Wednesday, January 31, 2007
January in Review & Devil of the Month
Well, last night didn't go so well for the Devils against Atlanta, losing to the Thrashers by a score of 5-4 via the shootout
(link goes to official score sheet at NHL.com). Positives include the power play (2 for 3), scoring four goals (on 40 shots), the second line and Patrik Elias getting back to being productive on the offense, and managing a point out of the game. Negatives include discipline (7 penalties, including an "abuse of officials" minor for the team), the penalty kill (Atlanta was lethal going 3 for 6 on the power play), and the defense (of what I'm seeing of the game so far, Atlanta runned and gunned to the tune of 40 shots). Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger sums up the game fairly well and why NJ did not win, it seems
. Tim Mo gets to the heart of the matter as well at RaReMaDev.
Sloppy play is not Devils hockey and they rarely win when they are sloppy.
Regardless of their last two losses, January was a strong month for the Devils. They moved into first place in the Atlantic Division just before January and has ceased to give up control of that position. The first game of the month was a disappointing shootout loss to those Rangers I so despise.
But the Devils regained their bearings with wins in their next three games: a close 4-3 win over the Islanders
, a close 3-2 win in Ottawa
, and a solid, dominant 3-0 victory in Montreal the very next night.
The Devils unfortunately could not sustain the winning streak, losing 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues
after their successful back-to-back game excursion in Canada. The Devils then finally broke a season-and-a-half long winless streak against the Atlanta Thrashers halfway through the month with a 2-1 win.
As expected, they used that win to propel them to win their next two: a 2-1 win in a goaltenders duel against the NY Islanders
and a 1-0 shutout victory over the Rangers.
Again, momentum was sunk in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but restored soon after in a 4-3 shootout win over the Flyers.
The All Star break gave all the Devils not named Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise, and Brian Rafalski a good rest. Whilst being shelled to the tune of 6 goals in the All Star Game, Brodeur bounced back in a brilliant performance shutting out the Lightning 2-0.
The Devils end the month on a down note, however, losing 4-2 to the Florida Panthers where the Devils were flat and the Panthers were anything but
; and the recent 5-4 shootout loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Devils finish the month with a record of 8-2-3, with the Devils sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division with an overall record of 30-15-6. That's not a bad record at all. Lou's happy with the team so I certainly can't complain with the roster as of right now. They're winning games and more importantly close games; which I believe is crucial in the playoffs. If your team remains calm under the pressure and intensity in the post-season, that's a great sign because everything gets taken up to the proveribal "11" in the playoffs. Goals become harder to come by as there is usually at least one goalie in every playoffs who is seemingly unbeatable in the post season. Winning close games is something you got to like if you're a Devils fan in this regard. February features the Devils playing 13 games, just like in January, with 8 home games (6 in a row!) and 5 away games. The St. Louis Blues are the last Western Conference team the Devils have and will face this season, unless the Devils go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils should make a point of it to win as many games as possible in February, if only to make their 14 game (and mostly away game) March schedule have a little less pressure on it.
In any case, notice that 6 of the 8 wins in January the Devils had earned were one-goal wins. Featuring 3 shutouts and climbing to the top (and sitting near the top) in every statistical category, the Devil of the Month is Scott Clemmensen.
Just kidding, it's Martin Brodeur! Again, how can you not pick Brodeur? He started in all of the Devils games in this past month and was strong in all of them except for the last two games. He continues to make saves that were so impressive that I'm still trying to figure out. (e.g. How did he rob Eric Perrin on the rebound midway through the third period in the 2-0 win over Tampa?) He wins games, he single-handedly shuts down the opposition's offense, he gives the Devils the chance to still make comebacks to win games, and he shrugs off bad goals given up and bad nights to play very well in the next night. He has even gotten some pub for being nominated for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player in the regular season The answer is elementary: Brodeur is the Devil of the Month.
Incidentally, the Maven has a new blog but it's on Typepad; so here's the link to that
. I'll update the sidebar of links shortly to include this change.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Game: Devils @ Atlanta, 4 of 4
The New Jersey Devils face the Atlanta Thrashers in their final regular season game tonight in Atlanta.
GAMETIME: 7 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Thrashers: 1-1-1NHL.com Preview
The Devils are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers wherein the team as a whole came out flat and paid for it. Not scoring on either of the two power plays the Devils got certainly did not help. The Thrashers last dropped points to the Philadelphia Flyers in a 2-1 loss, highlighted by the Thrashers failing to convert on six power play opportunities. My point? Special teams matter. And such will be the key tonight. The Thrashers generally play well against the Devils and they're going to be up for it tonight after losing to the Flyers of all teams. The Devils got a little break prior to tonight's game, so any fatigue should be largely gone by now. In any case, the team who makes the most out of their special teams unit tonight will likely win. Considering the current lack of spark in the Devils' offense; it may not look good for the Devils tonight. On the other hand, perhaps losing 4-2 in such a lame, no-fight way against the Panthers will "inspire" them to come out not so flat tonight and take the game to Atlanta.
One thing I do know is that it'll be some exciting hockey - that I won't be able to get to see unfortunately. (3 hour night classes on Tuesday are fun that way) Thus, I will not get a chance to do any post-game recaps. Devils Due
are reliable in that regard, so I suggest you check out what they have to say after the game.
To tide you over, there are a number of articles I'd like to point out:
Tom Lycan's recent post at Devils Due
points out this rather enlightening article from the Bergen Record.
Lou is happy with the way the team is designed right now. I can't imagine he's thrilled at how the offense is doing, but I suppose this means he won't look to make any moves prior to the trade deadline. Also, I'm pretty sure he can't get anyone of large significance unless he trades a Devil who makes a significant amount of money. You never know with Lou; but if he's happy with the team, there isn't much of a reason for me and I suppose other Devils fans to be unhappy with the team. In the same post, there is another noting of a Mark Everson column in the New York Post stating that head coach Claude Julien is doing pretty well.
When you're in first place in the Atlantic Division at the All Star break with a sizable lead, you must be doing something
While I won't get a chance to see the game tonight, I hope to get a month-in-review post up tomorrow for January. Tonight's game is the last game for NJ this month before an interesting February begins. A month where NJ can pull themselves away from the pack or be brought back down to Earth, so to speak. Regardless, GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Postgame: Panthers 4 - Devils 2
The loss was only the second loss in regulation for the Devils so far in 2007, they've taken at least one point in their last 6 games (5-0-1). That said, the Panthers simply wanted this game more than the Devils. They came out hustling, they continued to out-hustle the Devils, and they simply looked to have more energy via their hustle. They won a lot more fights for the puck, out-hit the Devils by a margin of 28 to 17, and made more of their chances while they both had the same amount of shots (32).
The game was not one Martin Brodeur's best; he got burned by Rostislav Olesz' second goal which tied up the game early in the second period and again by Joel Kiwatkowski which ended up being the game winner. I don't think Brodeur was tired, it was just an off night. More to the point, it was an off night for the Devils in general. Again, I saw Devils forcing bad passes when they should be shooting, I saw Devils squandering power play opportunities (only two tonight, it was a well-disciplined game), I saw the Devils defense simply let Florida get deep into their zone with their speed, and I saw the Devils just seemingly a step behind Florida for much of the game. That's no way to win.
The offense was poor. Tim Mo's recap of the game at RaReMaDev is on point
: the Devils offense needs to pick it up. As mentioned, the power play yielded little and the Devils remain to be too patient with the puck. I'm not wishing that head coach Claude Julien tells the forwards to give up playing two-way hockey and/or play fire wagon hockey sans patience; I just want to see more aggression in putting the puck on net. Right now, it isn't working with a man advantage and not working all that well in even strength situations. Even the two goals the Devils got were the result of luck as opposed to hard work: Gionta tipped in a shot that was already deflected by Jay Pandolfo and just bounced into the net. Johnny Oduya's slapshot was deflected by Ruslan Salei's stick which beat goaltender Ed Belfour. Forget the playoffs for a moment, Tim Mo, the recently lackluster Devils offense - in terms of production and intensity - will hurt the Devils for the rest of this season. I know Brodeur is the best around - he's already going to be the Devil of the Month - but even he needs offensive help. Something has to change, and I wish I knew what it was but I don't. Hopefully Julien and the Devils coaching staff has some ideas to spark the offense once again.
