Thursday, January 31, 2008


Suggested Alternative Chants

To be quite honest, I'm not really "feeling it" for tomorrow's game against Our Hated Rivals. The Devils have played very poorly against the Penguins and while the team is gearing up against for tomorrow - notably Sutter yelling at Andy Greene's lack of positional defense and sadly without Jay Pandolfo - there's not a whole lot of positive feeling going into this one. Schnookie hates the Devils now for their recent play and wishes them mild irritation after mild irritation. However, we (as in you, the reader, and me, the writer) are not miserable pessimists - unless, uh, you are one, then, um, I'm sorry? Let me try again. We are not proverbial shoe gazing hopeless people. We are fans. Of the Devils. And what fans do is cheer on their favorite team, especially against playing hated rivals known for their epic and comical failure.

So in that vein, in conjunction from driving home late from work with silly thoughts in my heads, I have some suggestions to provide some new dynamic chants stating that the Rangers suck. You will hear the old standby about 30 times at The Rock tomorrow, but considering it's based on a Rangers chant - I think some alternatives are in order. Namely, for the benefit of those who hate the Rangers so much, they don't want to associate themselves with any similar chants.
  • "We hate the Rangers, we do. We hate the Rangers, we do. We hate the Rangers, we do. Rangers, we hate you!" (thanks RBN)
  • "Oh oh ooooohhhhh. Oh oh ohhh. Oh oh oooohhhh. The Rangers Suck." (to the tune of You Got It by New Kids on the Block, dancing optional).
  • "You can't start a fire, you can't start a fire without a spark. This game's for us, cause the Rangers completely suck." (to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark)
  • It's the Rangers, it'll always be never. Cause they'll never be winners. I just want to the Devils to triumph toniiiiiiight - THE RANGERS SUCK" (to the tune of Bon Jovi's It's My Life)
  • Only for leads: "We have [number of Devils goals] and you have [number of Rangers goals]. Doo dah, doo dah. We have [number of Devils goals] and you have [number of Rangers goals]. Doo dah. Keenan's in Calgaaaary and Messier can't save you now. We have [number of Devils goals] and you have [number of Rangers goals]! Oh, the doo dah day!"
  • "Three are better than One!" (repeat)
  • If the Rangers are losing, "You retire another number! When you actually won something! Then you try to retire another! POP GOES THE SEASON" (to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel).
  • "Henrik Lundqvist. WOOOOOOAAAH. He had potential. WOOOOOAAAAAH. Then he lost it. WOOOOOOOOOAH. And the Rangers lost again. WOOOOOOAAAAAH-YEAH"
  • "Hey Shanny/Gomez! You gotta go go go go goodbye glad to see you go go go go goodbye!" (to the tune of The Ramones' Glad to See You Go)
  • "Devils get up now! (Get on up) Get up! (Get on up) Get on the scene! Beat the Rangers like it's obscene!" (to the tune of James Brown's Sex Machine)
  • "Rangers Suck! They fail to win what they need to continue failing to get what they want" - a play off of Hot Pants' full title, also by James Brown.
  • "The Rangers want it all but you can't have it! It's in our hearts but you can't buy it! What is it? It's it! What is it? It's it!" (to the tune of Faith No More's Epic).
Let's get excited - feel free to contribute some more in the comments. I'll be expecting to hear none of these tomorrow! Go Devils!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Sutter Needs to Step It Up

Let me tell you, there is nothing like seeing the Devils win or seeing a Devil perform particularly well like a big Martin Brodeur save or a sweet play led by Patrik Elias like seeing it live. That said, seeing the Devils skate in a proverbial fog, waste what they have accomplished, show no urgency or even the desire to try and win the game, and lose a hockey game (especially to a division opponent) is a lot more disappointing and frustrating when you see it live. The the 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh definitely falls into the latter category.

Now, the meltdown in the second period and the third period apathy has drawn quite a reaction. Jeremy Kenter has an extensive overview at Devils Daily, highlighting the meltdown. The Interchangeable Parts live-cap is also extensive, expressing many frustration and expletives about the lack of performance from the Devils attack. Rich Chere at the Star Ledger puts the poor performance into perspective, despite the ridiculous headline - the Devils did not put out an effort for two-thirds of the game. Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice has two news items about Johnny Oduya's turnover (and Oduya's and Martin's lack of reaction) and the Travis Zajac line being called out by head coach Brent Sutter for their performance.

These are all very valid and all players not named Mike Rupp and Rod Pelley are deserving of criticism. Especially Zach Parise, who was outplayed by Mike Rupp. But I want to make two separate points. First, I'd like to state that Rupp and Pelley played very well and they are the only Devils who should feel anything resembling pride or a positive feeling about the game, should they want to feel that. Second, I want to criticize Brent Sutter because I feel he is very deserving of it after this game.

The game prior to this one was a terrible game for New Jersey, giving up the lead to a team they have dominated for the better part of a decade in the state. After the game, Sutter indicated that he was not happy in the post-game press conference (noted by Gulitti). That such a performance will not be looked upon kindly. Asses were to be kicked. Names were to be taken. One would be led to believe that a lackadaisical performance would not happen again sometime soon. Yet, that's pretty much what happened last night. I'm sure Sutter punished the team appropriately after the Montreal game. But if his goal was for that punishment to motivate the team against Pittsburgh, he failed miserably. Yes, how the team performs has to do with the players on the ice, their own motivation, effort, and focus. But the head coach is also responsible for providing that motivation prior to the game and in between periods so they could provide a strong effort with a clear focus on winning. I definitely did not see that after the first period last night outside of the fourth line.

