Sunday, March 30, 2008
So Who Are These Devils?
You have to help me, sir. You have to help me understand. How the Devils, at the most crucial time of the year, have lost 5 straight, all to divisional rivals. How they fell from 1st in the Conference to 5th and maybe 6th, and maybe 7th or 8th by the time they are through. How a team that could win 11 straight to win the division just a couple years ago can tank and forget how to score goals. How a team that looked legitimately strong and a legitimate Cup contender will once again maybe get past the first round but no further. What kind of team do we have, sir? What kind of team? I thought a true force, I was sadly mistaken.
As shown by the stats at NHL.com; the Devils also have excellent resilience. They have the 5th best record in the league when they give up the first goal (16-21-3); the 6th best record in the league when trailing after the first period (6-13-1); and the second best record in the league when trailing after the second period (7-21-2). When you consider those records, you can't seriously say that they are just playing out of their minds. To me, that shows an ability to not be completely discouraged and fight hard to get something out of those games. Teams that underachieve definitely do this, and you don't get to be near the top in those categories by simply overachieving.
Furthermore, consider who this team is built upon. As alerted to me by alert reader Scott, NHL.com points out that Martin Brodeur has literally been the rock at The Rock. Brodeur has played in an absolutely remarkable percentage of the Devils' games. He certainly does keep the Devils in games where they really shouldn't have been. However, that's not because Marty is playing above his level - he does it by playing at just his level. 40+ win seasons are regular for this guy. Brodeur isn't over or under achieving; he's just achieving. Given that, how can we truly determine is the Devils are over/under-achieving? If we say that the team goes as Marty goes, and Marty is just simply Marty, what then?
Lastly, consider the last few seasons. Yes, scoring is at a premium and has been done by committee for the most part, with the Devils not reaching a total of 250 goals for since 2000-2001. Regardless, the team has been a contender despite this. The best example was the 2002-2003 season. The Devils had their best record in terms of points with 108 points. Yet, the Devils didn't even have anyone finish with more than 60 points (Patrik Elias led with 57); no goal scorers with more than 30 (Elias had 28 goals and too many hit the post); a power play; and the fewest amount of goals scored in team history (206, though this season may break that). They won the Stanley Cup that season. That team is proof that reliable, consistent scoring is not a prerequisite for success (although it helps); as long as the team shows up, works hard, plays smart defense, and scores when necessary. Does that sound a little familiar for this season? I'd say so. Did that team overachieve? I am hesitant to say so considering the team still had 100+ point seasons since then with most of the same core of players. Especially last year's team where despite the inconsistent offense, they set a franchise record for wins.
Basically, to sum up my spiel, there are far too many mitigating circumstances to say the team has overachieved. We've seen this before and we've seen both bad streaks and excellent streaks. While the scoring has been inconsistent, the team has consistently remained in the top 8 since November, and ended December at the top of the division. Ultimately it will fall to how the Devils do in the playoffs to say whether the Devils have been playing above or below their capability. Should they unceremoniously flop out of the first round, I'd say they overachieved. Should they look good and go deep, well, nobody can say they overachieved. Right now, I'm just content with what the team has done and so I cannot answer your question Tim. It's all up to what the team does at this point anyhow.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Devils 5 - Philadelphia 4, SO
Then things turn for the worse. The Devils take their foot off the pedal; the Flyers roar back with some good pressure and ex-Devil Jim Dowd potting a deflected shot. And there lies my problem with the Devils against Philly. In addition to not finishing off the Flyers when they did, the defense was far too much of the "bend, not break" variety. Coverages were missed; clearances varied between decent and poor; and they ultimately let the other team back into this one. This continued into the third period and nearly doomed New Jersey when Brookbank poorly cleared it along the boards right to one Randy Jones. Jones threw up a floater that found it's way right off the post and in - another goal Brodeur would have liked to have another crack at it. You're feeling real nervous at this point, calling for the Devils to wake up. And they do; with about 6 minutes left, Brian Gionta finally did something of value and easily finished a John Madden pass for goal #4. You're thinking - "OK. This should be it. These are the Devils. If anyone can hold onto a one-goal lead for 6 minutes, it's them. Let's see some defense."
Yet, not tonight. The fabled "hockey-killing, offense-stifiling, stop-getting" defense of the New Jersey Devils hockey club did not appear and with less than a minute, the Flyers got an equalizer. Despite the extra man, the Devils seemingly weren't covering anyone particularly tightly and that allowed Mike Richards to slide a pass to Mike Knuble for a quick one-timer. At this point, you're crushed. You're beside yourself. You're awaiting and dreading overtime. Overtime passes and it goes to a shootout. Where you witness the Devils scoring three times and the Flyers only twice. Parise, Patrik Elias, and Langenbrunner came through and got the win.
