Monday, December 31, 2007


Happy New WJC Day!

Today was another day of the 2008 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic, a rather important day as it singled the end of the group stages. With a day off tomorrow for the tournament, now is a good time to see how everyone is doing.
In the meantime, as the Devils prepare for Wednesday's game against Florida, check out Jared Ramsden's overview of how the current prospects with the Lowell Devils are performing at Hockey's Future. Tomorrow is the Winter Classic between Buffalo and Pittsburgh, live on NBC. I'll definitely watch it, it should be an exciting game. You should watch it too. It's early in the day, it's before all the good college bowls, and there's no Devils game to get ready for. What other hockey are you going to watch? Exactly my point.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007


One Win, One Loss, One Conclusion

On Friday, the Devils ran into the brick wall that was Ryan Miller, but they got a 2-1 shootout win regardless. The Devils were clearly the better team throughout the night against the Buffalo Sabres through the run of play as New Jersey constantly hustled forward at Buffalo's zone all night long. Miller was the sole reason the Devils didn't blow out the Sabres, as they put together several serious scoring chances per period. I mean, Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias combined for 14 shots (6 and 8, respectively), they just tore through the Sabres' defense. Miller had to be the man, and he was - only being beaten by Mike Mottau pouncing on a rebound. Martin Brodeur was equally excellent as the only thing that beat him was a perfectly placed shot from the half-boards by Ales Kotalik. In spite the 5 penalties the Devils took - 2 of which being absolutely unnecessary, the too many men on the ice call in the first and Madden's clearing of the puck over the glass, the Devils had the momentum going into overtime.

But because of Miller and Brodeur, a shootout was in the cards. Zach Parise, who I felt didn't have a good night due to the number of pucks bouncing off his stick and away from him and the number of errant passes he made, came through with a sweet goal to crack Miller. Brodeur was solid as solid could get in stopping all 3 of Buffalo's chances; sealing the win for New Jersey. A good win, not perfect, but definitely a good win in a close game at home. The game was indeed a goaltender's duel and how Ryan Miller got the first star of the game over the winning goaltender is beyond me. Nevertheless, if it wasn't for Miller, I would be sitting here, typing effusive praises about the Devils big blowout win.

Then Saturday night came, the Devils went to Long Island, and the exact opposite of good happened on the ice. No Elias, no Pandolfo (still), no Rachunek, and the team did not play with a consistent effort and it showed in a 5-2 loss to the Islanders. The game was quite physical and featured the Devils more willing to fight than to actually go out and play good defense and finish their scoring chances. As you would gather from that and the score, the night was not a good one for New Jersey. Wade Dubielewicz got his first win in a start for the Islanders and the Devils made it pretty easy for Wade save for the two goals. Why Martin Brodeur was starting this game, I truly do not know. He played 65+ minutes last night, I would have given Brodeur a rest. I'm pretty sure the entire point of signing Kevin Weekes was so that Weekes could come in, play a half of the back-to-back series, and give the Devils some solid goaltending. When it was Scott Clemmensen has the backup last season, I understood the reasoning behind playing Brodeur so much; now, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

In any case, this game had "bad" written all over for the Devils. Once again, the Devils failed to do anything with their power plays - they are now scoreless in their last 5 games on the power play. But that's not even the worst of it. The Devils committed the ultimate sin of coughing up the puck in their own end and getting scored on by defenseman Chris Campoli's catch-and-shoot. It was a great shot, I will admit it. Yet let me spell this out for you in capital letters: THE DEVILS TURNED THE PUCK OVER TO A DEFENSEMAN WHO PLAYED THE PUCK BACK TO HAVE IT COME BACK TO HIM FOR A SCORING CHANCE HE CONVERTED ON ALL WHILE BEING SHORTHANDED. THAT is absolutely unacceptable. Mike Mottau, in particular, should know that as it was his turnover that led to the horrible play.

There was more, the Devils conceded a power play goal to go down 2-0 in the game in the second period. The power play goal came on the Devils' fourth minor of that period - Aaron Asham's unsportsmanlike conduct. This after a David Clarkson interference call, two Mike Rupp minors (one followed by the other), and two fights by Clarkson and Rupp. I don't know about you, but I'm not enthused at all with Mike Rupp in the lineup as he didn't bring a lot to the proverbial table. The Devils finally woke up sometime after that goal and decided to start fighting back in a meaningful sense. Zach Parise roofed a backhander to pull within one. The Devils looked pretty good in the first half of the third period, capped by John Madden putting home a rebound for an equalizer. The final 10 minutes of the game were horrible for Devils fans as the Devils went on to give up 3 goals, totally sealing the win for the Islanders. Granted, that third one was an empty net goal; but Andy Sutton's one-timer in the high slot killed any Devils' momentum. Sean Bergenheim's goal a little more than 3 minutes later buried said momentum. It was a pretty bad loss after such a close and good win over Buffalo. This quote from Brent Sutter in's recap summed it all up perfectly.
"When you play a team you haven't beaten yet in your division this year, you'd think there would be more of a sense of desperation to want to play one of your better games," Sutter said. "For 30 minutes, we were a very average hockey team. Then we woke up and played well the next 20 minutes. Then it looked like we never learned how to play defensive zone coverage before."
Too true, Sutter. Two games, two different results, two different efforts, and yet in my view, I see one obvious conclusion. The Devils are not scoring enough. They are getting chances, they do produce many attempts at shots per game, and they do draw calls. However, this goes back to what I was talking about with shooting accuracy, this goes back to power plays, and this goes back to finishing. The Devils need to work on improving both if only to make games easier for them to win. Because this isn't just a divisional problem, scoring is important in every game. The last two games would have gone so much differently were the Devils more lethal with the puck on offense. The Buffalo game likely would have been a much more comfortable win, and the Devils would have pressed the issue earlier in Long Island and maybe would have gotten more than a beatdown out of it. Granted a lot of things went wrong last night, this is the thing that sticks out the most.

With respect to the power play, Tom Gulitti has reported that the Devils worked on them entirely at practice this morning. That's a start. Hopefully, the Devils will look to improve in these areas over the next few weeks.

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Friday, December 28, 2007


Game Tonight, WJCs, Other Things

Tonight, the Devils will host the Buffalo Sabres at The Rock. I'd have to say that the Devils' 3-game west coast road trip was a success because the two clutch wins against Edmonton and Calgary. They will look to continue their momentum against Buffalo tonight; but they can't rest easy afterwards. New Jersey plays on Long Island tomorrow night. Regardless, Martin Brodeur will start for New Jersey according to Tom Gulitti. Just as important to note, Zach Parise will play, Karel Rachunek will not, Mike Rupp will be scratched and the Devils will go with seven defensemen, and Jay Pandolfo is still injured. Perhaps Kevin Weekes will start tomorrow, but I have my doubts - it may depend on what happens tonight.

In the meantime, let's take a look at what else is out there:

2 Man Advantage has had this Year in Review up for close to a week now and I stupidly forgot to link it. So, here it is - please go read it.

At Devils Daily, Jeremy Kenter reminds us that trash talking the Devils isn't a good idea. Maybe The Hockey News will recognize that, but due to their infinite ability to tune-out other ideas, they likely won't. Keep doubting the Devils guys, we'll just keep on cheering for the greatest team playing in New Jersey and perennial Stanley Cup contenders since 1994.

SELF PROMOTION WARNING - The following sentences are pure self promotion. If you have a heart condition or any type of medical condition, you should probably get that taken care of if you haven't already. Any self promotion will have likely have nothing to do with it, it's just general common sense advice.