This leads me to criticism number two: Sutter, change your game plan! I think it's fine and sometimes a smart decision to mix up lines in the middle of the game. Here are some examples just off the top of my head. If a player is struggling, having him play with others could provide a spark. If the opposition has trouble handling speed, putting three fast skaters for a few shifts can take advantage of that. This is good. But last night, we didn't see it on defense when the defensemen did impersonations of the slow kid chasing the others in "tag." That could have been useful. But more to my point, the Devils stuck to the exact same approaches on offense and defense all night long. Despite Pittsburgh picking up on it! The Devils dumped the puck into the zone on offense more often than not and by the third period, the Penguin defense played wider and got to those pucks first and took possession. On defense, the Devils didn't even try to hold a position - they were likely instructed to chase and kept doing so despite being beaten quite a bit. There was no indication that Sutter instructed the team to do something different on offense and defense; despite an amateur like myself easily noticing Pittsburgh reading the Devils perfectly.

Do some Devils like Parise need to play better? Absolutely. But Sutter needs to improve in his own performance to keep the Devils from slumping. Especially when Our Hated Rivals visit New Jersey on Friday, kicking off a February of 11 home games at the Rock. I can't speak for all the fans, but this kind of frustration needs to become rare and quickly.

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Monday, January 28, 2008


Rich Chere is Wrong

On the day of the NHL All Star Game, in yesterday's Star Ledger, Rich Chere wrote that the event should be scrapped in that A) no one cares and B) the star power isn't there.
None of those formats [East vs. West, World vs. North America, etc.] has been very good. Most of them have been awful and the reason is simple: If a game doesn't count for something, virtually no one cares. The players don't care and hockey fans above the age of 12 don't care.
Huh. I didn't know the All Star Game ever counted for something. I also didn't know I didn't care either. Granted, I didn't stay up late at night hoping the day would get there; but I watched it on TV. Given his article, I take it Chere didn't watch the game, which was too bad for him as it was a very exciting game. Here's what he missed:
So what if the game doesn't count or whether or not it's memorable? That's not the point. The point is to showcase the top players in the league and put on an exciting game for the fans. Not a life-changing event, not something that everyone just has to see, not an attempt at recreating a playoff game (or the fabled OLD TIME HOCKEY™ from an era that fewer and fewer have witnessed) - just a good game and make a lot of money and promotion for the league. Done and done, by my count. Why that is a bad thing, I truly do not know.

The stars of the NHL may not be as established as the stars in other sports; but the people know of Ovechkin, Staal, Nash, Kopitar, DiPietro, Lecavalier, Getzlaf, and many others. It's not their fault they aren't household names across the world - the NHL can do only so much as it is, what with hockey still remaining as a niche sport. Nevertheless, as James Mirtle points out, the game did sell out and got plenty of sponsorships out of it. Clearly, somebody recognizes the players as stars.

What if they get hurt? What, we're supposed to wrap up players in bubble wrap now and hold their hands as they could get hurt doing something as simple as going for a jog or driving a car? They enjoy it, the fans enjoy it, so what's the big deal? As far as I'm concerned James Mirtle summed it up perfectly as to why it's not going away: it makes the league money and gets them publicity. That's why it won't go away and that's why Chere is wrong to suggest scrapping the whole event entirely.

UPDATE: Of course, someone beats me to it and frames it in a much more complete way than I do. Well played, Schnookie, well played. But seriously, it's a good read - even though I disagree about the accuracy shootout being better than the standard one.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Let's Enjoy the Devils: A Guide

Hi. I'm John Fischer and I write on the Internet™ at this particular blog, In Lou We Trust. It's come to my attention that blogging requires some snark and tounge-in-cheek writing as well as some bullet-pointed lists. This site is seriously lacking in all of that. Given that it's the NHL All Star break and the last game was horrible, there's not a whole lot to talk about Devils-wise. I've been going to Devils games at the lovely and spectacular Prudential Center for a good chunk of the season so far, and I haven't sat on my high horse in a while. So I figure now is a good as time as any to offer a few tips on what newer fans who may not know about the unwritten rules of being a fan enjoy the Devils.

Step One: Getting Ready
Going to a hockey game requires some preparation. This isn't like some kind of potluck dinner where you can just bring a your supposedly famous tuna casserole and show up and hobnob and mingle and so on and so forth discussing issues like the Monroe Doctrine with your supposed "wit."
Step Two: Showing Up
Showing up is important. It's 80% of success according to Woody Allen. But he's dead wrong here, so don't listen to him. It's 100% necessary to fully enjoy a game where you spent a lot of money on some pretty pricey tickets.
Step Three: The National Anthem
Step Four: Heckling and Chants, or Things to Yell Really Loudly
Step Five: Group Activities
  • If you have friends or family with you, chanting and yelling together is always fun. You're louder, you'll be more supportive, and it can be a bonding experience.
  • Big banners and signs are also encouraged, provided they support the Devils. But no tifos or gigantic ones; people paid to see the game, you know.
  • Speaking of tifos, don't be a soccer-esque hooligan. You'll get thrown out and deservedly so. I stick this under groups because they tend to come in groups.
Step Six: Dealing with the Idiots Next to You, or Handling Fans of the Other Team
Step Seven: There's No Giants Game Afterwards, so You Have to Go Home
Step Aside: What to Do if You Can't Go to the Game?
Following and considering these steps, or the ones you actually read, you too will be on your way to becoming a great Devils fan. Next time, we'll deal with loyalty, or "Don't be a Scotty Unless Your Name is, in fact, Scott." Until the next failed attempt at snark and tounge-in-cheek writing, everyone!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008


Disappearing Act

Since I'm confident someone in the Devils organization reads this blog, I have a question about tonight's game:

What the hell was that?

Let's break it down: the Devils were in control in this game in period 1. They got the early goal, an absolutely fantastic shot from Patrik Elias hitting the inside of the corner, the back post inside the net, and out. It started with Mike Mottau leaping to keep a puck in the zone on a power play, a dish to Elias, and Elias inched and inched and WHAM it's in. Elias had a big night, he picked up the second half of his brace with a great put-back from a cross ice pass by Mottau. So far, so good right?

