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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