Interchangeable Parts has been running a "bloggers questionnaire" and I decided that I should actually respond. So I did, it's now up at IPB where they say many complimentary things about me and this blog. Many compliments. I'm blushing almost as much as Chico did after he got caught on camera licking his hand for ketchup from a hot dog last season.

END OF SELF PROMOTION WARNING - You may return to the rest of this post; but if you seriously have a condition - take care of it if you haven't already. Seriously.

Now we come to the World Junior Championship part of this post. First, I have to correct an omission. Hockey's Future Radio has set up their site to give updated analysis, scores, and rosters from the ongoing World Junior Championships. Now that the omission is dealt with, let's take a look at what's going on.
  • New Jersey prospect Matt Halischuk has been doing fairly well so far. In 2 games, he got a goal and has been seeing plenty of time on both even strength and the penalty kill. As I understand it, he's been playing on the same line with 2008 hot prospect Steve Stamkos. Canada, as a whole, has been playing well with wins in their first two games over the hosting Czech Republic and Slovakia. They face Sweden tomorrow and Denmark on Monday to finish out their group.
  • How's Denmark doing? Not well. They got owned, pwned, and qwned by Sweden 10-1 today and they were thoroughly beaten by the Czech Republic on Thursday, 5-2.
  • The United States has been doing well in their own group with a 5-1 win over Kazakhstan and today's 4-2 win over Switzerland. They face a big challenge tomorrow against Russia, who has been idle since Thursday. Hopefully, New Jerseyans James van Reimsdyk (2 G, 3 A) and Bobby Sanguinetti (1 G, 1 A) will continue to lift their team to new heights in spite of any fatigue.
  • All stats and scores from IIHF's WJC 2008 page.
That's a lot for now. Enjoy tonight's game, I know I will - in addition to looking completely serious in my giant foam puck-hat.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007


Devils & Accuracy Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote a great deal about how I defined accuracy and gave a general overview of how accurate the Devils have been this season compared to their opponents. I highly recommend that you read Part 1 prior to reading this post. Thank you.

Now, yesterday, we learned that overall the opposition is more accurate in the shots they do attempt than the Devils, the opposition blocks more of the Devils' shots on average than the Devils, and the Devils miss more shots on average than the opposition. Obviously, this is not good. From my perspective, it doesn't make a lot of sense either. The Devils are 20-13-3 in 36 games and they are sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division. They are successful in spite of these issues with accuracy. An odd claim, but the approximately 57% average on-net percentage of the opposition tells me that Martin Brodeur and Kevin Weekes are seeing these shots more often than not, and goals obviously almost always come from shots on net. Can't score if you don't shoot, and all that.

Still, there may be more to these averages. Given that the Devils have played 8 more games on the road than in Newark, that would be a good place to start. From what I have seen from teams in any sport, road teams tend to be more conservative and defensive on the road than at home in an effort to get some points out of the game. Teams on the road have a number of possible disadvantages that could affect how they play: the crowds are definitely not cheering them on, they aren't as familiar with the ice or the arena as they would be at home, they are traveling, &c. The Devils did start off this season with 9 games on the road, and they have had a number of road trips in between. Perhaps has skewed the data one way or another. So I've broken down the averages based on whether the Devils were at home or not into the following chart.

Home Away Shot Chart

Now, this is quite telling. The Devils, on average, are much more accurate at home than they are on the road. They shoot nearly 7% better, the opposition blocks on average 2 fewer shots, and miss approximately 2.5 fewer shots at The Rock! This definitely gives some validity to claiming a home-ice advantage. Interestingly, the Devils make more attempts at shooting the puck on average on the road - they just aren't nearly as accurate. If Brent Sutter is looking for areas to improve his team's offense, how they perform on the road with respect to shot selection and shot accuracy would be a good place to start. Both at home and on the road, they aren't blocking as many shots as the opposition on average and they do a better job missing the net on the road than the opposition.

However, the comparison stops being favorable when you consider the opposition. The opposition must enjoy playing at the Rock too. While they get 6 fewer opportunities to shoot on average, they are almost 5% more accurate and miss nearly 3 fewer shots on average! Yes, their average shots on net when they host New Jersey, but surprisingly they are not as accurate in missing more shots on average Not that hosting New Jersey doesn't have any benefits; opponents block an astonishing 13.36 shots on average! The Devils players must think twice about shooting into traffic, especially on the road, because they are getting denied quite a bit.

OK, so there does seem to be difference between the home and road in terms of shot accuracy. Now, let's look at a more obvious point of comparison: wins and losses. Intuitively, I thought the Devils would be more accurate than their opponents when they do win and less accurate than their opponents when they lose. Therefore, I set up another chart with the same averages, calculated between Devils wins and Devils loss:

Win Loss Shot Chart

Here, my intuition was correct. The Devils, on average, put more shots on net, make more attempts to shoot, and their percentage of those attempts hitting the net are greater than their opponents when they win. While the Devils make more attempts on net than their opponents on average when they lose, the opposition puts more shots on net and a percentage of those attempts hitting the net than the Devils. This chart does show more than confirmation of what one would expect. The opposition still blocks more shots on average than the Devils regardless of whether the Devils win or lose. Regardless of the Devils achieving victory or defeat, the Devils still miss approximately 11 shots on average. This is another area that I would suggest the Devils players would work on: those 11 shots could become much more dangerous and perhaps even goals if more of them are on net. Interestingly, while the Devils block more shots on average in losses, the opposition blocks more shots on average in both situations. The Devils could also stand to get in front of more shots in general. Nevertheless, the Devils are more accurate in their wins than in their losses, which makes sense to me (at least).

So through these comparisons, the most obvious conclusion is that the Devils could be more accurate. The opposition blocks more of the Devils shots than the other way around regardless of the Devils winning or losing and regardless of the Devils being on the road or at home. In addition, the Devils miss more shots on average than the opposition. It isn't all bad, the Devils are consistently making more attempts at shooting the puck than their opposition. However, the fact the the Devils are missing so many shots on average and having so many blocked shots on average are both sources of lost opportunities. Not just because those missed and blocked shots would go on net and have a low probability of resulting in a goal. When a shot is missed or blocked, it means the offense failed to do what they set out to accomplish. Momentum suffers when a shot by the Devils is blocked, scoring chances are wasted and momentum suffers. This makes the Devils efforts on offense much more difficult. Also, the Devils defense needs to make a better effort in blocking shots if only to make it easier on the Devils goaltenders.

In short, the Devils are not as accurate as their opposition and for the New Jersey offense to be more productive, the players will need to improve in setting up shots, deciding when to shoot through traffic and when not to, and in their shot accuracy in general. It would also be more beneficial if the Devils defenders make more of an effort getting in front of shots to reduce the workload Brodeur/Weekes would face on a night to night basis.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Devils & Accuracy Part 1

With the Devils not playing until Friday against Buffalo, now is a good as time as any to be incredibly detailed with respect to stats. Last time it was penalties at the quarter-point of the season, this time it all has to do with shooting. My source for the numbers were the event summaries found with every recap of every Devils game at

Now, my focus for this analysis has to do with how the team is doing. The event summaries of each game are detailed enough to list how many shots each player had, how many times their shot was blocked, and how many times they missed the net. However, having gone through 36 games each for team stats, I didn't want to compile 23 additional data points times 3 (shots, blocked shots, missed shots) per game. Furthermore, there is no indication as to who blocks whose shot without delving deeper into the game report (or following it in the game itself). I could tell you, for example, that Elias had 3 shots blocked but not by who. In any case, I apologize for not taking such an analysis as deep as it could go.