I think the Devils in general were a bit tired; but last night was the second half of the many back-to-back games they have had this season. They should be used to it by now and past games have shown that the Devils can play hard in those second games. Last night was not one of them, obviously. The Panthers seemingly wanted it more, played the game with fire, and got the win as a result whilst the Devils did not play with fire and came out flat. Hopefully the Devils take last night's game into account prior to visiting Atlanta on Tuesday; because another lackluster effort like this will all but guarantee a loss to the Thrashers. Or pretty much every other team in the NHL. That said, I think they won't come out as flat on Tuesday. I hope not, at least.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Game: Devils @ Florida, 3 of 4
The New Jersey Devils will continue their road trip in Florida by taking on the Panthers tonight.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: MSG
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Panthers: 2-0-0NHL.com Preview
BUT FIRST: I made an error in last night's post-game review. Commenter Iain T pointed out that the win last night made it eleven consecutive seasons where Martin Brodeur has won at least 30 games. The AP via NHL.com also made note of that.
Thank you for picking up on the error, Iain.
A notice to the Devs: Marty is super-human this year…but you still have to find a way to clear the puck!! How many chances did the D have to send Tampa chasing, and instead they end up feeding the pointmen. Seriously, guys, ya might wanna work on that. Otherwise, keep up the solid effort - apparantly it’s doing you a whole lotta good.
He's right. Especially in the third period, errant clearances gave the Lightning second (sometimes third and fourth) hope to maintain puck possession on offense and either have room to take a shot on net or set up a shot. The Devils were fortunate Brodeur was on his A-game to stop those scoring chances. I don't think the Devils should have to rely on Brodeur to do all that work on a regular basis; the blueline is talented enough to clear the puck more often. Therefore, to limit the Florida offense, the Devils will need to shape up in their clearances.
The second point is offense and their patience. This doesn't just apply to the power play, but in general. In the Lightning game, the Devils tried to be patient and force passes to set up shots. Sometimes, this is good - especially with a man advantage - as it eventually leads to a shot from open ice, which generally has a better chance of going in than a shot going through traffic (where it could be deflected wide, or into the goalie if not outright blocked). But the Devils have been patient to a fault, passing when they have a clear shot on net; cycling the puck around the zone instead of forcing the defense to make a decision; and sometimes moving the puck around to a defense that realizes that they are trying to be baited into chasing the puck. What I'm suggesting is that the Devils go for the proverbial jugular and put a lot of rubber on Belfour. I don't want to see the Florida defense give the puck away to a Devil who chooses to make a pass that is blocked or off the mark when he's all alone with the goalie like I saw Erik Rasmussen do last night against Tampa Bay. Let's unload the puck when you get a chance.
Now, all of this and I haven't gotten into the Panthers themselves. Well, they have the second worst record in the Eastern Conference. Meaning they are currently only 6 points behind Pittsburgh for the eighth place. If the Panthers get hot, they are looking at a playoff position; so they will be up for this game and should be for the rest of the season. The team itself has historically struggled against the Devils, going 4-16-2 against New Jersey since the 2000-2001 season. But again, the Panthers' fight for the playoffs begins tonight and I'd expect them to be up for this game. The Devils will need to keep a close eye on leading scorer Olli Jokinen, who has 22 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. A quick look at their team statistics at NHL.com
show that the Panthers don't have too many listed right-wingers; so tonight may be a good night for left wingers Patrik Elias and Zach Parise to punish the Panthers. I'd argue they don't have much scoring depth beyond Jokinen, Nathan Horton, and Josef Stumpel; but the Madden unit should focus on whoever is playing with Jokinen, as he's been aces all season long it seems.
In any case, it won't be a breeze for the Devils offense as the Panthers have Jay Bouwmeester as their top defenseman - who is quite quick and positionally sound; the Devils may have to get it done when the rest of the Florida blueline is out there (e.g. Bryan Allen, Ruslan Salei). In net for Florida, I'm guessing it'll be Ed Belfour who is having an OK season with the team. He is currently 11-9-5 with a GAA of 2.62 and a 90.2% save percentage.
I don't think the game is a cakewalk, but I should hope the Devils win tonight and continue trying to make up points to catch the first place Buffalo Sabres in the conference. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Friday, January 26, 2007
Postgame: Devils 2 - Tampa Bay 0
Well. The Devils certainly didn't win this one the easy way. The Devils scored first and played a patient game for the first periods. Patient being that the Devils were not overly aggressive on defense - they did not rush to meet the Lightning forwards heads on but relying on positional play to force poor decisions. The Devils and Lightning both had some scoring chances, and it was a fairly even game for most of the 40 minutes of the game.
In the third period, however, the proverbial light bulb went off in the Lightning's collective head and realized they needed a goal. The Lightning became more aggressive, highlighted by their power play in the third period. The Devils could not clear the zone or get a shift change for about 1:40 of that 2 minutes, and the Lightning seemed determined as all hell to score an equalizer. Martin Brodeur said no. In the third period, Brodeur had to make 12 saves on 12 shots, some of which should have been goals. Not probably would have been goals, I mean situations where the forward had the entire top of the net open or a hole off a rebound right in front of the crease; and somehow - SOMEHOW - Martin Brodeur made the save.
Jay Pandolfo got the empty net goal - I can't remember the last empty net goal they got, I'm thinking the Islanders back on December 30, 2006 - to ice the game and ended a tough third period. The Devils did enough on defense to force the Lightning to only have 12 shots and Brodeur did stopped them all for the victory. I must say, despite the Lightning "winning" the period I must commend the Devils defense for limiting Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Brad Richards. That's 78 combined goals and not one appeared on the score sheet; you know the blueline has done it's job when the best forward for the Lightning was Eric Perrin.
Martin Brodeur, of course, was the star. Tonight's win makes it his ninth consecutive season with 30 or more wins, a new record for NHL goaltenders if I'm not mistaken. The shutout is Brodeur's ninth of the season and his 89th all time. "The Maven" Stan Fischler told him he played a great game, Brodeur insisted he was OK, and Fischler insisted he was great (and The Maven was right, he did). Amazingly, Brodeur doesn't think he's all that tired and is not against starting tomorrow against Florida. All of this and he's not gassed? Martin Brodeur is truly a legend of the game.
In any case, the Devils offense could have made more of their chances on Holmqvist. They seemed to fade in the third period, but it wasn't without punch. The Lightning did all right in defending the Devils' attack. The power play was weak; I'm pretty sure each of the Devils' four power plays had stretches where they were in their own end defending against the Lightning. Not good. Brodeur played great, but he deserves the offensive help. Regardless, the Devils won the game as frustrating as it was for Lightning fans to not see their team make a come back and as sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat as it was for Devils fans to see Brodeur and the defense hold on to such a slim lead.
On a side note, I'd like to make note that The Maven had an interview with Pat Burns after the first period. While I don't have a transcript or a video, Burns did express a desire to remain in the Devils organization in either a coaching or a scouting role. I'm just happy he's getting healthier, much less talking about doing something with the Devils. To echo the Maven, it's great to see Burns on TV again.
Anyway, the Devils win a close one against a good team and now they get to go to take on a team who is fighting for the playoffs: the Florida Panthers. Good luck and GO DEVILS.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Game: Devils @ Tampa Bay, 2 of 4
The real second half of the season begins with a four game road trip for the New Jersey Devils; they will start it off tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
GAMETIME: 8 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Tampa Bay: 0-0-1NHL.com Preview
For the Lightning, it's the time to take it into second gear. A quick look at the conference standings (available here at NHL.com
) shows Tampa Bay enjoying a nice four point lead over 3 teams next in line for the playoffs. It's a tight race and a losing streak could be lethal. As I mentioned in my last game preview of the Lightning, they pack a powerful offensive punch - meaning the Madden unit better be ready to swarm St. Louis and Lecavalier and the defense needs to clog those passing lanes ASAP PDQ. I'd almost go as far as to suggest a constant collapsing by the Devils defense in their own zone if only to force Tampa Bay to take more long-range shots. In any case, the Devils start their road trip against a formidable opponent.
