I don't feel too unhappy that the Devils lost to the Rangers tonight.
I know, I know, that shouldn't be coming from any Devils fan but before you write me any nasty e-mails or comments, hear me out.
Tonight, the Devils actually were the better team for all 60 minutes. Did you get that? That's the entire game in regulation. A consistent, strong effort. The offense ran into a hot goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist and a stingy Rangers defense - but they still put 29 shots on net. They were unfortunate in a number cases in having rebounds elude them or Lundqvist coming up with a big save, but that's still production. As an aside, I find the Rangers' use of the 1-2-2 formation in coming back on defense over the recent seasons. I can't place my finger on where they could have came up with that idea, though. Could their finishing improve? Of course, but you can't say the offense was an abject failure when Sergei Brylin put home an equalizer from a pass by John Oduya shortly after Scott Gomez' goal. Nor can you say that when David Clarkson puts up 6 hits and 7 shots in 11:33 of ice time.
Anyway, back to the Devils. The defense was actually solid and competent. I can't blame a single player for being poor. OK, Paul Martin really needs to dish the puck more rather than shoot it from the point, as his shot leaves a lot be desired. But that's a minor point. And the Devils defense committed some poor turnovers; but they were few and far between. The Devils in backchecking and on defense took a lot of bite out the Rangers' offense and forced them to take low percentage/highly save-able shots all night long. They weren't afraid to get physical - both in giving and receiving checks. Vitaly Vishnevski in particular displayed some big hits and had a good game overall. The penalty killing units were very good tonight, not conceding a goal. That is particularly massive considering how poor they have been to start the season. Above all, Martin Brodeur played very well all night and shut the door down when the Rangers did get shots on net.
The only areas where the Devils were outclassed was on the power play and in overtime. For the former, the Devils have resorted to an umbrella which I like but they need to really make Patrik Elias a focal point on the power play. He's got a strong shot, he has good vision, and he can pass - he can provide many more options than simply being at the point. As for the latter, the Devils were just outplayed in overtime but because of Martin Brodeur, it was all for naught for the Blueshirts.
Considering how inconsistent the Devils have been, they came into someone else's arena after a close win over Toronto the night before and play solid if not dominant hockey for all 60 minutes in an up-and-down, end-to-end (and very exciting and entertaining) hockey game. That's more than just a little silver lining in a dark cloud, in my opinion.
And that is why I am not too unhappy about the loss. I assure you, I'm not pleased that the Devils lost. I would have loved to have seen a Devils win. I always love it when the Devils succeed where the Rangers fail; but they got a point for their efforts on the road and weren't as lucky in the shootout - that led to the loss. While the Devils didn't get the result I wanted to see, I can't be irate or upset or terribly unhappy about a game or a performance like what New Jersey put on the ice tonight.
I think the Devils are really turning the corner and we could see them further improving on Monday night against Pittsburgh.
Labels: 2008 Postgame, Devils Issues