Friday, February 29, 2008


Devils 0 - Washington 4

The Washington Capitals thoroughly outplayed the New Jersey Devils 4-0. OK, the first period wasn't so bad; but wow, was this brutal for a Devils fan to watch. If you're a Caps fan, you're thrilled. I know the Devils eventually bounce back, bad games happen to everyone (even Detroit, who had a recent decisive 4-1 loss to Vancouver last week), and so on and so forth.

But this was bad. The Devils couldn't connect much on offense, they spent most of the second and third period in their own end, making more clearances than break out passes, and essentially letting Washington get into space. The only real positive I can take is that the Devils held Alexander Ovechkin to only one assist - which isn't much solace considering who actually lit the lamp as well as the rest of the game. Why Kevin Weekes wasn't starting this one is beyond me; especially since we all know Martin Brodeur will always start against Montreal - doubly so when the game is in Montreal. Instead, another night of work where his efforts are wasted and even with his efforts he got beat thoroughly in the third period with goals from Mr. Talent-and-No-Work-Ethic, Alexander Semin, and Donald Brashear. Let me repeat that in capital letters. VIKTOR KOZLOV AND DONALD BRASHEAR. Terrible! Weekes could have started if only to give Marty a rest prior to what will be a tough game against a strong team on the road. Remember, Montreal's not in the middle of the pack, they are right behind Ottawa and New Jersey in the East - and winning against Buffalo as I type this post.

Regardless of goaltenders, the Devils didn't play well. On all of Washington's goals, they were all set up very well with slick passes to guys who were in the right places. They looked good and they weren't necessarily all super-difficult passes. With the Devils' seemingly behind them in position and in the run of play all night long, the space is going to open up. I have to credit the Capitals; they need points and they're picking them up with strong play from all their players from their studs (Ovechkin, Mike Green) to their third liners (Brooks Laich) and even from their goon (BRASHEAR HOW DID HE GET INTO THE SLOT, SERIOUSLY DEVILS WHAT IS THE DEAL). The addition of Cristobal Huet is looking pretty solid and it gives them a skilled netminder to play with a #1 and #1a system. Not to mention the opportunity for Huet to be the definitive #1 in Washington in the future. Good for the Caps. But for the Devils, it was pretty much all bad.

The Devils are in a bad run with no goals since the second period against Carolina, sloppy play since, well, the last time they played Washington this past Sunday, and this game marks the first shutout against since December. Some of that will likely change tomorrow. I'm confident that New Jersey will at least score tomorrow - I hope. I didn't think Bryce Salvador was an issue, he was OK. Still, the team as a whole failed to perform to the level we all know they can play. They didn't even perform to half or even a third of that level. Even if the Devils did make that supposed big splashy trade for a top forward, nobody wins with an effort like this. It's not the end of the world, it's not time to throw all hopes of success away, don't mistake me.

I'm just saying the Devils put out a terrible performance and the entire team save for Weekes, Brodeur, and Salvador should be on the exercise bikes right now.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Why I Love the Salvador Trade

I love this Janssen for Salvador trade. I said as such yesterday and again at Slap Shot (thanks for fixing my name). But there are two main reasons as to why I do love it.

First and foremost, the Devils traded someone who has played 0 games this season, had an average ice time of 4:05 a game in the 48 he played last season, and has two major skills: throwing big hits and fighting. Neither one of the two are things the current Devils lack considering players like David Clarkson, Mike Rupp, Aaron Asham, Vitaly Vishnevski, and Sheldon Brookbank. In return for this guy, the Devils get a player who has played very well for St. Louis, has the third highest ice time on average among defensemen and the team, he can play the penalty kill, and add another defensive defenseman who can hit pretty hard. That's an incredible haul for someone with limited skills like Janssen. OK, so Bryce Salvador won't be a cult hit like Cam; but the Devils didn't need Cam so it made no sense for him to stick around.

Second, Bryce Salvador has something the Devils defensemen don't have much of: playoff experience. For this, I need a chart (numbers from

Playoff Game Chart for Devils D

Now, there are some things to consider with these raw numbers. Vishnevski has that many playoff games due to Anaheim going deep in the playoffs in 2003 and 2006. Mottau is pushing 30 despite so few games played. Rachunek has been around a lot longer than you think. And two of the Devils' defensemen has seen no action in the playoffs - with Greene and Oduya only getting their first taste last season. In the playoffs, the game becomes much more defensive with every attack becoming more dangerous. This makes sense, since the stakes are higher. Therefore, having additional experience on defense is a wise move. They've been there before, there won't be that much they haven't seen, they'll have an idea on how refs will look at the game, and they can provide additional guidance for those who haven't been there as much. As long as Salvador plays decent hockey, his experience will be a big benefit come April and May.

Now, why didn't the Devils make a move for a big scoring forward or a big player from the point? Well, look at who was traded. San Jose saw no need to move Patrick Marleau given their current form and Florida doesn't want to give up on the season by trading Olli Jokinen. Brad Richards, Brian Campbell, and Marian Hossa all commanded fairly substantial deals that meant Pittsburgh, Dallas, and San Jose giving up some of their future. Granted, those three teams are much better now and fans of those teams tend to agree according to Slap Shot (here, here, and here), but the Devils clearly didn't want to pay whatever those teams wanted. Deals involving those players that would have benefited New Jersey weren't there. Yes, all three would have been good in helping out New Jersey's offense; and a trade to bolster the offense would have been a good idea.

However, there is such a thing as giving up too much. I, for one, would not have liked to have see New Jersey give up, say, Brian Gionta, Vitaly Vishnevski, Nicklas Bergfors, and the Devils' first round pick in 2008 just for a few months of Marian Hossa. The Penguins, Stars, and Sharks will all have the fun of trying to keep those players should they prosper or trying to justify the deal should they not prosper or go deep in the playoffs. I surely wouldn't want the Devils to swing for the fences and find out a few years later that it was a pretty poor decision.

Therefore, I think it made sense for Lou to address an underlying, in-the-shadows need by giving up very little for a player who can provide quite a bit. It's a great move for that alone. As far as offensive production goes, the Devils have found great success with scoring-by-committee in the past and during this season. Why should this year be any different?

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Put Away the Brooms: Devils 1 - Carolina 2, OT

Well, an analysis for last night's 2-1 overtime loss to Carolina is quite simple. The Devils played as poorly as they did in the first forty minutes against Washington, stretched it to all three periods, and except getting the win in OT, they got beat in overtime.

The fact that the Devils were able to get to overtime is a testament to Martin Brodeur's skills and the Devils doing just enough to keep Carolina at bay. That said, the Hurricanes were clearly the better team that night. They didn't shy away when New Jersey got physical - and the Devils did with 27 hits compared to the Canes' 17, not to mention the 27 total penalty minutes in the first period. The Canes didn't get demoralized when their shots missed (16 total) or when they were blocked (15 - 4 by Andy Greene alone). They didn't even lose their spark when Brian Gionta's cross-ice pass (I think it was a pass?) was perfectly and impeccably deflected in by Carolina defenseman Bret Hedican.