And at that point, your mind is racing. That the Devils can't possibly play like this in their last four games. That the Devils took too many stupid penalties including two delay of game calls. That the team has a way of sometimes having a strong, productive offense but only when the defense falters. That you can't fathom why Sheldon Brookbank continues getting minutes given how poor he has played in recent games. Yet, overall, you're just glad it was a win. Tom Gulitti's recap of the game reflect this and you're glad you aren't the only one.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Devils 2 - Rangers 3
If tomorrow night doesn't yield a massive win against Philadelphia; I have to seriously question whether the Devils even want to make the playoffs. Because this is not a playoff ready team, this is not a team that wants to win the tough and close games, and this is not a prepared team. This falls on the players, the coaching, and management. Going winless in five games is never good; but it's absolutely horrific when it happens with less than 10 games in the season, and all against division rivals.
Once again, I say this is unacceptable and it needs to change now. Other and similar thoughts are available at IPB.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Changes? What Are These...Changes?
That said, there's something to be said for keeping the same players and having them work through the adversity. On the other hand, I think it's time to stop using Mike Rupp as a featured forward. Patrik Elias is back, Rupp hasn't been taking it to the net as he has been last week, and so I think his resurgence has plateaued. Still, a nice run from Rupp. Of course, should Rupp break out and have a game such that Pierre McGuire would proclaim him to be a MONSTER, I will gladly eat my words.
Anyway, I digress. That something to be said about keeping the team together has been well said by Josh Burnett at 2 Man Advantage. Josh thinks the best way for the team to get scoring again is for the team to relax. I'm inclined to agree. We've seen the Devils put up 35 shots on the Islanders, 25 more shots in a terrible game, and then 31 more on the Penguins last night. While they are missing and getting blocked in a Dikembe Mutumbo-esque manner, they are getting shots. Clearly, it's getting into their head, they're frustrated, and so scoring becomes even more elusive. The old saying of "gripping your stick too tightly," I fear, is holding true. So Josh's advice is apt in that regard. Should the team not freak out and play with too much self-doubt or play with absolute panic, they could find their way to get back into scoring. And not a moment too soon with Our Hated Rivals tomorrow and Our Favorite Punching Bags on Friday. Oh, how I would love to make a post like this again.
Regardless, I'm happy to say that the team recognizes that they miss the net too many times, as Tom Gulitti informs us:
Unfortunately, in the comments, we learn that the Devils are doing a lot of push-ups. The first step to solving a problem is to recognize it, so at least they got that far.
**During one drill in which players curled around a glove to take a shot from between the circles, six of first seven fired wide and had to do pushups. "It tells you they're not hitting the net," Sutter said. "They've been doing that all year. We know we miss the net more than we like. You talk to them about it and yet it's something you have to be better at."
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Devils 0 - Pittsburgh 2
The Penguins held on to win that game and while it wasn't a fantastic win, it was an important one. Their fans should be pleased - as the many away supporters were at tonight's game - with an invaluable 4 point lead on the Atlantic. This could have been the one that would have made the Atlantic Division be decided in April. However, the Devils did not go into it with the full effort and the decision making (e.g. the terribly high number of missed and blocked shots) necessary. So instead of tying the Penguins to make the lead a race again; they're now on the outside looking in.
And the team is officially slumping, now that they are winless in their last 4 games. Hopefully, this was the nadir; because it's entirely possible that Our Hated Rivals could pass the Devils in the standings. Especially if they continue their winning ways on Thursday night. The Devils need to make whatever adjustments necessary, get in the right mindset, and do what needs to be done to get the team scoring, get the team making proper passes and shots, and do all of this quickly. The wins need to come now should New Jersey want to be the contenders that we all know and have seen a few weeks ago.
This is not the right time of the season to have a slump; and it is not the right time of the season to throw all that hard work from November onward away. Tonight's game was very telling; but it will be what happens later this week that determines the direction of this team.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Labels: Personal/Site News
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Devils 1 - Pittsburgh 7
I try to write here without any obscenities; so I can't say anything else about the game except for this: 7-1. Everyone better be on the bikes. Including the coaching staff.
