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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