No, the Canes kept working at it and kept applying pressure to the Devils defense. As a result, they got 36 shots on net total. The game had fewer penalties as it went on, as the Devils kept looking for attempts to counter attack. Personally, I found that was the downfall of New Jersey in this game. They really couldn't generate too many good offensive shifts of their own to turn the momentum, keep the Canes honest, and really challenge Cam Ward. It's not that New Jersey had no chances at all, but they didn't fight for them as Carolina did. Which is poor for the Devils because of the loss and poor for Brodeur, as he deserved a much better fate with his strong performance. On the Hurricane side, Sergei Samsonov picked a good night to have a good game. Samsonov was definitely "on" and playing like he shouldn't have been waived at all. He had 6 shots on net, two takeaways, and scored both goals off rebounds. Nothing Brodeur really could have done, Samsonov just beat Greene twice to get to the right place for the goal. I will say his effort on his game winning goal was great. Samsonovers (or whatever the fan club members of Samsonov are called) should happy for their favorite player. Greene fans won't be, as being burned for both goals could be the key reason why he may sit for the incoming Bryce Salvador. It's not good when Sutter is calling you out after the game (source: Gulitti).

Good job by Carolina, not so good by New Jersey. Now, the Devils have been fairly streaky this season. This game snaps a five game winning streak and the last time the Devils had a good long run of success, it was followed by some really disappointing losses like near the end of January. The Devils have a back-to-back this coming Friday. They host the Washington Capitals and then travel to Montreal to face Les Habs on Saturday. Clearly, Brodeur will play on Saturday; perhaps we'll see Kevin Weekes on Friday. Or perhaps not. We can never tell. Salvador is looking forward to Friday (source: Gulitti), hopefully the Devils will be looking forward to getting back to their winning ways.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Thank You St. Louis

The Devils acquired defenseman Bryce Salvador by trading Cam Janssen to St. Louis. This is reported in a lot of places: TSN, Gulitti, 2MA, etc.

Let's briefly compare each player.

Janssen is a St. Louis native who hasn't played any games this season, likes to throw big hits, throw punches, and is good for about 3-4 minutes a night.

Salvador has an impressive +12 (team leader) on a surpisingly-not-bad-in-stats defensive team (14th in average goals against per game with 2.71; 5th in average shots against per game 26.9 - better than NJ) and has the third highest average ice time on the Blues with 19:30 a night.

In short, the Devils traded an enforcer for St. Louis' #3 defenseman.

I know Salvador is a UFA after this season and this leaves New Jersey with 9 defensemen but...


Clearly, this is a steal for New Jersey. They gave up very little for someone who can contribute quite a bit. And if Salvador falters, it's OK, the Devils have at least 2 other d-men they can go to. The arrival of Salvador may spell the end of ice time with New Jersey for Andy Greene and/or Sheldon Brookbank; but that's perfectly fine. They can go to Lowell for minutes. It could also mean Vitaly Vishnevski could be featured in a sharp suit up in the press box as opposed to wearing #2. There are many options here. Maybe Sutter will have to go with pairings of three.

Forget about the logjam on defense for a moment and just remember: all it took for Salvador was a guy who hasn't even seen the ice in a New Jersey uniform so far this season. I look forward to his arrival for Friday's game.

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Monday, February 25, 2008


NY Times, Trade Deadline

No, seriously, Jeff Klein of the NY Times asked me a few questions, my answers are up at Slap Shot. Go read it. It'll be a new feature, I enjoyed doing it, and who knows, maybe I'll be featured in future editions. Thanks, Jeff (and also for spelling my name right). Note for the first commenter: I don't care if he retired; I would like to see revenge on Tie Domi, period end stop and so forth.

The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow. Look to 2 Man Advantage and The NHL Arena Program are all up ons (ins?) on what's shaking, baking, and quaking among teams. Not to mention and as well. Steve Stirling has a Devils-centric trade deadline preview that is well worth your time. Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice has word from head coach Brent Sutter stating that he doesn't expect any roster changes. With the way they've been playing recently, I don't know what Lou would want to necessarily change anyway. James Mirtle has some suggestions as well, for further coverage by Sportsnet and Kukla.

Already, Peter Forsberg has finally decided to return to...Colorado. This is TSN's article so I got to ask what is up with calling it the Peter Forsberg Sweepstakes? He's not in game shape yet, he's injury prone, and while he's likely still oozing talent, unless he plays like he did back a few years, he's not going to put the Avs over the top in a crowded Western Conference. The Avalanche need points now to keep pace for the playoffs and if Forsberg doesn't add to the team from his first few games on - either from him directly on the ice or by lifting up the team - it's not going to look good for them. I'm skeptical of the decision, quite frankly, but I'm always willing to be wrong.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008


Just Gettin' By: Devils 2- Capitals 1 OT

Well, the Devils won a game in overtime against the Washington Capitals, 2-1, today in DC. If I don't sound enthused it's because I'm not. I'm surprised and somewhat relieved because the Devils really should not have won it based on how they played throughout much of the game.

The Devils essentially lollygagged through the first two periods. The Capitals were hustling, moving up the puck up with energy, and peppering Martin Brodeur with shots - the exact opposite of New Jersey's performance. The Devils looked slower, they didn't fight (and win) the battles along the boards, they sat in their own zone, and they couldn't do anything right on offense. At one point through the middle of the second period, the Devils were outshot 18-6. 18 to 6! The Devils were getting rolled. Only thing is, the Capitals couldn't solve Martin Brodeur. I was wrong at the end of yesterday's post; Alexander Ovechkin's unit can only be contained (it didn't help that I felt Jay Pandolfo could have played better) and I'm very, very, very glad Brodeur was in net. Were it not for him, the Devils do not even come close to winning the game.

Yet, the lack of finishing doomed the Capitals. The Devils scored early in the third off a Jamie Langenbrunner bomb from the point on a power play. That goal was enough to wake up the Devils and they played much better in comparison to the first two periods of the game. Mind you, they weren't necessarily good - just better than they were within the game. Alexander Semin pulled off a great move, capitalized on some poor defending by Mike Mottau, and beat Brodeur wide for an instant equalizer. The game opened up as both teams combined for 28 shots in the third period alone, with NJ leading 18-10. The Devils looked a lot better, but they couldn't solve goaltender Brent Johnson a second time in regulation. This in spite of some good shifts led by Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, Brian Gionta and Travis Zajac. Those four players in particular combined for 18 shots on net - about 58% of New Jersey's shots on net total in the game.

Nevertheless, Brodeur saved the day - literally - for New Jersey and the Capitals held on for the game to go to overtime. The game literally opened up with numerous end-to-end rushes by both teams. However, in overtime, the Devils got a fortunate chance. John Madden drew about 3 Capitals to his position with the puck, who dropped it off to Patrik Elias. Elias shot a hard puck that hit the post, dropped right to Madden, and Madden snuck it through Johnson's leg for the winning goal. The Devils came to DC, played poorly for a majority of the game, didn't show that they wanted it more, but they did enough to hold off Washington and to get the win anyway. Good teams win these types of games, and it gives the Devils first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2001.

I like the result, but Sutter needs to really drill the point home to the team that this kind of performance is unacceptable. The East is very tight and no one can win for long playing that kind of lackadaisical hockey. Good thing Brodeur had enough in him to make all those saves and the Devils did enough to get it done. Hopefully we will see a more complete performance against Carolina later this week.



