Sunday, March 02, 2008


February in Review & Devil of the Month

I know, this would have made more sense before the Montreal game last night, but that happened in March so it has no effect on this month. Which is good, because February was a great month for the Devils. They compiled a record of 9-3-3, shot up to the top of the Atlantic Division, and became the leader of the Eastern Conference for the last week of the month. That move to first overall in the conference was for the first time since 2001 that New Jersey has reached that high in the standings during the regular season. Also, consider that the losses came on Feb. 1 against Our Hated Rivals, Feb. 8 against the Ducks, and Feb. 29 against the Capitals. Looking at the big picture, that's points from 12 out of 15 games, a total of 21 out of a possible 30. That's very successful and important in a month filled with a lot of games in a tight season.

The highlight was the run from February 9 through February 26. That 4-0 loss to the Capitals at the end of the month was bad; but the Devils had a run of 9 games where they didn't lose in regulation. And even then, they only lost twice after regulation one coming in overtime on Feb. 26 against Carolina, or in the shootout against Atlanta on Feb. 15. Still, the Devils beat the then-number-one Ottawa Senators not once but twice; they blew out Carolina twice at the Rock 6-1 and 5-1; they played their most dominant third period all season against the Islanders in finally defeating a New York City-area opponent; and we got to see Johnny Oduya do this and see Martin Brodeur make amazing saves like this one every night.

As far as the roster goes, the only major change was Lou Lamoriello trading Cam Janssen to St. Louis in exchange for defenseman Bryce Salvador. In short, Lou turned a player who hasn't played for New Jersey this season into St. Louis' #3/#4 defenseman wearing Devils red. Clearly, I loved the move, explained it here and even at the NY Times' hockey blog. Also, I learned that the NY Times had a hockey blog.

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.

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