Nevertheless, my focus is on how accurate the team and the opposition is in shooting the puck. Shots on net are self-explanatory. Obviously, this is what we want the Devils to have a lot of and what we want the opposition to have as few as possible. However, I don't believe it's enough to just have shots on net. The key is accuracy, so the questions that must be asked are how many times are the Devils (and the opposition) are trying to get a puck on net and how often are they successful. In addition, it is good to know how often are the Devils missing the net and how often they are getting denied. In looking at the opposition's numbers, we can get an idea as to how the defense is helping out Martin Brodeur and Kevin Weekes in terms of workload. One last thing: I'm going to be using the term "attempt on net." I have defined this to be the total of shots on net, missed shots, and blocked shots. This is assuming that a missed or blocked shot wouldn't be recorded unless it was going to be on net otherwise.

So enough explanation and background, let's get into it. What I did was I collected the total shots on net, blocked shots, and missed shots from both teams from every Devils game so far this season. In the 36 games played so far, we can safely say that the Devils are one of the better defensive teams in allowing an average of 26.47 shots per game and an average of only 47.08 attempts on net per game. This is especially favorable when you consider that the Devils average 27.81 shots on net per game and 51.47 attempts on on net per game. However, all is not rosy. The standard deviation of total attempts per game by both the Devils and their opponents is quite high, so it's a highly fluctuating value. More precisely, the opposition is much more efficient with their attempts on net, putting the biscuit on net 3% more than the Devils on average. Most importantly, the Devils are not as accurate as their opponents have been. As proof and further data, I summarized all of this into a handy chart.

Shot Summary Chart 1

My apologies for the ridiculous lack of precision in these values. However, the chart shows that the opposition is blocking approximately 2 more shots than the Devils block on average; the opposition is missing nearly one fewer shot than the Devils; and the percentage of attempts on net between the two parties is quite clear. The Devils, by these stats, are not as accurate as they could be. On some nights, the difference is pronounced; the 3-2 shootout win against Atlanta earlier this month had the Thrashers shooting with 83.3% hitting the net! The Devils weren't too bad in putting 56.25% on net; but the Thrashers were just hitting all of their shots on net. Fortunately or unfortunately for New Jersey, there doesn't seem to be an obvious trend; the total attempts on net and percentage of shots hitting the net vary between the two parties. These two graphs will show just that:

Total Attempts on Net Graph 1

Percent Attempts on Net Graph 1

However, while it's clear the Devils could stand to miss fewer shots and be smarter about when they shoot the puck, we can't say whether or not this has any real affect on winning. Moreover, it's not clear as to whether playing at home or not has any affect. It could be that the Devils are not as aggressive in putting the puck on net on the road, but they are more accurate and efficient. It could be that the Devils win regardless (or in spite of) their shot accuracy. I have some further insight into that as well as a larger conclusion, but I'll get into that tomorrow. Today, I just wanted to establish my intentions; show that the Devils are not as accurate as their opponents; state how often the Devils and the opposition do get their shots blocked, miss their shots, and a percentage of attempted shots hit the net; and show there aren't any clear trends in either case.

Tomorrow: Part 2: These stats broken down by home vs. away, wins vs. losses, and an overall conclusion.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Merry Christmas

Christmas Greetings

Thinking hard and seriously of the Devils, the holidays, and the laundry at the top of the stairway. For you, this holiday season.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 24, 2007


Devils 1 - Calgary 0, OT

Last night, the Devils went to the Pengrowth Saddledome and came out with the greatest letter you can get in a hockey game: a W. The New Jersey Devils, as the subject indicates, won 1-0 in OT against the Flames; here is the recap at

Before I get into the game from a Devils-standpoint, I have to say that this was an excellent hockey game to watch. It was physical, both teams skated hard, and both teams truly gave a hard effort on the ice. Anyone who says the NHL needs more scoring or need rule changes to make the game more exciting clearly did not see this game. In fact, were I in the proper authority in the NHL, I would have recorded a copy of this whole game and send it out to all the critics. Hockey is still the best game in the world because in the middle of the regular season, right before a holiday break, you still have two teams go at it with intensity and vigor.

Now, that all said, this was not such a great win for New Jersey as it was for Martin Brodeur. The Devils were horrific in discipline in the first two periods: conceeding 6 penalties to Calgary. When you're on the road against a hot team like Calgary - no pun, the team is 7-0-3 even with this loss in their last 10 games, handing them 6 power plays is a terrible idea. A big reason why NJ was dominated in the second period, being out-shot 14-4, was due to the 4 penalties they took. Why didn't Calgary capitalize, how were they not able to make the Devils pay the price? Martin Brodeur. Brodeur didn't get the first star of the game, but he should have in stopping all 30 of Calgary's shots - earning his 95th all-time shutout. Some were weak, some came right in the slot, and Brodeur even stopped any other errant shots after the whistle. Brodeur was a shot-killer out there, Calgary was a mess when it came to finishing. I can't really say that the defense was totally weak - it's not as if Calgary just boogied into the Devils' turf at will for 60 minutes. Nevertheless, the penalty killing units definitely had a lot of work and have to thank Brodeur for saving their bacon many times.

Fortunately for NJ, Calgary couldn't be the better team for all 60 minutes. In the third period, the Devils clearly played better despite being outshot again. They didn't concede any penalties and as the game opened up, the Devils took it to the Flames more often. All game, the Devils have found success in forechecking the Flames as well as taking the puck away - 12 times to Calgary's 6. The Devils didn't succeed in capitalizing on any big turnovers; but John Madden in particular was a force. The checking center had 3 takeaways, won 16 faceoffs, and 23:18 of ice time - with 7:12 coming on the penalty kill. Madden had a good game; personally I would have named him the third star of the game for what defensive efforts he brought to the table.

However, the hero of the day was to be Patrik Elias again. Where Brodeur kept the team in it, the offense couldn't crack the impregnable goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff was great, but he made one crucial mistake after a Flame made another one. As the game went into overtime, Craig Conroy lost control of the puck at the point. Patrik Elias zoomed onto the puck, kept his balance after Conroy's stick his legs, and dished it off to Brian Gionta. The play became a two-on-one, Gionta masterfully slid the puck below the defender's stick to Elias. Elias was brave as you could get, driving to the net as another Flame was in the midst of taking him down. Elias did what he could and successfully took Gionta's pass and shot it as a one-timer. There, Kiprusoff made his big mistake.

He did not close his legs as he went down.

The puck went off with the necessary velocity at the necessary angle to slide underneath Kiprusoff, ending the game less than a minute into overtime. It was a great goal, a great way to end a great game, and once again Elias was the man who put a point on it. The Devils will have to avoid taking so many penalties, be more aggressive on offense, and play a more complete game. However, on the road against a tough team like Calgary, their effort was sufficient - with a fantastic end. Considering the Devils currently are #1 in the Atlantic with a 5 point lead, I can't complain.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007


WJC 2008: The Matt Halischuk Show

The IIHF World Juniors Championship Under-20 Tournament is upon us! Coming to you straight out of the Czech Republic, the best young players from Canada, Russia, the United States, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, and (for the first time ever) Denmark will compete for glory. Running from December 26 through January 5, the competition should be something fierce between Russia and Canada, not to mention the hosts and U.S. looking to spoil the party. Teams like Denmark, Switzerland, and Kazakhstan will look to stay alive in the top tournament for next year - already Latvia and Germany loom for the 2009 WJC.