In the Meantime...

The Devils are currently playing the Washington Capitals as I type this. In the meantime, I found two more Devils/hockey related sites of interest.

First is Devilscast. Devilscast answers the question, "Where, oh where, can I find a podcast that is central to the New Jersey Devils?" Greg Tartaglia and Brian Monzo are the guys behind the site and show, and they maintain a blog of what's going on with the Devils in addition to their shows. Greg, for example, expresses relief over yesterday's win and provides a WFAN reference to Steve "The New York Metropolitans" Sommers. Site could use some links to other Devils sites, but they got shows to do - so it's understandable.

Second is Slap Shot. Yes, the infamous New York Times actually covers sports - even hockey. And they have a surprisingly deep blog that covers not only all three metropolitan teams - here's Jeff Klein's overall analysis of the Devils' long homestead - but even has posts about everything else in hockey from college to Europe to the industry. While the site is mostly Rangers specific; who knows, as the Devils rise, you may see more New Jersey coverage. After all, they only continue to be the better team in the league.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008


FINALLY Devils 4 - Islanders 2

Finally, finally, finally, finally, FINALLY!

The Devils FINALLY beat the Islanders this season! A 4-2 win at The Rock in the afternoon on the first half of a busy weekend for New Jersey. The Devils extend their unbeaten streak to 7 games and they looked really, really good in 40 minutes of the game.

The Islanders struck first, Josef Vasicek put it in the from the sideboards to give them the early lead. It didn't last as the Devils started with offensive pressure on Rick DiPietro and continued it throughout the period with a total of 15 shots. Patrik Elias began the scoring with a rocket of a shot on the power play midway through the first. John Madden got the Devils the lead as he got fortunate on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Madden attempted a pass, but the puck ricocheted off an Islander defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron which beat a bewildered DiPietro to give the Devils the 2-1 lead. The Devils had no issue taking the puck themselves over the blueline or dumping it in; they were getting chances and save for a few miscues - one of which led to a breakaway leading to yet another Martin Brodeur highlight reel save - they were clearly the better team. They looked primed for a win.

The second period featured a more balanced game and the Devils floundering at first. The Islanders equalized early with another shot from the side which beat Brodeur. Just as bad were the Devils conceding a two man advantage which saw them pinned back in their own end for much of the first half of the second period. However, that's where the tied turned and while you can tell from the run of play the Devils turned down their own intensity, they didn't completely take the period off. They were great in keeping the Islanders to poor shots and in killing off both penalties to David Clarkson and Colin White (Aside: This was White's 9th minor of the year - yes only 9 so far). And the Devils reverted to responding and dictating the play moreso in the second half of the second. But the third period and, well.

The third period was an amazing performance. One where I'd give gold stars out to all the Devils and hope that the coaching staff keeps a recording of that entire 20 minute period to remind the team of what they can do when they all figure it out.

The Devils didn't just take the lead back in the game - they owned it at that point. The Devils outshot the Islanders 20-4. The Devils outshot them by a factor of 5! The Islanders had all kinds of trouble trying to get a clear shot on net, as a Devil (or Devils) was (or were) constantly putting pressure on the puck carrier and forcing turnovers all game long. The Devils, on the other hand, kept finding and keeping possession in the Islander zone to great offensive success. The Devils only scored twice, but against a lesser goaltender, it could have been much more. That said, the two the Devils got were sweet. Zach Parise netted the eventual game winner with a sweet individual effort to beat DiPietro; and Brian Gionta put home a rebound to seal the game. Dainius Zubrus had a good game drawing calls, fighting for pucks, and setting up the fourth goal; Gionta had a good game with his constant hustle, which is good since he hasn't done too well as of lately; Oduya and White were the best defenders on the ice; Sheldon Brookbank kept firing it from the point; and the Devils were just out and out the better team in the third.

Overall, the Devils kept out-working and out-hustling a team that is designed to work it off the boards and generate momentum from cycling by stopping them from even setting up - either at the point or in the neutral zone. The offense was aggressive enough to not only get shots off, but everyone just kept moving into open spaces for those shots. That's how you beat the Islanders and thankfully the Devils finally figured it out instead of losing to them a sixth straight time.

That all said, the Washington Ovechkins await in DC tomorrow afternoon. All I ask is for two things. First, have Jay Pandolfo cover the 48 goal scoring machine that is Alexander Ovechkin all game long. Second, please give Marty a well-deserved rest and start Weekes, Mr. Sutter.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


Devils 3 - Sharks 2

Yeah, I know I didn't further analyze the Devils 5-1 win over Carolina, so here it is summed up:
So, let's talk about last night's game. Where the Devils were simply strong against Carolina, this one was a very weird game. The 3-2 win against San Jose is indicative that the Devils are clearly rolling, not just because they are 5-0-1 in their last 6 games. Here is example 1: in the first period, I believe Paul Martin made an errant pass in his zone leaving the puck to be wide open. As a Shark was stretching for the loose puck, he fell down. The Devils picked up on it and rushed up the ice for an odd man rush. Example #2: how all 5 goals were scored
All very odd, none of them were just well placed shots or what you would consider a standard goal. You can't fault Marty on either of the goals given up. You could fault Martin for not destroying Cheechoo in the slot prior to his cuffing of Brodeur - except he was behind and didn't want to hand the Sharks a 2 Man Advantage. You could fault Gionta goal #2 but that was just an unfortunate re-direction. Were Greiss more experienced, he never would have went out for that puck - and if he did, he would have made damn sure he got to it first. He also would have kept his legs closer to the post and with each other. Even so, Greiss did well for a guy who gets even less time than Kevin Weekes.

Oddly enough, San Jose effectively curtailed the Devils' attack by limiting them to 20 shots on net, 17 blocked shots (!!), and 10 missed shots. San Jose got more on net with 32; but it didn't matter. The Devils got the breaks, as they keep on winning. San Jose definitely did not, as they earn their third straight loss on the road and their fifth straight winless game. Considering San Jose went into this road trip with more wins than any other NHL team and while challenging for a top spot in the West, this entire experience must be very demoralizing. On paper, they did a lot of things right. But the Devils out did them in faceoffs, got out hit, and while neither team really outworked the other, the Devils capitalized on plays which normally most don't capitalize on. But that's just example #2.

This is Example #3.

Thanks to Jeffler on HFBoards for finding this. (BTW, check out his Youtube channel, it's awesome.) A save like this was actually made in a game. That's weird, that's odd, and it's all fantastic. Any critics of Brodeur, saying that he's too old or that's overated or whatever else idiots say these days should watch this video and promptly shut up.


Monday, February 18, 2008


Devils Defensemen & Scoring

I'm going to think about today's 5-1 beatdown of the Carolina Hurricanes, so expect a more detailed analysis of that game tomorrow. But first, I'd like to analyze something else. Last year, a big concern was scoring from the Devils defensemen. More appropriately, the lack of scoring from it's blueline. With Mike Mottau and Johnny Oduya each scoring goals in today's game, the Devils defense tied their highest total amount of goals post-lockout. With 22 games left in the season, 30 goals is clearly within range.

