Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Who Stays, Who Goes?

With the Penguins doing what we wish the Devils did to Our Hated Rivals, now is a good of a time as any to look at who isn't attached for next season. Yes, there is hockey on Versus and NBC; and Tom Gulitti remains on fire with his continued coverage of the playoffs. Still, it is the offseason for New Jersey. So let's take a look at who is available according to the wonderful and best salary cap resource on the Internet today: NHLSCAP.

Here is the list of who is getting what for the Devils in the next few seasons. Everyone is here, including signed prospects and minor leaguers. There isn't a whole lot here but my gut feelings, my first instinct, and my not really well researched opinions who I think is going to stay a Devil and who will not. I expect to be called out on my lack of knowledge of Lowell Devils hockey. At the least, it's something to discuss.

Free AgentsWill they be signed?
Karel RachunekNo.
Bryce SalvadorI hope so, but it's up to him as a UFA.
Richard MatvichukSpent a lot of time in Lowell, probably not. His career is near the end anyway and I don't expect a revitalization anytime soon.
Jari VihukolaDidn't make team, played 10 games in Lowell and went back to Finland. So, no.
Jay PandolfoDefinitely. Question is how much? A little over a million?
David ClarksonRFA-Will be qualified for sure.
Aaron AshamWasn't that good this season, but maybe he'll stay for one more.
Petr VranaRFA-Definitely qualified. Called up in playoffs, likely to become Brylin's replacement. Watch for him in camp in September.
Olli MalmivaaraRFA-He did get 2 game in NJ; but he's already 26. How much more can he improve? Maybe he re-signs, but it'd be for Lowell.
Jordan PariseRFA-He's the back-up in Lowell, and with Jeff Frazee signed, he may be the odd man out.
Rod PelleyRFA-Will be qualified. Looked OK as a young checking center, should get better. Expect more of him next season.
Sheldon BrookbankSlow as he is, he can handle the NHL. He's a UFA, but shouldn't be expensive. I think he'll be signed if only for depth on defense.
Ivan KhomutovRFA-Well, he played for a full season in Lowell and his production isn't impressive. He may be qualified depending on whether he developed any better despite what his numbers say.
Noah ClarkeDid score that one goal up with NJ. He was OK with Lowell. But he'd be going straight back there.
Frank DoyleLowell's best goaltender - he should be re-signed to keep them competitive.
Jean-Luc Grand-PierreNo.
Grant MarshallDid quite a bit with NJ, but his time has passed. I don't see a need unless Lowell needs his experience.
Ian MoranNO.
Jason RyznarAlas, he will not be a NJ Devil except for call up duty. Lowell only.
Barry TallacksonDespite all the chances, I don't think he'll be a regular either. Lowell only.
Mike MottauAfter 7 years since his NHL debut, he finally played a full NHL season. And he wasn't miserable. But like Brookbank, he should be signed for depth.

(Note: Thanks to Peter Chen at Blogger Tips and Tricks for finding a way to get rid of that gigantic whitespace when you input a regular table in Blogger.)

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Sunday, April 27, 2008


2007-2008 Season in Review

With the New Jersey Devils' season already over, now is as good as time as any to look back on what just happened in the past season. For those who need a refresher, this is how the Devils ended the season when looking at a long list of numbers and stats (all numbers from
The one that stings is the playoffs: losing to Our Hated Rivals, the New York Rangers in the first round. Ultimately, despite the effort, the fact the Devils lost two important players - Brian Rafalski and Scott Gomez, learning a new system of hockey under new head coach Brent Sutter, and going into a brand new home arena in Newark, New Jersey, hockey is still results oriented business. And the Devils did not win the Stanley Cup, they didn't even make beat their rivals with home ice in Round 1. Needless to say, this leaves a horrible taste in the proverbial mouth of the fans such as myself.

That said, one cannot call this season an abject failure - just an inconsistent season. Inconsistency was the theme in October, when the Devils were on the road for much of the month and their effort wasn't even close to 60 minutes on most nights. Inconsistency continued into November, yet the team righted themselves upon the return of Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White from injury. The Devils then started to rise to the top of the NHL in the next few months. December was very positive for the Devils with a strong record and a return to the top of the Atlantic Division. The poor play returned by the end of January, but ultimately one could see it as a good month as well as a not-so-good month. Though, the honest term to describe it would be - you guessed it - inconsistent. February was another turnaround and the Devils did so well that they re-took the division lead and became leaders in the conference for the first time since 2001. However, March was very disappointing with the Devils crashing out of the division lead, with the "highlight" of a 5 game losing streak. In April, the Devils secured home ice and the fourth seed, which is pretty good for most of the teams in the league. But it meant little as the Devils got out-worked and ultimately fell to the Rangers in Round 1.

All throughout the season, the Devils had trouble scoring at times, trouble playing defense at times, and the only real constant was that Martin Brodeur was the most solid player. And he had to be for most of those 77 games. The team switched to a more physical, dump-and-chase approach to offense; with the Devils implementing a forechecker more often than we saw last season. Given that the Devils finished middle in the pack on shots per game and near the bottom in goals per game, this new system has clearly not helped the Devils finish. Last season, the big concerns were physical play and scoring. Clearly, the biggest concern for the Devils now is scoring. Sure, some nights they can put up a bunch of goals but while you're excited over the result you can't help but think why they can't finish or set up plays on other nights. Zach Parise putting up 32 goals is great; John Madden putting up a career high in goals and points is great; but many others on the team really could have produced more. Even then, Parise and Madden weren't necessarily consistent in their own production. The offense was inconsistent.

While the defense looked poor to start, ultimately the Devils exercised some fairly strong team defense. They got exposed by the end of the season and in the playoffs; yet the crew of White, Martin, Oduya (second NHL season), Rachunek, Vishnevski, Salvador, Mottau (first full NHL season), Brookbank (first full NHL season), and Greene (first full NHL season) were better than the sum of their parts. On most nights, at least. Fortunately, Brodeur remained behind them to help them out in case they get burned - which also occurred on those other nights. Regardless, the word to describe the blueline group of eight-turned-nine is inconsistent.

I guess the bottom line remains: as Martin Brodeur goes, so do the Devils. The goaltender is up for another Vezina trophy, which should clue you in as to how well he did this season. A 2.17 goals against average, a 92% save percentage, 4 shutouts, and a record of 44-27-6. He picked up his 500th career win and is well on his way to becoming the NHL leader in wins. I'm sure the Devils themselves would say he was the most valuable player this season. And in a season that can be best described as inconsistent, the most consistent player would clearly be the most valuable. The only one who could come close to being consistent would be John Madden who did score the most goals since 2000-01 (20) and set a career high in points (43) while being the Devils' top face-off man and shutdown center. Perhaps he'll win the Selke; but again: as Brodeur goes, so do the Devils.

Therefore the Devil of the Season is Martin Brodeur. Unfortunately, despite the record and the success earned in the regular season, the team only proved to be a minor threat in the playoffs. Why? Well, I happen to think it sums up the mostly-good-but-not-quite-good-enough season perfectly:

The 2007-2008 Season: Inconsistency - The Consistent Issue

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Friday, April 25, 2008



Once again, I'm in the NY Times (hockey blog). Jeff Klein has asked me a few questions about the Devils' loss to Our Hated Rivals. Check it out over here, along with 5 other bloggers about the other 5 teams that didn't make it into the playoffs. No idea why it's not a total of 8, but it's still good. And it's also probably the only time I can say I'm in the same piece with Eric McErlain and Dirk Hoag.