Devils 1 - Islanders 3
Friday, March 21, 2008
Labels: Personal/Site News
Sergei Brylin in Recent Seasons
However, I find reason to believe that the 34 year old forward is becoming less effective than he usually is this season. I mentioned as such in Sunday's post on the Devils' prospects vis a vis Petr Vrana. In a rarity, someone left a comment - someone by the name anonymous wrote the following:
hey man, interesting post. But, what's this about Brylin's effectiveness dropping from month to month? his current salary may be a little high considering the cap, but the guy is a solid NHLer. No one on the Devils can play every forward like this guy, and doesn't complain when he plays 4th line. That's pretty valuable in itself. seems like every year someone out there says he's not effective.This comment stuck with me for the past few days (Aside: And yours could to if you leave one! Seriously!). Not just because anonymous is legion and I don't want to cross him/her/them. I largely based that observation on the fact that I haven't noticed Brylin all that much this season. Was I right in my observation? Let's take a look at Sergei Brylin in recent seasons in a detailed (read: long) post. Just for your knowledge, I'm going as far back as the 2000-2001 season because it gives us a good idea of what Brylin was doing in the prime of his career back when he was 27. Also, it's as far back as I can go at NHL.com. Let's look at the numbers with the following table.
The yellow highlights this season. There are two important conclusions that can be made. First, there's the production. Given that Brylin's role of a versatile forward had him play everywhere among the 12 forwards in the past 7 seasons, getting chemistry with a line and getting into a groove has been an issue. Despite this, Brylin has earned at least 10 goals in each of the past 6 seasons, taken at least 80 shots, and has scored 30 points except in the 2002-2003 season. As far as this season goes, it's possible he can crack double digits in goals if he gets hot right now. However, with 9 games left to play, Brylin is not going to pick up 14 points short of a torrid hot streak transforming into a Scoring Machine™. I don't think he is going to pick up 80 shots. A lot of this is due to his time on the fourth line this season; but given that Sutter has been changing the lines so much - even multiple times within the same game - Brylin has seen time with the scoring forwards this season. Even then, Brylin hasn't been a threat in terms of offense. It's one thing to have a down offensive season, when the puck isn't getting in the net. It's another thing when you're taking a lot less shots and therefore you can't come close to meeting past production levels. For this reason, I think it is valid to say he is becoming less effective in terms of production and of offense.
Now, I understand Brylin has largely been used in a checking role over the last few seasons, including this one. He's being used mainly on the third and fourth lines and he doesn't see too much special teams action. However, that leads me to the second important conclusion. Brylin is seeing a lot less of the ice this season than he has in the past 6. His average ice time this season is down 22.16% and his average shifts per game is down 24.74%. Brylin has played on the bottom two lines plenty of times over the past few seasons, but he's always had at least an average 15 minutes of playing time regardless of where he was slotted. These two charts graphically emphasize this point:
Brylin got over 15 minutes of ice time along with over 3 and half minutes on the power play. Brylin played fairly well and so he kept getting shifts. However, he has seen fewer shifts this season and less ice time. Even when he was primarily a checking forward in the last two seasons, he had more playing time. That his playing time has been reduced so much this season, it clearly suggests that Brylin is not as useful as he was - including last season. I do not think effective players do not see their average ice time drop 4 minutes compared to the last season. The 2000-2001 season, I'd like to point out, is an interesting one - where Brylin got fewer shifts on average than any season, yet he was incredibly effective with 23 goals and 29 assists. It shows effectiveness (and efficiency) to have not lot of playing time but still be very productive; but it's definitely a display of ineffectiveness if not a lot goes along with reduced minutes and shifts.
What's more is that the Devils have plenty of players who can and has played plenty on the fourth line role: Mike Rupp, Aaron Asham, Rod Pelley, and David Clarkson. The fact that Brylin is willing to play on the fourth line isn't as valuable as it once was. He's not the offensive player he once was, he's not taking nearly as many shots as he once did, and he can't be doing a really great job as a two-way forward otherwise he'd get more shifts and more ice time. It also doesn't favor Brylin when New Jersey can call up anyone from Lowell to play on that fourth line, such as Petr Vrana for example.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling for Brylin to leave the team. I do appreciate what he has done for the team and his willingness to take on whatever role he is asked to play. I'm confident that he can still contribute to the team - just not as much as he once did. We must confront the brutal truth that Brylin is not getting any younger, he's not producing like he once was, and he's not getting the ice time and number of shifts he has gotten from the past 6 seasons. Therefore, I think the numbers validates my observation that Brylin's effectiveness is dropping. If you have any further questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Devils 1 - Rangers 2, SO
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Thanks to a contributor to be named later for this find.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
No Elias Tomorrow?
Fortunately, Colin White and Bryce Salvador will be available for tomorrow. Good. White will definitely beef up the defense and Salvador has been useful in the first few games he's been with New Jersey. Our Hated Rivals have had trouble putting in goals this season, so a strong defense will definitely help continue that; and White and Salvador clearly make the Devils' blueline much stronger. Both physically and positionally.
