Thursday, January 31, 2008
Suggested Alternative Chants
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).
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sutter Needs to Step It Up
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.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Rich Chere is Wrong
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.
- The East going up 5-1 on the West to start the game.
- Evgeni Nabokov stopping them all in the second as the West surged back.
- The West tying up the deficit.
- The East and West trading blows, with the East holding out for the 8-7 win.
- Rick DiPietro giving up his only goal to Rick Nash while answering a question to Doc Emerick less than 20 seconds into the game.
- Rick Nash's hat trick and Alexander Ovechkin's brace.
- Ilya Kovalchuk getting robbed twice in front of his home town fans.
- Marc Savard, former Atlanta Thrasher, getting the winning goal.
- Manny Legace cussing on TV.
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.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Let's Enjoy the Devils: A Guide
Step One: Getting Ready
- If you have anything New Jersey Devils' related, then it's fair game. Jerseys are standard. Hats, jackets, coats, sweat pants, flags, big foam fingers, socks, underwear (not on the ourside, you're not Quail-Man), horns, rings, pins, and so on and so forth.
- For your sake, keep the Scott Gomez Devils jersey in your closet. Unless you "modified" it.
- If this is your first hockey game, you probably don't have a Devils jersey yet. So take a tip from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and try wear red if you have no Devils attire. Not blue, not green, not yellow, not grey, and definitely not any other hockey jersey you own. Unless the Colorado Avalanche are at The Rock and you are a fan of them, then you need to keep it at home.
- If you're planning wearing a Rangers or a Flyers jersey, it better say "LOSERS" on the back or something to take them down a peg. Or else you'll be shunned- yes, shunned and maybe even ridiculed - at the game.
- This is never inappropriate. In fact, this is encouraged.
- Lastly, buy tickets. Don't be that loser quitely and creepily asking "You got any tickets? Any extra?" The idea is to support the team, not be sketchy in Newark.
- Show up to the game. On time if you can; this isn't a party. Being late means you miss some Devils hockey - potentially missing a goal, a highlight save, or a rockin' Mike Rupp forecheck is never fashionable. Nobody one likes your tardy style, Latey Thoneverontimepson.
- Show some respect. This is not the time to yell - or worse, boo - anything. I don't care how obnoxious someone else may be, booing anthems is right out.
- Singing the anthem is perfectly fine.
- Arlette wants to sing the anthem, not hear her name. If it's not Arlette out there, then the singer doesn't want to hear a question regarding her location.
- If you're wondering out loud about how it should be "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful" or "Berserker," then you can go pound sand, eat a carton of eggs, and kiss Mike Ricci on the nose. The National Anthems of either country aren't going to change.
- Rule One: Support The Team. Remember, you are fans of the Devils. The Devils can and do feed off the crowd's energy. If you're not sure on what to scream or when to do so, just quietly ask yourself: would this support the Devils or hurt them.
- In that vein, doing the Rangers Suck chant when the Rangers aren't at the game makes you look like a fool. It gets a part of the crowd to yell "Rangers Suck" for approximately 2 second and then the noise dies down afterward. Yes, the Rangers suck and we all love it when they fail. But when the Devils are playing the Washington Capitals, it doesn't really help New Jersey to say that the Rangers suck. Try yelling Capitals suck or Let's Destroy or something else.
- What? The Rangers do a similar chant about Denis Potvin at their home games? Well, Devils fans there's your reason to cut back. You don't want to be like the Rangers fans do you? Be better than the fans of Our Hated Rivals.
- Oh, the Rangers are playing? Then by all means, let them know exactly how much they suck - early and often.
- Chanting "Kill" during Devils penalty kills is cool, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Yelling "SHOOT!" whenever someone has the puck on a power play is not cool. Most of the time, it's a bad shot or the player can't get it off cleanly anyway.
- Screaming in favor of the team after goals is a good idea; high-fives, fist-bumps, flag-waving, and dancing are optional.
- Cussing: this is always tricky. It may be best to inquire the people around you as to whether it would be appropriate to get a little tawdry with what you have to say. Remember, you got to support the team - not start a situation in the stands with an angry parent.
- Heckling is always a pastime of fans of pro sports all around the world. But be creative; anyone can yell "___ sucks!" I find that the truth hurts the best. Consider: "PHILAAAA-DEL-PHEEE-AAAAA DISC-EEEE-PLIIIIINE" (best yelled after a Flyer penalty) works a lot better than "Flyers swallow."
- Regarding who is and is not a bum: Viktor Kozlov is a bum. Chris Simon is a bum. Sidney Crosby, despite how you despise him, is decidedly not a bum. Scott Gomez is a traitor who prefers to hold up comically large bags of money instead of Stanley Cups - not bum material though.
- Don't sing; this isn't a soccer game.
- 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.
- Be nice. Light chatter pointing out the failures of their team works best.
- Only shove a Devils win or a goal in their face if they are being a jackass. You paid for that seat; don't let them tell you to shut up.
- Except if Devils fans are telling you to shut up; then you're being annoying.
- Never boo an injury. But do heartily laugh if a player falls down on his own and looks like a fool.
- Don't start a fight, let the idiot get himself thrown out of the game.
- Well, you can't stay there. So go home.
- Be excited and high five ushers and other Prudential Center workers after wins.
- Look glum and forlorn after losses.
- Watch the game on TV. Don't be afraid to yell at it.
- Listen to it on the radio. Again, don't be afraid to yell at it.
- Talk/complain about it a lot on the Internet™. Don't yell at it though, that would be silly.
- But none of this excuses you from supporting the team - see Step One about getting ready for that.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
What the hell was that?
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.
I Won at the NHL Arena
Still, thanks to The NHL Arena Program for making this happen.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
FIVE FOR SEVEN ON THE POWER PLAY!
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this game a 6.023 x 10^23.
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Monday, January 21, 2008
Defense Needs to Find Itself
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.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Giants win in OT 23-20 over the Green Bay Brett Farves/Packers!
Short Analysis: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Tomorrow I Will Cheer for the GOOD Blue Team
And I hope the Devils and Giants will win, of course. Toronto and Green Bay are due for some failure.
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.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This blog can be accessed at http://www.inlouwetrust.com
Yes, it's a dot-COM for ILWT.
Labels: Personal/Site News
Sunday, January 13, 2008
UPDATE: Troubles are no more for the time being, see the above post.
Labels: Personal/Site News
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
He's Worth the Money
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.
That's What I'm Talking About!
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.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Buffalo Last Night, Same Like the Last One
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.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Good Thing Sutter's the Coach
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.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
The Past 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!
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
December in Review, Devil of the Month
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.