If you're looking for a Canadian-centric as well as a complete source for the WJC that isn't by the IIHF, has an entire section for the tournament. And you'll do well to use it; with respect to the New Jersey Devils, there is only one Devils prospect in this tournament. No, it's not Alexander Vasuynov - for some reason, Russia did not select him. No, it's not Nick Palmieri, he was not selected by USA Hockey. It's, well, clearly stated in the title. 2007 4th Rounder and currently unranked by Hockey's Future among the Devils' top 20 prospects, Matt Halischuk has been having a good season with Kitchener. He is currently the team's second leading scorer with 12 goals and 36 assists. I dare suggest this is a breakout year because until this year, he has never represented Canada in international play. Being selected onto their WJC team is a huge accomplishment and it speaks highly of what Team Canada sees in Halischuk.

While coverage of the WJC in the United States is limited at best, I'll note anything worthy within in tournament be it the United States succeeding or Halischuk doing something of note.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007


Devils 3 - Oilers 1

Devils Oilers Postgame

The picture has all I have to say. Here's links to the Recap and the IPB Live-cap of the game, if you like.


Friday, December 21, 2007


Attention: Defense, Show Up!

I apologize for not having much to say over the past few days. I witnessed the Devils' 5-0 thrashing by Vancouver and, well, Steve Stirling at 2 Man Advantage has the same question I had. What an horrible loss.

And the sad thing about it is that the past few games have been ugly defensively for the Devils. In the 4-1 loss to Phoenix last Saturday, the Devils conceded 38 shots to the Coyotes. In the 4-2 win over Philadelphia the next night, the Devils allowed 31 shots by the Flyers. In the 5-0 rout, the Devils did only concede 24 shots; but when you're allowing 5 goals, it doesn't mean much. In these past three games, I've noticed that the Devils defenders have been more passive in their coverage - allowing the opposition forwards much more space on offense. I understand the idea of letting them move the puck around; you can't really shoot if you're constantly forcing the opposition to pass the puck. But without aggression, the opposing offense will happily be patient or just start taking shots where need be. Especially when the team leaders in blocked shots, a tie between Andy Greene and Vitaly Vishnevski at 45, average less than 1.5 blocked shots a game. If I'm scouting New Jersey, I relay this key stat to my team and tell them to "fire away." Basically, Martin Brodeur (or Kevin Weekes) has to play like an all-star to keep the team in it. And some nights, even that's not enough.

The offense needs to be more consistent, the discipline needs to get better, and the effort needs to be there every night. But for a supposedly "defense first" team, the first step must be to step up the defensive game by the team. This means not allowing the other team's skill players to have 2 feet or more of ice open in front of them, being more aware of how the other team is setting up the play, and to actually take the man in the slot. I'd rather have the Devils take a penalty than to allow an opposing forward have a juicy chance to shoot and score or to put back a rebound. Tonight against Edmonton is as good of an opportunity to turn it around as any. Otherwise, get ready for more line and pairing changes, more changes in strategy, and more of the inconsistent hockey from New Jersey.

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Monday, December 17, 2007


Movie Review: The Rocket

I could talk about yesterday's game, but that would be more appropriate for tomorrow. Instead, I give you something completely different.

The Rocket is a dramatic, based-on-a-true-story, movie about the career of hockey legend, Maurice Richard. As time passes, who was once great in the past has a tendency to be more and more forgotten without remembrances of what they did. Being inducted into a Hall of Fame, statistics, opinions from writers, having their number retired, video and radio highlights, and such are all ways to preserve a player’s career. If only for people who have not had the fortune to watch the great ones play in real-life. A movie about a player is another good way and overall I feel it does the legend of Rocket Richard true justice.

Truth be told, I obviously never seen him play, as his career spanned the 1940s and 1950s. I’ve only heard stories about his stoic gaze, his ability to drive to the net, his lethal finishing with the puck, his supreme desire to win, and that he was an icon for many in Quebec playing for Montreal. So for me, this movie will assist me greatly – and many other current hockey fans – in our perception of Maurice Richard. For full disclosure, this sports drama is actually 2 years old, having come out in Canada in 2005. Now it is being distributed in the U.S. by Palm Pictures, who has not only made me aware of the film’s release and sent me a review copy. I’m very gracious that they allowed me this opportunity, and so I have viewed it in the original French with English subtitles for review.

The most important point with any movie, I think, is whether you can understand and “buy in” into the intent of the movie. If a movie takes itself seriously, but its premise or dialog or actors are definitely not serious, I would be more likely to start making fun of it instead of enjoying it as intended. For a movie like The Rocket, there are three main questions that must be answered: can you believe that the lead actor really is Maurice Richard, does the film clearly point how Richard became such a legend, and –this is especially important since it is a sports film – are the hockey scenes important and represent hockey.

I’m happy to say that The Rocket answers all three with an emphatic “yes,” and it is the strength of the movie. Roy Dupuis does an excellent job portraying Rocket Richard as the man, the hockey player, and the legend. He manages to succeed not just in looking like Richard, but in portraying that under his quiet exterior is a man with a desire to fight and succeed. That’s what people say about Richard in real life and I can definitely take Dupuis seriously as being Richard. In the movie, this constant desire to fight and succeed is a common theme throughout the movie. In the beginning, Richard gets through handling the trash quickly so he can join his semi-professional team and struggles to succeed after marrying Lucille Norchet. Richard continues to struggle quite a bit: to make the team in spite of injuries, to come back to prove himself – known as the Comet - otherwise after an early injury threatens his career, to win on the ice despite players looking to destroy him (casting Sean Avery as a goon was apropos), and to earn the respect he deserves despite being a French Canadian star in a league dominated by Anglophones who do not give him or his compatriots the respect they deserve. While you watch the film, you will notice that Richard is under a lot of pressure in these struggles, but he rises up to succeed and you will be cheering him on for the most part. In a sports drama about a player, this is important and the movie gets this right.

The movie also shows what is necessary to show why Richard is such an important legend. The vast majority of the movie is relevant to the larger theme of why Richard became an icon for the entire province of Quebec. In the majority of the film, contrast between the Francophones and Anglophones is quite apparent – right down to outright disrespect and slurs. The people in authority all speak English, most don’t give much time for the French (excepting the Canadiens franchise who does stick up for Richard - to a point after many years), and the NHL definitely did not protect Richard as much as they did for other hockey players – such as allowing “Killer” Dill to play against Montreal specifically to destroy Richard (and failed), demanding that Richard stop writing a column which did much to highlight the injustices in hockey against Francophones, and the lopsided punishment in the Boston incident near the end of the 1955 season, which culminated in the riots in Quebec. The important point is that while Richard is not a man of many words, his desire to succeed when others doubt him and others openly try to stop him with improper methods. For this, the movie does a great job in highlighting this and how Richard ultimately spoke up about it. As an example, there is one scene where a reporter tried to get Richard to speak up about the unfair treatment of French Canadian players get from the league. Richard is not interested at first, but it ultimately gets to him and he ultimately starts writing a column with the help of the reporter which leads to changes in how is respected in the franchise. Does Richards fully succeed? As evidenced by Campbell’s ruling after Richard is held by a referee while being punched and Richard’s subsequent decking of the ref, he does not. But because he stood up for himself, he is seen as an icon in Quebec and among Montreal fans and thus the movie succeeds in showing Richard has a true legend.

Lastly, the movie portrays exciting, dramatic hockey. For a hockey movie, this is important. One of the big reasons why Slap Shot is still regarded as a top sport movie despite being a comedy is that the actual hockey scenes in Slap Shot were exciting, realistic, and germane to the point of the movie. The Rocket is similar to that movie in the same way – the game back in the 1940s and 1950s was very tough and violent, while being quick. When Richard was on the ice, he made things happen – the movie could have easily just showed a shot or two of a goal, but they went further and showed the context of the play. The movie shows the build-up to the play wherein Richard would score and it further adds to Richard’s greatness on the ice. Only one scene is solely Richard scoring a goal isolated with the rest of the game, but that was the legendary one where Richard put it in while a Detroit player was literally on his back – which is perfectly fine. Nevertheless, the directions of these scenes were well done and are a highlight of the film.