Well, somewhere in the second period, the Montreal Canadiens found some holes. They found some openings. They found that Martin Brodeur wasn't at his normal, Montreal-owning self for some reason. They found they could get in front of the crease without much impedance - a key to Montreal's success. After being out-shot 6-3 in the first, Montreal puts up more shots in the second, leading 9-4 in that period and even got a goal. But, Jamie Langenbrunner hammered home the Devils' second power play goal of the night to have the team lead 3-1. A two goal lead. 20 minutes to 2 points, 20 minutes to catching up with the Ottawa Senators, 20 minutes to secure a bit of a lead in the division, and 20 minutes to victory. After all, it's Montreal! A team who hasn't won in New Jersey since 2002! Hell, forget that it's Montreal, you got a two goal lead! This should be a win or at least a point.

It was 20 minutes to absolute and total failure. Montreal put up 3 goals to come from a 2 goal deficit to win 4-3 while the Devils looked like a fish out of water. Like some meltdowns, it came slowly but surely. A little sluggish to start expanded to absolute disarray, especially on defense. The one goal Montreal got in the second was from a deflection in front of the net; Montreal would go on to score 2 more goals right from in front and another off a deflection. Les Habs had their pick of shots, though, putting up twenty - twenty - to the Devils' three. I don't want to hear about how the deflection by Saku Koivu was high or how the refs hurt the Devils with 5 penalties against. They may not have been obvious save for Elias' goaltending interference infraction, but all five of them were stupid, undisciplined, and avoidable. When you're being outshot in your own building 20-3 in the third period, the other team is literally surging in the entire third period with little response, and you put up an absolute joke of a defensive effort as we saw by New Jersey, you're going to lose!

Every defenseman in this game was poor at best (this include Mottau, who was invisible on the last two Montreal goals). In particular, Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski were pathetic in their coverage. The whole team sucked in the third - including captain Jamie Langenbrunner - but Vishnevski and Rachunek were particularly brutal. Still, the Devils played Statue too many times when Montreal had the puck and they paid for it. They should be ashamed of themselves at this. The Devils were pylons in front of the net allowing Montreal to do set up wherever they wanted and control the play however they needed. Gifting them five power plays and developing an inability to counter attack or lead a break out to provide any offensive pressure adds up. Why Sutter didn't call a time out or adjust the game plan to change things up is absolutely beyond me. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered. It all contributed to the meltdown.

The entire team needs to get on their exercise bikes and ride for an hour. They turned what should have been 2 to 0 for the second time this month. In recent games, the Devils have been prone to losing leads in the third period and this game is a gigantic example of that. This is unacceptable and the Devils clearly need to improve their performances in the third period and their focus. To sum it all up:

The Devils should be embarrassed at what happened tonight and this has to end.

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I Won at the NHL Arena

Earlier this week, the NHL Arena Program - a league-wide hockey blog whose content can be described as "beefy" - held their version of Around the Horn via e-mail. It featured Derek of Hitting Back, Doug Stolhand of Puck Podcast, Matt Bodenschatz of Faceoff Factor, and Tony Ferrante of the Conference of the Three Rivers. Also, myself. It was so big, it was broken into two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. I'm amazed that I even won. Regardless, it's a good read to hear plenty of different responses on issues of the NHL.

I'd like to thank Chris for putting it all together and forgiving my tardiness in my responses. I actually enjoyed answering all those questions as it gave me a chance to reflect on what's going on outside of the Devils in the world of the NHL. Granted, I completely punted on the NHL-IIHF transfer agreement question, but I still don't think the NHL's quality will suffer too badly. As evidenced with guys like Evgeni Malkin and Nikolai Zherdev, some players are willing to risk exile from their home nation to play in the NHL. Moreover, the United States are producing more and more players and of all types, as evidenced by their presence in the first round of the last few drafts. Will there be an impact? I'm sure, but I really couldn't tell you how big it would be.

Still, thanks to The NHL Arena Program for making this happen.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008





The Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia by a score of 7-3! 7-3! The game started off a bit poor for the Devils, but they came back to go ahead in the first period. They dominated the second and third periods. They blow out the Flyers and retain the Atlantic! And how did they do it? Well, a big part of it was:

36 shots on net! Only 7 times were they blocked! Only missing the net 11 times! Out hitting the Flyers 19-13! A killed off 2 man disadvantage late in the first period! And most importantly:


Johnny Oduya was great! He played fantastic and you're going to see his rush deep into the zone with a little dish to Patrik Elias hammering home PPG #4 of the night over and over. His power play goal was a bomb from the point and an instant reply to Daniel Briere's goal early in the game. His three assists were important, fully justifying his position on the power play unit. That's not all. Patrik Elias and his three-point night was great. Travis Zajac and his three assists were great. Zach Parise and his brace was great. Hell, the entire team was great after that first period - and they weren't terrible then either just shaky to start. They successfully made the Flyers pay, made their home crowd rather irate and beside themselves, tied a Devils record for most power play goals in a game, tied their season high in goals this season with 7, and chased out the starting Antero Niittymaki for Martin Biron.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this game a 6.023 x 10^23.


Monday, January 21, 2008


Defense Needs to Find Itself

So the Devils beat the Toronto Maple Rangers Leafs 3-2 last night. John Madden returns from a short injury and his brace ultimately secured the win in the game. Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice calls his return "heroic" and it was, as he was the difference maker. We got to see a very rare penalty for throwing the stick thanks to Mr. Alexander Steen. But alas, the Devils had some glorious chances to put more up on Andrew Raycroft, squandered 3 power plays, and nearly lost a 3 goal lead in the third period alone. I agree with Steve Stirling's live-cap of the game at 2 Man Advantage. It should have been by a wider margin, right?

I'd like to argue otherwise. The defense really let the Leafs do what they want on offense. Despite the Devils pinning them back with constant pressure for the first 10 minutes of the game, the Leafs were able to put at least 10 shots on Martin Brodeur per period. Martin Brodeur played very well, but the scoreline wouldn't tell you that alone thanks to some really poor defending. The goal by Darcy Tucker went off his skate, but had the defense been in the right position, that goal doesn't happen. The goal by Pavel Kubina doesn't happen had the defense pounce on that rebound instead of standing there and watching Kubina get a second chance. The Leafs skated with ease regardless of how the Devils' attacked in the second period and how the Devils didn't attack in the third period. Broken clearances and conceding of possession only got worse as the game went on.