Yet, how did the Devils' defense fare on offense in prior years? Was 30 or more total goals per season par for the course back in the days of Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski? The stats section at goes all the way back to the 2000-2001 season, so I hopped on there, sorted the summary stats by defensemen, and did some quick addition. Here's what I found out, and you may be surprised just as I was surprised:

2000-2001 Season: 31 total goals, 141 total assists, leading scorer: Brian Rafalski (9 G, 43 A)
2001-2002 Season: 22 total goals, 96 total assists, leading scorer: Brian Rafalski (7 G, 40 A)
2002-2003 Season: 33 total goals, 122 total assists, leading scorer: Brian Rafalski (3 G, 37 A)
2003-2004 Season: 32 total goals, 121 total assists, leading scorer: Scott Niedermayer (14 G, 40 A)
2005-2006 Season: 24 total goals, 151 total assists, leading scorer: Brian Rafalski (6 G, 43 A)
2006-2007 Season: 18 total goals, 102 total assists, leading scorer: Brian Rafalski (8 G, 47 A)

Makes you miss Brian Rafalski, right? Here's another fun fact. Only one Devil defenseman scored more than 10 goals in a season in this span, Scott Niedermayer. Even then, his high was only 14.

Currently, the Devils defense doesn't have eye-popping numbers. Paul Martin leads the group with 5 goals and 20 assists. Yet, like the Devils forwards, the blueline scores by committee. With today's goals and two assists (Andy Greene and Sheldon Brookbank), the Devils defensemen have a total of 24 goals and 77 assists. While they may reach new lows in assists; the team is indeed scoring more goals from the defense. This much is true and there's still plenty of hockey left to play.

Why the improvement in scoring? I think a lot of credit has to go to Brent Sutter. Since coming to the Devils, he's implemented a number of new approaches to the Devils' gameplan and the one that sticks out the most is his use of defensemen on offense and the power play. Under former head coach Claude Julien, the defensemen were basically anchored to the space in front of the blueline on offense. With Sutter, you see the defensemen rushing into the zone with the forwards sometimes; and breaking into the circle on the opposite end of the play. I strongly believe that this is resulting in the defensemen getting more goals, and there's plenty of evidence supporting this. For example, look at how Mike Mottau scored earlier today. He broke into the zone late, nobody on the Carolina Hurricanes defense noticed him, but Travis Zajac did. One cross-ice pass later and Mottau's got a great shot and the lamp is soon lit up.

And so the Devils defense continues to score, despite lacking a definitive d-man to dominating the scoring table like Rafalski or Niedermayer.

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A Preview of Things to Come

A preview? This is something I haven't done in a while. In any case, it's a 1 PM afternoon matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes at The Rock. The last time the Canes came to Newark, a glorious display of offense occurred and the many, many Devils fans around the world were pleased by a 6-1 beatdown of Carolina. To use an Internetâ„¢ term, the ownage didn't begin there. Earlier in the year, the Devils went down to the RBC Center and decisively defeated the Canes with defiant defense and a dazzling display of offense by a score of 4-1.

It's because of those two games and the recent back-to-back-and-mostly-successful stretch by New Jersey, I'm a bit concerned about today's game. Yes, the Hurricanes are without Rod Brind'Amour, who is out for pretty much the rest of the season with a knee injury (TSN), so the Devils should have an easier time on faceoffs. However, the Canes most definitely remember the last two games against the Devils. They didn't just lose, they lost big. They lost in a bad way. They don't want to happen again a third time, and you can bet on head coach Peter Laviolette will use this as motivation. If only to convince his defenders to actually collapse in their zone. Collapsing was something they didn't do in either game against the Devils, forcing the Devils to go outside with more of their shots. Unfortunately for Carolina, the Devils accepted this challenge and excelled. The Canes won their last three games, so they also have momentum on their side.

The Devils will need to be careful. If I were Brent Sutter, I'd start Kevin Weekes. Yes, Martin Brodeur is the best goaltender and clearly gives the Devils the best chance to win; but he's been worked. He is coming off two straight games, facing a total of 71 shots and playing over 120 minutes against top offenses. Carolina's offense is not as threatening and Weekes should be able to handle the workload. Marty deserves a little rest and now is a good time to give it to him.

Regardless of who starts, I think the Devils need to score the first two goals of this game. They tend to drift in afternoon games and after a tough back-to-back series, the importance of getting the first few goals is key. Unlike the Atlanta and Ottawa games, the Devils scoring 1 or 2 early would really demoralize the Canes - likely forcing them to think back to those two bad losses they had earlier. The momentum would be in New Jersey's favor and that would make the game a bit easier on them. Why two? Because a one goal lead doesn't mean much, especially in today's NHL, and two is lot easier to hold onto and build upon than one.

Your preview is here. For non-today's game news and analysis, Jeremy Kenter at Devils Daily has a ton of things to go through. The league's general managers are meeting in Naples (Florida, not Italy) to discuss rules and more trade proposals than a Hockey's Future sub-forum. Speaking of HF, Jared Ramsden has an update on the Devils' NCAA prospects that's worth your time as well. From Ramsden's writeup, I'm really impressed with Tyler Eckford's development. A late pick in 2004, Eckford becoming a top offensive threat on defense in all of college hockey is definitely worth some praise and what the cool kids (or Michael Wilbon) call "dap."

As far as preview goes, let me end with a vague note. I got some things going on in the background I can't reveal yet; but this place may get a little more popular soon. Nevertheless, this blog has just recently passed the 50,000 visitor mark, so some thanks are in order for you. Thank you all for reading In Lou We Trust. The e-mails and comments are always welcomed and I'm looking forward to pleasing even more people with my word-based blog. Give yourself a self-high five and GO DEVILS.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008


Tale of Two Games: Atlanta and Ottawa

The Devils just played their third of four back-to-back sessions this month, hosting the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday and visiting the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Both games were tightly fought, featured Martin Brodeur as the starter, and yielded two close games.

On Friday, the Thrashers scored an equalizer with 18.1 seconds left in the game to force an overtime and won the game, 4-3, in a long shootout. The Devils went up early in the game, taking a 2-0 lead on a Brian Gionta power play goal early in the second period - something he hasn't done since January 10, 2008. But Atlanta immediately struck back with a goal less than minute later. Ilya Kovalchuk got position on John Madden and put home a cross-ice pass. Todd White did it later in the period on a power play, getting on the right side of the defender to put it home. All three of the Thrashers' goals in regulation all involved getting in front of the Devils defender/backchecker, nothing New Jersey really could have done about. The third period involved some weird, crushing goals - John Madden fired a rising shot from the goal line that went off Johan Hedberg's arm and unfortunately directed in. But the Devils couldn't hold on. Marian Hossa just got to the puck first off a weird bounce past Brodeur to get that not-even-last-minute equalizer. The Thrashers threw everything and the kitchen sink at the end and struck gold with Hossa's effort. Tense and a bit frustrating. A full 5 minute overtime ensued followed by a really long, 10-men shootout where Pascal Dupuis made the difference to give Atlanta the win. The Devils came close to two points, only got one, and as Tom Gulitti reported, the team was not happy with not getting the win after such a long night. It was a tough loss, on the team and on the fans - as indicated by 2 Man Advantage's Steve Stirling.