Expect a Season in Review type thing this weekend. I'm still trying to figure out who the Devil of the Year. Suggestions? Make them in the comments. Or say anything else. Go Pittsburgh, for not being the Rangers. Go and beat the Rangers for being the Rangers.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008


Calder Followup

Yesterday, I said the following:
Leading scorers, I think, have an edge in the rookie of the year race
Well, upon hitting the "Publish Post" button I realized that I based that thought on, well, nothing but perception. Therefore, I decided to do a little research. And let me tell you, trying to figure out the winners of the Calder Memorial Trophy is quite easy. Wikipedia has a full list of every player who has won it since 1933. From Carl Voss to Evgeni Malkin. However, trying to figure out the leading rookie scorers from each season - not so easy. only goes back as far as the 2000-01 season. Sites like HockeyDB that compile stats from as far back from the beginning of the NHL only has the top ten scorers. The leading rookie scorer and/or the rookie of the year isn't necessarily (or often) on that top ten list. So I had to, uh, equivocate. Wikipedia has a solid list of all the NHL All-Rookie Teams since the 1982-83 season, when such a team was first announced. My logic is simple - the leading rookie scorer should be on the All-Rookie Team. And even if they weren't, if I found someone who scored more points than the Calder Trophy winner, that would suffice. It would certainly be an odd omission, I think, if the leading rookie scorer wasn't one of the top rookies of the season.

As an aside, some of those teams are interesting to say the least. Apparently, Kevin Todd made the 1991-92 team. Yes, former Devil Kevin Todd. You know, Kevin Todd. You have heard of him, yes? Maybe? Other Devils to make this team include Eric Weinrich, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur, Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, Brian Rafalski, Scott Gomez, and Colin White.

So I went as far back as 1982-83 and found that in the 24 seasons since then, 14 of the Calder Trophy winners did, in fact (unless I'm wrong! And if I am, let me know!), lead in rookie scoring. These are: Steve Larmer, Mario Lemieux, Luc Robitaille, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Leetch (the only defenseman to have done so since 1983), Sergei Makarov (the oldest rookie of the year), Teemu Selanne (most productive season ever by a rookie), Peter Forsberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Samsonov, Scott Gomez, Dany Heatley, Alexander Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin. Patrick Kane would make it 15 out of 25.

Two of the 10 who weren't leading scorers was certainly surprising. OK, goalies and defensemen, I understand. But Pavel Bure did not lead rookies in scoring back in 1992 and won rookie of the year anyway. Chris Drury's teammate Milan Hejduk had more points but didn't get the trophy. We could see a repeat of 1999, should Jonathan Toews get more votes than Kane.

So while my thought has some value behind it, it's not that big of a gap. 14 out of 24 isn't a dominating percentage and there is precedence in recent seasons - as seen with Bure and Drury - that the Calder Trophy winner may not necessarily lead rookies in scoring. But it does happen more often than not. Therefore, all this research means that Kane's got an edge based on prior seasons. My statement is technically correct - depending on how big of an edge is an edge. And I'm not going to delve into that. One last bit to stretch this out. In doing this, I also decided to breakdown the Calder winners by position:

Positional Breakdown of Calder Winners

Well. Centers and right-wingers certainly have done well over the past 74 awards. And that will continue given our finalists are centers Jonathan Toews and Nicklas Backstrom and right winger Patrick Kane.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008



First, from Steve at Kukla's Korners' Eye on the Media, the NHL and NBC renew their television deal as NBC activated their option on the deal. So much for hockey being dead! The official story from the league is here; and here is NBC's side. Both are so similar, it might as well be identical (heh).

Second, from James Mirtle, Bruce Boudreau will remain as the Washington Capitals coach. Good for the Caps and good for Boudreau. I'm sure the DC faithful are still feeling that heartbreaking OT loss in Game 7 against Philadelphia. But they have to look at the bigger picture. Boudreau took a fairly young team with some serious talent and turned them into competitors. The team snagged the Southeast Division right from under Carolina and gave Philly a huge fight in round 1. Boudreau was instrumental in that turnaround and so his retainment is certainly rewarding. Expect him to win the Jack Adams this season.

Also from Mirtle we learn that Greg Millen will replace David Nonis as the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Good luck to Millen in figuring out how to get the Sedins, Luongo, and some other people back to the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, Brian Burke will remain as the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks. I know the first round loss to Dallas was pretty bad; but the team did just win the Stanley Cup last season. That's got to count for something in a league where some franchises (e.g. LA, St. Louis) hasn't won the Cup at all yet. I think Burke will retain his job for a few more years based on that alone, short of a catastrophe.

Wait, looking at the comments at Mirtle's post, I misunderstood. I don't think he was on the hot seat, apparently Toronto was making a push for him. Ah, poor Leafs!

Third, from Alanah at Kukla's Korner, check out the transcript from the media conference from all three Calder Trophy finalists: Patrick Kane, Jonathon Towes, and Nicklas Backstrom. All three were impressive this season and all three are signs of things to come for their respective teams. You have to feel good that a franchise in such recent dire straits doesn't have one, but two rookies up for being best in the year. If Chicago is smart, they'll keep Kane and Towes together for as long as possible. Goals will come, fans will come, and so will the wins. In a similar fashion, expect Washington to keep Backstrom with Alexander Ovechkin for awhile too - much to the dismay of the rest of the Eastern Conference. I'd say Kane has the best shot at winning this as he did lead all rookies in scoring with 21 goals and 51 assists. Leading scorers, I think, have an edge in the rookie of the year race - especially when all the finalists are forwards. Come to think of it, that's worth looking into - I'll report back later. That said, Towes or Backstrom would be deserving winners in their own right; I just think Kane's slightly ahead on that point alone.

Fourth, and most important of all, Round 2 is coming! Remember my stance: ANYBODY BUT THE RANGERS. In that vein, go Penguins. Make Lundqvist pay for his suspect rebound control. Anyway, expect the NY Times Slap Shot to have some previews tomorrow. They already have two stories about Pittsburgh-NY (Staal) and Detroit-Colorado (history). Bruce Ciskie has a preview of the San Jose-Dallas series at the Fanhouse. The NHL has previews of their own.

Fifth, some numbers. 1471, 1348, 1160. They mean something; but I'll let you all know sometime after the playoffs.

Lastly, check out Yahoo's new hockey blog. Greg Wyshynski is there now and it's loaded with things, items, links, stuff, and even more things.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Even in the Offseason, Gulitti Remains On Fire

Tom Gulitti is your Devils news, quotes, and word hook up. Clearly, you should be hooked into Fire & Ice by now if you're a Devils fan. He is flowing information that hooks you in and is quite off the hook (do people still say this?). I'll stop with the hook references before I get one.

First, awards. Martin Brodeur is once again a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. His competitors this year? Evgeni Nabokov and Henrik Lundqvist. Nabokov has done what few goalies have and played just as many games as Martin Brodeur with 77. Amazingly enough, Nabokov has won 2 more games than Brodeur (46 to 44), more shutouts (6 to 4), and a slightly better goals against average (2.14 to 2.17). By virtue of that alone, he's likely the favorite. What favors Brodeur is a superior save percentage (92% to Nabokov's 91%), a higher number of saves attempted and saves made (only Tomas Vokoun made more saves than Marty this season), and the most minutes in the league. Henrik Lundqvist brings the most shutouts in the league and a lot of experience in being a bridesmade to this group. Once again, Lundqvist is not going to win this. It's clearly a two horse race between Nabokov and Brodeur here. While Nabokov has more impressive numbers, I'd like to bring up two non-stat related arguments. Number One:

Number Two:

Brodeur did that. This season. The same season. Can Nabokov? Can anyone else? I think not!

Second, the World Championships. Also from TG in the same post as Brodeur's Vezina finalist announcement. Martin Brodeur is not going. Which is fine, if anyone deserves a long break, it's him. Brian Gionta is also not going as he will become a father soon. Patrik Elias will play for the Czech Republic; Karel Rachunek might play for the Czechs; the Swedish squad invited Johnny Oduya - further proof of his improvement; and Sergei Brylin may suit up for Russia. IPB will be most pleased with Paul Martin and Zach Parise putting on the Red, White & Blue for a chance at the annual tournament. TV coverage of this tournament in the US? I have no idea. Steve? A little help?