The defense looked like it did when Colin White was out with an injury. Given that Colin White played in this game, that's not a good thing. Sutter needs to get the blueliners to be more aware of their position on the ice and to have them play better with respect to positioning. I'll give them this: they blocked 12 of the Leafs' shots and Toronto missed the net 13 times. While good, it means Toronto attempted 61 shots on net total. 61 shots! The Devils need to get to opposition prior to shooting - clear the zone and derail an attack early before it develops into something. Were the Leafs a better team, the Devils would have gotten shelled on the scoreboard in addition to the shot chart. I'm not asking the Devils to hold the opposition to less than 25 shots on net a night. I'm asking to do a better job at snuffing out the opposition prior to shooting. The Florida game was another example of a poor defense hurting the Devils. Two goals against both off of rebounds the defense should have gotten to or at least taken the open man out of the play.

Still, it was a win. And that's good. However, rather than piling on the offense (which is warranted to a point); the defense needs to do a better job. If it weren't for Brodeur, they would look pretty bad in general - as would the Devils' record. Fortunately for New Jersey, they get the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night. The Devils are 3-1 against the Winged P's and the return of Madden could continue to energize New Jersey to another win.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008



Devils win 3-2 over the Rangers of Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs!

Giants win in OT 23-20 over the Green Bay Brett Farves/Packers!


More tomorrow.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008


Tomorrow I Will Cheer for the GOOD Blue Team

The New York Giants are a mainstay of the National Football League and in years prior to the formation of the NFL; and they have carried on a recent tradition of being incredibly difficult to watch. Not a bad difficult, just difficult. Nonetheless, they are never boring and despite the critics, they have made it to the NFC Championship to play the Green Bay Packers. With a secondary thinner than the Los Angeles Kings' goaltending unit and bad weather looming all over Lambeau Field, the Giants making it this far is a feat in of itself. And with a ton of fans in the NY and NJ area, they will pay attention to the Giants game.

Which is tomorrow, during the Devils' 5 PM home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not good for attendance, with attention being paid elsewhere.

The Devils can't move the gametime, what with Toronto playing tonight in Buffalo right now. So the Devils are going with Plan B, and as far as Plan Bs go, it's pretty good.

The Giants game will be aired at the Prudential Center after the game, with the game appearing on other screens otherwise. Hopefully, there will be a sizable crowd taking advantage of the hockey on the ice and the football on screen. Basically, if you got tickets to tomorrow's game - go to the game! You won't miss the football action either. I'll be taking advantage of it, I hope to see you there!

And I hope the Devils and Giants will win, of course. Toronto and Green Bay are due for some failure.

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Florida Disappointment


Yes, that is the exact word I would describe the Devils' 2-1 loss to Florida last night. It was a disappointing game to watch. It wasn't so much the loss alone as it was how the loss came about. The Devils did very well to start the game, putting pressure on Florida's defense and their back-up goaltender Craig Anderson early. While the Devils were the better of two teams, the signs of the Devils' offense sputtering came early. The most notable was a lead pass to Zach Parise. Had Parise taken the pass, he's all alone on a breakaway. Instead, he mistimed the puck and it bounced ahead of him off his skates for Anderson to easily handled.

I'd like to single out Parise for a moment. Amazingly, the Devils have played very well in spite of their forwards - with some doing well for spells while others are cold. Parise is clearly in the cold mode in spite of his assist on the lone Devils goal tonight. He did well in the Carolina game, but those were 2 of his 3 assists for this month - his only points. Parise, among other Devils forwards need to step it up.

In any case, back to the game, dread mounted in spite of Travis Zajac's goal early in the second period. The Devils received four power plays in near succession and did very little with them all. Bad passing, non-challenging shots, and the team gave away While the Devils outshot Florida all night long, their shots weren't very challenging and it was Martin Brodeur who had to sweat and make ridiculous saves all night long. And Brodeur made some absolutely ridiculous ones - including one in the second period where Brodeur snatched a rebound out of thin air and smothered it to keep it from going over the line. It was awesome.

But the disappointment fully manifested itself in the third period. Florida hit the Devils with two goals off rebounds that no one could stop and the Devils spent the rest of the period trying to get something on net. The Devils' passing was terrible, decent scoring chances couldn't be had against Florida, and ultimately the Panthers won the game. Good on the Panthers, they didn't get discouraged by being down after two periods and capitalized on a legendary goalie with some opportunities that even a legendary goalie can't stop.

Bad on the Devils for doing so little with the opportunities they did have. 4 power plays in a row in the second period, a back-up goaltender in net, being at home - the Devils really needed to put Florida to the sword and expand on that 1-0 lead. Instead, they were shocked with a quick-fire double by Florida, and they ended up paying for that. What's more, the Devils were simply inept on offense in getting the puck onto and in an attempt to get it into the net in spite of their 32 shot-on-net count.

To see such a game as a fan of New Jersey, this was hard to watch. They had the lead but instead of adding it and securing two points with the W; Florida was allowed to get back in it, they did, and the Devils floundered. In such a tight race in the Atlantic Division, this in addition to the losses to the Islanders and the Rangers could and will bite the Devils should they find themselves looking up the wrong way in the playoff seeding.

And that all of it could have been different, and that's a disappointment.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Site Updated!

You can now visit In Lou We Trust with a much easier uniform resource locator!

This blog can be accessed at

Yes, it's a dot-COM for ILWT.

Regular posting to continue shortly. If you want a quick analysis of tonight's 2-1 loss to the Islanders, here it is. Islanders continue to have Devils number thanks to Rick DiPietro's amazing performance for single-handedly preserving the win as the Devils threw the kitchen sink and then some from half-way through the second period and onwards. New Jersey should have done better to start and they paid for it. No time to dwell on it, Florida visits The Rock on Friday.