And in a recent move that just happens spite my uninformed opinion, Guilitti is reporting that the Devils signed Tyler Eckford. He will not return to the CCHA for his senior year. However, this is a very good sign - generally, the Devils are very patient with their prospects and will let them develop. They will sign the prospect out of college if they are ready, and coming out a year early is a promising sign. I still think he'll see significant time in Lowell (starting next season) before going down to New Jersey, if only to continue development on a higher level of hockey. Best of luck to Eckford and good luck on those final exams.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Praise Isn't Just Parise Spelled Wrong
"If you looked on paper at our roster and compared it to some other teams in the conference, possibly not," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "But I think some guys on this team are underrated as far as putting up numbers."
Okay, so rookie coach Brent Sutter turned out to be the right fit behind the bench, the Devils abandoned their plan to give Brodeur more time off and they got another 30-goal season out of Zach Parise.
But first place in the conference?
"I think other people might've been surprised," center Travis Zajac said. "But us, as a team, aren't. We know what we have here."
Lastly, on Wednesday, the Devils host Our Hated Rivals. What a way to kick off a division-heavy stretch-run. Let's look back at some Devils domination of a deserving squad (originally found at Devils Due, so says the video description at Youtube. Also, is anyone still there at DD?):
Sunday, March 16, 2008
New Devils Prospect Rankings at HF
In any case, I'd like to make a fairly uninformed prediction who from this list you will see in New Jersey in the future. If you have any thoughts or opinions about these guys, please let me know. I'm willing to entertain all angles.
Get the Jerseys Ready (Eventually):
- Petr Vrana - He's leading Lowell in scoring and his versatility likens him to Sergei Brylin. Given that Brylin's effectiveness is dropping from month to month, I'd expect Vrana to step in to replace him within the next few seasons, if not next season.
- Nicklas Bergfors - Not a lot of production in Lowell; but he did make the team out of training camp and injuries has slowed him down. Still, he's got top 6 forward potential and talent; he'll probably get a longer look next season.
- Rod Pelley - Uh, wait, he's already played 63 games with New Jersey. And he already has a jersey.
- Mark Fraser - I know, with 9 d-men on the roster, why another defenseman? He looked fairly good in a call-up last season and he's a big, physical player. If Salvador doesn't re-sign or if the Devils clear out some of the quasi-regulars (e.g. Sheldon Brookbank), Fraser could step in. If not next season than the year after.
- Nick Palmieri - The Devils are looking to bring him right to Lowell. He did well at camp back in September. But the last prospect the Devils had that was primarily a goal scorer was Pierre Dagenais, so I wouldn't anoint him to be the next goal scoring machine. Regardless, the Devils organization likes him and that's a big positive.
- Matt Corrente - Lou rates character and discipline highly and those are the only real questions one could have about Corrente (e.g. getting suspended in juniors). Other than that, Corrente is solid.
- Kirill Tulupov - I love what I'm reading about Tulupov...except that he needs work on his defensive coverage. If that means he just needs experience and someone to guide him, great. If that means he has a lot of trouble with decision making, it could make the difference between physical NHL defenseman and physical AHL defenseman.
- Alexander Vasyunov - I hear about his talent, but he doesn't get a lot of minutes in Russia. If he can use that same talent while getting significant time in Lowell, then we'll see him at the Rock.
- Matt Hoeffel - Still recovering from injury, the word is that his game is similar to Jay Pandolfo's. That's nice and all; but he's still a project.
- Matt Halischuk - Great skater, great job at the WJCs for Canada, and he appears to have some solid penalty killing attributes. Too bad the Devils have more of their share of checking forwards, otherwise he'd be more of a sure thing.
- Tyler Eckford - He's doing extremely well for Alaska-Fairbanks and it looks like his conversion to defense was successful. I just wonder how high the ceiling is for Eckford? I think he'll be seeing some significant time in Lowell.
- T.J. Miller and Mark Fayne - Two defensemen, Miller is in college and Fayne is in juniors. One is developing into an all-around defenseman, the other is developing into a physical defender. Why are they both long shots? Because the Devils have a ton of depth here; they both need to explode to get some serious consideration.
- Vladamir Zharkov - For someone who can skate real well and have good offensive skills; he got passed over again for the WJCs and like Vasyunov, he doesn't get a lot of time in Russia. At least Alexander was named to the roster.
- Jeff Frazee - Wow. From USA starter at the WJCs to now becoming the backup at Minnesota. Harsh. Guess the Devils will continue to search for that goalie of the future that they won't need until 2011 or so.
- Tony Romano - Talk about poor seasons. I know injuries were a factor; but he needs to have an excellent season in 2008-09 to continue being considered as a potential player.