Third, Gulitti has a smattering of questions with the Devils players, Brent Sutter, and Lou Lamoriello. All three of them are impressive, interesting, insightful, intriguing, and a must-read for all Devils fans. I will not summarize or spoil any of it for you all now. Just go to Fire & Ice and read them. You'll be glad you did.

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Monday, April 21, 2008


Bill Simmons

I normally don't read ESPN much these days, save for news stories on occasion. I can get information about the Devils, the Giants, the Red Bulls, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Team, Fulham, and so on and so forth from many other places. In any case, my brother Jim noted something interesting at ESPN's area for it's columnists, Page 2. Bill Simmons has a column about hockey today.

Now, I used to read Simmons a long while back but the less I regularly went to ESPN, the less of Bill Simmons I read. He still writes favoring Boston, particularly the Patriots, the Celtics, and the Red Sox. Which makes sense, he grew up there, he's emotionally tied to all the teams, but that also includes the Bruins. And that means all kinds of horrible memories of the Montreal Canadiens destroying the Bruins on a seemingly regular basis. But he's a self-proclaimed "hockey widower" because of how the Bruins were run and this:
The Canadiens beating the Bruins. We were the nail and they were the hammer. Nothing ever changed. When I graduated college and realized I had spent two solid decades of my life rooting for a franchise that cared about making a profit more than winning a Stanley Cup, that's the only way I was able to dump the Canadiens from my life -- by not following the sport as diligently. Once the Devils unveiled their hideous zone trap and Gary Bettman tried to turn a blue-collar sport into "NBA 2.0," it was an easy decision to cut the cord entirely.
Huh. Maybe Simmons was too busy beating his head into his couch and breaking his nose to notice the Montreal Canadiens. Oh, he noted who was on the team like Larry Robinson, Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire, Bob Gainey, and Ken Dryden. Yes, they were loaded with talent.

But, Bill, they played the 1-2-2!!!

The Canadiens dominated with a tactic similar to that hideous neutral zone trap along with the talent of their players! That's how they were so merciless as a team! They were incredibly talented, yes, but they were also incredibly disciplined and incredibly good at killing the opposition in transition! They were the progenitors of the system that the Devils and hockey teams since 1995 have been using to not get burnt by high-flying squads. And the Devils coach who implemented that hideous neutral zone trap? Jacques Lemaire! One of the defensemen from that juggernaut Canadiens squad who was groomed in that system and found great success with Montreal applied it to a 1995 Devils squad that wasn't exactly a murderer's row of skill and vision like Montreal of the '70s. One of the players who you named, Bill! It worked pretty damn well, when they smacked Detroit in the face with a broom for their first Stanley Cup.

The irony is even sweeter when you consider that Gary Bettman is still the comissioner, the NHL has it's best year ever in terms of total and average attendance, and the self-proclaimed "hockey widow" is back watching hockey again. Not bad for Mr. Bettman and the league, right Bill? You're always welcome to watch the greatest game on Earth. Of course, Montreal just demolished Boston in dominating fashion, so I guess it's back to ignoring the NHL for Mr. Simmons. We'll still be here watching what we love, Bill. If you want to join us, you're more than welcome. Just drop the perception that New Jersey hurt or killed hockey, OK?

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Sunday, April 20, 2008


April in Review & Devil of the Month

Well, April was a short month for New Jersey. Four games in the regular season, and only five in the playoffs. The month saw a 2-1 overtime win against the Islanders which secured the Devils' eleventh straight playoff appearance, a shootout win over Boston which clinched at least fifth in the conference, a bad loss at Philadelphia, and the first win of the season over Our Hated Rivals to secure home ice in the playoffs. No regulation wins, but it's still 3-1-0 - and that's the official record for the Devils. They didn't look particularly great or dominating; but they did get the job done for the most part save for the Philly game.

Then the playoffs came and home ice meant absolutely nothing. Despite that win on April 6, the Devils fell flat in the third period in Game 1 and were flat for all but the final few minutes in Game 2. In retrospect, it looked like the Devils were already partially in the proverbial grave. Hope came in Game 3 when the Devils won one in overtime on the road. However, mistakes in the defensive zone cost the Devils Game 4 - dearly. Lastly and most frustratingly, they gave up too much too early to allow a comeback that was too little too late in Game 5. The Devils lost to the Rangers, lost all three games at Newark, and they lost to a team who played the style the Devils made famous. It wasn't that Brodeur alone failed - a point that Tom Gulitti plainly states at Fire & Ice - but the entire team failed. The defense was exposed and played like a paper tiger; leaving Marty high and dry more often than not. It took two games before the Devils scored more than just one goal; and even then they got some of those on some really fortunate bounces. The team would take shifts off - twice right after a goal - and the Rangers made them pay the price. No one will look at April 2008 and think, "Ah, they came into the playoffs with a little momentum," this first round exit to Our Hated Rivals will stand out the most. If only because Devils fans will hear it from Rangers fans for the next, say, 40 years.

So, no, it was not a good month for New Jersey.

The ILWT Devil of the Month? Given that so much of the month of April has to do with playoffs, I have to say it was the best Devil in the playoffs. No, not Dainius Zubrus or Mike Rupp - though they were very useful in providing physical play, generating some offense (consider Zubrus against Boston and Rupp against the Rangers on April 6, for example), and bringing some life on the ice when the Devils didn't have much. Their respective fan clubs (Aside: What would Zubrus' and Rupp's fan clubs be called anyway?) should be pleased.

The best Devil in the playoffs was clearly Patrik Elias. He had a point in each of the Devils' five playoff games, 4 goals and 2 assists. More impressively is that three of those four goals came on the power play - impressive considering no one has really stepped up on the Devils' power play units all year long. Even when the rest of the other scoring forwards were floating, Elias was hustling and attacking the Rangers as evidenced by 18 shots on net in the series. The only real criticism you can level at Elias' performance is his poor faceoff winning percentage and his -5 plus-minus rating. While there is nothing to explain the former, the latter has more to do with the defense breaking down more than anything else. The month absolutely sucked for the Devils, yet I have to note Elias' production in the playoffs as a silver lining in a giant, dark cloud. For that, Patrik Elias, you are the ILWT Devil of the Month for the month of April 2008.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008


The Next Day & Thank You

How do I still feel about what just happened? Well, like this: (source)


In happier news, the sun still came up today. We got that going for us.

The official stance of ILWT for the rest of the playoffs: Anybody But New York. Should Montreal do what they're supposed to do tonight, expect Pittsburgh to really pounce on the Rangers. The Penguins will definitely pick up on Lundqvist's lack of rebound control and they have the speed and dynamic offense that can eat a trap up for breakfast.

In any case, tomorrow expect April in Review & Devil of the Month. Later in the week will bring tidings of Devil of the Season and a look ahead at what to expect in the next few weeks. Likely some World Championship coverage, playoff thoughts about non-Devils teams, and maybe some more stats. Though I made hold off on the latter until after June.

I'd like to thank the New Jersey Devils organization for the new arena in Newark and putting on one really interesting season. The playoffs were miserable, we can agree on that; but the team also did a lot better in some ways than I and many fans were thinking back in October. Next year will be better and I can almost guarantee an prediction - one originally provided by Jay last night - that there will be a meeting between Lou, Brent, and Jeff Vanderbeek. They will sit down, face the brutal truth that the Devils just decisively lost to Our Hated Rivals in the playoffs, and start planning to improve the team to make sure that nothing of the sort will happen any time in the near future.

I'd like to thank all of you for reading this site be it for the first time or for the hundredth. I'd also like to thank the people around me in Section 1 for putting up with me and hearing me yell and rant and rave and generally being the loud supporter in the area - thanks Jay, Herb, Aaron, Mark, Marylin, Barbara, Chris, Matt, and anyone else I'm sorry I forgot your name. I'd like to thank the other people in the Devilogosphere (I'm sorry I just typed that): 2 Man Advantage, IPB, Fire & Ice, Devils Daily, Battle of NY, the NHL Arena Program, Beast of the East, Snowman on Fire, and even the older ones like Trendon Lynch and Tom Lycan (Devils Due). Also thanks to those in the larger media like Rob Kowal at NY Hockey Talk and Jeff Klein at the NY Times for giving me more than I ever expected to get out of this blog. Thank you all.