Sunday, January 13, 2008


Site Troubles

As mentioned on NY Hockey Talk, the idea of getting a domain name came up. Unfortunately, I may have been too hasty and sort of screwed a lot of things up. Namely, I got a domain name and published to it before getting it all set up right. Ooops. I hope to resolve this shortly. It could be that I have to wait a bit. Until then, no new thoughts here, check out 2 Man Advantage or Interchangeable Parts and you'll see my comments most likely.

UPDATE: Troubles are no more for the time being, see the above post.


Saturday, January 12, 2008


Hear Me

Once again, it's time for some shameless self promotion, everyone.

I will be on New York Hockey Talk with Rob Kowal on 1240 AM, WGBB for a second time this year. That's right, I was actually invited back. Seriously, I thank you, Mr. Rob Kowal, for having me on your show in advance of my appearance. If you (the reader, I'm pretty sure Rob can hear is own show) can't access 1240 AM on your radio dial, that's OK. New York Hockey Talk streams their show live and has previous shows to download. The show is on Sunday, starting live at 9 PM EST and ending live at 10 PM EST. I highly suggest you listen and not just because I will be on it - though that's a perfectly good reason if of itself.

As you can probably guess, I will be talking about the Devils. In the purposes of self-promotion, this post will remain here until Monday. If you have any suggestions or thoughts about the show, how the Devils are doing, or anything else, please leave a comment.

Thanks. Remember, that the show is New York Hockey Talk and it is on at Sunday at 9 PM through 10 PM.

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Friday, January 11, 2008


He's Worth the Money

While I am a Devils fan and about 90% or more of my posts are all mostly Devils related (which makes sense given this is In Lou We Trust), the big story going on in the rest of the NHL is worth a comment.

I am, of course, talking about the Curtis Joseph sweepstakes. According to TSN, the front runners are San Jose and Calgary. Personally, I would expect San Jose to snag him as they need a back up goaltender in the worst way. Evgeni Nabokov is a very good goaltender, but even he needs rest.

OK, that's not the big story except for those related to Curtis Joseph. No, the big story is Alexander Ovechkin signing a 13 year, $124 million guaranteed contract extension with the Washington Capitals. It blows Rick DiPietro's contract out of the water as the biggest contract in NHL history and it pretty much guarantees Ovechkin wearing red, white, and blue for a long, long time. Now, this is a big deal. How big? I was watching NFL Total Access on the NFL Network earlier this evening and for those who have not seen the show, it's a daily show that covers everything that goes on in the NFL. This is a football program. At the end of each show, there is a segment called 4 Downs - 4 quick questions about, well, anything (e.g. greatest hitter, movies, who's going to win, etc.) that the co-hosts normally answer. Rich Eisen, the premier host on the NFL Network's main show, brought this up. Ovechkin's contract extension got attention even on the NFL Network. This is clearly huge.

Naturally, the big question that comes up whenever someone gets a long term deal is, "Is he worth the money?" Well, I'm not shy about my opinion as evidenced by the title. But reactions and thoughts have varied. On Total Access, Rod Woodson just asked whether it was guaranteed money (NFL contracts are not completely filled with guaranteed money) and was in awe when he learned it was. Pookie at Interchangeable Parts doesn't think anyone's worth that much. James Mirtle is amazed and concerned at the risk being taken of signing someone for so long. Eric McErlain looks at the Capitals' recent history to find a reasoning behind Ovechkin's contract at the Sporting News. Kevin Schultz points out at the NHL Fanhouse that Ovechkin's total contract length is worth significant portions of some NHL teams net worth. Ted Leonsis, owner of the Capitals, is obviously enthused and is linking to a hell of a lot associated with this story - just keep scrolling there. Greg Wyshynski dubs him AO-Rod and has a full set of thoughts ultimately ending with "hooray" at Deadspin. Rage at Japers' Rink - a Capitals blog - justifies the contract terms. Michael at Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic criticizes the deal as Ovechkin taking the money without making his team better. Getting back to NFL Total Access (and to stop inundating you with links), Marshall Faulk just chuckled said, "He better be scoring a lot of goals."

Funny that Marshall brought that up; it's the first justification of such a big deal. Alexander Ovechkin is a true point producing machine. Consider his rookie season in 2005-2006. In an NHL coming off a locked-out season with a whole bunch of new rules, Ovechkin came over from Dynamo Moscow (13 G, 13 A in 37 games) and made a big statement. 426 shots, an average of 21:37 of ice time a night, 172 hits, 69 takeaways, and finished third in the league in scoring with 52 goals and 54 assists. That's his rookie season not just in the NHL, but in North America! I mean, sure, Joe Juneau had a great first year; but Ovechkin showed he was a special player from the start - at his rawest in the NHL level. Scoring a ton of goals and putting up a lot of points for a team where the second best scorer was current Devil Dainus Zubrus, who had a mere 23 goals and 34 assists. Yes, Ovechkin as a rookie had 1.85 times the point as his closest teammate.

OK, I will concede he hit the sophomore slump in the next season. He only finished with 46 goals and 46 assists, good enough for only the thirteenth highest scorer in the league that season. He still led the team in goals, assists, shots (only 392), takeaways (only 67), and hits (only 187). His downturn of a performance is still a season that forwards would dream of having. That's only a sophomore slump for a player of Ovechkin's calibur.

Now look at what he's been doing this season. He's currently tied for second in the league with 32 goals and he's on pace for somewhere between 58-62 goals. He still currently leads his team with hits (116), takeaways (41), and shots (229). Ovechkin is no longer the leader in assists on his team and it's why he's only tied for ninth in scoring with 32 goals and 20 assists. Nevertheless, Ovechkin isn't regressing at any point. Aside from assists, he's on pace to break his career high in goals while getting more hits, takeaways, and shots on net. He's still going after the puck, skating really hard almost every shaft, and firing it in while lighting people up - there's no indication he's slowing down at all either. Ovechkin is proving not only to be a complete player but a complete player who is improving, if his stats are anything to go by. Statistically, one could say likely going to become a perennial 50+ goal, 100+ point scorer - except he's already done that once and he's going to do it again and likely many more times before he hits the end of this contract.