The next night, despite the 65+ minute effort, Brent Sutter started Martin Brodeur again in Atlanta. Ottawa decided to re-unite the Cash Line of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Dany Heatley and take an offensive approach to the Devils. After losing on Wednesday in overtime, you could be sure Ottawa didn't want the same thing to happen on their home ice. They haven't been the same dominating team like they were at the beginning of the season. Before the game, the Devils were a mere 4 points behind the Senators. Given that the Devils played hard and beyond regulation the night before, this would be a good idea. The Devils' defense, despite the fifth best shots against per game average in the league, isn't what it was back in, say, 2000.

Yet in a bizarre fashion, for the first two periods, the Devils looked like the better team. Yes, the Senators heavily outshot the Devils 26-21; but the Devils got the better of the chances. They challenged Ray Emery and Aaron Asham struck gold with a brace. Yes, Asham with two goals. In the same game. One was re-directed in and the other was a laser rocket bomb that Emery had no chance to get to - it was a piledriver of an effort. Zach Parise roofed it high on Brian Gionta pass on a power play to give the Devils a 3-0 lead. The Senators were on their heels, the Devils were surging, and all before 30 minutes into the game. These are the Senators, I asked myself? These are the Devils, I then asked myself? I felt like I stepped into a world of fantasy where the Devils actually was doing well on the road against the top team in the East; except they were doing just that - regardless of shot counts! The Senators kept taking penalty after penalty, allowing the Devils to take advantage.

Then the Senators got one back late in the second and life returned to normal. The Senators gained not only confidence, but a second wind. The Devils were tired and Ottawa kept taking it to them, as the Devils could only ward them off and attempted counter-attacks to keep them honest. I disagree with Schnookie's assertion that the Devils were trying to sit back and hold onto the lead - the Senators were pressing and holding them off were all the Devils could do. It's not as if the Devils did nothing; they put 8 shots on Emery. The Devils were being swarmed and while Chris Kelly put home a rebound, unlike the Atlanta game, the Devils literally held on. Martin Brodeur made a number of big saves; the defense stepped up in some huge situations; and the Devils ultimately won the game 3-2.

Both games were similar. Tough, close games where the Devils got beaten in the third period. Yet, on one night, the opponent broke through and ultimately won the game. The next night, the opponent couldn't find it and the Devils came away with the win. 3 points out of 4 this weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes visit on Monday afternoon, and I really, really hope Kevin Weekes starts on Monday. Brodeur needs the rest.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008



Last night's game featured an Ottawa Senator team who looked more than happy to give the Devils chances to win as the game went on, a New Jersey Devil team who had trouble all night getting to rebounds, a Martin Gerber who was more than willing to give said rebounds, a Martin Brodeur who made a lot of good saves, gave up a soft one to Randy Robitalle and picked up his 30th win, and a Brian Gionta who played quite bad all game long but came up huge in overtime to give the Devils the 3-2 win. Want more details? Interchangeable Parts and 2 Man Advantage both did live-caps; Tom Gulitti has a recap at Fire & Ice; and Jeremy Kenter has his own recap at Devils Daily.

But I don't want to talk about that, I want to provide a affirmation of sorts; specifically about passion. Passion is why we bother yelling at all games. Passion is why some paint their face to support the team. Passion is why we lead chants of "Let's Go Devils!" and "KILL." Passion is why we get upset and angry when the team doesn't do well. Why we clap our hands when the PA plays the song that begins with "Everybody clap your hands," well, I'm not sure. But I think the key answer why fans who get into it is passion.

It's no secret that I love hockey and the fact that this blog exists should clue you in as to who I support. And if you feel similarly - you have that same passion. It may not be as overt as, say, the Crazies in 223; but it's there. It shows when you make some noise at the game. It shows when you wear the proper jersey of the proper team to support to the game. Hell, it shows even when you just show up to the game, or talk about it with people you know.

What is my point? I want you to be proud of this passion. Doesn't matter how much you have, but just show it. Those who say it's not cool or too stupid or it's not appropriate to be loud and showing the world that you bleed Devils red at a Devils game, consider this. To me, the people who wear 100+ pins at every game never really cared and always looked happier than those who just go to the games and do nothing but text someone not at the game. I'm not saying you don't have to wear a ton of flare, but being self-conscious doesn't do anyone a lick of good. So embrace your passion - yell real loud, wear that $20 foam puck hat, clap your hands to the song - do more than just sit in a seat you that cost you lot of hard-earned money.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Ottawa Made a Trade; Relax

First and foremost, I am happy to read that Richard Zednik's condition has been upgraded from stable to good at This is fortunate, thank God he got the medical attention he did and good on them to get Zednik on a the road to a speedy recovery.

Now, about the title, the Senators - who come to the Rock this Wednesday, Tom Gulitti has a preview to tell you what to expect (Spoiler: Marty's starting this one) - made a trade yesterday. Ottawa sent winger Pat Eaves and defenseman Joe Corvo to Carolina in exchange for left winger Cory Stillman and defenseman Mike Commodore (source: TSN). On paper, this seems to favor the Senators. The Hurricanes pick up a young, 23 year old two way forward in Eaves, who could still develop into a top six forward; as well as a veteran defensemen in Corvo isn't afraid to take that shot from the point. Not bad, but the Senators get a physical defenseman in Commodore who can take Corvo's minutes and then some (Commodore has averaged 19:15 in Carolina in their top 4, Corvo only 17:41 on Ottawa's bottom pairing), and a scoring left winger in Stillman (21 G, 25 A) to give the team some added punch on offense (as if they needed it).

Bob McKenzie at TSN states that it is a big trade and a good one for Ottawa, namely for the experience that Stillman and Commodore can bring to winning Stanley Cups - something Ottawa obviously lacks. However, I find it a bit unsettling that McKenzie refers to Stillman and Commodore:
If Stillman and Commodore play to their potential, the Senators are much improved. Stillman's secondary scoring is particularly welcome.
Now, I can buy Stillman as a top six forward and Commodore as a #4; but if it's such a good trade, why the qualifier about playing to their potential? Maybe it's because while both have sipped from Lord Stanley's Cup - something Ottawa usually sees from the outside looking in - there are warning signs in both players. Commodore was more noticible for his big red half-afro, half-disaster style of hair rather than being a stalwart defender on the Canes blueline back in 2006 - namely because he wasn't that big stalwart defender in that series. He hasn't hit that level of play since, and it's probably a reason why Carolina had no qualms trading him. Stillman's resume looks a lot better. While he only contributed 2 goals and 5 assists in Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup win, he exploded in 2006 with 9 goals and 17 assists with Carolina in a successful 2006 Cup campaign. Still, for a guy who routinely puts up at least 20 goals a season (only 2 seasons in his last 10 where he didn't and those were cut by injury), he doesn't stick in one place for a really long time. He may give him that secondary scoring, but on a team that features Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley (who will return by playoff time, I think), if the top players are shut down - the team's in trouble, unless he steps up in a huge way. That's why I'm hesitant to think he'll be putting any team over the top.