The Devils need to do three things to at least stay with the Lightning in this game. The first is to play a whole sixty minutes. This is what happened the last time they played the Lightning
, the Devils were only "up for it" for maybe one and a half periods.
The second is to utilize that power play. The Lightning still have one of the least effective penalty killing units in the league and the Devils offense should not be quaking in their skates at the goaltending of either Marc Denis or Johan Holmqvist. They should be aggressive by shooting early and shooting often (and I shouldn't even have to say it should be on net). The third is to limit the Lightning's top forwards. The Devils actually did this very well in their last game against Tampa Bay; but because they did not give a strong effort for much of the game and their power play was not that effective (save for the game tying goal), they were fortunate to get a point out of the game. As far as I know Andy Greene is still in Lowell, so David Hale gets a shot at redemption (and maybe some minutes) on the blueline. Regardless of who is in the line up, the Devils defense will need to step up a second time.
With respect to the rest of the season, now is the time for Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta to take it to the proverbial next level. Elias has 16 goals and 28 assists; Gomez has 9 goals and 27 assists; and Gionta has 21 goals and 17 assists. These are good numbers; but a big reason why the Devils were so strong in the last 3 months of the season was because few teams could legitimately stop the EGG line. Elias in particular was a beast last season, with 16 goals and 29 assists in 38 games; a big reason as to the team playing far better after his return, a big reason as to the Devils not only making the playoffs but taking the Atlantic Division, and a big reason why he was selected as captain after Scott Stevens retired. I'm confident each of these three players has the ability to be massive point producers; now is a great time to begin a torrid streak of goals and assists from this line. They can even do it on the power play, essentially smashing two birds with one puck.
Regardless, it should be another entertaining game tonight. I hope you enjoy it, I know I will. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
All Star Break Etcetera (UPDATE x2!)
I found a bunch of little things here and there that you may be interested in reading and watching, with more now that the All Star Game festivities have ended.
UPDATE: The YoungStars game was a lot of fun for lack of a defense. NHL.com has the official scoresheet from the YoungStars game
, wherein the Eastern Conference won 9-8. Zach Parise was named the MVP of the game with 2 goals and 4 assists. Congratulations to Zach Parise for his performance. Patricia at 2 Man Advantage has her own pictoral thoughts about the YoungStars game both here
I completely agree with her.
The SuperSkills competition was interesting to say the least. Martin Brodeur was OK in his competitions. Brian Rafalski participated in the hardest shot competition for some reason. I don't recall seeing Rafalski go to the slapshot all that much this season, but he gave it a go and had something like 87 MPH. What's funny is that the Pierre McGuire fan-favorite, Mr. BIG BODY PRESENCE himself Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames' shot was only slightly harder than Rafalski' shot. Whammo, indeed. In any case, the Eastern Conference All Stars won the SuperSkills competition 15-11.
Versus production crew must have had a bad night. Poor camera angles, commentators talking over the action, missing shots of the competition coming back from commercial breaks, and the overall presentation of the events was sloppy. The Railcam was not implemented well, but it was way better than the "target cams" from the shot accuracy competition I've seen enough games on Versus to know they do better, so I'll chalk last night as a bad night.
UPDATE THE SECOND: The All Star Game has ended with the Western Conference All Stars defeating the Eastern Conference All Stars by a score of 12 to 9. The official scoresheet
and official super stats
are from NHL.com, respectively linked.
It was a pretty good game, lots of scoring, poor defense, no hitting, and some nice saves. In other words, an All Star Game. The uniforms looked good, Doc was Doc on the microphone, Marty Turco was entertaining as he could hear the commentating and talk back while playing, and the Rail Cam was effective at the ends of the rink (in the neutral zone, not so much).
Brian Rafalski played 19:17 of the game (Note to NHL.com super stats compilies, if a guy plays 19:17 over 19 shifts, his average time per shift is not 1:00.) finished with a -1 and had 2 assists. Martin Brodeur played the second period and did not do as well. He got ripped to the tune of 6 goals. Brodeur had about 4 ridiculous saves as well, so it's not as if he was a sieve. Plus, he was facing an all star team - it's not the likes of Blair Betts and Marcel Hossa or anything like that.
Speaking of Rafalski, I failed to point out this great overview of Rafalski's career by Rich Chere that I read in yesterday's Star Ledger.
It also features a fun and noisy fact about Scott Stevens.
Regardless, the All Star Game was fun, provided a nice break and the NHL will go back to the business of it's regular season tomorrow. The Devils begin a four game road trip against Tampa Bay, Florida, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Postgame: Devils 4 - Philadelphia 3 (SO)
The New Jersey Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4 to 3, finishing 1-0 in a shootout for the win. The official score sheet
and official super stats
are from NHL.com, linked respectively.
Well, I did it again. I underestimated the Flyers like I did with the St. Louis Blues
and the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Flyers hustled and played with heart for much of the game. For example, Derian Hatcher literally diving to stop passes during Devils two-on-ones and Devils shots. The two key differences is that the Devils will play the Flyers four more times this season and that the Devils won the game.
Without getting too much into detail, the Devils were lucky to have tied the game and won it. For starters, the fact that it took the Devils until the last minute in the game to tie it up with Gionta scoring on the rebound is proof enough. Proof that the Devils didn't give up in the game, but also that they gave up too much in the game. Brodeur let in a softy real early in the game and mistakes at both ends of the rink allowed the Flyers to retain the lead after the Devils equalized. Scoring chances were missed, coverages were missed, and the game was very much in Philadelphia's favor. I dare say that the Devils played down the to the Flyers.
The power play. It's back to being bad; let me explain why one power play goal in the game was simply not enough. Goodness gracious, the Flyers were incredibly undisciplined taking all sorts of calls. All three of Alexei Zhitnik's penalties were brainfarts on his end. The Flyers had 6 skaters on the breakout at one point. Joni Pitkanen shoved Brian Gionta in the face not once not twice but three times in front of the referee. The Flyers were taking bad penalties and ultimately gave the Devils seven power plays. SEVEN! The simple fact that the Devils only scored on one of the seven power plays the Devils enjoyed is dissapointing. Moreso when you consider that the Devils were absolutely impotent on at least half of them (and whilst down in the game!). I know Antero Niittymaki played well, but get those shots on net, Devils! They are called man advantages for a reason. Don't just sit there and make short passes in the neutral zone, stop being scared and/or tentative! You are supposed to take advantage of them!
Regardless of luck, the Devils were solid in the shootout and ultimately prevailed. Wins are always good, and now all of the Devils save for four will enjoy a short break. Brian Rafalski and Martin Brodeur will go play in the 2007 NHL All Star Game on Wednesday; Zach Parise will play in the YoungStars game on Tuesday; and Andy Greene was sent back down to Lowell to get some games and presumably also play in the AHL All Star Classic.Tim Mo at RaReMaDev also recapped the game
; I suggest you read it for it's pretty good and breaks it down period by period. Joe Bechtel has some thoughts geared more towards the All Star Game which are worth reading at 2 Man Advantage.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Game: Philadelphia @ Devils,4 of 8
The Philadelphia Flyers visit the New Jersey Devils for an afternoon matinee. It is the final game for both teams prior to the NHL All Star Game, and the requisite All Star Break.
GAMETIME: 1 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record vs. Flyers: 3-0-0NHL.com Preview
I apologize for not doing a postgame post about Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Lightning. I suggest reading Tim Mo's recap of the game at RaReMaDev
, as well as Tom Lycan's recap of the game at Devils Due.
