Barry Tallackson for a low-end #4/5 defensive d-man that has some mobility and speed. I think Matvichuk's lack of speed really would make him a bad fit for an aggressive system such as Sutter's. If anyone has any suggestions as to who would fit in this category or for whom the Devils should trade for, please by all means leave a comment. Just be reasonable in your suggestions, Matvichuk isn't going to convince, say, Calgary to trade, say, Dion Phaneuf.
But guessing is ultimately foolhardy because you can never really guess what Lou is planning to do. It's why I can only guess as to what may happen - and even that is vague and not really based on anything concrete. That said, given that Tom Gulitti knows Matvichuk will be traded before any deal is in place, I wouldn't expect a big return unless the other teams get more than just Matvichuk.
ALSO: 2 Man Advantage's Patricia Greuter discusses the defense in a commentary.
That they need time to adjust to the new system and the new defensive pairings in order to be more effective. I agree, new systems need time to adjust to them - something I noted when talking about the schedule and the initial expectations for the team.
It also doesn't help that Colin White is out with an eye injury, the Devils they have been playing tough opponents on the road and will be until the end of this month.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Sunday, October 07, 2007
The Chemistry of Parise-Zajac-Gionta
Currently, the most effective scoring line the Devils have right now features Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Brian Gionta. This is obvious to anyone who has watched the first two games. This is obvious due to the fact that each member of the line has a point already - two assists for Parise, an assist for Zajac, and a goal for Gionta. The line has combined for 15 shots on net and the three have the highest average ice time among Devils forwards.
OK, after two games, this sort of statistical basis to prove effectiveness is daft. My point is the same. This is the best line the Devils have going right now. The impressive part about this is how well Gionta has fit in well with Parise and Zajac. It isn't just Parise and Zajac; if it was, you wouldn't be reading this and I'd be typing about something else. However, despite the injury to Jamie Langenbrunner, the chemistry between the three is already there and it looks to grow the longer they are together. That's an important distinction as why it's a big deal and I would like to offer some ideas as to why it happened.
1. Parise and Zajac already know Gionta's style of play and how to work with it. Parise and Zajac were line-mates for pretty much the entire 2006-2007 season which obviously developed their now-strong on-ice chemistry. Gionta, on the other hand, played with Scott Gomez and Patrik Elias for much of last season. Nonetheless, the Devils lines are not vaccums nor totally independent of each other. They all practice as a team, they are all there at the games, and so all three of each other know who they are and generally how they play. By putting the three players together, that only served to improve their chemistry and to translate it onto the ice.
2. Their aforementioned styles of play work well with each other. Zach Parise is a very dynamic forward who can do it all on offense. Travis Zajac is an effective center who provides support to go with Parise's game. Brian Gionta plays a lot bigger than his size and with little fear. All three tend to play with speed and all three don't shy away from play. The three don't play that differently from each other, so the three playing together makes sense.
3. Brian Gionta has something to prove. I'm convinced that Gionta has started off the season so well because he wants to show his team, his new coach, and the rest of the league that he's not a one-hit wonder. In 2005-2006, Gionta set a franchise record (and a career high) with 48 goals - 24 coming off of power plays. Last season, Gionta did not perform as well, with his production dipping to 25 goals and only 11 power play goals. The best way to prove yourself in any sport is to play hard and to contribute. With 6 shots to lead the team (tied with Andy Greene) and a power play goal in his first two games, he's certainly starting off the right way. Should it be true that Gionta is stepping up his game to return to his past role of a goal scoring machine, this will make his line more effective with his line-mates knowing they have a go-to guy. In this case, it may be Parise and Zajac, making this line - and the team - that much better.
I believe it's a mix of all three reasons why this line has so much chemsitry and has been so successful on offense. OK, so one goal isn't a lot; but the production will definitely come if they keep playing they way they have in their first two games this season.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Kevin Weekes Just Did It
You could argue that tonight's game was the opposite of the Devils' first game of this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils were absolutely worked over in the first period. Yes, they scored first - a beautiful John Madden finish off a sweet feed from Aaron Asham - but the Panthers turned it loose on the Devils' defense. They absolutely exposed the defensemen as a collection of guys who have not played a lot together. A lot of desparate plays stopped Florida for capitalizing. All the same, the Panthers held onto the puck for a majority of the first period and put 21 shots on Kevin Weekes. 21 shots! In past years, we have seen opposing teams struggle to get 21 shots! The Panthers did it in 20 minutes! And these weren't weak shots, there were many times where I was absolutely befuddled as to why Florida didn't score. While the Devils stepped up their game - both on offense and at defense - the Panthers still got quality scoring chances.