- Nathan Perkovich - Another big forward prospect. He's done very well at Lake Superior State; but he's still a project more than anything else.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Devils 4 - Avalanche 2
Interchangeable Parts has an extensive live-cap of the game (as usual) and notes that while the Devils played pretty well, Brodeur was required to be the hero once again. I'd have to agree. The defense was a bit behind the Avalanche skaters at times today and struggled with their pinching defense. The Avs sure love to do that and as such, they were able to set up the offense more than a few times. That said, the Devils and Brodeur did enough to limit their chances. You know Brodeur is on when you need a one-timer on the opposite side of the goaltender and a shoulder shrug (I hope it was that, otherwise, Bryce Salvador committed an inadvertent own-goal) to beat him. Regardless, I'd like the Devils defense to do a better job in keeping up with the opposition - something that I think will improve when White returns.
The Devils offense surely showed up to put up 4 goals, thanks to a number of players stepping it up their game. Mike Rupp was the second line center today and he was, well, good. I think the last time I saw him do this well was Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, when he scored a brace. IPB in particular praises Rupp and he deserves it. But in my view, the best skater for the Devils was Brian Gionta. Gionta was playing with hustle, motor, pep, burst, dash, wheels, and every other word describing speed and desire you can think of. He was ruthless on the forecheck, causing more than a fair share of turnovers in Colorado's zone. He read the play of the game very well, setting up his linemates (for today) Jay Pandolfo and John Madden for goals. He played like the way you'd expect Gionta to play. It was a very good game for Brian and he earned that third star of the game.
The win gives the Devils 3 wins and 1 loss on the road trip; a good result in my opinion. The Devils remain in first in the division, which is the primary goal. As a bonus, they remain at the top of the Eastern Conference as well. Now with 10 games left, this is the stretch run. Expect Brodeur to continue starting. Brodeur loves to play, he does his best when he's in a groove - I assure you, he's in a groove of James Brownian proportions - and you always play the best players against rivals. Brent Sutter isn't Ted Nolan, you're not going to see Kevin Weekes start against the Rangers just for the coach to prove some kind of point.
And the last 10 games begin with Our Hated Rivals. The time for futility ends now, Devils. Today's win was good. Use it to build the momentum necessary to beat them.
Catching Up: Devils 4 - Wild 3, SO
In any case, they won and I do not want Mike Mottau playing today - he in particular was putrid against Minnesota. For a full recap of the game, Tom Gulitti has your hook up as well. And he brings some bad news: in that prior linked story, we learn Colin White will not play today. What's worse? Patrik Elias took a shot to the kneecap late in the third against Minnesota and was pretty much out of the game at that point. He's not playing today either. So the Devils go into Colorado without their most creative forward and their most defensive defensemen. Also, Gulitti brings word of no changes on defense: we will see Mike Mottau today so my desire is immediately squashed. Ah, well. He can't possibly have a worse game today, right? Right?
Let's end on a high note. Prior the Wild game, there was massive praise from Wild head coach, famed Montreal Canadiens defenseman, and the Devils' first Cup-winning coach, Jacques Lemaire. From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Tribune, Kent Youngblood has this:
Lemaire was asked Wednesday where Brodeur ranked among goaltenders he had seen in his time in the league as a player and coach.
No. 1, Lemaire said.
‘’I’m thinking, you know,’’ Lemaire said. ‘’(Ken) Dryden, he was really good for a short time. And I know, at a time, he couldn’t get ready to play and that’s why he stopped. This guy (Brodeur), he’s been doing it for a long time, and he’ll do it ‘till he’s 40. So he’s got to be the one.’’
Better, even, than Patrick Roy? ‘’Patrick was good at a time,’’ Lemaire said. “You’re talking about (Wayne) Gretzky, (Mario) Lemieux, Bobby Orr. Who is the best player? Every opinion is good.’’
“A lot of times there are a lot of things said (about an athlete) that aren’t really true,’’ Lemaire said. “Especially when you’re talking about a good player, OK? It is always overflowing of how great he is, how good he is, all this and all that. But with this guy, he’s an exception. Everything they say about him is true.’’
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Just Who Are the Wild?
So for the Devils to succeed, they need to continue to pour on the misery. The Wild knows full well that continuing to falter could spell doom, and I'd expect them to feed off the crowd for additional motivation. The Devils are not a stranger to playing in front of hostile crowds; but they need to take them out of it early. That won't be easy; there's a reason why the Wild are called the Team of 18,000. But I think the method is the same to continuing to pour on the misery: take the game right to the Wild, dictate the tempo, and do whatever is necessary to get that first goal. I fear if they don't do that, we could see a repeat of what we saw last night in Montreal. Nobody wants that - except for the Wild. Overall, the goal should be to get 3 goals. Just look at the sidebar at Hitting the Post, a Wild blog; they have a fun stat showing that if the Wild let up three goals or more, their record sinks below .500. Get one first and then continue to attack.
