Friday, December 21, 2007
Attention: Defense, Show Up!
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.