What I think prevents the movie from being truly great are some omissions and points of confusion. First, nobody ages in this movie. It spans over 12 years and Richard, Dick Irvin, Lucille Richard, nor the reporter age one bit. I understand it is a movie, but it is a bit too much to swallow. Second, I felt that despite 2 hours of Richard’s career, there was more to explore about Richard. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is very good at what it does portray; but the movie does not touch on Richard’s family life (yet his brother-in-law and Lucille’s parents get much more screen-time) it just mentions that Richard played a few more seasons after his suspension in 1955, and there is nothing about what Richard did after hockey. Because of these omissions, you can’t take this movie as a complete picture of Richard. Perhaps it’s not supposed to be one, but I think it holds the movie back. Third, the director has this thing about using archival footage to portray the times the movie was set in. Personally, I felt they weren’t necessary with much of the movie being shot in color. While the footage was entirely used as transitional scenes, the simple subtitle stating the time of the movie was more than sufficient to set the scene. I’m not sure what the point of using it and trying to insert the characters of the movie in them; but they seemed to go away by the second half of the movie and I didn’t miss it.

That all said, The Rocket is still a very good movie – it’s just not a completely great one. The Rocket is well worth two hours of your time. It does a great job in portraying that Maurice Richard is indeed a legend, you’ll definitely believe Roy Dupuis as Richard, and the hockey scenes are great. If you are a hockey fan, a fan of dramatic portrayals, or somebody who wants to know more about the guy they named the goal scoring award after, you would really enjoy this movie. If you’re in Canada, you likely have access to this movie (or already seen it); but if you’re in America, you can now see it on DVD thanks to Palm Pictures.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007


Phoenix 4 - Devils 1

Today, the Devils lost to the Coyotes 4-1 at the Prudential Center. Too many penalties, too passive of a defense, Devils not being able to cover Coyotes, and the Devils unable to convert what chances they have. What else can I say? This:


Hey, I'd write more about the game. However, from my point of view, that would suggest that New Jersey's performance was worth further thought. It was not.


Friday, December 14, 2007


The Past Week

Well, let's go over the last week. I didn't have a lot to say right after the Rangers and Capitals games on Sunday and Monday, respectively. The Devils played well for seemingly 10 minutes on Sunday - excepting Martin Brodeur who was absolutely amazing, the Devils lost in overtime 1-0 on Sunday, the winning streak was broken on Sunday and it was frustrating to watch. In retrospect, considering how the Devils played, what can one expect?

The next night in Washington was more of the same. The Devils did not play well except for some stretches and despite some fortunate goals. Again, in retrospect, the Devils didn't play like they wanted to win and so they didn't - losing 3-2 to the Capitals. Sure, there was some controversy over a Mike Mottau goal being disallowed for a kicking motion that didn't actually exist; but had the Devils not slept walk through the first two periods, it wouldn't have been a big deal. If one focused on those two games alone, one could easily conclude that the Devils are going to follow their winning streak with a losing streak. After all, the Devils didn't play complete, strong games of hockey in the second half of their streak. Bad periods in a hockey game become two and close to three, and so teams lose games. A perfectly reasonable result considering what was going on.

Then something interesting happened on Wednesday, thanks to Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, evidence that Brent Sutter is not a coach who takes any sass. After watching Aaron Asham lollygag through a drill, Sutter (verbally) had it out with Asham with the lovely quote, "Whatever. That's the way you've been playing for two weeks." Given that Aaron Asham has not stepped it up in Boston, I'm not sure it worked. I'm heartened by the fact that Sutter wants intensity to be present at practice with the idea that it would show up in games. OK, it hasn't occurred in every game but it was there during the streak and it occurred on Thursday night in Boston. However, I must wonder if Sutter normally responds like this - if he does, I would imagine he'd have to be concerned about his own influence on the team. If the gambits work, then great; but if it leads to the team tuning him out, well, Sutter will have a rather large problem. For now, I don't think it's an issue - I'm just saying that the possibility is there. As further and more heartening signs, Sutter did insert John Oduya back into the line up for Thursday's game to give him a chance (also via Fire & Ice).

And so on Thursday, in a crowd that definitely looked and sounded more than 1,500 on TV, the Devils took on the Bruins and won 3-1. The Devils weren't completely sharp, but they were the better team for most of the game. Jamie Langenbrunner was the main man with a great shot on a 5-on-3 power play and with the game-icing brace. Bruins captain and stud defenseman Zdeno Chara was the main goat, as Chara broke Dainius Zubrus' stick during a Andrew Alberts-based 4 minute minor and Chara coughed up the puck in his own zone with the empty net right to Langenbrunner. If there was a main criticism, it's that the Devils were unlucky on offense. Despite the lead, the Devils didn't hang back and try to play defensive hockey throughout the third period as we saw many times when Claude Julien - the current Bruins head coach - ran the bench in New Jersey. No, they pushed for a goal and if it wasn't for some bad luck and unfortunate misses, they could have had at least one more. In particular, Dainius Zubrus had a laser just hit the post and Zach Parise had a glorious scoring chance in the slot but put it right at Alex Auld's legs. As far as Asham and Oduya are concerned; one stepped it up, but one did not. Oduya played 18:15, picked up an assist, and looked steady in his own end. Asham played only 5:37 and was foregettable. Needless to say, Asham is still in Sutter's doghouse.

Now it's Friday and with back-to-back home games, the Devils are back on winning ways. They should get a result against Phoenix tomorrow afternoon provided they take the game seriously. The fans should get the results of tasty and cheap hot dogs for dollar hot dog Saturday - that is something I can personally guarantee. The Flyers on Sunday will be more of a concern as the Flyers would love to avenge their two big losses at the Rock. Plus, Philadelphia will be flying with Mike Richards, who got a 12 year contract extension according to TSN. Richards is a very good player, but clearly Philadelphia sees something special in him. He better be at the price they tied him up in; watch the Devils not care one bit as they will hopefully look to put another beat-down on the Pennsylvania Pylons. Nevertheless, we could be looking at the Devils still standing tall after this weekend in spite of the tough losses earlier this week.

So much in just one week. And without even mentioning the IIHF and NHL opening talks over the transfer agreement between leagues (except Russia, via TSN), Anaheim trading Andy McDonald to St. Louis for Doug Weight and the cap space for Scott Neidermayer, steroids, and Devils prospect Matt Halischuk making the Canadian WJC team.

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Monday, December 10, 2007


The State of NJ Wants Your Money

So what else is new, you ask? Well, this being a Devils blog, you should expect some kind of Devils-related point. And it sure as hell isn't a good one. According to the Star Ledger, there is a bill in the New Jersey state legislature that will add a 5% tax to all tickets to the Prudential Center and 7% tax for parking there.

I am, of course, outraged. The New Jersey Devils, as you know, used to play at the Brendan Byrne Arena which became the Continental Airlines Arena. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority essentially ran the show as owners of that arena. All of those $10+ parking fees? Them. All of those construction delays and detours? Them. The lack of consideration for those going to and from the game? Them. The reason to charge high prices for tickets? Well, it wasn't all their fault - but they were a part of it. And I can't imagine it was any better for the tenets of the arena. It was the horrible management of the NJSEA was, as I understand it, a reason as to why the Devils organization built their own stadium; why the New York Red Bulls are building their own in Harrison; and why the Nets are moving to Brooklyn.

