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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