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.

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