Clearly, this win would have not been possible without some great goaltending. Kevin Weekes was brought in with the expectation that he could give Martin Brodeur some more nights off because he's considerbly more talented than past back-ups (e.g. Corey Schwab, John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Clemmensen). He definitely proved it tonight. Scrums in front of the net? No problem. A trickling puck about to drift in? Weekes dived for it with all of his heart (and if he missed, the defense did step up there). Long shots from the side or the point? Weekes handled them. Point-blank shots from the slot? Weekes and his glove were definitely there. The one that beat Weekes, he had no chance on it - all the other 32 shots, Weekes got them all. Weekes played absolutely Brodeur-ian goaltending tonight and he had to do so for the Devils to succeed. First star of the game, of course - who else could it possibly be? No one else, that's who.
And for that, this event should be specifically noted. It should also be noted that the Devils really stepped up their game at both ends in the second and third periods to re-take the lead and to expand on it. John Madden had a great game with 2 goals, Brian Gionta didn't finish with any points but he was all over the place as an offensive threat, Patrik Elias made a play to feed Andy Greene for a power play goal, and Mike Mottau showed why he made the team with some sound positional play and a bomb from from the point. They capitalized on the chances Florida gave them - both in penalties and otherwise - and they were able to secure the win as a result.
A win, earned by Kevin Weekes and the Devils - the first for this season. Immediate proof that signing Weekes was a solid move and that the Devils do indeed know what they are doing. For a full account of the game, Patricia at 2 Man Advantage live-blogged the game so you can re-live the moments minute-by-minute.
Is it weird that Brodeur didn't get the first win of the season? A little bit, yes; but I'm sure Marty would agree that it doesn't matter who in net as long as the Devils got the two points. The next game will be tough - the Senators soundly defeated the Rangers tonight.
Regardless, let's hope that Brodeur will get his first win on Monday
Labels: 2008 Postgame, Devils Issues
Friday, October 05, 2007
The Schedule and Expectations
The regular season schedule for the New Jersey Devils is fair. This is not sarcasm or a mere statement of the obvious. The Devils will play 41 games at home, 41 games on the road by the time the season has ended.
No team in the NHL today can expect to do very well on the road for (eight) nine straight home games. Hockey isn't like football where the home field advantage is a visible and incredibly audible advantage for the home team. Nonetheless, there's no feeling like playing in front of people who largely want to see you win instead of people who largely want to see you suffer as miserable of a loss as possible.
The Devils loss, last night, could be construed as a miserable loss on paper. The recap at NHL
- which has full links to boxscores, super stats, and other wonderful, more detailed reports - states it plainly: The Devils lost 3-1 after scoring first. Vincent Lecavalier, one of the best players on the other team (and in the league) scored the two goals that put Tampa Bay ahead. This is true. What is also true that little mistakes liked missed defensive coverages led to larger mistakes, such as Vincent Lecavalier - one of the best players in the league
, mind you - being absolutely wide open and without a Devil within 5 feet of him scoring quite possibly the easiest goal he'll score this year short of an empty net.
What the recap doesn't tell you is how the Devils had opportunites to score and either were unlucky and unfortunate to be denied by Johan Holmqvist or simply wasting them. The recap doesn't note that when Patrik Elias completed his first hit of the season deep in their zone, the Devils new strategy of aggressive forechecking was turned on. The Devils played up tempo hockey. The Devils forced turnovers. The Devils bamboozled Tampa Bay so badly that head coach John Tortarella had to call a timeout in the first period. Then the Devils started running out of gas and when Lecavalier got the equalizer, the Lightning turned it up. They played more smoothly, their possession became more cemented, and the game became more balanced. The Devils didn't respond as well and as such, the game went down the tubes.
But I can't say the loss was miserable. OK, the game winning goal certainly was due to the absolutely lapse judgment of the defensemen and the left winger (who should be covering for the defenseman's mistake of leaving an all star forward wide open). That was miserable. However, considering the Devils haven't even stepped onto the ice in a place called home and trying out a brand new system of play - I can't completely begrudge anyone on the team or the new systems just yet. It's too soon.