Both are detailed and I really can not disagree with either of them. I am glad that Johnny Oduya has returned to the line up and not surprised it was David Hale who got scratched. Andy Greene has looked good with the Devils so far, even warranting time on the power play. Hale's confidence seems to be shaken and whenever he does something good, he does something bad soon after; forcing head coach Claude Julien to play him as little as he does. With respect to the game overall, I will say that the Devils did OK in the first period, terribly in the second period, good in the third period, and unremarkable in overtime and in the shootout. I will quote Claude Julien from NHL.com's preview about the game, as it sums it up nicely.
"For two periods, I don't think we played very well," coach Claude Julien said. "To beat this team, you need three periods like we had in the third. Until that time, we were a little sluggish in our passing and decision-making."
Onto today's game. I'm going to be blunt here. I don't like the Flyers. I laughed with glee when they puckered in a must-win game 6 in last season's first round playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres. They were at home, the crowd was orange and loud, and the Flyers played like pylons in a 8-2 loss. I was happy watching that (not that the Devils were doing much after sweeping the Rangers before the second round). They're like the Rangers but amazingly with even less success. Especially this season, where the Rangers can at least challenge for a playoff spot; the Flyers are especially out of it. Let me break it down:
- The Flyers have the worst record in the league with a record of 11-31-4
- The Flyers have the lowest goals for average (2.32 goals/game) and the highest goals against average (3.83 goals/game)
- The Flyers have the second worst power play efficiency (14%).
- The Flyers are in the bottom third of the league when it comes to the average number of shots they take (22nd, 28.3/game, the only team stat better than NJ) and the average number of shots they allow (27th, 32.4/game).
- The only stat where the Flyers are in the top 10 is their penalty kill at a success rate of 84.5%.
Needless to say, the Devils outclass the Flyers in almost every team stat. What's more, the Flyers are currently in the midst of a seven game losing streak. The Flyers suck.
What the Devils need to do is to take them seriously. As shown by the two earlier wins, the Flyers do raise their game at least a little bit whenever they play the Devils. Factor in that they (probably) don't want to lose eight straight games, and the Flyers will be up for this one. The Devils need to score first, among other things. The preview at NHL.com has this wonderful stat I want to point out: Flyers are 1-24 when they give up the first goal. 1-24! I shouldn't have to type this again, but should the Devils want to win, they will likely have to score first. In addition, the Devils should establish the tempo of the game, and minimize any opportunity for them to make a comeback should the Devils get a lead.
For the Devils to lose this one, they need to play down to the Flyers' level, take as many penalties as possible, and not be responsible in their own end. I'm confident that head coach Claude Julien won't let his team do that, especially after the loss to the Lightning. GO DEVILS!
Labels: Devils Game, Devils Postgame
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Game: Tampa Bay @ Devils, 1 of 4
The New Jersey Devils will host the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time this season at the Continental Airlines Arena.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM
Local TV: MSG
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFANNHL.com Preview
Anyway, the Devils will take on the Lightning and it should be a good one. The Devils are clearly hot after defeating the Rangers on Tuesday and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The Lightning was on a 5 game winning streak before losing to Toronto on Tuesday; they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. So tonight's game should be pretty good with both teams playing very well as of late.
The Devils are solid at both ends of the game and Martin Brodeur has been playing like, well, an all star this season. There are only two things I would caution the Devils here is to take advantage of any power plays the Devils get and do not underestimate the Lightning. First, the power play. The Lightning has second worst penalty killing unit in the NHL, with a success rate of 76.3%. If the Devils do not capitalize against the Lightning in this regard, I fear it will be a long night for the Lightning. (Also, as an aside, don't give up any scoring chances whilst on the power play as the Lightning have scored 7 shorthanded goals this season.)
The second is defense. The Lightning boast an incredibly powerful offense. While they only average 3.1 goals per game, they are loaded up front. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are only behind Sidney Crosby in the NHL in terms of scoring. St. Louis (29 G, 34 A) and Lecavalier (29 G, 34 A) are very good players and it will be up to Jay Pandolfo and John Madden to contain them as much as they can. It will be tough as St. Louis has a 12 game point streak and Lecavalier has a similar 8 game streak, they are very hot right now. The defense must be mindful and not let these two Lightning forwards do what they want. Otherwise, these two can easily win the game for the Lightning. The Lightning also boasts Brad Richards (16 G, 24 A), Vaclav Prospal (7 G, 23 A), and defenseman Dan Boyle (11 G, 27 A) as scoring threats; so the Devils can not expect just one big scoring line from the Lightning. They can score from two lines and even from the blueline. I firmly believe the Devils must be strong on defense and contain the Lightning forwards if they want to have any to beat the Lightning. It goes without saying that giving Tampa Bay several power plays would be an incredibly bad idea.
The NHL.com preview says that the Devils should expect Johan Holmqvist in net for Tampa Bay. He's won his last four games (Marc Denis played in their recent loss to Toronto), so the Devils forwards should be wary. They sometimes struggle against a team's backup/1-A goalie who is playing well. Regardless, the Devils should put up some goals provided they make the most of their shots. The Lightning are 23rd in goals against, giving up an average of 3.12 goals per game; yet they are the third best team in shots against by allowing only an average of 26.4 shots per game.
As I stated earlier, this should be a rather exciting game. Both teams have played well as of late, and it won't be easy for either team to get a win tonight. That said, it shouldn't surprise you that I hope the Devils get it tonight. GO DEVILS!!
Labels: Devils Game
Postgame: Devils 1 - Rangers 0
I did not get a chance to watch this game until yesterday on tape. So I will just be brief in my comments about the game. Tom Lycan at Devils' Due
and Tim Mo at RaReMaDev
have more complete recaps of the game, which I suggest you read for they are good.
Anyway, the Devils pretty much out-played the Rangers for the first two periods and for much of the third period. The Devils' defense held the Rangers to 26 shots, the Devils' offense put 32 shots on Lundqvist, and the Devils generally out-hustled the Rangers for most of the game. Martin Brodeur made some jaw-dropping saves for his 88th career shutout and 8th shutout this season; he clearly earned the first star of that game. However, it was not all Brodeur as the Devils performed very well overall.
The Devils also succeeded in terms of discipline as the Rangers; and this is where one of my two slight caveats about the game deals with: the power play. The Devils did look good on the power play, but they did not convert. In general When the other team hands you 4 power plays, you got to score on one of them. The Devils came very close to scoring on Henrik Lundqvist - who played extremely well and had to - a number of times both with and without a man advantage. So I understand why only one got past Lundqvist, as I feel the Devils were unlucky to not have scored two or three more goals.
My other caveat has to deal with the physical aspect, checks. Early on, it was the only thing the Rangers did better than the Devils. Ryan Holleweg, Jed Ortmeyer, and Marek Malik brought their A-game in terms of physical activity and let the Devils know about it. The Rangers ultimately out hit the Devils; but it wasn't total domination in terms of dishing out the pain. Colin White, Mike Rupp, and - yes - Brian Rafalski were credited with 3 or more hits in the game. The Devils being outdone in physical play is nothing new, but I'm surprised the Rangers did not just keep doing this all game long. Coach Tom Renney made a lot of odd decisions, such as giving Jason Krog more minutes than Martin Straka and Michael Nylander. Regardless, it's a minor issue as the Devils controlled most of the other aspects of the game.
Again, those two issues are just minor in terms of this game. While the score doesn't show it, the Devils comfortably won a game against the Rangers. This extends their lead in the Atlantic Division to 10 points and improves the Devils' record in their last 10 games to 8-1-1. Before I wrap this up, I want to commend Jay Pandolfo for doing an awesome job limiting Jaromir Jagr. For stretches of the game, I had no idea he was even on the ice. 20:16 and only one shot for Jagr is the result of the excellent defensive work by Jay Pandolfo.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Game: Rangers @ Devils, 5 of 8
The New Jersey Devils will host the New York Rangers tonight at the Continental Airlines Arena.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Rangers: 1-2-1
Now, I despise the Rangers; so I don't think I need give you three guesses as to what I want to see tonight. Regardless, the Rangers are leading this season series and now is the time for New Jersey to not only get it back but also extend their lead over the Rangers in the Atlantic Division. The Devils are a hot squad, they finally beat the Atlanta Thrashers last Friday, won in overtime to defeat the Islanders on Long Island, and are 11-2-2 in their last 15 games. The Rangers got back to their winning ways with a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday, which was televised nationally on NBC.
