The New Jersey Devils showed a lot last night at the Rock against Dallas. In their 4-2 win over the Stars (link goes to NHL.com recap),
the Devils won their fifth straight game, carried further momentum in how they played, and did while coming from behind. The first period was absolutely terrible, as Martin Brodeur gave up two soft goals, the Devils looked lethargic all period, the Devils squandered all three power plays, and the team allowed the inexcusable - a shorthanded goal. From the second period on, the Devils improved approximately 110.389% percent and took it to Dallas from then on. The lines are now really taking form and they all contributed tonight. David Clarkson beat Marty Turco on a wraparound, as his line (Jay Pandolfo-John Madden-Clarkson) provided tenacious defense and some offense. Brian Gionta came out of nowhere to bang home a Patrik Elias pass, who got the puck from Zach Parise. Dainius Zubrus finished perfectly on a 2-on-1 with Jamie Langenbrunner. They're clicking and so they got the win tonight.
There was a downside to the win, Jay Pandolfo fell after shooting a shorthanded breakaway. He slid into the corner and banged his head in a painful-looking manner; naturally he got up and got off the ice as soon as he could. Pandolfo didn't play the rest of the game, and according to Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, he isn't going to play tomorrow with a pelvic injury.
This is not good and not just because his streak of 307 games is broken. Pandolfo, despite his usual lack of offensive production, has been a consistent performer on a team that is only now discovering it. And he has definitely been a quality player both as a checker and even as a scorer with 8 goals and 5 assists this season. Moreover, according to James Mirtle's recent look at defensive forwards, Pandolfo ranks ninth in the league.
That speaks a lot to what Pandolfo on the ice means and I think the team is going to miss his presence on the checking line. Hopefully the Montreal forwards don't exploit the left side too much - though they may not be able to considering that Sergei Brylin could be put there. Sarge is a versatile player and good enough checker to capably fill in that big hole on the third line. He would be my first choice as a replacement. In any case, I hope that Pandolfo recovers from his injury quickly and properly.
Starting next season, the NHL schedule is going to get balanced again. The NHL Board of Governors has approved a change to the scheduling that will ensure that every team in the league will play each other at least once. Overall, with respect to the Devils, this means they'll definitely play against Brian Rafalski next season and there will be only six games against Our Hated Rivals. I have no issue with this schedule, to be honest. More games against the Western Conference teams will provide more opportunities for the Devils to see how well their approach to games actually works. Plus, I think it will provide more interesting match-ups in the NHL, which is always good. Not to mention as extra fodder to any Roberto Luongo-Martin Brodeur debates for Internet forums everywhere.
Remember when the Devils totally dominated the Flyers 4-1 earlier this month?
The game was so far out of contention that Glenn "Chico" Resch started talking about food during a Devils power play? Well, if you don't, then you missed a commentating highlight of the season. Chico really loves the Cuban sandwich at the Rock and somebody captured the whole bit on YouTube. Thanks to Kevin Schultz at the NHL Fanhouse for pointing it out.
Lastly, high school hockey season is about to begin and such is the subject of a feature at the New Jersey Devils' website. If you have been to the Rock this season, you have probably noticed a ton of high school hockey jerseys. Through this feature you can learn more about why they are there and which jersey represents which jersey.
What I find interesting is that Edison High School has a hockey team. Hopefully they are better than the seemingly perennially-bad football team.
The Devils play Montreal tomorrow. Whether or not Brent Sutter will go with seven defensemen remains to be seen - and if he does I hope it will mean the return of Andy Greene to the roster - we can be assured of two things. One, Martin Brodeur will start. Two, Martin Brodeur will excel.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues, Hockey - General, Hockey Issues, Prudential Center