Given how scoring can be at a premium at times, especially for a team that hasn't had a true star in a long while, I can understand a 50-60 goalscorer who will compete like mad for the puck alone is close to being worth $9.5 million/year. Look at it from this angle, if the Rangers are going to hand Scott Gomez - a guy who had not and will not touch Ovechkin's numbers outside of assists - $10 million this year; I think the market clearly justifies Ovechkin's big payday.

Everyone in the NHL knows this and rather than rolling the dice and allowing other teams to throw an offer sheet his way, the Capitals threw a ton of money at him. And he's worth every cent because he's been spectacular, he's only going to get better, he's going to continue force scorekeepers writing in Ovechkin's name, and he's going to remain hungry. Don't think so? Before tonight's games, the Capitals are 18-20-5, sitting fourth in the Southeast division and 7 points behind the division leaders. It's only January, there's no reason the Capitals can't make some noise and make a push for one of the final playoff spots. Even if they come up short, they won't be doormats. I don't think for a second that Ovechkin doesn't know the situation, I fully expect him to do his damnedest to get them into the playoffs - extension or no extension. And once the Capitals become a regular playoff team - and they will - I don't think the contract will quell Ovechkin's desire to turn Washington into champions. It's been there from season 1, where he wanted to prove he's one of the best in the world and did just that.

Short of injuries, Ovechkin will continue being a fantastically special player and a goal/point machine. Faulk was right, he's going to be scoring a hell of a lot more goals.

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That's What I'm Talking About!

Last night, the New Jersey Devils opened it up on the Carolina Hurricanes and their superior finishing was rewarded with a 4-1 win. Prior to last night's game, I stated that the Devils really need to shut down their centers and the left side while taking it to Carolina offensively. They actually succeeded in doing both and it was a big factor in their win over Carolina.

Defensively, the game was a gem. The Hurricanes were held to 21 shots on their ice and their most prolific shooter was defenseman Tim Gleason with 4 shots. Rod Brind'Amour had a good game, winning the majority of his faceoffs (the only Cane center who did) and generally being as solid as he was. However, Eric Staal was quiet, Cory Stillman didn't do much, and the formerly-waivered Sergei Samsonov was held to little outside of one decent shot on net. I understand the Hurricanes are fighting a number of injuries - most notably Ray Whitney - but the Devils did a great job in dulling the Hurricanes' attack. None of the defenders committed penalties, the penalty killers killed what few infractions the Devils were called on, and they blocked an amazing 18 shots. 18 shots! 5 by Mike Mottau of all people! A simply great job by the defense! Anything that got through was easily handled by Martin Brodeur. The only goal against was Keith Aucoin hitting a rebound in mid-air just past Marty; not a whole lot one could do there. Just great defense overall.

The offense was not as excellent, but they did excel. I wanted to see the Devils attack the Hurricanes on offense and they did just that. The fourth line of Mike Rupp, Aaron Asham, and David Clarkson continued to bring the pain and force turnovers among the team as their forecheck worked quite well. The Devils managed 14 takeaways in the game (3 by Zajac) and the Devils, well, did something with it. Kind of. The Devils, in particular that fourth line, sort of squandered some of those turnovers. And some of their puck possession: the Devils took 54 attempts on net. Before you think that's a good thing, they only hit the net 24 times. Yes, the Devils missed more often than hitting it - 16 missed shots, 14 blocked shots.

But while the accuracy wasn't there, the finishing definitely was. Most amazingly, it came on the power play - twice even! Travis Zajac continues heating up with a power play goal, his goal and assist are his 4th and 5th points in the last 5 games. Brian Gionta, an experienced player when it comes to power plays, potted in the Devils' second goal. This is exciting stuff - actual results on the power play! But those weren't even the best goals. Vitaly Vishnevski played off the boards a puck to Zach Parise at the blue line who tipped it to Jamie Langenbrunner who touched it off to Patrik Elias. Elias just fired a rocket of a shot that no one in the world could have stopped and I think it's safe to say that Elias has "awakened" so to speak. It was the eventual game winning goal (Elias' 6th) and it definitely stemmed any momentum Carolina built up that period Sergei Brylin rounds out the score with a late third period goal where he managed to tap the puck off a rebound away from Cam Ward and over to Eric Staal - who put it into his own net, if I recall it correctly. Own goals, so horrible on your end, but so fun when done by the other team.

Still, my point is that while the Devils' accuracy was poor, the team actually took advantage on a number of its chances and the finishing was much better than their accuracy belies. The result? Two power play goals in a 4-1 win over the top team in the Southeast division. Devils keep on rolling with a win and must feel rather confident going into Buffalo for tomorrow's game. Perhaps they can find the scoring touch again, but given that Ryan Miller is really, really good (and much, much better than Cam Ward), it won't necessarily be easy.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Buffalo Last Night, Same Like the Last One

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Buffalo Sabres at The Rock 2-1 in a shootout. If that sounds familiar, consider the December 28, 2007 game. Which was also against the Sabres at The Rock. And ended 2-1 in a shootout. Except this time, the defenseman who scored for the Devils was Andy Greene; the Sabres scored last on a similar play that led to the Devils goal; and it was Patrik Elias who scored the winning goal in the shootout.

Well, OK, it wasn't entirely the same game. This game was much sloppier. Both teams had trouble finishing chances and some plays went awry with some poor passes. The Sabres, I think, had it worse, as evidenced by their 8 giveaways compared to the Devils' 1. up until the end, it was a pretty poor game for them all things considered. They struggled to get in the zone except for the first half of the second period. When they did get a really good scoring chance, Martin Brodeur did what all people named Martin Brodeur do - keep the puck out of the net whilst ripping out the hearts of hopeful Buffalo fans. The Sabres were fortunate that they split the defense as they did late so Jason Pominville could get the late equalizer and fortunate to get into a shootout.