So the Devils move over to Newark, to the brand-new Prudential Center in Newark. This gives many New Jerseyans like myself and non-New Jerseyans alike an actual reason to go to Newark at night. Has the arena been a sell-out every night? No. However, you can't tell me that 15,000 to 16,000 coming to Newark at night during the week or on the weekends hasn't provided any benefit to the city.

But now this comes along. The reasons for this are for "traffic control and security costs." I can understand both come with their own costs; but why in the hell should the paying fans - the fans who will come to spend money to get to the city, to spend it in the city of Newark - have to suffer this cost? Will season ticket holders have to pay an extra fee? Will a family wanting to go to a Devils, already balking at tickets at about $65 in the median (I may be wrong, but it's definitely not cheap), want to pay even more per ticket to go to a game? I'll look at the numbers later, but I really don't believe this tax will serve to provide the state more money. If anything, it'll be more of a reason for people to not go to Newark and to not enjoy a Devils game or a Seton Hall Pirates game or a New Jersey Ironman game or a concert or some other event at the Prudential Center. That's potential money that the city of Newark will lose - and the state of New Jersey will not get.

But tell that to the legislature. I don't think they won't listen. The bill is being fast-tracked apparently, and it's being reported in the news likely well after any real chances to kill it. So get ready to deal with even higher prices because some know-nothing legislator deemed it so, with their reality-and-common-sense challenged legislator colleagues ready to sign on. I'm sure the "traffic control and security costs" could be made up with improved financial organization or even charging the organization more. Making the fans pay the cost, which will undoubtedly give people on-the-fence about the arena a big reason to not come, is absolutely short-sighted and stupid.

Thanks, New Jersey. Even without the NJSEA, you continue to stick it to an organization who has brought a lot of goodwill and pride to the state, as well as it's fans and visitors.

ASIDE: I'd like to point out that the bill does not include a similar tax for visitors to the Izod Arena or Giants Stadium. The Devils' Prudential Center are being specifically targeted.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007


Rangers 1 - Devils 0, OT

Brendan Shanahan just scored early in overtime on a one-timer that beat an otherwise unbeatable Martin Brodeur.

The defense bended, allowing the Rangers to have 29 shots on net, but didn't break until overtime. Martin Brodeur was perfect in stopping them all except for the one he had no real chance on. The offense didn't really show up as the Devils only put 17 on net - and seemingly shot more than that wide.

Despite stopping them during regulation, the Rangers built on momentum with shot after shot and eventually got their break.

Analysis? Here it is: This loss sucks because the Devils weren't fully in it and the Rangers were.

But we can't dwell on it - the Devils have to immediately go down to Washington DC and play the Capitals tomorrow night. Hopefully, the team will bring their A game tomorrow.



Today: Our Hated Rivals

The New Jersey Devils travel to Madison Square Garden to take on Our Hated Rivals. The game starts at 5 PM and it will be both on MSG and FSNY. Radio feeds can be found at and on your actual radio at 1130 AM, WBBR. The Devils are on a 9 game winning streak and are looking for their first win against Our Hated Rivals this season. Our Hated Rivals lost their last three games.

What can I say to help out the Devils here? Nothing but hackneyed phrases like "play like a team, play for all 60 minutes, &c. But a little message from Herm Edwards from the 2007 Kansas City Chiefs training camp (and featured on HBO) would be appropriate.

Silly, yes, but I fully want the Devils to understand that crucial point.

Do not be afraid to be great.

Let's go Devils. It's almost time to shine.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007


Devils 3 - Washington 2 - Melrose 0

First, thanks to Greg Wyshnyski of the NHL Fanhouse for recognizing my previous post. If you're from the NHL Fanhouse - welcome and I hope you enjoy this blog. A recent post I invite you to check out that's a bit more serious and analytical is my quarter-ish of the season breakdown of the penalties the Devils committed. It even has a pie chart. Anyway, Greg's idea of throwing a wallet onto the ice was quite clever, but I'm glad nothing of the sort happened as I believe that sort of thing would cost the Devils a 2 minute minor for delay of game. You can thank the Florida Panthers and their formerly rubber-rat throwing fanbase back in 1996 for that one.

As far as the Melrose hate goes, if it was there, I didn't hear it. I was up in the upper section opposite the Loudest Corner of the Rock - sections 231-233 with the Crazies right in the middle. I'm sure they had plenty to say but the crowd overall did not have anything special to say about Melrose. This includes myself and I apologize for coming up with chant ideas and not having the proverbial "grapefruits" to try any of them out. In the crowd's defense, the upper section successfully performed the Wave for a good 3 minutes followed by the lower section continuing the Wave for a length of time afterwards in the third period. In any case, the night was Scott Stevens Hall of Fame Tribute Night and many of the videos on the big screen were about Stevens - Melrose wasn't shown once. That was the major point of the night outside of the game, even recognized on the front page of (at least, it was there when I went there as I type this). That's fair enough, I suppose the media coverage about Melrose's visit sufficed to put him in his place. Melrose came out of Newark with a more positive view, according to Jeffrey Mays of the Star Ledger. Melrose, as well as the fans, also came out of Newark seeing the Devils beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 to win their ninth straight game. As always, that link takes you to the recap of the game.

This game was easily one of the worst performances the Devils given in their nine-game winning streak. Yes, in the last four games or so with the exception of the Montreal thrashing, the Devils started the game very poorly - giving up the first goal, generally looking listless, and letting the other team dictate the play. But in those games, the Devils dramatically turned their performance around and fought back hard to not only become the better team in the game but also the winners. Last night was the opposite: the Devils looked very strong in the first period. The Devils were unfortunate to get only 2 against Capitals' goaltender Olaf Kolzig. The Devils offense, especially on their first power play, made Kolzig move and flop around with the Devils only foiled by either A) bad luck in finishing or B) absolutely desparate defending. But the Devils did get 2 and they were sweet: Vitaly Vishnevski picked up his first of the season with a beautiful individual effort. First, he intercepts a Capitals clearance in the middle of the ice at the top of the zone (note: Even I know better than to clear the puck up the middle, let this be a lesson to the Capitals defense). Vishnevski powered closer to the net with the puck, dangled the puck to his backhand, and let the backhand loose which fooled Kolzig for goal number one. I never knew Vishnevski could do that. The second goal came from Dainius Zubrus who was in the right position in front of the net to put home the rebound off of a Brian Gionta shot. Heavily outshooting the Capitals 12-5 in the first period, the Devils were rolling.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the game, the Devils stopped rolling. As the game went on, the team became more and more passive. On offense, they weren't nearly as threatening as they could have been. With a shaky defense and Kolzig in net, the idea of just putting the puck on net as much as you could wouldn't be a bad one. But they tried to set up more than they needed to and therefore didn't get as many shots on net as they could have. More glaringly, the Devils on defense - and in general - let the Capitals take more control of the game. They allowed the puck carrier more space than he should have to make a play and they didn't cover open men as well as they needed to - which led to both goals scored by Washington, someone missing a man near the net. Instead of the Devils putting the hammer down and just decisively beating the Capitals, the Devils did not continue working as hard as they did in the first period and essentially let them back into it. It didn't matter how often Brent Sutter sent out of the Madden unit against Ovechkin's line; the line-matching wasn't the key to success in this one. Thanks to Martin Brodeur, a quick goal by Travis Zajac in response to Washington's first goal of the game, and some wasted chances by Washington, the Devils prevailed.