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Friday, April 18, 2008


Game 5: Devils 3 - Rangers 5

The Devils lost Game 5 to the Rangers, 3-5. The Devils got the first goal, controlled the puck well for the first period, and left Brodeur high and dry for three goals. Then the Rangers put up another tally in the second period. The Devils finally - finally - woke up, thanks to the softest goal given up in the entire series. A prayer from Bryce Salvador from behind the blue line and a fortunate bounce off the post gave the Devils hope. Patrik Elias putting home a rebound on a power play made the Devils faithful believe. But despite the hard work in the third period, despite all the efforts to try and beat the Rangers' 1-4 zone, despite how they responded, despite being better on face offs, despite out-hitting the Rangers by a ratio of just under 2 to 1, despite all this. It ultimately was too little too late. The deficit was too big for the Devils to come back from and the Rangers defended the lead as anyone could.

I hate saying this, but the Rangers were the better team in the series. I have to admit this. Anyone watching the series has to admit this. They got the bounces, they worked hard to get those bounces, and they did well when they had the lead. I hate this. I hate the fact that the Devils didn't win at home. I hate the fact that the Devils need to be losing before they can play better. I hate seeing the first goal become a non-factor so quickly. I hate the fact that it's the offseason now. I hate the fact that I can't go to Newark until October. I hate the fact that I can't watch Devils hockey until the fall. I hate seeing the Devils losing to the Rangers. I especially hate that the Rangers won the series by playing the transitional, counter-attacking style and the 1-2-2 that the Devils were famous for back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I have nothing left to say for now. IPB may something to say. 2 Man Advantage basically sums up the 2008 Playoff Run. I'm sure Tom Gulitti will have plenty to report on. But me? Nothing else. I'm sorry, but what can I say?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


I Guess I Do Have to Talk About It

OK. Title is self-explanatory. Expect a lot of ranting here. Game 4 sucked. Why? Tom Gulitti breaks it down as such:

Excluding Scott Gomez's empty-netter [an own goal by John Madden - JF], all of the Rangers' goals came after Devils' mistakes.

**Before Gomez's first period power-play goal, Colin White should have cleared the puck after Patrik Elias won the draw outside the blue line.

**On Martin Straka's 3-on-1 goal, Zach Parise turned the puck over just inside the Rangers' blue line (on a pokecheck by Marc Staal) and Colin White made a bad decision to step up in the neutral zone, allowing Brandon Dubinsky to chip the poke past him.

**On Chris Drury's deflection goal, Parise made a soft play trying to backhand the puck off the boards and out of the zone and Fedor Tyutin easily intercepted at the left point.

**On Staal's game-winner. Elias and White bumped into each other -- though they had plenty of time -- and Elias got very little on his clear attempt, which was easilty intercepted by Straka.

You can't expect to win a game in which you make that many mistakes.

Too true, Tom. Too true. I could end it there, but I won't.

First, I must emphasize this. This game is not Martin Brodeur's fault. Hell, this whole series outside of the Game 1 Gaffe in the third period, Ryan Callahan's and Brandon Dubinsky's first goal in Game 3 isn't Brodeur's fault. He's been hung out to dry by the defense, beaten by shots that would beat all goaltenders except for the ones who see in the future and/or in a third-person view. Given that Marty isn't running a late night infomercial promising to look ahead into your life for a substantial fee per minute or that Marty isn't playing himself in a video game, it's not his fault. If Brodeur - or anyone - stops uncovered guys nearly behind him (Gomez' goal), one-timers to his blind side in a two-on-one (Straka's goal), a well-placed deflection (Drury's goal), and pucks he can't see (Staal's goal), it's a miraculous save. It's to the point where I feel like I need to take a page from MGoblog and go Upon Further Review (example) with goals against the Devils. If only so people don't look back, say, 10 years from now and think, "Huh, Marty let the Devils down in that series."

On the contrary, in Game 4, it seemed like he and Patrik Elias were the only ones who wanted to win the game right from the start. (EDIT: The team wanted to hit, most notably shown by Dainius Zubrus having his stick fail him and then blew up Ryan Callahan at center ice was sweet. Had to mention it. OK, back to the rant.) From moment one, Elias was hustling. Elias was looking for open shots. Elias got 4 on Henrik Lundqvist and powered 2 past him. Both after the Rangers scored, becoming equalizers to keep the Devils in the game. The rest of the team showed up more in the third period, particularly the first half, due to the strength of Mike Mottau's beautiful move to the net. Mottau's shot beat Lundqvist and the Devils were looking good. But somehow, I can't figure out how, the Rangers started applying much more offensive pressure in the later half of the third period. Maybe it has to do with Jaromir Jagr - he was a beast with 10 shots on net and playing like he wanted to win everything ever. Fortunately, he only picked up an assist; but it ultimately doesn't matter. The Rangers were pressing. And a giveaway led to the shot that beat the screened Brodeur for a loss that feels like, well, an axe to the junk.

The Devils could have won this and I really don't know what else I can say other than that they blew it. They made the mistakes that cost them the game. Colin White had a horrific game and instead of reeling him in, Sutter kept giving him shifts - a total of 28. The defense didn't look too good as a whole; Mottau fouled up the two-on-one by failing to block the passing lane, Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya didn't slow down the Rangers all that much, and while Bryce Salvador and Vitaly Vishnevski combined for 11 hits - they were part of the unit that allowed the Rangers to tee up 39 shots on Brodeur.

I'm nearly (?) ranting at this point; but this is ridiculous. Could Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac, and Brian Gionta play much better. Yes. But even if the Devils go out and sign that big scorer that they so desperately need, would it even help all that much? Look at the Rangers. They broke the bank for Chris Drury and Scott Gomez and ended the season...with only 7 more goals than the Devils. Yeah, they are outscoring the Devils - but that's due to their constant pouncing on New Jersey's errors. It's not a matter of being totally outclassed. I look at this game and think, "If the Devils didn't make those crucial defensive errors, they could have won this one. If the Devils played harder in the first two periods, they could have won this one. If I had a million dollars, I'd be rich," &c. But that's all what I'm left with: what-ifs.

Honestly, I can't say this team is terrible. They are clearly better than 14 teams in this league; and I'd argue they are better than Ottawa (who is the first to be eliminated), Boston (who is just about dead like NJ), and Washington among others. They just aren't...great? Maybe that's the term? And the main proof of this is that they are down 3-1 in a series to a team that plays like the Devils once did and is honestly on the same level as the Devils. I don't know now, I didn't know then, and only time will figure it out. Regardless there is tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be there screaming my head off and be loaded with the nearly-intoxicating feeling of total optimism (and write more pretentious sentences like this one). Could the Devils come back? The odds don't favor them. Bizarrely, the team is calm and understands the importance of this according to Gulitti. I'd love to agree, but they've said the upcoming game is important and they need to better than they did the night before again, again, and again. And yet I don't think we have not seen a full 60 minute effort or even a 45 minute effort that would prove their words. I know, I know, easier said than done and all that, but that's rather telling, don't you think?

At this point, all I ask is that they win Game 5 and give the Rangers one hell of a fight. That sounds reasonable enough, right? Right? In any case: Go Devils.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Game 4: Devils 3 - Rangers 5

The Devils could have won this one but:

They gave the game away. They gave the game away. They gave the game away. They gave the game away.

And then they sealed their fate with an own goal.

What Devils fans dread is now becoming a reality. The question now is when? Friday? Sunday? Next Wednesday? Or will the near-impossible occur? I don't know and right now I'm too angry to talk about this one. Doesn't anyone on this team outside of Brodeur want to win this?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Jamie's Due; Brian Too

According to Gulitti, the Devils are heading into an important Game 4 at Madison Square Garden with the same players who won an important Game 3. Not a bad idea, the squad earned the result that it got. While Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, and John Madden had earned tallies, what I think will be a key is whether Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Gionta can step it up with some goals of their own.