So that's the Wild, as I understand it. Let's go Devils; let's get back on the winning side and make life difficult for Minnesota.
NOTE: Clarification added to difference in the Wild and Devils' power play; but my point remains the same, the Wild's power play is more effective.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Devils 0 - Montreal 4
It's not as if the Devils didn't work hard or took the game off; they just made too many fatal mistakes, the offense couldn't solve Montreal's excellent 3-men-in-the-slot defense scheme or Price, and Sutter changed the lines but not his game plan to adjust to Montreal's ridiculous team speed.
I don't have much else to say, other than that this game sucked. Well, other than that I want Andy Greene riding the pine for the next few games at the least. If you want more grumblings about a bad game like this one, check out IPB. I'm sure 2 Man Advantage, Devils Daily, and Tom Gulitti will have more either later tonight or tomorrow.
SCHAUDENFRUDE UPDATE: At least we can laugh at the Flyers failing again for some solace.
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Devils 2 - Toronto 1
The second big difference, I think, was who the heroes were - well, other than Marty. Yes, the Parise-Elias-Langenbrunner unit got both goals. But despite Elias' 7 shot, 1 assist effort, Jamie Langenbrunner was the one who made both goals happen by driving to the net. Zach Parise applied the finish in both cases to, uh, actualy score the goals; but if Jamie wasn't as aggressive in driving to the net, Parise wouldn't have had anything to finish with. It also helped that the Leafs defense provided some assistance by not picking up Parise for the first goal and for pushing Langenbrunner into their own goaltender, Vesa Toskala, into the net. Not the prettiest brace, but congrats to Parise for hitting 30 goals. Still, a lot of credit should go to Langenbrunner for making those goals possible.
Still, outside of all that, the game was very similar. So it makes no sense for me to go much further. Not a great win, but wins are good and crucial at this point of the season. What's more, the Devils now have a little streak having won all three games last week. I'm pleased and so is Joe Betchel at 2 Man Advantage. If you want additional thoughts about the game, I suggest Josh's live-blog at 2MA and Jeremy's recap at Devils Daily.
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Devils 2 - Tampa Bay 1, OT
Anyway, it's a win, those are good and now the Devils get to embark on a road trip. First, they go back to Toronto. Then they visit Montreal, Minnesota, and Colorado. If they do well on this road trip, such as getting at least 5 points out of it, then they should be in good shape in the division. If not, then it's going to be another wild end, I think. There is a concern on defense. Gulitti has noted that Colin White was injured last night and Paul Martin is still too hurt to play tonight. Good thing Bryce Salvador is settling in fairly well in New Jersey. Not to mention that the team has more than enough defensemen for some short-term cover.
In any case, tonight's game will be the last one under the network name Fox Sports New York. As of March 10, the channel will be rebranded as MSG Plus. Yep.
For additional thoughts about last night's game, check out IPB's live-blog of the game and Devils Daily's recap.
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Quick Rebounds into the Slot
D) I saw this at the On Frozen Blog: OvechKam is coming to a Capitals telecast near you. Specifically, against Calgary on March 12. This will be more exciting than the Beckham Cam or, well, most specialty "cams."
E) Back to Devils news! Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice is reporting that Sutter is trying Travis Zajac out on the right wing. With Mike Rupp at left wing and Dainius Zubrus at center. That's an, uh, interesting mix. Personally, I don't understand the move to Zubrus to the fourth line - I understand that Sutter wants to mix it up, but Zubrus was fairly effective on the second line. He drew calls, got into position, fought well along the boards, and has been improving since the beginning of the season. I know his production is poor, but it will improve as he remains in New Jersey. Anyway, let's get off this Zubrus digression here. Zajac. If he's at right wing, who is at center on the second line? I know Gulitti has the line combos at the end of the post. Wait, this is the second line. Wait, Mike Rupp is on the second line? I am...baffled.
F) Speaking of baffled, that's how I feel about Interchangeable Parts' latest post. It's thought out through in beefy detail, I'll give it that. But uh...yeah.
G) Let's end this with some soothing, smooth music. Now you can understand the latest of a funny series of shorts (not-for-kids warning: language, Jimmy Buffet).