However, my main concern is that the Devils are not nearly playing as well as they did at the start of this streak. Should the Devils lose, which will eventually happen, no one goes on a 50+ game winning streak ever, the question becomes, "How will the Devils respond after a broken streak?" And if that response means returning to play less than 60 minutes of hockey, to return to a completely passive defense, and to return to a letting the other team dictate the pace of the game, the winning streak might as well be followed by a losing streak. Because the Devils will lose many hockey games if they regress after this streak; and they will end up back to where they started before the streak - on the outside in the competitive Atlantic Division. Fortunately, the team seems to be aware of this, as indicated by this quote from Martin Brodeur (via Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice, emphasis is my own):
Up next is Sunday's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Devils are 0-2-1 against the Blueshirts this season and a combined 0-4-2 against their two metro area rivals (Rangers and Islanders). "It's our big rival and we're (0-2-1) against them and we're going to play them eight times, so if we want to have a decent record we've got to get going here," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "It's a team that plays us well and, hopefully, we'll get our A Game and be a little better than the last few games."
I would hope so, considering tonight's performance was definitely not an "A" game performance.

I have to emphasize that I'm glad the Devils won, I'm glad that the Devils now lead the division, and I'm especially impressed that the Devils swept their 5 game homestand to continue the streak. But I would be lying if I were not concerned about how the team has been playing - as indicated from last night's performance. I - like many Devils fans - will be incredibly unhappy should they lose to Our Hated Rivals and if the loss would lead to a tailspin back to the bottom of the division. We just read that the team knows they can do better, hopefully they will and add their first win against Our Hated Rivals tomorrow.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007


Barry Melrose Comes to Newark

I just saw this on Tom Gulitti's blog: Barry Melrose will be at The Rock to catch the Devils-Capitals game tomorrow. You know, the guy who said this about Newark:
"Don't go outside if you have a wallet or anything else, because the area around the arena is just horrible."
Well. Gulitti says that team owner Jeff Vanderbeek and Newark mayor Cory Booker "took the bait" and highlighted the comment. Which I think is great. A little slice of humble pie for Melrose, a little more attention paid to the arena, the city and tomorrow's game, and most importantly: an opportunity. An opportunity to come up with some fantastic chants! Now, I don't think yelling "cut your mullet" over and over again would suffice. This is an opportunity to be creative. Here are some suggestions:
OK, most of these aren't particularly great. But I at least tried to come up with one that doesn't have "Rangers Suck" or "Flyers Swallow," so I got that going for me. Maybe you have a suggestion - leave it in the comments and/or yell it out loud when the Capitals bring out their players not named Ovechkin, Nylander, Kolzig, or Pothier. Enjoy the game!

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Elias, Eight, and a Concern

Last night, the New Jersey Devils completed a fantastic comeback effort in the second and third periods to tie up the Boston Bruins at 3. Then in overtime, the Devils put the nail in the coffin and defeated the Claude Julien-coached Bruins 4-3 with Patrik Elias' shot beating Tuukka Rask high. The recap at is here, live caps were done by 2 Man Advantage and Interchangeable Parts (warning: language), and Tom Gulitti has the word that Aaron Asham's hand is sore and the explanation as to why Patrik Elias didn't come out after being named the first star (I thought he was in the bathroom, but I guess that was a silly guess).

The game itself was fantastic - it's a 3 goal comeback in regulation and with the game-winner coming in overtime from Elias. Zach Parise finished the night with a brace and 2 assists, but Elias was truly the best player tonight. Now that Jamie Langenbrunner has the 'C,' Paul Martin and Colin White have 'A's (link goes to Gulitti's blog), Elias just went out there and had a monster game. Elias was taking shots all night long with a whopping 8 on net. Elias was on the ice and threatning all night long with 22:05 of ice time. Elias got the game-winner and the first Devils goal of the game in addition to an assist. He deftly deflected in Brian Gionta's shot from the half boards to give the Devils some light at the end of the tunnel. Elias made moves which led to some slick passes - including a spin move that led to a pass that I am still amazed that Parise didn't put it home. Parise had the points and don't get me wrong, Parise played great. But last night was the Patrik Elias show featuring his linemates: Parise and Gionta. I don't want to say it has anything to do with a letter that is stitched above the heart, it was just one game. But it was a fantastic performance.

Last night also indicated the big difference in coaches. Last season, Claude Julien would still be line-matching throughout the entire game even when the Devils were down 3-0. Sutter noted that the Bruins' forecheck got weaker and weaker as the game went on and he had the Devils change their attack accordingly. Sutter realized how hot the Elias line was, so he kept sending them out and sending out the forwards to attack. Defensemen were allowed to join the attack. As far as the Bruins go, after they went up by three, the Bruins attacked with less aggression and fell back into a trap. A trap the Devils were able to exploit and claw their way back from a giant hole. After the second period, with the score being 3-2, one would expect the visiting opposition to push real hard for an insurance goal. Not Julien. The Bruins kept the same game plan, came close a handful of times, but they let the Devils back into it. The Devils were able to adjust. That's the difference.

And for the Devils, they needed to adjust. They were absolutely putrid in the first period. Brodeur got beat, the defense was paper thin, and the best shots on offense came from the point and didn't seriously challenge Tim Thomas - who did play well prior to injury - at all. This needs to change. Well, OK, it did change. The Devils got their heads together, checked their guts, went out there, and fought back from 3 goals down to force an overtime - where they won. The Devils won their eighth game in a row and when a team is in a streak, they find ways to win games from poor starts. But this is the third time in the last four wins where the Devils didn't do well in the first period. They not only conceded the first goal in all three, but in the Dallas game they gave up 2 to start, the Devils were lucky to tie it up against Atlanta, and last night they let up 3. They were dominated in those three games and it took a better team effort for the Devils to come out of them with a win. However, those superb comebacks aren't always going to happen - streak or no streak. The Devils need to improve their recent performances in the first period and play a strong 60 minutes of hockey to continue their successes. The streak will not last, but it would make winning hockey games a hell of a lot easier.

Will the streak continue on Friday? Given it will be Scott Stevens Hall of Fame Tribute Night, I would expect the players to be pumped up. Also consider the opponent: the Washington Capitals have the worst record in the league and the fewest amount of wins with 9. Guarantees aren't appropriate, but a nine game winning streak for the Devils is, well, let's say it's definitely possible.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Toys for Tots Tomorrow

It's very clear on the front of the New Jersey Devils' official website. Tomorrow is Toys for Tots Night at the Prudential Center. If you're going to the game, bring a new, unwrapped toy for the charity. You'll be doing a good deed as you see the Devils face their old coach Claude Julien and the Boston Bruins. If you're not going to the game and you know someone who is, make sure they bring a toy. And if you're not going to the game and you know nobody who is going to the game, well, give a toy at some other Toys for Tots outlet.

I know this reads like a commercial, but it is a good organization and it's always good to give something to charity that will put more than a smile on someone's face.

ALSO: Tom Gulitti is reporting that Jay Pandolfo isn't playing tomorrow and that Lou is looking into the ice issue. He says it has to do with the computer system that monitors the environmental conditions, in that the system doesn't work right. It's great that we finally have an actual explanation as to the poor quality of the ice at the Rock. It would be better, of course, when it is fixed. Hopefully, that will be soon.

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Undrafted to the NHL: Clarkson and Greene

Yesterday, James Mirtle had a list of who he thought were the current unsung heroes in the NHL this season. I don't know if "unsung hero" applies this early, but his point is spot on. Many of the players listed fit the bill of guys who most wouldn't expect too much in the preseason becoming important factors for their teams. At the least, we can attest to Tobias Enstrom, who looked very good with Atlanta on Sunday. Of course, this being a Devils blog, I'm going to focus on David Clarkson and Andy Greene. These two definitely fit the category of underrated players contributing in major ways.