It's not as if the two have been terrible this series; but the production isn't there. Gionta has had it worse. He's had 3 shots on net in Game 1, 1 on net in Game 2, and 4 including a post in Game 3. In that same time frame, Gionta has missed a total of 6 shots and got blocked twice. He's able to skate into space down the right wing, but why Brent Sutter isn't pushing him to get into the slot is beyond me. He scored a lot of those 48 goals from 2005-2006 while battling down there. Gionta hasn't shied away from physical contact this season (and even had 4 hits of his own this series). Put him in there, coach! If only to keep the Rangers' defenders honest when he's on the ice.

However, Jamie Langenbrunner has been even more unfortunate. He's on the top line - yes, it's a top line - with Parise and Elias. He's on the top power play unit - yes, it's the top power play unit - so he's getting additional attacking time. Langenbrunner has been shooting, with a total of 11 shots on net this series - 5 in the last game! He's even been physical with 9 hits - 6 in the last game! But Langenbrunner just has one assist to show for his clear efforts. While the Devils haven't been a scoring machine of any kind, Langenbrunner's lack of production is certainly a downer - if not just outright frustration.

I'm not trying to single them out; but the two picking up their games would really help out NJ tomorrow and in the series beyond. It would cause the opposition to spread their attention, they could get into Henrik Lundqvist's head faster, and, hey, more goals are always good for the Devils. How? Well, Gionta had the best scoring chance between the two of them in Game 3; he drove to the net and tried to go far post on Lundqvist - and hit the post. Deflating scoring attempt aside, the key is that he drove to the net with the puck. He didn't stay on the outside and try to use a big shot. He didn't try a floater from the half-boards. No, he took on what was in front of him and tried to make something happen. Given that events in or near the slot contributed to all the goals scored in Game 3, it's evidence that it's not a bad idea. Hopefully, Langenbrunner and Gionta will consider it more often tomorrow night.

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Monday, April 14, 2008


Rule 75

One of the biggest stories coming out of last night's 4-3 win was Sean Avery's 7-year old-like "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you" screen during a two man advantage for New York. When someone normally sets up a screen, their back is to the goaltender and they move about a bit to still be involved in the play. Avery stood still and waved his stick like he had the power of Greyskull or somesuch. Nothing came of that within the game, other than a lot of "I've never seen that in hockey" and "If that is legal, expect the league to change that this offseason." Avery scored later by being left open in front of the net for an easy one-timer. Still, it was big. Gulitti has some quotes. But what is most telling is that one of the headlines on today is an explanation on Rule 75 - goaltender interference - related to this event. Needless to say, don't expect to see others do it in the future.

The biggest and more relevant story within this game was the Devils' performance. They took the puck to the net more and finally broke through Henrik Lundqvist with varying attacks. They scored on the power play. Twice. A rarity for the Devils in general! They even had...the lead. Yes, the lead. Emphasis is on the had; as the Rangers did equalize twice in this contest. Most notable of all, the Devils got the bounces with two unfortunate own goals by the Rangers. The first, Sergei Brylin was in the right place to draw the sticks of two Rangers. A careening puck from Aaron Asham did not hit Brylin's leg; but the shaft of Blair Betts to give NJ the early lead. The overtime winner was the result of a big faceoff win by John Madden, Jay Pandolfo closing off Michael Rozsival, Madden throwing it into the slot and bouncing right off Marc Staal's skate and in. Ugly? Yes. Wonderful? You bet. They worked their tails off throughout overtime, outplayed the Rangers in those 6 minutes and 1 second, and got the deserved result. I was happy, Kevin Smith was happy, Steve Stirling is pleased, and even IPB is continuing their Ric Flair impersonation.

To be fair, the Devils did have some troubles. They slowed down in the later part of the first period and Martin Brodeur let up a soft one from Brandon Dubinsky. In the first half of the second period, the Rangers capitalized on a two-man advantage and dictated much of the pace of the game then. The Devils also got caught again shorthanded with Dubinsky scoring on a one-timer in the slot early in the third period. The penalty killing last night left a lot to be desired. The two-man disadvantage, I understand. You can't just key in on one player when there's only three on the ice. But the second one, someone really should have tied up Dubinsky.

Yet, the Devils have a lot to be proud of. They were threatening on their eight power plays and potted in two in the second period after the Avery goal. The Devils were mad, they got physical, and Mike Rupp had some choice words for Paul Mara that got picked up by Versus' microphones that you may or may not find on YouTube. And they were rewarded. How? Taking it to the net created the opportunities for goals. Patrik Elias had a laser coming in late into the slot; and Zach Parise slapped a puck that trickled in after some chaos up front.

Most of all, they held tough in a physical game and got the win when both teams shot evenly. An exciting hockey game, filled with passion, energy, emotion, and lots and lots of concern and cursing by all involved. Devils out hit the Rangers 49-47 (leading hitters: Colin White, Jamie Langenbrunner - seriously); Devils outshot the Rangers 33-30; and the Devils got the bounces to win the game.

Of course, should NJ drop Wednesday's game, then this would all be for naught. This game was excellent as it breathes life into New Jersey; but Game 4 will determine whether or not the Devils have it in them to make a serious comeback. I certainly hope so. Gulitti has more quotes from the team that shows that they know they got to win. But it's still up to them.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008


Game 3: Devils 4 - Rangers 3, OT

The New Jersey Devils are right back in it in the series with a big overtime win tonight, by a score of 4-3. Two power play goals by the Devils; two power play goals conceded by the Devils; and two goals inadvertently scored by the Rangers for the Devils. I have quite a bit to say about the game; but that can wait until tomorrow. Right now, it's all about a fist pump from John Madden (original source), the overtime hero of tonight's game.


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Prior to Tonight's Game

I don't think I need to emphasize the importance of today's game. I've explained what I want to see in yesterday's rant about Game 2. Patricia at 2 Man Advantage is pleading for this team to win. IPB has their new IPB Power Hour (that is not actually an hour). In today's Star Ledger, Rich Chere article reports that the Devils themselves understand the importance of today's game. Historically, the Devils only came back from a 2-0 series deficit once and that was way back in 1994. Regardless, tonight's game is crucial. Therefore, I'm going to point out a lot of different things:

First, congratulations to the Boston College Eagles for winning the 2008 Frozen Four championship. They defeated the Norte Dame Fighting Irish 4-1, capping off an excellent year for BC sports. Forward Nathan Gerbe was the man of the day for BC with a brace and two assists, as well as being named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Too bad his rights are owned by Buffalo.

In other college hockey news, the Alaska Nanooks have had their first player named to the RBK All-American first team. Who is it, you ask? Offensive defenseman and Devils prospect, Tyler Eckford. Congratulations to Alaska and Eckford for the honors. The link gives the full list of All-American teams for this recent college season. As you would expect, Gerbe is on the first team as well. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award was won by Michigan forward and Phoenix Coyotes prospect Kevin Porter (h/t Mirtle). He was captain of the Wolverines, finished second in scoring this season (33 G, 30 A), and is considered to be a two-way forward. Congratulations to him as well.

I found this at HFBoards, 2008 prospect Nikita Filatov has a blog running at For all of you who can read Russian or know someone who can, this should be an interesting read. The CSKA forward has already revealed that he wants to play in North America after being drafted. Should the translation at HF be true, I don't blame him - such a small amount of playing time is, I would think, counter-intuitive for develeopment.

From the It Could Be Worse File: The defending Stanley Cup champions dropped another decisive game at Anaheim to Dallas by the score of 5-2 last night. The Ducks had the second best record at home this season with 28-9-4, making this turn of events even more surprising. Poor, poor J-S Giguere!

I missed this earlier Pt. 1: According to Mirtle, the Washington Capitals are asking their fans to...Rock the Red. I know, it's not the same as "Rock Your Red" as the Devils have been promoting; but the Capitals marketing staff could use some originality. Maybe a picture of the Flyers logo with the words EPIC FAIL underneath.

