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.