As is my understanding, the Rangers will throw out one line filled with three of their top four scorers. Likely, Martin Straka (24 G, 31 A), Michael Nylander (15 G, 37 A), and Jaromir Jagr (17 G, 42 A). It will be up to the Devils' checking line of Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, and Sergei Brylin to stop them. Pandolfo has experience in shutting down Jaromir Jagr, however he can not let up for one second (and coach Claude Julien should not keep him from covering him even after he scores). The fourth scorer, likely Brendan Shanahan, will line up with one of the many Rangers "character" forwards like Blair Betts or Marcel Hossa. The Devils can not take him lightly either as Shanahan - or whoever the fourth scorer is - has been very productive. This isn't even mentioning the possible power play implications; I should not have to even mention that the Devils must remain disciplined. The Rangers are way too talented to be given numerous man advantages. It's a good thing Colin White is back, the Devils defense will need to be play well in addition to the work the checking line will have.
On offense, the Devils will need to beat the Rangers with speed. Last time, the Rangers instituted a Christmas-tree like formation to plug up the Devils up top and battle them on the sides. It was successful in reducing the effectiveness of their forwards. After thinking about it, I would not be surprised if the Rangers will institute it a second time. The Devils will need to hit the Rangers on breakouts and counter attacks to get into their offensive zone before they have a chance to set up into any kind of formation. If the Rangers are in such a formation, they will either need to quickly break it by rushing the puck up to the end of the neutral zone on one end - luring a Ranger away - and making a quick pass to the center or across the rink to a Devil who will hopefully have some space and time to maintain possession. The problem with that idea is that it can be prone to offsides and it fails if the Ranger doesn't bite on the puck carrier. In any case, that's my idea of beating that formation. In general, the Devils will need to make the most of any power plays they get and put pressure on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist early and often with shots, regardless of how the Devils get into the zone. The EGG and PZL lines will need to hustle tonight; keep an eye out on Brian Gionta. He's been hot with 5 goals and 3 assists in his last 7 games. It would not surprise me if he gets another goal tonight.
I have a class tonight, so I won't see this game until after it's over. As I mentioned earlier, I despise the Rangers; so I'd like to see a big win for NJ tonight. GO DEVILS.
Labels: Devils Game
Monday, January 15, 2007
A Grab Bag of Notes
I apologize, but I couldn't come up with a decent apt post title. There's a number of things I want to point out but had not gotten the chance until now.
1. Central Scouting Services has released their mid-season rankings for eligible players for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
It is about halfway through most college, major junior, junior "A", and European leagues, so there are new rankings. Traditionally, the World Junior Championships has an effect on rankings. Up until last year's World Junior Championships, Phil Kessel was not just the consensus #1 overall pick but also potentially America's answer to Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. After the tournament, the consensus - and eventual - #1 pick was defenseman Erik Johnson, with Kessel no longer considered to be as good as Crosby or Ovechkin.
In either case, the top two skating prospects are Angelo Esposito and Alexei Cherepanov. While Esposito has made his mark only with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Cherepanov was supposedly "the man" for Russia at the recent World Junior Championships. Time will soon tell which one of these two will emerge as the #1 overall pick. The 2007 draft may have another high draftee from New Jersey: James van Riemsdyk. The Middletown native even played a season at I believe Christian Brothers Academy before moving on to the United States National Team Developmental League. CSS listed him as the second best North American skater, I'll try keep an eye out here and there about where he can go in the draft.
2. Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger focuses on how the improved play of the New York Islanders has sparked new life into the Devils-Islanders rivalry.
It's largely true, but we got a sour grapes watch:
Although the four clashes between the Atlantic Division rivals this season have produced some magnificent drama, Nolan is among those who believe the trapping, defensive-minded Devils play a style that is driving fans away.
"I don't think it's very entertaining. It's like watching chess," Nolan said after Saturday night's loss to the Devils in overtime at Nassau Coliseum.
Funny how I always hear from other team's fans, beat writers, players (e.g. Brett Hull on NHL on NBC this recent Saturday slammed the Devils for "not crossing the red line" and stating "Brodeur only faces 20 shots a game anyway"), and personnel about the Devils being boring after
the Devils win. I wonder if it's coincidence.
3. Joe Bechtel at 2 Man Advantage talks about Scott Gomez, complimenting him for his improved play.
All things considered, Gomez is having a pretty good season. He was injured for a few games, and only in 11 games did he not register a point. Still, he has 35 points in 37 games: 8 goals and 27 assists. Given that he scored 33 goals last season, it's frustrating that Gomez seemingly lost the shot he discovered last season. That said, it's not as if he's a waste of space on the ice most of the time because of the lack of goal production.
4. Now for a personal note. I'm a graduate student at Rutgers University entering my final semester for my Master's Degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering. So what does this have to do with anything? Well, classes begin tomorrow so I may not be as forthcoming nor prompt with game previews, postgame reviews, and other things. In other words, I may be a bit more late or even miss a few games here or there on this blog. For example, I'll be in class tomorrow night (and on Tuesdays for the next 17 weeks or so) instead of watching the Devils (hopefully) pounding the snot out of the Rangers. Yeah, but I want to graduate so I put up with it and put a tape in the VCR. I'm not abandoning things here, I just feel it's appropriate to let you all know in advance.
5. Lastly, my Sitemeter
shows me that at least 2,900 people visited In Lou We Trust with over 4,000 page views. Thanks to all of you who read this blog.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Postgame: Devils 2 - Islanders 1 (OT)
For almost 59 minutes, Brodeur and Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro were engaged in a scoreless battle. It was precisely the kind of game the Devils wanted to play and they seemed to be rewarded when John Madden scored with 1:18 left in regulation on a shot from the right circle that found the top left-hand corner of the net.
The emphasis in that quote is mine. He's right, the game itself was largely a goaltender's duel. As the game went on, both the Islanders and the Devils improved on some really sloppy passing and made more threatening scoring chances. Why was the passing so sloppy? Maybe the ice was poor, maybe both teams were just too tight in general so their timing was off, maybe both team's defenses picked up their games for the night (this was true for New Jersey, in my opinion), I do not know. In any case, by the third period, the game truly became more open and more than ever the game became a battle between Martin Brodeur and Rick DiPietro. Whoever "blinked" first loses. Late in the third period, the Devils put together a strong power play and John Madden had the space to launch a rocket that beat Rick DiPietro high on the far post.
But I do not believe this was not the Devils' game plan. The Devils are always looking to score first in order to establish the pace of the game and to build on the resulting confidence. No team in their right mind would be looking to hold the other team to no goals for over 50 minutes and not look to score any for themselves. The Devils have a winning percentage of 0.857 when leading after one period an 0.900 when leading after two periods. The Islanders are even better when leading after a period, with winning percentages of 0.923 and 0.950 respectively. If anything, both teams were looking quite hard for that first goal; they just had trouble setting up plays to create a goal. When they did have the play, either Brodeur or DiPietro denied them.