While the Devils did play better overall, last night wasn't a good example of a strong team. Yes, they scored first and it was a power play goal and it was by a defenseman joining the play (Andy Greene) and it was cool. But despite Patrik Elias making some slick passes, the Asham-Rupp-Clarkson line bringing the pain, forechecking, and Mike Rupp playing more than 5 minutes, and the Devils pushing the tempo at times; they couldn't solve Ryan Miller. I know some of the scoring chances were denied thanks to some last minute Sabre intervention, but the finishing really needs to improve. If it were up to me, I would have liked to have seen the Devils try to challenge the Sabres from the slot. A lot of the shots, from what I recall, either came from the outside or off cross-ice passes. A lot of angles and longer shots - they probably contributed to the Devils' putrid 17 missed shots. Says a lot about the Buffalo defense considering the Devils did manage to put 30 on net; but 17 missed shots is definitely ugly. Maybe they would have scored more, as the Devils were fairly successful one-on-one with Miller in the shootout. Alas, the Devils did well enough to maintain during overtime and got the two points in the shootout.

Now the Devils get to go on the road to Carolina for a game tomorrow and visit Buffalo for a game on Saturday. While we probably know what to expect for Saturday, tomorrow's game should be a good barometer of the Devils as a team. It'll be the first meeting of the two teams and Carolina is definitely a solid team. They currently lead their division with a record of 22-19-4, and they are coming off a 1-0 win over Boston. They remain strong at center with Eric Staal (23 G, 18 A), Rod Brind'Amour (15 G, 21 A, 57.6% faceoff percentage), and Matt Cullen (8 G, 29 A); and additional fire power comes from their left wing - Ray Whitney (20 G, 23 A) and Cory Stillman (19 G, 22 A), to be specific. If the Devils are to succeed, forcing Carolina to attack from their right would be a good way to go.

Another way is to be aggressive on their own attack; there's a reason why Carolina's defense is rather unheralded and why Cam Ward isn't on the tips of everyone's tongue right now. Only 3 teams in the league have given up more goals than Carolina: Atlanta (146 goals against), Tampa Bay (147, last in their division), and Los Angeles (150, worst team in the league). What's more is that Carolina has the worst penalty killing unit in the league with a miserable 75.6% effectiveness rate. This is not a good defensive team, and the Devils should exploit that as much as possible. They shouldn't worry about having to do that while on the road, since Carolina is only 10-8-2 at home so far this season. I think the Devils need to take any and all opportunities to light the lamp against Carolina; it'll be hard for their effective centers and left wingers to get on the board when they're too busy trying to help their defense. And if the first chance doesn't go in, the Devils should simply put that out of their minds and go get another - they're bound to get in there. When they do, it'll be glorious.

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Monday, January 07, 2008


Good Thing Sutter's the Coach

The last game against Boston was not a good one - the Devils lost 4-3 and did all the wrong things for 2 periods. The Devils slept through most of it, Kevin Weekes was shaky, the defense didn't provide the needed support, and the team did nothing as the Bruins fired off 3 goals within the final 10 minutes of the first. Including a painful double strike in the period's last two minutes - ending with a Marco Sturm shorthanded goal that, had Weekes understood the concept of covering the near post, should not have happened. I don't want to hear about how Johnny Oduya caused that goal; Weekes should have smothered that and/or Paul Martin (who was behind Marco Sturm) should have smothered Sturm. The Devils started a comeback only to be pulled away further in the second due to another goal, this time by Marc Savard.

The third period, however, was instrumental in showing off the difference between last year's head coach, Claude Julien, and Brent Sutter. Julien, who is the coach of the Bruins, has this tendency to be very conservative with his defensemen. You rarely see them go deep into the offensive zone, they are seemingly tethered at the point, and they are generally passive in coverage. The biggest fault, and most frustrating to watch as a fan, is that Julien likes to sit on leads. Brent Sutter, on the other hand, at least instills a "never say never" attitude with the team. Despite being owned for two periods, he clearly motivated the team to get something out of the game for the third period. Bruins fans were on the edges of their seats as the Devils put up 20 shots in the third period alone. Tim Thomas had to be good; and he was as he was only beat once - Travis Zajac poaching a goal off a rebound. The Devils just swarmed the Bruins and perhaps on another night, with a better, closer-to-60-minute effort, the Devils would have emerged from such a frenzy with at least an equalizer. The Bruins just held back and were fortunate to still come out with the win - Boston only put up one shot on net and I assure you, they didn't try hard to get more than that one.

I'm glad that Sutter's the coach and the third period last night was a good example of it, despite the Devils loss. Were it Julien, the Devils would have needed a miracle - or the opposition to completely meltdown - to get the W. Maybe that's why Sutter is a leading candidate to be the Eastern Conference's assistant coach later this month at the All Star Game and Julien is left out in the cold.

The Devils look to get back to their winning ways against Buffalo tomorrow. Here's some good news from Tom Gulitti. Karel Rachunek is back at practice, and Jay Pandolfo is skating again. While I don't expect them to be back for a little while longer, it's definitely good to see them getting healthier. The Devils have done well without them, but they would definitely contribute upon their return.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008


The Past Few Days

Apologies for a lack of any content over the last few days. With a game in Boston looming tonight and a Kevin Weekes watch in effect according to Tom Gulitti, let's quickly go over what happened the past few days.

First, an Elias-less (in addition to already being Rachunek-less, Pandolfo-less, and Brookbank-less) Devils had an odd game against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. The Devils beat Florida 3-2, amazingly thanks to an amazingly well set up power play goal. I mean, it was a flowing move that found Brian Gionta all alone at the net who just had to tap it in. Great job to all involved. The game also featured the Devils cracking their first period scoring drought thanks to Jamie Langenbrunner and Lowell Devils call-up Noah Clarke getting his first NHL goal. But the game also featured the Panthers making a game of it off some rebounds, putting more shots on net than the Devils (33 to 27), and making the Devils a bit listless at times. Jay Bouwmeester showed off that he is a stud defenseman (at least in my eyes), and the rest of the team weren't the doormats that one would traditionally associate with Florida hockey. The Devils won, I guess that's good enough. But I still I find it hard to determine how good a win it was even after thinking about it for a few days.