I missed this earlier Pt. 2: The NHL site has celebrities blogging about the playoffs. For the Devils, it's director, writer, and legit Devils supporter Kevin Smith. I know this is a few days old but you get to learn what is at the bottom of his toilet. No, it's not the cover of Magnolia.

And for no reason at all, a video of a car chase. (Warning: Dirty language, inexplicable explosions)

Tom Gulitti is reporting at Fire & Ice that Vitaly Vishnevski will play in tonight's game. Andy Greene will be scratched. It's clear that Sutter is looking for additional physical play and size on the blueline since that's what Vishnevksi does best.

Let's go Devils. Take the train to victory-ville and happy-town; it's too soon for the off-season to begin.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008


OK. About Last Night.

Alright. Last night. Colin White bumps Martin Brodeur for the first goal against; the Devils were caught in shock for the Rangers to go up 2 goals; the Devils get one late on a John Madden deflection from Patrik Elias; and a wild end with some garbage officiating at the end. It was garbage. Jamie Langenbrunner thought as such. John Madden said as such. Brent Sutter threw a stick and proclaimed as such. Fans like me were hurling all kinds of 7 and 8 letter words that rhyme with "Schucking Hull Bit" (which sounds like what St. Louis did to Hull as his contract ended). Lou Lamoriello nearly pulled a Schoenfeld according to Tom Gulitti. Other, similar opinions were offered at 2 Man Advantage and IPB.

But to be honest, I am the most upset and frustrated by how the Devils played last night. Despite the horrific refereeing at the end, I can't excuse the Devils' effort. They lost Game 1 at the Rock and they came nothing happened. Oh, the teams were physical and there was all kinds of passion expressed with scrums, shoves, and lots of yelling. But not in the Devils' attack. For the most part, their idea of taking the puck in had two options:

1) Dump the puck in at the blue line into the corner/behind the net. Fight along the boards for possession.
2) Pass the puck off the boards and attempt to get at the puck by blowing by the defender, but fail and fight along the boards.

Only a handful of times did the Devils attempt to drive the puck into the net and try to get what some would call a "garbage goal." Bizarrely enough, each of those times, the Devils were close in getting a goal even having one of the three "crashings" of the net result in a video review. Did they score? No. But they applied a lot more pressure than what they did for most of the night. Win the puck on the boards, take the puck outside to a defenseman or a forward on the perimeter, pass it around looking for an open shot/pass, and try to force a shot through a lot of bodies. Even when a shot did get on net, was there anyone in the slot set up to pick up a rebound? No! Why utilize Brian Gionta that way instead of having him just stick to the right? Why utilize big bodies like Dainius Zubrus or Mike Rupp to set themselves up in front? Why do any of that when you're using screens and forcing shots through traffic for most of the game! Just like Game 1.

And just like Game 1, that style resulted in the Devils missing the net 15 times and getting blocked another 13 times. Combined, they blew more attempts than they had actual shots on net (27). I said on Thursday that the Devils need to be more accurate, and yet again, they were not. And many of those shots weren't particularly difficult for Henrik Lundqvist. The only line getting consistent shots on net was the top line of Parise, Elias, and Langenbrunner. Those three combined for 13 shots, 48% of the Devils' shots all game long. But again, most of them weren't quality shots and the team blew a lot of chances.

Watching them, you notice that the team was looking for the great chance, passing up the good chance. That may be fine if you're winning or not slumping in the scoring department, but it's definitely not fine now. I mean, the one goal the Devils did get was a deflection. A low shot by Elias from the left faceoff circle, deflected by Madden - who was in the vicinity of the slot. The Devils need to do more of that. They need guys in the slot. The constant reliance on long shots and screens isn't working. Consider this. When you're ordering a Double Whopper™ at Burger King through the drive-through, you don't drive your car out 50 feet and yell for the bag. You drive to the window. When the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (of 2007) has the ball on the first yard line in the red zone, the first play is not Mike Teel throwing an out to the fullback - it's Ray Rice taking it inside for the touchdown. In many things in life, you need to get into it to get it - be it earning a job, making a friend, writing a blog, etc. You can't be passive. The Devils need to drive to the net to succeed.

This has plagued the power play, which was a massive waste of opportunity. A power play early in the game. A power play at the end of the first that carries over into the second. A four minute double minor for Christian Backman cross-checking Parise into his teeth. A power play late in the second period that carries over into the third period. All power plays when both teams weren't doing much offensively. All opportunities to score, or at least, apply pressure on the Rangers. All 10 minutes of it absolutely wasted. The stats tell me the Devils got 4 shots on net. They weren't very good shots, I can tell you that much. The penalty killers were great; but the other half of special teams were miserable. It's bad when you don't even threaten with 4 minutes of a man advantage. How did this happen? The Devils approached it the same way they do regularly. A dump into the boards. Fighting for possession. Trying to set up a long shot. All that failed.

And so the Devils really blew this game with their tepid and tired attack. I am pleading to the Devils organization to mix it up on offense. Take the puck inside. Drive it to the net more often. Take some "OK" shots instead of waiting for the "great (if no one was in front of me)" shot. Go low (it worked last night) on Lundqvist sometimes. The Devils had at least two periods and advantages to take control of the game. The Rangers were playing patient, 1-2-2, opportunistic hockey; they played like the Devils played a few years ago. And instead of pinning the backcheckers back and going with a more aggressive, inside-style offense, they only really felt the urgency to score late in the third period after the Rangers realized that attacking the net is a good idea (and they succeeded, hint, hint, Mr. Sutter) and scrambled for offense then. They got one, but it was too little too late. All in a crucial Game 2 - killing off the home ice advantage and half-digging their own grave. Knowing full well the Rangers have never blown a 2-0 playoff series lead and the Devils only came back from one of those once.

I'm unhappy. I'm angry. I'm frustrated. And now NJ has to do it all on the road. All I want now is just one win.

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Friday, April 11, 2008


Game 2: Devils 1 - Rangers 2

The Devils got out-Deviled by the Rangers and despite a late attempt, they lost Game 2 by a score of 2-1.

It's bad when you go down 2-0 in a playoff series where you had home ice.

It's worse when you go down 2-0 in a playoff series against Your Hated Rivals.

It's worst when you go down 2-0 in a playoff series against Your Hated Rivals with Your Hated Rivals succeeding by playing the same style of hockey you've made famous.

I'll go into more detail tomorrow. Right now, this is just how I'm feeling about tonight's effort:

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


At the Rock, the Red-Rockin Fans will Rock Out Should New Jersey Rock New York

Also: Rock rock rock rock rock rock rock rock rock rock rock rock rock. Rock? Rock.

Anyhow, tomorrow is Game 2 against the Rangers in Newark. It's a must-win should the Devils want to have a shot at this series. It's a must-win should the Devils want to prove Larry Brooks right (aside: awesome column by the way). The only group in the organization this doesn't directly effect are prospects - including the newly signed Jeff Frazee (h/t Gulitti). Now, I'm just a fan, but given what I saw in Game 1, this is what I'd like to see from New Jersey tomorrow night.

1. ACCURACY. My goodness me, the Devils got one shot less on net than the Rangers; but they did hit more posts than they did (3 to 2), had more of their shots blocked (16 to 9), and missed the net more (15 to 7). The Devils had many scoring chances where they didn't get the right bounces or apply the proper finish. However, it's hard to win games when you have more attempts on net not hitting the net than attempts on net that actually do so. It's been a problem all season long, and ultimately this is a root cause for the shortage of goals.

From what I saw, I felt the Devils tried to screen Henrik Lundqvist many times on offense in the hopes of scoring. Unfortunately, it has led to missed shots and blocked shots instead of the goals. For example (and most notably), John Oduya's blasts from the points hit the Rangers' skaters legs 5 times and Lundqvist 0 times. Not to pick on Oduya, but it sums up the problem I have with reliance on screens. To correct this, the New Jersey attack needs to take it inside and take more mid-range and short-range shots. Mix it up a bit and the Devils may have more success.