Now, getting back to the game, after Madden scored the Devils just need to hold on for over a minute. The Devils defense made two critical errors late in the game. The first was Brian Rafalski getting caught holding an Islanders. This resulted in a minor penalty for Rafalski, the Devils' top defenseman and only skater going to the All Star Game, he would sit for 2 minutes. The second was coverage during that short power play. With the Devils already shorthanded, Islanders head coach Ted Nolan pulled Rick DiPietro for an extra skater. For much of those remaining 11 seconds, the Devils held them off but then they made their second mistake. With about 2 seconds left or so Miroslav Satan and (if I recall correctly) Jason Blake set up around Martin Brodeur all alone. Let me put this in capital letters for emphasis: THE DEVILS LEFT TWO ISLANDERS WIDE OPEN IN FRONT OF MARTIN BRODEUR. Somebody NEEDS to be there, especially when the other team is going to be desperate and aggressive for a goal. That is a recipe for disaster and the Islanders made them pay. Tom Poti got a shot off from the point, deflected in by the wide-open Satan with 0.8 seconds left to tie up the game.
At this point, I got worried. Brodeur and DiPietro played very well, and I expected the game to go into a shootout. With shooters like Satan, Blake, and Viktor Kozlov - the shootout was the one thing Kozlov was consistently good at for New Jersey last season - who can not be worried? The overtime itself was very up-tempo and up-and-down play. I was on the edge of my seat when Miroslav Satan got a sure breakaway, but he was denied thanks to a crucial diving poke check by Colin White. Before I knew it, the Devils broke out and DiPietro made a stop on a rushing Scott Gomez. The Islanders seemed to pick up the rebound and one would expect a breakout play to go other way. But then the Devils got a break and an Islander - Bruno Gervais, I believe - gave up the puck to Patrik Elias. Elias did not shoot, no, he waited a bit and hit Scott Gomez (who was in the corner) with a pass. Gomez had no trouble putting the puck in the net and won the game for New Jersey.
The Devils are hot, so I'm pleased with the win. It was on the road, after a big win against Atlanta from Friday, and against a divisional rival who traditionally plays the Devils tough. While the defense really blew it at the end, when the game should have easily been ended at 1-0 for NJ, the Devils make up for it by getting the goal in overtime. Again, good game by New Jersey. They have another challenge on Tuesday, when they host the New York Rangers. This coming week of games are the Devils' last three home games for this month, so any wins in the near future helps them extend their grip on the Atlantic Division lead (now 8 points up on the Rangers).
Labels: Devils Postgame
Saturday, January 13, 2007
2007 All Star Selections
The NHL has announced the full rosters for the 2007 All Star Game and the YoungStars Game. I believe both games will be aired on Versus, with the YoungStars Game taking place on January 23 and the All Star Game taking place on January 24.The full roster for the All Star Game is here via NHL.com.
It is no surprise that goaltender Martin Brodeur was selected for his ninth All Star Game. Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski was also selected to the All Star Game, his second appearance (I do not know whether that includes the year he filled in for an injured Scott Stevens).
The rules for the YoungStars game mandates that all players must be 24 years old or younger and still on their rookie contract. Therefore, Devils left wing Zach Parise was selected for the YoungStars game. The full roster for the YoungStars game is here also through NHL.com.
Congratulations to Brodeur, Rafalski, and Parise for being selected for these games.
On the minor league front, Andy Greene is the sole representative from Lowell to take place in the 2007 AHL All Star Classic, being held in Toronto this year. The full rosters for the AHL All Star Classic can be viewed here through TheAHL.com.
Congratulations to Greene for being selected in that contest.
CORRECTION: This All Star selection is Rafalski's third, not his second. Thanks Trendon (in comments).
Game: Devils @ Islanders, 4 of 8
The New Jersey Devils will go to the Nassau Coliseum to take on the New York Islanders.
GAMETIME: 7 PM, EST
Local TV: MSG
Local Radio: 1560 AM, WQEW Radio Disney
Devils Record Vs. Islanders: 2-1-0NHL.com Preview
The Devils came back late with two quick power play goals to defeat the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 last night. Colin Stephenson's article in today's Star Ledger provides a good recap of the game with an apt title.
Worth noting was Mike Rupp's definitive knockout of Braydon Coburn, as it was the focus of Tom Guilitti's article in today's Bergen Record
and Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger.
Rich Chere's article at the end notes that the Devils are 6-3-1 on the second half of back-to-back games this season. The Devils will be looking to do tonight, if only to extend their lead in the Atlantic Division.
The Islanders are coming off the end of a four game road trip, winning their last two games against the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins. Against the Bruins, they won by a shootout, but they got to such a point thanks to two power play goals. The NHL.com Preview notes that the Islanders' power play has been poor as of late. However, the Islanders have given the Devils trouble in the past. The Devils escaped with a win in their last game earlier this month.
Alexei Yashin, Miroslav Satan, and Jason Blake are guys not to take lightly - especially when they have the puck. Yashin in particular finally broke his 7 game pointless streak on Thursday. So the Devils defense will need to keep an eye on him. Hopefully, none of the Devils defensemen will get injured in the very beginning of the game like the last Devils-Islanders game.
In any case, the Devils need to do to the Islanders what they did against Atlanta last night in the third period. They need to hustle, they need to keep putting shots on the goaltender (Rick DiPietro in this case), and they can not get discouraged. If shots are blocked by the defense, or they go wide or they are robbed by DiPietro, the Devils need to keep it up. Even if the Islanders score first, the Devils must not show signs of disappointment; otherwise the game may become a lost cause for NJ. One thing I forgot to mention about the Devils game last night was to note that the Devils came back to win that game. They were on the wrong end of the scoreboard for a majority of the game, but they did not give up, get discouraged, and play with no confidence. No. They kept pressing on and gaining confidence with each semi-successful scoring chance and tried to make the most of their chances. Once they did, the Devils not only tied it up but took the lead. This will be necessary if the Islanders score first or if the Islanders come from behind during the game. As far as projected lines go, look at the ones I predicted in yesterday's game preview
and swap White with Lukowich.
In other news, happy birthday to forwards Mike Rupp and Sergei Brylin. Rupp is now 27 years old and Brylin is now 33 years old. GO DEVILS.
Labels: Devils Game
Friday, January 12, 2007
Postgame: Devils 2 - Atlanta 1
The New Jersey Devils defeated the Atlanta Thrashers by a score of 2 to 1. NHL.com has the official score sheet
and the official super stats
, respectively linked.
Finally. After 6 straight games, the Devils finally
beat the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Devils started off the game a bit slowly and undisciplined. Two straight minor penalties by Martin Brodeur gave the Atlanta Thrashers a two man advantage. The Devils penalty killers did a great job tonight, just for killing that alone. A two man advantage against a team featuring Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa is not wise in any sense of the word. Unfortunately, Erik Rasmussen holds an Atlanta stick almost right after those penalties were killed. The Thrashers score just after that penalty ended, as Scott Mellanby tipped an Ilya Kovalchuk slap shot. Incidentally, on NHL.com, there is an article by John Kreiser focusing on the Devils exceptional discipline.
They surely did not show that tonight. They would take two more penalties later on in the game. Thankfully, the penalty killers did a good job killing all the penalties despite the Mellanby goal, which was just technically after the Rasmussen penalty ended.
As the game went on, the Devils offense started putting more shots on Kari Lehtonen and pressuring him to make big saves. In the first half of the game, things looked like it would be a repeat of the St. Louis game: a lot of blocked shots - and there were by Atlanta, they blocked 18 of New Jersey's shots. Nevertheless, the Devils remained patient and kept pressing. It took a two man advantage given up by Atlanta in the third period before Scott Gomez put home a big rebound to tie the game up. That ended Garnet Exelby's tripping penalty, and Sergei Brylin capped off a wonderful breakout play with a powerful shot off a sweet diving tip-pass by Travis Zajac. That, of course, resulted in a goal which ended up being the game winner. And the Devils FINALLY beat Atlanta.
Some other things I would like to point out:
- Colin White looked good in his return. He played 19:46 of the game, and was featured on the penalty kill such as the two man advantage Atlanta had in the first period. He looked steady in his zone, with 3 hits and 3 blocked shots. He could improve, though, he took a weak penalty and gave up the puck twice. His return was definitely beneficial for the rest of the blueline. Brian Rafalski only had to play 28:11, Brad Lukowich only had to play 24: 50 and Paul Martin only had to play 29:46. OK, not huge reductions, but it's not half the game. Even so, the Devils only allowed 26 shots by Atlanta, blocking 13 of theirs as well.