It's a good trade for the Senators provided both players actually mesh with the team and can contribute - it's entirely possible that in a different system than Carolina, the two could flourish or fade. I think it'll turn out somewhat like that, but I can't call it a blockbuster. No big names moved nor does this trade make Ottawa the team to beat in the East. Which leads me to my point, a message to all the Devils fans:

Stop composing letters, e-mails, wishes, complaints, rants, dreams, and message board posts about the Devils should trade this guy or that guy, just to make a move. Lou's never let someone else force his hand, nor does he make a deal he doesn't want to do. Relax. Ottawa made a trade, it may turn out OK for them. But that doesn't make them Cup contenders, and it definitely doesn't mean the Devils have to do anything in response to keep pace, to look good in the eyes of pundits, or any hogwash like that. Relax.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


Shot Accuracy Update

It's been a while since I've taken a look at the Devils' shooting. Now that we are 56 games into the season, an update is in order. For those of you not familiar of what I'm talking about, please read these two posts for background and prior analysis: Devils & Accuracy Part 1, Devils & Accuracy Part 2.

First, let's look at the overall numbers. The Devils are still routinely less accurate than their opponents, that's not good. However, they have improved by about a percent in terms of getting those attempts on net and this is verified by now having an average of 28.4 shots on net than 27.8 shots on net. The opposition is blocking an average of just under shot less and the Devils have had their average number of shots slightly reduced. Unfortunately, the opposition has been more accurate, credited by missing about one less shot per game as well.

Shots Chart Feb

Now, let's see how the Devils have been doing over the last 56 games, trend-wise. Time for not just one, but two line graphs.

Total Attempts Feb

While the first chart states that, on average, the Devils generally make more attempts to shoot than their opponents. This even holds true in recent games, with a few exceptions here and there. The Devils hit a total low of 33 attempts in that brutal Montreal game a few weeks ago. Except for last night's game, the Devils make somewhere between 43 and 55 attempts which has been seemingly more consistent than the opponents have been. Over the whole season, there doesn't seem to be too much correlation between the Devils and the opposition. When it comes to comparing the percentage of those shot attempts getting on net, the opposition continues to be better. The Devils have been superior in the last two games, but since the last time I checked, there's been a total of four games where the Devils were more accurate than their opponents. The chart below reflects this. What's more, in those four games, the Devils won three of them.

Percent Attempts Feb

Third, let's break this down between home games and away games. This means yet another chart with a brand new section to show difference between home and away games. Interestingly, the Devils are more aggressive on the road than they are at home. The terrible offense (only 33 attempts!) against Montreal probably skewed that, but with that aggression comes a drop in accuracy. The Devils average a little more than a shot on goal more in Newark than elsewhere, and average two fewer missed shots. They block more shots on average on the road, but so does the opposition. The opposition shooters must love playing at the Rock, though. They take fewer chances, perhaps due to the Devils style of play; but when they get an opening, they make them count with an astonishing 62% accuracy! Still, if the Devils want to up their overall accuracy, I would suggest making changes to their offensive approaches and shot selection on the road first. That's where the accuracy drop seems to lie.

Shots Home Away Feb

Lastly, let's break it down between wins and losses. Just like the home-away chart, there's a new section to provide the difference between wins and losses in each category. It's even color coded to provide whether the difference is good (green) or bad (red). Interestingly, common sense is found in the data here. The wins by the Devils have them take fewer attempts, but be more accurate in their shooting - leading to more shots on net and presumably goals. Oddly enough they miss about the same number of shots on average (only an average of .32 more in losses), which tells me it's not hurting them greatly as the opposition blocking their shots. The missed shots stat tells me that the Devils are literally missing opportunities and with work in that area, they can improve their accuracy just by cutting that down. The opposition blocking an average of a little more than 2 shots in Devils losses means that is hurting New Jersey more than missing. Common sense rears it's ugly head as the opposition is clearly more accurate (and by quite a bit) when they win instead of when they lose.

Shots Win Loss Feb

Overall, I'd say that the Devils have made a small improvement since the first time I did this analysis about a month and a half ago. Any improvement is still improvement; but I urge the Devils and their coaching staff to make better decisions when it comes to shot selection. The data backs up the intuitive notion that the opposition is more accurate and gets more on net on average when they are succeeding. What's more, the Devils are not nearly as accurate on the road as they are at home - which provides a good first place to look for improvement.

Trading for a sniper or a stud defenseman may help in the short term; but this is a team-wide problem and trading an entire roster is nigh impossible - not to mention senseless. However, the team has to do a better job in making those many attempts on net hit the net. They are generally more effective in getting more attempts night after night; but the accuracy of those attempts is what makes them a good offensive decision. Working on shooting as well as deciding when to shoot in games - not the easiest thing to do with sticks and bodies going every which way in games - will lead to not only improved accuracy but likely more goals.

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That's Not a Typo: Devils 6 - Canes 1

The New Jersey Devils struggled to find the finish on nearly all their plays on Friday against Anaheim, in a 2-1 loss. So naturally, the Devils respond with a whirlwind of a beatdown on the Carolina Hurricanes, a rousing and impressive 6-1 victory. The game was legitimately over after the first period and the Devils iced it in the second, leaving the third period to feature the fourth line.

The most impressive fact of the night wasn't the two Devils power play goals - going 2 for 5 after a 0 for 5 performance against Anaheim - or that Martin Brodeur was only beaten once on a fluke play, Scott Walker firing the puck off a fallen Keith Aucoin to get in the net. It wasn't even Jay Pandolfo getting a goal at the end of a brilliant John Madden move in a 2-on-1. The most impressive were the defense: four goals by defenseman, tying the highest count in Devils history - which was also 4 back in 1984 (led by Uli Heimer). Paul Martin picked up a brace, Colin White got his second goal in five games, and Johnny Oduya...well...he did this. You have to see it.

No wonder Tom Gulitti's post at Fire & Ice refers to him as Johnny Orr-duya. I'll save Tom the debate, so far that is the best goal by anyone in the entire NHL this season. I defy anyone to tell me otherwise.

Also, Brent Sutter or anyone in the Devils coaching staff reading this, actually consider Oduya for leading the breakout sometime. If only to keep the opposition honest from time to time and not think the Devils will always dump the puck in the zone.

It was a magnificent performance and you could tell it was over when Mike Rupp, Sergei Brylin, and Aaron Asham got over a minute of power play time and close to 10 minutes of ice time overall. The Canes couldn't contain the outside shot, they were beaten on the boards more often than not, they were beaten badly at faceoffs, and the Devils did a good job in deciding when to dump and when to carry it over the line. What's more is that the defense effectively took Eric Staal, Rod Brind'Amour, and Ryan Whitney out of the game. Staal only had one shot on net, Brind'Amour and Whitney got none, as the Devils defenders and backcheckers kept the Canes from throwing anything dangerous at Brodeur. Personally, I would have started Weekes, but it's not like Marty had a huge workout. While the d-men got most of the goals, forwards like David Clarkson, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrik Elias were big in setting up a few of those.

All in all, this was a dominant performance and the exact opposite of what I saw on Friday. The Anaheim game caused pain, but this game was the Painkiller (warning: link goes to an awesomely bad-ass song). Great job by the Devils, as they get a short three day break before Ottawa visits Newark again on Wednesday.