Second, Patrik Elias returned for last night's game with the Philadelphia Flyers. Let's get the criticisms out of the way first. As much as I happily yelled about "Philadelphia Discipline" (stretch it out like you were saying "S-E-C SPEED") at the game, a quick look at the boxscore shows the Devils took just as many penalties as the Flyers did. Granted a number of them were coincidental, but taking 8 penalties is unacceptable. The other main criticism is that the Devils basically were pinned back in their own end for much of the third period, with the Flyers throwing everything they could at Martin Brodeur. The Flyers outshot the Devils 15-4 in the third period and obviously had more scoring chances. Granted, the best Flyers chances came in the second period where they had the puck in a prime position right outside the crease 5 times. Martin Brodeur made one ridiculous, "Where in the hell did that leg come from!?" save and the defense held them off the other 4 times. The Devils didn't play a full effort and are fortunate to have come away with a shutout.

Now that that's done, let's begin the effusive praise! The Devils faced 36 shots, they faced 5 penalty kills, seemingly countless counts of physical play, and they come out of it with a strong 3-0 win. Why? Because they didn't panic when they were shorthanded and when the Flyers had the offensive momentum. Because the Devils were lethal with the puck in attacking, obviously doing more with less shots. Because Martin Brodeur is the best damn goalie in the league and clearly a living legend. The second most fortunate thing that I saw at the game was from seeing at least four incidents of the Flyers falling down on their own. The most fortunate was seeing Travis Zajac take advantage of a turnover caused by that and pound it through Martin Biron for his first goal since December 7.

Among the forwards, the best one was once again Patrik Elias. Elias was hustling, going after the Flyers' defense, and making plays all night long, he was rewarded with an assist and a power play goal. Among all the skaters, Paul Martin had the best game. I don't know what Brent Sutter said to him before the game, but it worked. Martin played with an extra gear, he joined the offensive attack when necessary, his decisions in shooting were wise with only one missed shot and nothing blocked, and he was a big part of the successful power play - a power play goal equals success for this team - and penalty kill. Martin was great and you could tell by watching the game. That all said, Martin Brodeur's 36 saves clearly earned him the first star of the game. All that and further proof the Flyers are the most classless team in the league: Derian Hatcher bit through Zajac's glove and cut his middle finger. Gulitti has plenty of quotes and it is a very strange story. Will the league drop a suspension on Hatcher? Probably not.

Third, the U.S. is out at the World Junior Tournament, losing to Canada 4-1 (link to IIHF story). Canada will go to their fourth straight gold medal game. Devils prospect Matt Halischuk picked up an assist on Shawn Matthias' goal. Russia fell to Sweden in overtime, so Russia and the United States are battling it out for the bronze medal as we speak. As I type this, it's not looking good for the U.S. because Russia is dominating the game. I suppose it's revenge for the 3-2 win the United States had over Russia in the group stages. Canada and Sweden will play for the gold medal later today. Will Sweden do what no one else has been able to do this tournament a second time? Will they beat Canada again? And how will Matt Halischuk perform? All these and more answered, um, later, I guess.

Enjoy tonight's game!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008


December in Review, Devil of the Month

This December was positive for the New Jersey Devils. It began with three straight wins at the Rock, the final third of a nine game winning streak for the Devils. It ended with a loss in Long Island which came after another three game winning streak. The Devils went all over the place this month with visits to Boston, Washington, and New York City, highlighted by a short road trip to Western Canada prior to Christmas. New Jersey didn't maintain any large streaks throughout the month, as the Devils tended to win two and lose one or lose two and then win one. Nevertheless, the Devils finished the month with a record of 8-4-1 and at the top of the Atlantic Division, albeit with a very small lead. That's clearly a positive regardless of anyone's metric.

How are the Devils doing with respect to how they are playing? Well, it's your standard of mix of Martin Brodeur robbing the world of shots, the defense trying to do the best they could, and the offense getting snake-bit more often than not. The most the Devils have scored in regulation has been 4 goals in one game (12/16, against the Flyers) and the team went beyond regulation time five times in the month. Improved shooting and better finishing not only means more goals but it would make the games a lot easier and reduce the amount of times they need overtime or a shootout to settle a game. Regardless, the Devils have found ways to get goals when they needed them, especially near the end of the month with big third period goals leading to wins against Edmonton and Calgary and an late equalizer against Buffalo which led to a shootout win for NJ. The power play has finished with approximately jack in the last six games and the Devils wins have all been low scoring games. Nothing against with low scoring games, but that means extra pressure on the defense and the goaltending as the margin for error is often incredibly small. The Devils need to improve in their production should they want to avoid relying on Brodeur for many of their wins in this new year.

Does that mean Martin Brodeur was the best Devil for December? Always a favorable candidate, especially considering his 8-3-1 record and the way he's kept New Jersey in almost every one of those games except for those three losses wherein he was shelled. Zach Parise has been a consistent scorer, right? Not this month. After a ridiculous two goal, two assist effort against Boston on December 5, he went on a three game pointless streak. This was followed by a point in the each of his next three games, but then another three game pointless streak. Parise did end the month on a high note with a goal and an assist in the Devils' 5-2 loss against the Islanders. Nope, the most consistent player - and the best player this month - in my opinion is John Madden.

Without his partner in crime, Jay Pandolfo, Madden has stepped up his game to provide consistent defensive coverage as well as contributing on offense. Consider this: Zach Parise scored 4 goals and 5 assists this month in scoring roles. John Madden scored 6 goals and 2 assists this month while in his standard checking role. Quite comparable and I believe it highlights how Madden has been contributing to production. What's more is that Madden has been playing at least 18 minutes a night and only had 3 games where he won fewer than 50% of his faceoffs. He's a part of New Jersey's core and will definitely be a part of that core for a while. Due to his consistent performance this month on both sides of the puck, I am willing to say that John Madden is the ILWT Devil of the Month for December 2007.

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