- Andy Greene also looked poised in his first NHL game. He earned more shifts as he made smart if unspectacular plays as the game went on. He was even set up at the point along with Paul Martin on the Devils' second power play unit. Overall, Greene played 10:29 and blocked two shots. I got the impression at the beginning of the season that he pretty much made the Devils in training camp, but was sent to Lowell all this time due to cap issues. Now I expect him to remain with the Devils until Oduya or Brooks gets healthy.
- David Hale only got 2:47 of ice time. Hale has been inconsistent, so I can understand the reduced number of shifts; but only five shifts? I think he needs to regain some confidence and show coach Julien why he deserves more ice time.
- Mike Rupp dropped Braydon Coburn like a ton of bricks. Good. Rupp only had 6 shifts, but he was memorable. For those who don't understand why I'm happy about this, let me elaborate. Coburn was the chump who shoved Zach Parise into the corner after he took a shot in the first period. Parise was hustling (of course), so he crashed into the boards really hard. It looked like Parise was injured - thankfully he wasn't. But it was a dangerous move by Coburn and in hockey, you get taught "a lesson" when that happens. In the second period, Mr. Rupp then schooled Mr. Coburn. The fight itself was a turning point for the Devils, as they started to play with more hustle and bustle. Early on, the Thrashers asserted physical dominance over the Devils. After the Rupp fight, the Devils evened things up a bit in the hit column as well, only being down 16-14 in hits.
The Devils earned their win tonight, but they can't celebrate. They already have another game to play. The Devils will travel to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders, another team that seemingly knows what to do to make things difficult for the Devils. Still, good win by the Devils.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Game: Atlanta @ Devils, 3 of 4
The Atlanta Thrashers will visit the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils.
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Thrashers: 0-1-1
The team that has New Jersey's number all year has been struggling as of late. The Thrashers lost to Montreal on Tuesday, which was their fourth straight loss. Unfortunately, this may be a case of history repeating itself. The Thrashers brought a five game losing streak into New Jersey in December, and broke that streak with a 4-3 shootout win. I don't think I need to remind you that the Thrashers are strong up top with Marian Hossa (26 G, 32 A), Ilya Kovalchuk (23 G, 22 A), and Slava Kozlov (17 G, 28 A). They have a pretty good goaltender in Kari Lehtonen, as well. Let's not forget about the checkers for Atlanta, led by Bobby Holik (8 G, 11 A, +6) - they have given the Devils' forwards fits in past Atlanta-New Jersey games. The Thrashers are definitely looking forward to tonight's game to break their losing streak and to re-assert their recent dominance over the Devils.
The New Jersey Devils lost to St. Louis on Wednesday 3-2, which was disappointing. Looking at the big picture, it's a cloud on an otherwise open and sunny sky. Since New Jersey's last loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, they have went 6-1-1 with 3 shutouts - featuring victories over the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Ottawa Senators. I'd still say Martin Brodeur's 6-1-1, 1.61 GAA, and 3 shutout stat line over that span still makes him "hot." Brian Gionta is blazing as well with 5 goals in his last 3 games. Patrik Elias remains to put up points, as the NHL.com preview notes his last 11 games had him light the lamp 6 times and assist others lighting said lamp 8 times.
Tonight also features the return of Colin White. This is mentioned in the notes section of Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger about how Brodeur may be the only All Star for New Jersey
. While I expect some of the proverbial rust on Colin White tonight, his return means Brad Lukowich, Brian Rafalski, and Paul Martin do not have to have 30 minutes of ice time each for much longer. There is some bad news, however, Alex Brooks will be out three weeks with a fractured left foot after taking a shot there - presumably in the recent game against the Blues. He has been placed on long term injured reserve, allowing some cap space for a defenseman to be called up. Mark Fraser was sent down to Lowell, so I wonder if we will see the debut of Andy Greene. I'm just guessing, it could just as easily be Thomas Harant. All I know that it is not Richard Matvichuk nor is it Johnny Oduya, who will not be ready in time for the games this weekend.
Anyway, the return of Colin White should provide an emotional boost for the Devils tonight. Regardless, the Devils defense needs to make sure the top three forwards for Atlanta are contained as much as possible. Marian Hossa has lit up the Devils before, and while shorthanded. Even with a power play, the defense must be concerned with Atlanta's talent at forward. On the offensive side of things, the Devils need to take advantage of using the end boards. If I recall correctly, the Thrashers are pretty good in collapsing in their own zone (again, I think this is true), so the Devils will need to skate quite hard and establish puck possession in the offensive zone quickly along the sides. When the defense starts advancing (or if they are already there) along the sides, that's when the Devils should look for a pass to the center or to the point to maintain possession and get a shot. And when I say get a shot, I mean a clear one. Nobody scores on blocked shots, so shots taken with three bodies in front of the shooter are ill advised.
Projected lines with the return of Colin White:
Go Devils and good luck.
UPDATE: According to the AHL's transaction page, Andy Greene will be that 6th defenseman. He was called up from Lowell in order to play in his first NHL game tonight. Hopefully, head coach Claude Julien gives him more than 1 minute of ice time.
Labels: Devils Game
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Postgame: St. Louis 3 - Devils 2
The St. Louis Blues defeated the New Jersey Devils by a score of 3 to 2. NHL.com has the official score sheet
and the official super stats
, respectively linked.
Well. I was afraid something like this would have happened. And it did.
First, let me apologize to all the St. Louis fans reading this blog. While I did say the Blues had some talented players - and don't get me wrong they do - I did downplay their recent success. St. Louis has won 8 of their last 11, and are now 4-0 against Eastern Conference teams. They looked ready to play in spite of playing on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which went to a shootout (and St. Louis won). They blocked shots (16!), they played very well positionally on defense, and goaltender Manny Legace looked good in net.
The Devils were beaten by bad bounces and lazy play. The first Blues goal was the result of David Backes somehow - I still don't know he did it - passed a bouncing puck in midair between his legs, Brian Rafalski's legs, and all the way to a wide open Keith Tkachuck at the side of the net. The second Blues goal was a floater by Dan Hinote where the Devils sort of were in a deer-in-a-headlight moment. The third Blues goal was the result of an errant Jamie Langenbrunner pass.
What was more worrying was the lack of effort by New Jersey, especially after the Hinote goal. It was still only 3-2, for the Devils to not fight as hard afterwards at home is troubling. At that point, a goal just ties it up - it wasn't as if the Blues were totally dominating New Jersey. Yet, they really didn't. To be fair, the Devils didn't come out with skates on fire in the beginning, but you could tell they were there in the first period. In the second they were just kind of there, with a mere 4 shots on net in the period. In the third period, some of the Devils - namely the EGG line - started picking up the pace. Unfortunately, shots were blocked, shots went wide, and chances were not converted. And so the game ended with a loss to the St. Louis Blues. The Devils did not play with half of the intensity and work ethic they had against Montreal and they suffered a loss. Even so, St. Louis did have to come from behind twice to make it happen.Tim Mo at RaReMaDev credits me for nailing the outcome of this game.
As you can probably guess, I wish I was wrong. Tom Lycan has more about the game as well at Devils Due.
It confirms something I swore I heard during the game: Colin White might be ready to return. Which would be great, as Rafalski, Paul Martin, and Brad Lukowich would not need to play 29-30 minutes a night. They can actually rest for a bit instead of being double shifted. I suggest you read both of their accounts. In retrospect, Scott Clemmensen should have got the start; especially with Atlanta on Friday and the Islanders on Saturday. Regardless of should haves, the Devils need to focus on their next game: Atlanta has had New Jersey's number so far this season. This Friday would be a good time to change things around.
Labels: Devils Postgame
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Game: St. Louis @ Devils
The St. Louis Blues travel to the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils in their only match up in this season. (Yes, I'm confident St. Louis will not make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals.)