UPDATE: H) Battle of NY has a new design, a new URL, and hopefully some more Devils coverage in the future.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Devils 4 - Toronto 1
Well, as usual, it begins with Brodeur. If I were a goaltender, I'd look to this game as a perfect example of rebound control. The Leafs took many shots from the outside and from bad angles - evidenced by 15 shots coming from Tomas Kaberle, Anton Stralman, and Ian White - and Brodeur did an excellent job in controlling where the rebounds went. In the first period, Brodeur pretty much played all 14 shots perfectly for a Devil skater to easily to get the puck and make a play. Excellent stuff. Brodeur was only beaten on, of all things, a rebound goal from Nik Antropov. There wasn't much Marty or the Devils to do on it. Colin White was right on Antropov and Brodeur did his best with the initial shot. But the puck just bounced right to Antropov, who was just in the right place and right time for the goal. Not a whole lot you can blame. However, despite all the shots, Brodeur put out another great effort. I wish the Devils closed down on the Maple Leafs more to prevent that many shots, also related to the disparity of possession.
Regardless, the Devils got 4 goals. In the beginning of the game, Chico made the point that the Devils should shoot low and shoot hard. This way rebounds would be generated and the Devils can pot one in for some goals. Not a bad idea, especially with the Devils' production dropping as of late. Actually, that appeared to be Toronto's approach on offense - only succeeding once, however. However, they didn't do that and they didn't need to because they finished their chances off the rush. Zach Parise picked up a brace first with a wonderful turnaround shot that fooled both Vesa Toskala and myself. I certainly didn't expect it; I'm sure Toskala didn't either. Parise's second goal was off a wonderful move by Patrik Elias. Three times, Elias had open ice in front of him on the wing with the puck. Three times, he tried to move to the center. The first time, the Leafs defense easily picked it up. The second time, Elias lost control and Gionta made the most of it with a diving shot. The third time, Elias did it with ease, drew Pavel Kubina away from Parise, and dished it to him. Zach was wide open and it was an easy play. David Clarkson also scored, applying the perfect finish from a John Madden pass off an odd-man rush. Of the four goals, only one was scored off the rebound - Brian Gionta picked one up off the power play. Toskala got Sheldon Brookbank's shot, but he could not possibly get to the rebound and Gionta easily put it home.
So much for a listless offense. The difference between tonight and the past few games is that while the Devils could have done better with the puck in terms of possession and applying offensive pressure - seriously, only 25 shots? I know Toronto was hot recently, but come on; the Devils finished the chances they did generate. A good, clear, and more welcome change than getting quite a few shots and being owned by the goalie. Which, interestingly, happened to Toronto. Poor them. Obviously, it's a good win - not perfect - and now the team gets to rest for a bit before Tampa Bay arrives on Friday at The Rock. As far as the Leafs go, well, James Mirtle appeared to think their playoff hopes are done for prior to last night's game. I guess the 4-1 loss provides further evidence. For a different take, check out Interchangeable Parts and Devils Daily.
Labels: 2008 Postgame
Monday, March 03, 2008
Meanwhile in the East...
I want New Jersey to get as high of a seed as possible, but I want them to avoid the Caps like the plague.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Devils 1 - Montreal 2
The score became as such with Montreal striking twice on the power play and Brian Gionta continuing his surge by literally stealing the puck from Price and putting it into the empty net. With respect to both Montreal's goals, both could have been prevented. On the first one, Mark Streit put home a rebound as he was set up in the slot. Johnny Oduya was also in the slot but he had to decide which player to go after - Saku Koivu or Streit. Unfortunately for Oduya and the Devils, the puck bounced to Streit for the put-back. With the second goal, Andrei Kostitsyn wrapped the puck around after a shot and pushed Brodeur's stick aside to tuck that puck in during a long penalty kill. So the people to point to are Brodeur, Oduya, and the penalty killing units, right? Well, no. The Devils' discipline was atrocious. Knowing that Montreal had the most effective powerplay unit in the league, going into their house and committing infractions is a dangerous game and they got burned twice.
At Fire & Ice, Tom Gulitti has quotes from Sutter after the game complaining about the referees at the game. As with every game in any sport, some calls are bound to be missed. However, the following just smacks of sour grapes.
Now, I understand emotions run high during and after a game. However, having seen this on TV and with the benefit of instant replay, I can't understand how Sutter can see he doesn't know what the calls are after watching video of it. First, Rupp clearly cross-checked Andrei Markov into the net. It was a textbook cross check: two hands on the stick in the up-right position with Rupp shoving the stick directly at Markov's back. If it wasn't a cross-check, it'd either be an interference call as the play wasn't anywhere near Markov or roughing as it was a hit from behind. That was a legitimate call.
Head coach Brent Sutter didn't waste any time in his postgame press conference getting to the questionable calls by referees Eric Furlatt and Don Koharski against Mike Rupp and Jamie Langenbrunner, which eventually led to Andrei Kostitsyn's winning power-play goal with 5:43 remaining.