2. SHADOWS. What was impressive about the 1995 Devils Stanley Cup victory? The neutral zone trap? A young Martin Brodeur showing the world what's to come? The sweep against Detroit? Well, all of that is impressive. But the relevant one is one Claude Lemieux shadowing the opposition's top forward in each series to great success, 13 goals, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. I don't think the Devils necessarily need Lemieux. However, they do have someone who can shadow - and more importantly, someone to shadow.

In Game 1, Scott Gomez has been leading the breakout and was the straw the stirred the drink for the Ranger's offense. Clearly, slowing him down would slow down the Rangers as a whole. John Madden is a top-class shutdown center. So it seems obvious to me that Sutter should try shadowing Gomez with Madden. I do not want to see line matching. All that will do is keep the checking unit (which hasn't been bad, Brian Gionta is due for a goal) out for a significant portion of the game. Since Sutter has been mixing lines all season long, he can do that throughout the game. Madden can shadow Gomez, but Madden's linemates will change. If Sutter wants more offense; Sutter can slot Gionta and Zach Parise out there. If Sutter wants defense, he can use the standard line. If Sutter wants pain and a lot of it, well, Mike Rupp and Aaron Asham are right there. More to the point, Madden is just as fast as Gomez, Madden's been checking against the opposition's top forwards for the better part of his career. I think Madden can do it and it would help the Devils greatly should it frustrate Gomez.

3. SPECIAL TEAMS. No shorties. Please. I shouldn't have to explain this.

4. FANS LIKE ME. Now, this one is directed at me as well. There wasn't a lot to cheer for in the third period at Game 1. Understandably so. But it's a new game. Brodeur's not shaken up. Gionta is ready to go. And we need to cheer on the Devils. There's going to be a lot of guys in the other team's jerseys. We can't let them out shout us in our own building again. How does that happen? The Devils need to win and they will need all the encouragement they can get. We can do this. Whilst Brodeur will play most of those 60 minutes; we must become the Extra Man. (Note: Band name not safe for work, content not safe for those who don't know how to rock).

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Game 1: Devils 1 - Rangers 4

Our Hated Rivals came into the Rock and came out winners by the tune of 4-1. Don't let the score fool you, it was a close game up until the third period. I suppose the story will be all about Scott Gomez and how he is awesome and how the Devils miss him and so on and so forth. That would also not give you the whole story.

See, this game is a frustrating loss not just because the Devils lost to Our Hated Rivals in a crucial playoff game but because they didn't really play all that poorly. The Devils had the better run of play in the first period, in spite of the shot counts being even. The team was skating hard, out hitting Our Hated Rivals 18 to 11, performed a great penalty kill, and getting a some scoring chances (e.g. Sergei Brylin shorthanded on a breakaway). The second period resulted in a goal against, but the Devils finally broke through with a power play goal by Paul Martin. Patrik Elias just dished it across to Martin, who lined up his shot and put it home. The game was equalized. The period ended 1-1; optimism would still be valid.

And then the third period came where it all went wrong. Well, not all wrong; but the Devils had two very bad breaks. One at the end of a power play, where the Devils broke down and the Rangers responded with an odd-man rush. That in of itself is unacceptable. Then the initial shot was saved; but no one picked up on the rebound or the trailing skater. The puck trickled wide, Martin Brodeur stretched out, then stood up, and then made a last attempt to poke it away. It wasn't enough as Ryan Callahan had an easy put-back. A series of errors by New Jersey and that ultimately doomed the Devils. While the Devils pushed on and had numerous opportunities - including three straight power plays in the game as well as a number of scoring chances with 13 shots in the third period - they could not get it through. Either being robbed by Henrik Lundqvist, getting the shot blocked (16 blocks against) or missing the net (15 missed shots).

Instead of calling a time-out to sort things out, the Devils kept pushing on. Then a horrific bad break late in the third. Gomez fired the shot off Brodeur's right, whilst Brodeur was sliding. There was a rebound that Sergei Brylin was about to get. Only it hit his skate, leaving it wide open. Sean Avery had the whole open net and scored the easiest goal possible. It was so easy that anyone could have scored there. Me. You. Avery's ladyfriends. My dead grandmother. Etc. The Rangers faithful - and there were an embarrassing large number of them at The Rock - were pleased as they could be. Devils fans like myself were all of angry, unhappy, and besides themselves.

The Devils need to win. They need to score on those chances; they need to put them away; and they need to avoid those costly breakdowns in game. I'm still optimistic - being a fan and all. But even I have trouble in thinking the Devils will win this series by being down 2 games when going across the river. Game 2 is now a must-win game. Let's go Devils. Please.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Once Again at The Times

Jeff Klein has asked me five questions about the upcoming playoff series against Our Hated Rivals. My answers are up at Slap Shot, so go ahead on and read it. Do take the time to read the responses of Scott Olivenbaum, representing the other side. Typical and hackneyed smack talk referencing 1994 (the last year the Rangers did anything of value), attendance, and suggests that the NY faithful will taunt the most experienced, talented, and successful goaltender in the playoffs with a lame chant.

That will look all the more delightful if/when the Devils win. Of course, you could say the same thing in reverse; but why would I suggest that?

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Monday, April 07, 2008


In Preparation

Since I didn't go into it in much detail, here's a summary of what I thought about yesterday's game. Great first period, not so great second period, a better yet unfortunate (especially for Zach Parise) third period, an alright overtime, and a sweet shootout. It was yet another close game in the Hudson Rivalry, but this time the good guys won.

Now, it's on to the playoffs. The Devils and Our Hated Rivals played eight games against each other this season. Five of these were one-goal games; four went beyond regulation, three went into the shootout, and none of the games were decided by anymore than two goals at most. Expect a close, defensive, low-scoring series. In a short analysis - maybe something I'll go into more depth, maybe not - the Devils have as good as chance as any to win this series. If there's any team in the league that is used to winning close, defensive, and low-scoring games; it's the Devils. Martin Brodeur alone gives them an advantage in that category, along with a defense that is greater than the sum of it's parts (seriously, look at the parts).

Interestingly enough, the Rangers have been successful season playing like...the Devils of old. A reliance on the trap, scoring coming off the transition, and riding Henrik Lundqvist if things get hairy. We are talking about a team that despite big names like Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez, and Chris Drury, they only scored seven more goals - and gave up only two more - than the Devils this season. And all those seven wins against NJ and they still finish two points behind them. The teams are quite similar in terms of results and styles. Too bad that the Devils have been doing this for a while, the experience could see them through.

What else is going on? Well, David Clarkson has been highlighted at with as a part of their Rookie Watch. They praise his work ethic and we learn that Clarkson digs Wendel Clark. In a second article, Dan Rosen focuses on the Devils' cornerstone - Brodeur. If the Devils crash out of the first round, it's not going to be because of Brodeur. For a series preview, even has that for you and it's pretty meaty. There are many other previews, such as ones at TSN and ESPN wherein we learn that Scott Burnside thinks Mike Mottau and Bryce Salvador are young. Well, in the long term, 30 years old isn't that old; but it's clear Burnside could have researched his preview a little better.

IPB also previews the playoffs as well. They start with the East and approach it in an interesting way. They base their preview on how the team does and does not deserve to win the Stanley Cup. Here's a snippet from their Devils preview:
Why They Don’t Deserve To Win:
There are no reasons why they don’t deserve to win. Please.
Well, I can't argue with that. I think most of the people at the now-live Devils Legion fan section of the official team website would agree with that.

Also, at, the league pats themselves on the back for their highest average attendance ever. As they should. On the internet and in general sentiment, there's so many negative feelings about how the NHL is terrible, how Gary Bettman is horrible for the sport, how hockey will never be big here, and so on and so forth. Yet, here is a big stat - some would call it a "statbit" - that completely flies in the face of what some would call "tra-la-la feelings."