PERSONAL ASIDE: This was also the game where-in I got to meet most of 2 Man Advantage, and the train where-in I got to meet Interchangeable Parts. I shook hands, I made poor small talk, I learned what font Patricia uses for those pictures (it's not Impact), and I forgot to ask which one was Pookie and which one was Schnookie.

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Friday, February 08, 2008


ARRRRRRRRRRRGH, Devils 1 - Ducks 2

Considering how uneven the Devils play has been over some recent games, the Devils played a more complete effort tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. However, Ryan Carter picked up his first and second NHL goals in the first period and that was enough for the win despite New Jersey turning up the heat, tempo, and shooting in the second and third periods. This is one of those games that when you think about it, it wasn't so bad.

However I was at the game last night and I still feel like screaming after coming home a little less than an hour after the 2-1 loss.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. Jonas Hiller, the Anaheim Ducks' $3.2 million backup goaltender, looked real good in stopping 35 of 36 shots. Back-up goaltender, a team who just played really well last night in pounding Our Hated Rivals, I should have known the Devils were going to get stoned on offense. And they were.

The most frustrating thing about it was the abject lack of finishing. Not shooting, not different places to shoot, not effort at going after pucks along the boards and in space, but finshing. The Devils did a lot of things right and this could have been a win - IF SOMEONE CAN FINISH A PLAY OR POUND A REBOUND IN.

If this team has a need, the number one need is a finisher. Granted, you can argue New Jersey hasn't had a true finisher in ages; but someone who could have pounded it in would have made this another comeback win instead of a loss. It could be anyone; they may already be on the team and they don't even know it. Hell, just ask the guys with taxi cabs outside of the arena after games. I did and they said they'll score a goal - why not give it a try? At least they have confidence, unlike this team when it comes to goalscoring at points this season. Because as it is, these kinds of games are lost opportunities at best and reasons why New Jersey is looking up the wrong end of the standings at worst in late March.

A shorter, but incredibly apt description of this game can be found at 2 Man Advantage
; a profane live-cap is at Interchangable Parts; and I will await tomorrow's game knowing full well we could see Carolina's back-up, John Grahame, a possibility that causes me concern on its own. Be prepared for a post on Sunday that also begins with ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH, everyone.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008


A Fairly Short Review of Last Night's Game

Hey, that third period was pretty dang good for New Jersey. If only they can treat all three periods that way, they'd be in business. Also, Oduya has clearly found and read a book called "How to Be an Effective #4 Defenseman." No word on whether or not it was written by Bruce Driver. Seriously, he played very well.

A loss in the shootout isn't something to cheer for, but earning 7 out of 8 points against a stingy Buffalo team this season is worth some praise, right? Recap: 3-2 Buffalo, Devils lose in the shootout.

NITPICKING ASIDE: Jason Pominville's goal that put Buffalo up 2-0 in the second period went off his skate from a thread-needling pass by Daniel Paille. Nothing wrong with that, them's the breaks. However, I am baffled about the call that led to the faceoff prior to that play. Karel Rachunek was called for an intentional offside up in Buffalo's zone, which means a faceoff at the other end. This is indeed an actual rule in the NHL Rulebook, rule 83.6 - to prevent teams from going offside just to get a stoppage in play. This rule clearly states that the decision is up to the linesman.

However, how in the world did he (the linesman) think Rachunek played the puck out of the zone and fired it back in just to get a stoppage? To me, from what I saw on TV, Rachunek was trying to keep it in and fired it right back in prior to realizing it went all the way out. The rest of the skaters were still in the zone as the puck was simply fired up the boards prior to it getting to Rachunek. I'm not saying Buffalo shouldn't have had their goal - they earned it - but I'm still baffled by the call that led to the faceoff prior to that. Do any of you have an explanation as to why the linesman thought Rachunek committed intentional offside? Because I have no idea why he even made that call at all.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The Comeback

Last night had all the makings of a terrible loss by New Jersey. Instead, the Devils turned it all around, equalized in the third period, and went on in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3.

Now for a confession. During the third period, a few minutes after Pittsburgh went up 3-1, the power in my house went off for a few minutes and DirecTV needed some time to find its signal. So I missed the two quick goals that tied up the game and gave the Devils a legitimate chance at winning the game. Which was a downer because that would have been very uplifting to watch as it was for the Devils. At least I got to see the highlights of the goals, not to mention the thrilling overtime winner.

Because the first two periods were terr-i-ble for New Jersey. The Devils were outshot, out hustled, and out worked. Most the Devils' 14 shots prior to the third period were mostly of the logo-hitting variety; and they bended quite a bit to Pittsburgh's attack. Brodeur didn't pounce on the puck to smother it fast enough which led to the first goal; the second goal was an unfortunate deflection off of Vitaly Vishnevski's knee; and the third goal was due to someone (I unfortunately think it was Jay Pandolfo) missing their coverage. A listless attack, terrible passing, far too many concessions in puck possession, and having to chase Pittsburgh all night. All this against a division rival who beat the Devils bad the last time they were in Newark whilst Pandolfo returned to the lineup. Bad, bad, bad. No wonder the fans were booing near the end of the period.

But we can't say that because the Devils figured it out in the third period. They "woke up," for lack of a better phrase, and took it to Pittsburgh - I think, again I missed the important moments. That late goal by Jamie Langenbrunner on the power play late in the second period was the progenitor to the comeback - something to give the Devils some life, something for a Devils fan to cheer about. Tom Gulitti notes that the head coach, Brent Sutter, made his feelings heard in the intermission. But it didn't sink in until a little later, after the Penguins' third goal game (scored by Jordan Staal). Putting just as many shots on net in the third, they cracked Ty Conklin twice and got the opportunity in overtime to get the win - and took it.

While I agree with Langenbrunner's comment that the Devils have to play like they did in the third period more often, I want to point out a very positive stat. The New Jersey Devils have the second best winning percentage in the league when trailing after two periods, and the most wins when trailing after two periods. They have a record of 6-16-1, good for 26.1%. By comparison, number one is the Detroit Red Wings with a winning percentage of 37.5%, a record of 3-4-1. The pessimists, realists, and cynics will see this and go, "If the Devils are trailing after two periods, they are very likely to lose. Just like many teams in pretty much every sport ever. So what?" But I look at this as proof that Sutter has instilled the team with a "never say never" attitude and that the team has character to fight back from deficits. Both are very admirable traits and a point of pride. The Devils are capable of comebacks, and it happened again just last night.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008


The Finishing was There

Let's talk about New Jersey's 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings last night. After a three game losing streak and a loss to Our Hated Rivals, the Devils got their heads on straight against LA. They effectively minimized the effect of Mike Cammalari and Anze Kopitar and held the Kings quiet for most of the game while pounding that puck home.

The defensemen played much better both positionally with 14 shots blocked and didn't get beat too badly. The defense became more of bend-not-break in the third period, but Brodeur handled most of it well. The first two goals the Kings got were preventable, but it was the failure of the forwards backchecking. Rod Pelley and Aaron Asham let Brian Boyle get into the slot for his first goal of the season; and Travis Zajac (I think) missed Jack Johnson as he also slid into the slot for a one-timer. In Rich Chere's post-game article in the Star Ledger, Sutter recognizes this fault and said as such during the game:

The Devils answered at 9:53 on defenseman Karel Rachunek's second goal of the season on a pass from Langenbrunner before Boyle, the Kings' first-round draft pick (26th overall) in 2003, assisted on the second L.A. goal at 12:57.