GAMETIME: 7:30 PM, EST
Local TV: Fox Sports NY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFANNHL.com Preview
The Devils are on fire right now. 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, coming off a big 3-2 win over Ottawa from this recent Saturday
and a 3-0 dominating performance over Montreal from three days ago.
Martin Brodeur has been the man tonight, though I'd like to give Scott Clemmensen the start tonight. Personally, I think Brodeur could use a night off; especially with back-to-back games against the Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Islanders coming up later this week.
Also, it's because the St. Louis Blues are not a good hockey team right now. They are 14-21-7, which is good for the second-to-worst record in the NHL, which includes a record of 6-10-4. To be fair, they are 3-2 in their last five games, coming off a 4-3 win over Columbus. The Blues sport the one of the worst offensive units in the league. They have the dubious distinction of the lowest goals scored average (2.29 goals per game), the second worst power play efficiency in the NHL (13.4%), and the 25th best shots for average in the league (27.8 shots per game). While the lineup boasts Bill Guerin (18 G, 13 A), Keith Tkachuk (12 G, 17 A), and Doug Weight (4 G, 22 A); teams have had no problem beating up on the Blues, as their record indicates. Other than the rise of Lee Stempniak (13 G, 13 A), the season has not been kind to the Blues. They are almost in position to focus on where they'll draft as opposed to making the playoffs.
That said, while I think Clemmensen should start, that does not excuse the rest of the Devils. For a few games this season, they have the annoying habit sometimes playing down to their opponent's level. The 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks the night Rutgers defeated Louisville is one example of this. A much better example is the 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes back in November.
OK, two examples out of 42 total games is not telling; but my point still stands. The rest of the Devils lineup can not take this night off. The EGG and PZL lines still need to pound goaltender Manny Legace (12-12-4, 2.75 GAA, 90.3 Sv%, 2 shutouts) with shots, screens, and other forms of offensive pressure. The defense needs to remember while St. Louis does not score a lot of goals, they do have guys who are (were?) very talented forwards; they too must be aware tonight. In general, the Devils must not sleepwalk through the game like Montreal did in the third period from Sunday's game.
Otherwise, the Devils could lose a game they should win and ruin whatever momentum built up over the recent stretch of games. GO DEVILS.
Labels: Devils Game
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
They just announced the starting players for the 2007 All Star Game which will take place on Wednesday, January 24th in Dallas televised by Versus. The starters for this game have been decided by fan voting in recent years. Here are the starters for each conference:Eastern Conference
Daniel Briere (BUF) - Sidney Crosby (PIT) - Alexander Ovechkin (WSH)Western Conference
Sheldon Souray (MTL) - Brian Campbell (BUF)
Ryan Miller (BUF)
Joe Thornton (SJ) - Joe Sakic (COL) - Jonathon Cheechoo (SJ)
Nicklas Lidstrom (DET) - Scott Niedermayer (ANA)
Roberto Luongo (VAN)
Now, all 12 guys are worthy enough all stars (OK, maybe not Cheechoo) and the fans did vote them into the All Star game. Regardless I seriously question what would make fans select Ryan Miller over Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is either leading the NHL or close to it in all statistical categories for goaltenders. He's been not just a rock for the New Jersey Devils, but the biggest reason they are where they are as opposed to looking up the wrong end at New York (both) and Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division. Rich Chere in today's column in the Star Ledger say this could be the year Martin Brodeur is (finally) recognized as the MVP of the NHL.
But you know, that isn't worthy of consideration for starting an All Star Game. When Bill Clement asked the two other guys in the Versus studio for two other potential All Stars, they mention Martin St. Louis, Rod Brind'Amour, Martin Straka, and Ray Whitney. Fair enough. That's their opinion and you can make strong cases for all of them. When you consider how dominant Brodeur has been all season so far, the fact that Martin Brodeur's name escaped them is telling of the lack of respect him and the Devils get in the hockey world. I have an example of this lack of respect: Bruce Garrioch repeats the old trope that the Devils simply trap and bored the Senators to a loss.
As do some of the other Senators players, such as Chris Phillips. I know Phillips was there, I remember him huffing and puffing up the rink many times. Whether Garrioch actually watched the game, I do not know. Anyway. "Boring! Trap! Defense!," if you're a Devils fan and pay attention to hockey coverage - you know what I mean. Funny how they are treated as an afterthought until a game is played and this sentiment comes up after the Devils are successful.
Fortunately, the GMs and the NHL determine the rest of the All Star line up and they aren't blind fools. Brodeur will be in Dallas later this January. Unfortunately, the second guy most hard done by these selections will not.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Postgame: Devils 3 - Montreal 0
The New Jersey Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 yesterday afternoon. NHL.com has the official score sheet
and official super stats
from that game, linked respectively.
I could be lazy and simply cite Tim Mo's recap of the game from RaReMaDev and say the Devils steamrolled the Canadiens.
I could take a larger point of view and simply reference Tom Lycan's assessment of the weekend for NJ from Devils Due
- that the Devils were strong in winning two tough away games up in Canada. But I won't. Except for what I just did there. Anyway.
The Devils are simply on fire at this point. Let's start with the goaltending. Martin Brodeur stopped all 28 shots and looked good doing it. He earned that shutout, his 7th for this season and his 87th shutout in his career. The last time I remember Martin Brodeur being this dominant in the first half of the season was back in 2003-2004 when he got about 9 or 10 shutouts in the first 41 games
. Granted, he ended the season with only 11 - which was still good for the league lead, if I recall correctly. The NHLPA has a feature story on Martin Brodeur, highlighting his awesome play through the first half of this season.
He even reveals (sort of) the secret to his longstanding success!
The defense played very well. While I am not keen about coach Claude Julien giving Paul Martin, Brian Rafalski, and Brad Lukowich another heavy day and double shifting them at seemingly every turn whilst Mark Fraser gets a mere 3 shifts, they did their job. They collapsed down low, allowing Montreal to take low percentage shots from the outside. Even then, they took advantage whenever Montreal blew it in their zone. Great game.
The offense was a tour de force, par excellence. 35 shots on Huet, 3 goals, and it could have been a lot more if Cristobal Huet did not stand on his head. I personally counted 12 shots on the power play for New Jersey, and most of those were tough saves to make for Huet. While they only scored one power play goal despite two 5-on-3 situations, Huet robbed the Devils of goals on each power play. Did the Devils give up or pack it in when holding the lead? Heck no, they kept pressing and ultimately ended the game 3-0 that could have easily been won 1-0. The EGG and PZL lines were flying whilst the Canadiens had struggled as time went on, despite the return of Saku Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse to regular duties (each got 20 and 16 shifts respectively). If it wasn't for Huet, the Devils would likely have scored at least two more goals, in my opinion. Even the fourth line got in on the scoring action, as Mike Rupp finished a beautiful move by Paul Martin early in the first. The other goals came from Brian Gionta, who is catching fire with his second consecutive 2-goal game. Too bad Zach Parise had his point streak busted, but like I said, if it wasn't for Huet standing on his head, he surely would have scored.
Ultimately, fatigue and frustration plagued the Canadiens. Yes, the team was hit with the flu bug recently; but they had trouble maintaining possession on offense and putting pressure on Brodeur. By the third period, they were skating like they were in a fog for much of the last 20 minutes. No wonder Canadiens fans started booing en masse, their team was sucking it. The frustration stemmed from undisciplined play, as shown by the 6 penalties they took - including a scary high stick on Brad Lukowich that drew quite a bit of blood. (Note: Lukowich did return after the high stick, but Brad, please wear a visor. You're too valuable to lose.)
Essentially, Tim Mo and Tom Lycan were right: The Devils did play strong in their past two games and steamrolled the Canadiens. I mean, a complete domination of Les Habs. Out-shot, out-scored, heck, the Devils even did better on face offs! With a 6 point lead in the Atlantic Division and a record of 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, they get a bit of a break before playing St. Louis on Wednesday. They earned it.
Labels: Devils Postgame