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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