Clarkson isn't just the leader of the team in penalty minutes (65) - he's been contributing on the box score with 3 goals and 4 assists while rotating between the top 6 forwards and the third line. His talents has allowed him to play many roles: pest, physical presence, defensive forward, net-crasher, and others. He's got a strong shot, he's got little fear on the ice, and he's pretty strong. He certainly impressed me last season in his first NHL game back in March, and with his entire short call-up with the Devils last season. I said he reminded me of a young Randy McKay and he's definitely playing like it. He's becoming a fan favorite here, but he really showed what he could in that short call-up and it's great that he's continuing to play the way he does.

It's even more impressive when you consider his origins; which also explains why he is so underrated. Clarkson was not drafted by a NHL team, serving his full career in the Ontario Hockey League with the Belleville Bulls and the Kitchener Rangers. A quick look at his career numbers at show some modest point production (for the OHL) but some serious penalty minute counts. But the scouts saw more than a potential goon. He was signed directly to the Albany River Rats in their last season of affiliation with New Jersey, and, well, racked up even more penalty minutes. But picking up 13 goals and 34 points in your first season of professional hockey isn't so bad, especially considering how terrible Albany was. Clarkson followed the team to Lowell, decreased his penalty minutes and increased his goal production; suggesting he was maturing as a player. The proof of that came when the Devils called up the fiesty winger for a few games. Definitely not bad for an undrafted, physical forward from junior.

Andy Greene is the other player and Mirtle is impressed with his +10 in 25 games for a Devils squad that hasn't exactly been strong on defense this year. To me, Mirtle misses the most impressive number: 21:06. Greene has averaged 21:06 of ice time, the second highest amount of time on the Devils. That is an incredible amount of minutes and responsibility that Brent Sutter is putting into Greene, a player who is playing in his first full season and technically his second NHL season.

Greene didn't come out of left field like Clarkson. OK, Greene, like Clarkson, was undrafted and the Devils scouts sought him out for a professional contract. Unlike Clarkson, Greene was very good coming straight out of Miami of Ohio and into the Devils training camp. He spent 56 games in Lowell primarily due to salary cap reasons, and back in late February, I thought that the Devils traded David Hale to create the cap space for them to call up Greene. And, lo and behold, I was right as Greene was called up soon after and played 23 regular season games with New Jersey as well as all 11 playoff games. He looked pretty good to start with then. Now, Greene is in a top 4 defenseman spot and he doesn't look out of place. Don't get me wrong, he can improve and he'll need to - but given that he looks alright with his current workload, I would expect him to get even better. Moreso if/when Sutter realizes that Sutter has some offensive skills and puts Greene on the power play. Again, an undrafted player that wasn't really heralded except for the hardcore Devils fans who knew about his potential from drips and drabs of information until he got onto the ice and played. Again, playing in a full season opened up even more eyes.

It's great that Mirtle - and presumably anyone else - recognizes players like Clarkson and Greene. However, I want to take it a step further by stating that these two players are proof that you don't necessarily need to be a highly regarded prospect or a first-round draft pick or even a draft pick at all to contribute to a NHL hockey team. The fact that the Devils discovered them and helped develop them to be who they are today (and who they will be tomorrow) speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the Devils' scouting and the Devils organization for taking a chance and signing them. The important thing to consider is good players with talent and skills come from all possible areas. It may surprise you, but I'm sure those in the organization who see them practice and play every day would tell you it's not much of a surprise at all.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007


Devils 3 - Atlanta 2, SO

The Devils defeated the Atlanta Thrashers in a shootout, 3-2, to extend their winning streak to 7 games. As always, the link goes to the recap at, which has all the links to game summaries, box scores, and more detailed information. Despite the game needing to go to a shootout, the Devils definitely played like the better team this late afternoon. They outshot the Thrashers 36 to 25, they blocked more shots than the Thrashers 24 to 14, and the Devils looked much better in setting up their offense than the mighty Atlanta Thrashers.

For what it's worth, Atlanta did make a game of it. They worked hard in the first, earning a power play goal when Todd White deflected a shot to beat Martin Brodeur. But all that work was erased when Sergei Brylin finished off a wonderful play. John Madden took the puck away from a sprawling Thrasher at center ice and fed it to Paul Martin. Martin smartly rushed the puck in and hit Brylin with a late pass who easily put it home. The Devils struck again with John Madden put back a brilliant pass by Karel Rachunek from the point. The Madden unit played well all game, but you can only contain Ilya Kovalchuk only so much. Kovalchuk gave Atlanta an equalizer off a blistering one-timer. The shot was so hard, so fast, and so precise that I don't think there's any goaltender in the league that could have stopped that shot. The Devils did well on the penalty kill and on defense and Martin Brodeur did what he had to do. It's just that the two goals Atlanta scored weren't soft or easy goals - that happens in hockey. Unfortunately, Johan Hedberg of the Thrashers and the Atlanta penalty killers did well for themselves, keeping New Jersey from converting on any of their 5 power plays and stopping 34 shots. The Thrashers surged late in the game, but it wasn't enough.

And so it went to a shootout and the Devils succeeded. Brodeur robbed Marian Hossa, Slava Kozlov, and Ilya Kovalchuk so Brian Gionta's beautiful backhand goal was enough to keep the streak alive. The Devils did fairly well and so the win is definitely deserved. The question now is, how long do the Devils keep it up? Will it continue through this week against Boston (13-9-2) and Washington (9-16-2)? I have my doubts, streaks don't last forever. On the other hand, the Devils are playing host to both those teams and wins against them are definitely possible.



November in Review, Devil of the Month

I should have done this yesterday but here it is anyhow. The first half of November continued the inconsistent play the Devils had in October. They would look good in one or two games and then look miserable in the next game. And so, through November 16, the Devils had a record of 3-4-1, being shutout twice. Then something must have "clicked" for the Devils as November became a very good month for the Devils with 6 straight wins - 4 coming on the road. The Devils picked up their first two shutouts of the season, Martin Brodeur earned his 500th season win in his career, Zach Parise became the second Devil to score a hat trick in the Prudential Center (I was wrong earlier, Jay Pandolfo got the first hat trick), and the team dramatically on defense dropping to an average of 2.4 goals against per game and an average of 26.4 shots against per game. Definitely an improvement both in terms in numbers, in terms of the standings, and in terms of how the team has been performing on a game-to-game basis. The games are much better to watch from a Devils fan standpoint, as the team is working harder each night as the winning streak went on.

This month saw the return of two important Devils to the team: Colin White and Jamie Langenbrunner. White returning to the team was huge; I'm personally amazed his eyesight has recovered enough to the point where he could play hockey again. And he has contributed to the team the minute he returned to the ice - giving the defense some needed stability with his positional defense and his physical play. He played 17:25 in his first game back and has played at least that much in each of his five games this month. White was missed and it's great that he's back.

But a bigger return was Jamie Langenbrunner. He came back to the Devils in a brutal 4-2 loss against the Rangers and immediately made an impact with 2 goals - one coming within the first minute of the game. Since then, he has been a hard working winger and being the star that stirred the drink for the Devils on offense and on the power play with 9 assists in the last 5 games of the month. Back in October, I expressed doubt in Jamie Langenbrunner being a leader of the team. Now, I can definitely see it - while his return didn't immediately kick off the Devils' recent turnaround, he has been a huge factor in the team's improvement this month. While Zach Parise scored more points this month and Martin Brodeur played the most consistently, it is for that reason alone that I am naming Jamie Langenbrunner the ILWT Devil of the Month for November 2007.

For a different, player-by-player take, check out Scott Mackie's November review at 2 Man Advantage.

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