However, soon will soon become later and that is where the schedule comes into play. Tomorrow, the Devils will play the Florida Panthers. Before October 27, the Devils also play the Ottawa Senators, the Panthers a second time, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Islanders, and the Rangers. Those are not easy games. Florida may now have another stud goaltender in Tomas Vokoun, the games against Atlanta have become tougher in recent years, Ottawa went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and the rest are divisional opponents. I repeat, these will not be easy games for the Devils.
I am emphasizing this because what I hope the Devils will do is to keep their perspective. Yes, these games do count and the good teams are competitive and successful to a degree on the road. That said, it's still the beginning of season. The Devils will get a ton of home games later in the season when teams are jockeying for playoff spots. Even if this road trip ends miserably, the organization and the team should not be quick to make rash decisions. Brent Sutter has the Devils players playing a different style of hockey than what most of them are used to - and adjusting to that style will take time even after preseason. If I suggested that any coach should fired after 9 games short of some absolutely boneheaded decisions, you'd think I was mad. If I suggested that the Devils should revert to passive, ultra-defensive, and counter-attacking hockey because the current system wasn't immediately successful, you'd think I was crazy.
My main point is not that the Devils should avoid adjustments or lineup changes. It's that they need to stick to the overall game plan until it is clearly apparent that the game plan is what is holding the Devils back from victories.
I am calling for patience and perspective. I am confident the Devils will do just that; and I hope the fanbase (which includes me) will have enough of both for now. Keep in mind, this is a tough and long road trip. Should the Devils end the road trip with 5 wins, that would be an excellent accomplishment considering the schedule. I, for one, would certainly be pleased with that. And if the Devils can play the hockey we saw some of last night - the play that led to a ton of Tampa Bay turnovers and Devils shots on net - closer to a full 60 minutes, we're going to see some great hockey being played, regardless.
Lastly, the regular season schedule for the New Jersey Devils is fair. It will all balance out. This is certain. The Devils just need to get what points they can get and use the experiences as a stepping stone for future success later this season. If you need to, keep repeating it: the regular season schedule for the New Jersey Devils is fair.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
With the season beginning tomorrow, there's no time like the next to last possible moment to let you all aware of some changes for this season at ILWT. When I started this blog last October, I was in college and had all sorts of time to write gameday previews and postgame recaps on a regular, generally consistent basis. I think it was one of the big reasons why this blog took off and how I got a lot of you initially reading this blog and eventually gaining attention from other Devils blogs.
This season will be different, however. For two very key reasons, I will not be doing pre-game posts and will do a lot less postgame recaps. The first is that I'm no longer in college. I'm no longer a student and so I don't have nearly as much free time to do this blog. I'm not quitting, but you're going to see a lot more posts made in the evening during the week. Posting during the day isn't an option anymore. Given that Devils games are usually at 7 or 7:30 PM, it makes little sense for me to write a pregame post in less than three hours before the game. I'd much rather watch the game rather than worry about writing a post on the blog. The second, I'm sure you'll find more sympathetic.
I'm now a season ticket holder. OK, it's only for half the season. But I have accomplished a goal that I wanted for awhile. The ability to purchase large amounts of tickets to go to Devils games and enjoy them throughout the year instead of merely only one or two games. Why did I make the plunge? Increased disposable income, a new arena in Newark, and I'm a Devils fan - of course I'm going to take the opportunity to watch my team on most nights. Since I'll be going to Newark for 21 home games - by train - I don't think I'm going to be able to write much of anything, much less a postgame recap after those games.
So what will become of ILWT? I'm not stopping - I'm just going in a different direction. A more analytical direction. Over the past few months, I've written a number of broader posts in more depth than a recap or a preview; more of my reaction to what's going on with the Devils. For example, my attempted defense of Colin White
, my opinion of Paul Martin's worth
, my disdain for fighting
, my thought that Patrik Elias should be the captain
, and my recent response to Sutter's decision about the captaincy.
OK, they're a little longer in some cases and more news-summary in other cases. ILWT is never going to be the Devils version of Sunday Morning QB
or MGoblog's reviews
(I'm not that good of a writer in either case), but I hope to take it in a more analytical direction. I feel I can do that given my current situation in place of previews and recaps and continue to contribute to the Devils-based blogosphere.