That's when Sutter became furious.

"The two goals were the only times we had breakdowns," Sutter said. "There was a message sent. You have to ask the players if they got the message. They're habits we have to break."

Now, this is excellent to read. Sutter didn't wait until after the period was over, and he didn't shy away from it after the game when he could have just said "We won, won big, scored goals, good game, good night." He got animated, he got angry, and he insisted on the team doing better to avoid a big disappointing loss like in 4 of their previous 5 games. This is a good thing. Yes, the Devils gave up another goal just like it later on, but they continued to score and put pressure on the Kings. They didn't relent and it was a big reason why they won.

In my view, the most pleasant surprise was the finishing. The Devils were excellent as a whole in converting on those shots. Yes, while the Devils only put 4 shots on net in the third period (I think they missed double that amount, at least it seemed that way), they were lethal. The Devils capitalized on ex-Ranger backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera and ex-Penguin and ex-Leaf backup goaltender Jean-Sebastian Aubin with a total of 6 even strength goals. Even better is that no one player took control of the game and did all of the work. All 6 goals came from 6 different players from top 6 forwards (Elias and Zajac) to the third line (Clarkson and Brylin) and even from the defense (White and Rachunek). Some came off rebounds, some were blistering shots from distance - White's goal was a laser, a great goal for sure, and some came off sweet feeds from other Devils. Offensively, the Devils needed this game after scoring a total of 6 goals in their last three games (3 against Montreal, 2 against Pittsburgh, 1 against You Know Who). Surely the result will boost the Devils' confidence on offense. It'll be up to them, however, to take that momentum and increased confidence and have it lead to further scoring over the next few games.

I will say that I was a bit surprised that Martin Brodeur even started the game. Personally, it's on these second-halves of back-to-back games that Weekes should be starting. The entire point of his signing was to have a capable goaltender to backup Brodeur. With this month being particularly loaded with games, Weekes needs to get starts. I know Brodeur gives the Devils a chance to win 90% of all games; but if fatigue even remotely becomes a factor with Brodeur's performance, Weekes needs to get in there and spell him.

Given how the Penguins rolled New Jersey just last week, I don't expect Weekes to play. I expect the Devils to put their best possible line up to get revenge and, more importantly, get a win over an Atlantic Division team. Maybe against the Hurricanes on Saturday he'll get the nod.


Saturday, February 02, 2008


January in Review & Devil of the Month

Like a lot of things in life, you can look at a situation positively or negatively.

First, there were positive aspects of January 2008 to look at. the Devils started off the month incredibly well with five wins and one loss in their first six games. Patrik Elias found his scoring touch again, Mike Rupp got two goals, Johnny Oduya looked like Bobby Orr against Philadelphia on the 22nd, the Devils not only dominated the Flyers not once or twice but also proved to everyone that even their power play can go on a torrid rage of goals, and won some close games against Buffalo in shootouts and had a strong road win against Carolina. All that and David Clarkson got to represent the team in the YoungStars game during the NHL All Star Weekend.

Now, the negativity, which stings a little more as it's more recent. The Devils lost a total of five games, four of them at the Rock. The more recent losses against Florida, against Montreal, and against Pittsburgh were especially dissapointing. In all three games, the Devils had the lead and control of the game at some point early; but lost their intensity, focus, and drive to win as the game went on. The opposition realized this, realized that Brent Sutter wasn't changing his game plan, realized that they can pounce on New Jersey and did so. A month or go, the Devils would have fought back from behind hard and at least try to win these games - they did not in these cases. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac began to play especially poorly, but the team as a whole didn't look good in any of those losses. Starting from the top of the division and ending somewhere in the middle of it; that's a poor way to end a month.

Overall, not a terrible month but Devils will need to right the proverbial ship quickly considering how bad the end of it was for New Jersey. There are 15 games in February and 11 of them are at the Rock. The Devils, while losing to Our Hated Rivals, at least put a much improved performance and complete effort. It's not enough, but after ending the month with a record of 2-3 - those 3 losses being bitter, it's a start. Regardless, in a division where 7 points separate first and last and in a conference where the difference between the first and last playoff spots is 10 points, long losing streaks are a death knell. With so many games at home this month, February is a crucial month for the Devils.

On the non-Devils side of the site, In Lou We Trust now has an easier to remember .dot com domain and I was featured on New York Hockey Talk with Rob Kowal again.

In any case, who would I say gets the nod for ILWT Devil of the Month? Well, based on stats you have a number of options. Travis Zajac potted in 6 goals and 5 assists, but the way his play went south at the end means I can't really consider him despite his numbers. Paul Martin put in 2 goals, had 6 assists, and played 22 minutes a night. However, the defense on this team still commits too many positional mistakes and Martin is a part of that. I can't rightly say he was the best player of the month if he wasn't even the best defender. I can't rightly pick the best defender as Colin White because the aforementioned defensive problems. Martin Brodeur is always an option, but despite making plenty of highlight reel saves, I don't think he was the sole reason the Devils won a lot of these games. Johnny Oduya and Mike Rupp both had impressive games - but only in games singular with Rupp's brace against Pittsburgh and Oduya's four point night against Philly. Jamie Langenbrunner had a good month with 3 goals and 7 assists; but one forward was better. Unlike Zajac, even if the production wasn't there, he was skating hard, looking for the play and making it, and getting in opportune positions for shots and passes.

I am talking about Patrik Elias with his 6 goals, 5 assists, and a minmum of 3 shots on net per game. Two of his six goals were game-winning goals and he now leads the league in that category. Finishing plays has always been an issue for the Devils as long as I have been following them, but you can't fault Elias for his efforts even in the bad games. And so Elias is the ILWT Devil of the Month.

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Friday, February 01, 2008


Not Horrible, Still a Loss

The Devils played fairly well tonight. They put out a much improved and more complete effort than their recent games against Pittsburgh and Montreal. Yeah, I said it after a loss to Our Hated Rivals, and I'd say it again.

Still, it's a 3-1 loss to Our Hated Rivals.

The Devils put on plenty of offensive pressure, found the forecheck to be incredibly successful, and had plenty of rebounds. But the Devils either were unlucky, got the puck only in an awkward position, or a crucial intervention by a defender stopped the scoring chance from becoming a goal. After all, the only goal the Devils got came from Zach Parise, who just threw it at Henrik Lundqvist and the puck went off his skates and in. Not exactly the clean goalie-beating kind of lamp-lighter. Quite like the eventual game winning goal by Chris Drury, who just threw it low at Brodeur, got the puck right off his skate, and it went in.

Regardless of how close it was or how hard the Devils worked, they lost to Our Hated Rivals and have yet to beat them in 5 games so far this season. That's three losses in a row, all at The Rock. The Devils need to turn it around and start scoring goals against LA tomorrow night. I'm sure Sutter will make that point clear in advance of tomorrow's contest.

January Month in Review and Devil of the Month will be up tomorrow. In the meantime, I highly suggest and recommend Scott Mackie's break down of the last month at 2 Man Advantage.


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