The first month of this season was rough. A nine game road trip ending with only 3 wins, a loss in overtime, and 5 losses. In those five losses, they lost a possibly winnable season opener at Tampa Bay, lost decisively at Ottawa, and they were shutout three times by the Florida Panthers, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the New York Rangers. The Devils lost their home opener at the Prudential Center to the Ottawa Senators 4-1; despite playing well for two periods, a poor third period loomed and doomed the Devils. New Jersey ended the month on a high note with a blow out win over Tampa Bay, 6-1.
The word of this month would be inconsistent. The Devils would score 6 and 5 goals - against Atlanta and Pittsburgh respectively - and then follow that up with 4 goals scored in the next 4 games. When the offense was clicking, the defense was exploited and regularly beaten as the Devils gave up 5 and 4 goals to Atlanta and Pittsburgh respectively. On some nights, nothing seemed to work well for long as evidenced by the three shutout losses. It was a month of where the Devils would play well for 1 to 2 periods, but play poorly enough in that other period to lose. Inconsistent in effort, inconsistent in focus, inconsistent on defense, inconsistent on offense, inconsistent (and just plain bad) on special teams, and inconsistent in execution. I can't think of a better word to describe the Devils' performance in October 2007.
However, it's worth keeping in mind that this is not the first time the Devils started average or worse in a season. In 2005-2006, the Devils went 6-5 and in 2006-2007 the Devils went 6-4-1. OK, those were better Octobers for New Jersey but nothing to write home about. Furthermore, those years had the Devils on the wrong side of a rout, such as the 8-1 loss to Ottawa in 2006
and a 4-1 loss to the Rangers in 2005.
My point? There are going to be some less than great stretches for New Jersey, but they are a good enough team to rise above them. Writing off the Devils after this month would not be a wise choice. The rest of the NHL surely won't, I don't think we as fans should either.
So. Who was the best Devil this month? For such an inconsistent month, I have to go with the most impressive player. Clearly that's Jay Pandolfo. Yes, he did end the month in a brilliantly amazing fashion that could be described by some as preposterous. I mean, 3 goals and an assist from Jay Pandolfo? In one game? Pandolfo did just that last night, the first win at the Prudential Center by the home team. But it wasn't just last night that was impressive. Pandolfo currently leads the Devils in goals with 6. Anytime Pandolfo gets 2 goals in a month is good considering his past offensive production. 6 is just amazing. But Pandolfo has came up big in absence or in conjunction of the other lines showing up to play. Take away last night's hat trick and Pandolfo has as many goals as Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and one more than Patrik Elias. He's been a constant presence on defense and the penalty kill on the left wing. Both with and without John Madden, Pandolfo's game hasn't dipped - though I'm glad Sutter realized that Madden and Pandolfo are better together than apart. With the hot hands, he's even seen some power play time as of late. Yes, Parise and Madden have more points but in a month plagued with inconsistent play, the consistency of Pandolfo is worthy of recognition. Ergo, Jay Pandolfo is the ILWT Devil of the Month for October 2007.
Labels: 2007-08 Devil of the Month, 2008 Season