Why am I telling you all this instead of just going ahead and doing it? Because you deserve an explanation. Because you deserve to know where I intend to go with ILWT. Because of readers like you, I care a lot more about ILWT than when I did when I started. I will never stop being amazed that so many people have read this blog from so many different places around the world. Not just New Jersey, the world! OK, so the total number of visitors is hovering around 30,000 which isn't a lot on the Internet; but to me, it's a lot. And so I thank you for your continued reading of ILWT and I hope you will enjoy the new direction I will be going in.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
More of the Etcetera
What's etcetera? Well, the Devils picking someone off the waiver wire fits. Per Tom Gulitti
and Patricia at 2 Man Advantage
, the Devils one (1) Sheldon Brookbank from waivers. Brookbank, at first glance, is an AHL defenseman who likes to throw down. But as Gulitti notes, he was awarded the Eddie Shore Award for being the AHL's best defenseman last season and he led all defensemen in points last year in the top minor league. Will Brookbank make some noise to make the roster? Probably not, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got a game or two as a player called up to fill in some holes. Then again, as a snap judgement, I'd put him behind Mike Mottau and Mark Fraser on the call-up depth chart. It goes without saying, though, that if Brookbank does well in Lowell as he did in Milwaukee, then his chances of getting more NHL time will likely rise - should there be a need for a defenseman.
In far more interesting reads, Steve held a chat among himself, myself, and two-fifths of 2 Man Advantage: Josh and Patricia recently. We talked plenty about the Devils, their offseason, Scott Gomez, the NHL, Colin White and other hockey related matters. Steve has posted a transcript at Battle of NY.
I enjoyed doing it and I wouldn't be opposed to do something like that in future. Though I'll try to not to respond so quickly and verbosely next time.
While you're over at Battle of NY, you need to read Steve's post from a NJDevs member by the name of Skeeter. Skeeter talked to the myth, the legend, the man, Lou Lamoriello.
Skeeter had plenty to ask him; Lou, naturally, had the answers. I won't quote any of it because you should read it in its entirety, it is well worth your time if you're a Devils fan (which you probably are if you're reading a Devils fanblog like this one).
At Interchangeable Parts, Pookie and Schnookie has taken the John Buccigross approach to season previews. Yes, it's lyrics associated with teams in an ascending predicted-place-of-finish column! Ookies split it up into the Western Conference
and the Eastern Conference.
They'll have a more detailed Devils preview tomorrow, but I must say this one thing. Picking the Rangers to finish ahead of the Devils while claiming you're not impressed by the Blueshirts smacks of, well, I'll be nice and call it confusion. Perhaps, a mistake. Or not. Whatever, you get the Buccigross style without having to go to the Four Letter's site.
Like he needs the tens - and tens
- of my readers, but I'm going to tell you that Eric McErlain
is always loaded with interesting hockey related posts at Off Wing Opinion.
OK, so they aren't related to the Devils related, but they are quite good. Right now, he's got information about Keith Jones' story of making it in the NHL and Alexander Ovechkin's answer to the question, "Who is the most dangerous player in the NHL." Just keep scrolling.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues, Hockey - General
Oh Captain, Oh Captain! Where Are You, Captain?
Trick question. There won't be a captain to start the 2007-2008 season for the New Jersey Devils.
Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice has reported that the team will have three alternate captains to start the season.
The ones with the A's are Patrik Elias, Jay Pandolfo, and Dainius Zubrus. I understand the Elias and Pandolfo selections due to the former's experience in being a captain and the latter's experience of being a hardworking team player his entire career in New Jersey, but Zubrus? I don't understand that selection. I guess Brent Sutter doesn't rate John Madden as a captain. Or perhaps Colin White - who was an alternate captain in the past - being injured forced his hand. Still, weird.
But I have to say this is the first big flub by coach Sutter. As far as I know, teams generally need a captain to step up and be, well, the main leader among the players. Patrik Elias was the captain last year and while you can he say he struggled at times last season, you can't tell me he was a poor captain. Contrary to some people's belief, being a captain isn't about making fantasy hockey owners happy. It's about being a leader off the ice and in the locker room as well as being one on the ice. Given that the Devils were still a contending team and won the division despite injuries to many players, salary cap issues preventing call-ups at times, and a tumultuous coaching situation; I don't see any reason to say that Elias' season as captain hurt the team. Again, I'm going on only what I'm aware of - I don't know of the full situation about the locker room or the team's chemsitry - but there doesn't seem to be any reason for Elias to no longer wear the C.