"It's a 1-1 game with seven or eight minutes to go in the hockey game and it was taken out of hands, so what are you going to do," Sutter said.
Rupp was called for crosschecking Andrei Markov, though it appeared he merely collided with him. "I thought he went down pretty easily," Rupp said.
And Langenbrunner is still trying to figure out what he did to warrant his hooking call on Saku Koivu.
"Both teams were battling and you hate to see something like that be the deciding factor," Langenbrunner said. "I have a hard time watching it and finding it. I can't remember doing anthing and usually you can kind of tell when something happens."
Although he faces a possible fine from the NHL for criticizing the officiating, Sutter did not hold back.
"Both calls upset me," he said. "The fact that the first call was called five seconds after the incident happens and because the fans yell. If it's a penalty, call it right away. And I just watched the video and I still don't know where the second call came from. To put a team down two men with seven minutes to go in a game like tonight, that's why I don't get paid the big money to be an official."
Second, Langenbrunner raised his stick onto the opposition's hands. Just like Mike Mottau and Zach Parise did earlier in the game. There's no excuse for that - that has always been called since the lockout has ended. Earlier in the season, Sutter wrapped around a towel on Clarkson's stick to guide him to keep his stick down. Maybe Sutter needs to do this for other members of the team as they tend to forget that at times. What's more is that Langenbrunner did this as John Madden was clearing the puck during a penalty kill. That makes the move to raise your stick even stupider. Ultimately it led to a long penalty kill that the Devils nearly escaped, except Kostitsyn broke through.
I can't agree with Sutter or the team here in their thinking that they got jobbed by the refs. Yes, the refs missed a few by Les Habs, but they also missed a few Devils ones. Regardless, six of the seven penalties against New Jersey were all legitimate calls. The only one they got messed up on was Elias' roughing minor at the end. What Elias did, I do not know; I'm still trying to figure out how Mike Komisarek only got a roughing for repeatedly punching Langenbrunner in the back of the head with a fellow Canadien. Hell, I don't even know why he even did that. I guess Langenbrunner's crime was skating within a foot of the crease?
Regardless, the Devils got burned by a lack of discipline, which provided the difference in last night's game. The Devils would do well to make more of the chances they do get and try taking it inside more. Gionta got his goal by going to the net and picking up on a loose puck; the Devils could do more of that instead of settling for the long shot. Which I have to note was blocked quite a few times, to the tune of 18 and with Francis Bouillon getting a remarkable 6 blocks. Can't score if you can't get that shot through. Still, after a terrible game against Washington, this was an improvement and the Devils should keep that in mind when they prepare for Toronto on Tuesday. For additional thoughts about the game, please check Josh's live-cap of the game at 2 Man Advantage.
February in Review & Devil of the Month
Now, who is to say as to who had the best month among the Devils? Zach Parise had a 5 game goal streak throughout the Devils' hot streak. But he didn't produce in the Devils' last four games and he didn't produce much prior to that streak with 1 goal and 3 assists - with 1 goal and 2 assists coming from the Pittsburgh game on Feb. 4. Patrik Elias didn't have as many goals with only 3; but he had plenty of assists - 12 to be precise and had a more consistent month. He also has the Devils' weirdest stat line with 2 assists and 0 shots against San Jose. Paul Martin had an excellent month with 2 goals, 6 assists and only 3 games with a minus rating; leading a Devils defense who looked better and better with every month. However, the true MVP of the month is Martin Brodeur. No, he didn't have any shutouts. All he did was start every game, gave the Devils a chance to win in all of them except for the ones where the rest of the team didn't seem to want to win, and earned his eleventh straight 35+ win season against Carolina - a NHL record that's Marty's own. Marty needs a rest, but I can't fault his performance too much. Brodeur is always a reason for New Jersey's success and he definitely was a big part in this past month. So Martin Brodeur, you are the ILWT Devil of the Month.
This coming month is going to be tough. The Devils have 13 games and only 5 are going to be at The Rock. What's more is that the Devils get to travel to Toronto, come back home to play Tampa Bay, and then travel the next night back to Toronto. And that's their easiest week on paper. They continue to travel to Montreal, and then Minnesota and Colorado shortly thereafter. After that little road trip is over, it's Atlantic Division opponents for the rest of the season save for April 2 against Boston. A lot of tough matchups in a month where anyone who has a chance to make the post season makes their move. The Devils should make the playoffs, but the goal is to remain at the top of the Atlantic. Losing to Montreal doesn't help them that much, but fortunately Pittsburgh lost too. As of now, that's the goal - stay ahead in the Atlantic. This past month showed the Devils to have the talent and work ethic necessary to do that, let's see if they can stay there.