Furthermore, because Elias was a captain for a season - he already has the experience of wearing the C. Gulitti's article has a quote that suggests the captaincy put extended pressure on Elias' shoulders which caused a dip in production. I don't think wearing a C results in miscommunicated passes, unfortunate robberies by opposing goaltenders, cold linemates, and a whole host of other play-related misfortunes for Elias last year. That said, it's entirely possible the pressure did result in poorer play - along with other reasons. In any case, if he indeed struggled because of it last year, he would perform much better because he has the knowledge and experience that he can be the main leader of a successful team. I would imagine the pressure would be lessened based on that alone. Moving it to someone else may just result in another player getting that pressure and perhaps playing poorer because he may have not had experienced the pressure that may come from the role.
What makes this even weirder is this quote from the article:
"There won't be a decision on the captaincy until Langenbrunner is healthy," Sutter said.
There's only one reason as to why Sutter would wait, in my opinion. He seriously considered Langenbrunner as the captain of the team. Let me rephrase that in a more appropriate format, namely as a question. Jamie Langenbrunner as captain? Really? I know Langenbrunner brings a lot to the table - he can play offense, defense, special teams, and is loaded with heart. Does all that make one a captain? I don't know. Maybe you, the reader, know something about Langenbrunner that would suggest him to be captain material? Was Langenbrunner an alternate captain in Dallas? I know he didn't take the C away from Mike Modano, but I am not sure what captain-related experience Langenbrunner has. For some reason, I just don't see it. Especially over Elias, who was the captain for all of last season and has that experience under his proverbial belt.
If it were me, Elias would have the C until someone else dramatically steps up or until Elias' captain-ship starts to actively hurt the team. Sutter knows the team more personally and much more than I could ever know; but I still think it's a mistake to just have three alternates now until Jamie Langenbrunner returns.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues
Monday, October 01, 2007
Elias and Your Ears and Previews are Good to Go
Tom Gulitti has reported today that Patrik Elias will be healthy for Thursday's season opener.
This is excellent news as the Devils can not really afford to have yet another regular injured as well as lose their most talented forward for the beginning of a long road trip. John Oduya also practiced today, which is also welcome news. Groin injuries, as we saw with Scott Gomez last year, can be not only painful but also (unfortunately) re-occur. With Oduya and Elias back, I expect Mike Rupp and Mike Mottau to be scratched for Thursday's game - barring any other injuries. While Rupp brings size and a physical presence, the Devils don't really need that against Tampa Bay. I think David Clarkson would be a better idea on the fourth line than Rupp with his more promising offensive talents and his speed (and OK, he brings some physical play to the table as well). The team is now in Florida in advance of their first game, so the next few practices will be crucial for lines to boost their chemistry and for Brent Sutter to make additional preparation decisions - like which forward to scratch.
Your ears are also ready, unless you're deaf, then my apologies for any insensitivity. Rob Kowal of NY Hockey Talk is talking Devils hockey.
For his first show, he has Star Ledger Devils reporter Rich Chere. More pertinent to the blogosphere, Kowal is also talking with Patricia Greuter of 2 Man Advantage.
Either link will give you the information you need to listen to the show. Check it out. Who knows, maybe some other Devils bloggers you read may be on the show one day.
Do you need a more in-depth Devils season preview from a Devils fan? If you do, then head on over to On Fire where Trendon Lynch has an in-depth preview
including who are the main players for the team and what he thinks the Devils need to do to win. I agree that Elias is the team's best offensive player and that the defense will have to play well as a group since there are no sure-fire studs on the team anymore. That said, I don't think Travis Zajac necessarily needs to have a great season - I think the onus should be on Elias and Brian Gionta to have big comeback seasons. If Zajac falters, at least Zach Parise will still thrive; but Elias and Gionta need to be very productive for the team to succeed. Expecting Martin Brodeur to play near-perfect hockey every night for a second straight year is asking too much. The offense needs to help him out (and thereby helping the team out) and Elias and Gionta need to step it up to lead the offense. In any case, check out Trendon's preview.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues, Media