In international hockey news, Pat Burns has been named as an assistant to Team Canada according to Tom Gulitti. Awesome news. Good luck to Burns and Team Canada - except when they play the US, of course.

Lastly, the big winner of the Steve Stamkos sweepstakes? Tampa Bay. Good job to the Lightning for winning the lottery. Check out Steve at Kukla's Korner for full national coverage listings to get ready for the playoffs on TV. Gulitti reports that the TV for the Devils-Our Hated Rivals is going to be mostly local. The playoffs are here.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008


Devils 3 - Rangers 2, SO

Today, the Devils earned both home ice in the first round and a win over Our Hated Rivals in the shootout. IPB and 2MA live-blogged the game. Gulitti has the word on when the playoffs will begin. Normally, this is where I discuss and go at length about what I saw, what I liked, what I didn't like, &c. about the game. But today, all I have to say is this:

We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.

Just in time for the playoffs, we have proof that the Devils can beat Our Hated Rivals. That's all I need to say now.

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All I Want for My Birthday is a Win

Tonight, it has become official. If the Penguins win, they'll take first in the conference from Montreal. The Flyers snuck into the playoffs and could earn the sixth spot with a win tomorrow. The Washington Capitals did what they had to do to secure the Southeast Division and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002-2003. And the Devils will face Our Hated Rivals in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Today's 3 PM game at The Rock will determine who gets home ice. In a playoff series between two hated rivals; home ice is crucial. Fans of both teams are jacked up, just check out this video made by "Weeonta" of HFBoards.

While the Devils lost the seven games these two played so far this season, most of them were rather close. However, the previous seven games do not matter. Today's game is the one that does. Whoever wins will have the momentum going into the playoffs AND have the luxury of hosting the first two games.

Today, I turn 25 years old. And I would love nothing more than to see my favorite team, the New Jersey Devils, destroy the Rangers. Let's go Devils.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008


Devils 0 - Philadelphia 3

The New Jersey Devils had a chance to strengthen their hold over fourth place in the conference against the Flyers last night. However, the Flyers were the only team interested in winning the game and so they did by a score of 3-0. The loss is the Devils' eleventh shutout loss this season and it has Brent Sutter quite unhappy about the team's performance, according to Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger. It's not just that he's unhappy. 2 Man Advantage's Steve Stirling wasn't happy about the game, IPB wasn't happy about the game, I'm definitely not happy about the game, and even Chico wasn't happy as the game winded down.

I'm glad the players agree with Sutter's proclamation that the Devils were terrible and, what's more, they displayed a lack of professionalism. It certainly isn't professional or wise to pretty much take the entire game off - Martin Brodeur excluded - in a big game at the end of the season. Philadelphia coming out strong was to be expected. They are on the bubble for the playoffs, the Wachovia Center was filled with fans and thundersticks, and they have every reason to go out there and get two points. The chairman of the Flyers was pleased, according to the NHL recap - as he should be. It was a crucial game where the Philadelphia Flyers actually outplayed their opponent and won. A rarity for the Flyers. You would think the Devils would at least play a competitive game of hockey, but they didn't even do that. They were walked on like a cheap rug. That's unacceptable at any time of the season, and it's not a good sign with the playoff so close.

However, just leaving it at "the Devils played like dog fecal matter" isn't enough. I feel I need to spell out why the Devils were so awful. The only Devil who showed up to play was Martin Brodeur, who singlehandedly kept the score at 1-0 Philadelphia when the Flyers were dominating on offense. He was pulled after the second straight one-timer goal by Phialdelphia, and I don't blame him for going out. If I put on a great performance with 33 saves and only being beaten by being hung out to dry by the Devils skaters (and once by Mike Mottau's re-direction), I wouldn't want to continue being let down either. The defense in last night's game was nothing more than a paper tiger being burned - most notably by Joffrey Lupul and R.J. Umberger who both put up 6 shots on net. In fact, the only Flyers who didn't put rubber on Brodeur or Weekes were denoted goons Riley Cote and Steve Downie and defenseman Lasse Kukkonen. The Devils on the defensive side of the puck were constantly a step behind, in poor position, they did far too much puck-watching, and they failed to clear the puck at least 15 times. It's not good when Chico Resch brings up that stat - I didn't know it was a counted stat - midway through the second. Andy Greene needs to sit, he is not ready to become a regular defenseman again. Paul Martin had an uncharacterisitcally bad game, most notably by being out of position and behind the goal scorers Scott Upshall and Lupul in the third period.

However, what I feel really doomed the Devils is the distribution of the puck. I'm not a hockey player or an expert. I admit this. However, you can not win hockey games if you can't distribute the puck properly. This means failing to make clearances out of your own zone when the other team is pushing - which is what the Flyers did for much of the game. This means failing to make passes in the neutral zone and on the attack. So many passes either missed the receiver entirely, hits a skate instead of the stick, or it's easily taken away by the Flyers. It's the chief reason why the Devils struggled to generate many attacks or complete any counter attacks. The Flyers' defenders played aggressively and it resulted in many more possessions for Philadelphia in conjunction with the inaccurate dishes. Why Sutter didn't think to change the approaches on offense to compensate for the bad passing and this (e.g. allowing a player to carry it in themselves) is beyond me. Shots? Goodness gracious, the Devils seemed to been confused by the black worn by Flyers that night. They hit the Flyers' skaters just as much as they hit Martin Biron with the puck. 22 shots on net and 22 shots blocked. 22! Blocked! Shots! That's amazing in it's horribleness! The only real bright spot on offense was John Oduya carrying the puck deep into the zone, getting tripped up rounding the net, still getting a pass off - only for it to be duffed by Aaron Asham. The resulting power play? Negated by a stupid decision by Travis Zajac abouta minute in.

Outside of goaltending - Brodeur and Weekes didn't lose this game - it was a terrible game all around. Now, the Devils have a must-win game at home to Our Hated Rivals. Oh boy.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008


One More Thing

Toronto claims there wasn't enough evidence from the replays about Dainius Zubrus' wraparound goal.


Not enough evidence, huh?

(I found this at IPB, who found it at Fire & Ice - originally posted by one "AfroThunder396." Thanks to all of them!)

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What's Shaking in the East

The Devils are going to the playoffs and, according to the splash page for the official site, they'd like you to wear red should you go to the Rock. A capital idea. The Devils wear red on the ice and when the opposition looks up, they should see red in the stands. I am just going to assume that painting your body to spell out DEVILS with your friends is acceptable. That could be more intimdating.

But with the Devils fighting for fourth, let's look at the rest of the East.
  • With a 3-0 win over the Islanders, Our Hated Rivals have clinched a playoff spot. They sit in fifth and it's entirely likely that the Devils will play them in the first round. To be honest, despite the 7 losses against them this season, I don't think it's a terrible match up. I'll explain myself should that be the match up.
  • Fighting for a return to glory, Ottawa dropped a hammer on the Toronto Leafs. For a team that was once at the top of the East for much of the first half, they're fighting Our Hated Rivals to get back into fifth. Since both teams won, the Senators remain in sixth. Too bad Our Hated Rivals have a game in hand, so the Senators will need help to gain fifth.
  • The Washington Capitals surged against Tampa Bay 4-1 tonight. Since Philadelphia was idle, they have technically slid into eighth. But they need help to get in to the playoffs. The Devils could certainly do that by beating the Flyers in regulation. That would be grand. The Devils helping to knock the Flyers out of the postseason. Maybe AO can dress up in Devils red for one game? (OK, that would be ridiculous...and wrong, but it'd be cool.)
  • It's not possible for the Devils to catch the Penguins, as Pittsburgh did win last night. That's 102 points and the Atlantic Division and a top three seed for them. Good job for them and for doing so with a brand new superstar in Evgeni Malkin.
  • Montreal had their game in hand on Pittsburgh and their 3-1 win over Buffalo ties them in points AND knocks the Sabres out. I guess losing Briere, Drury, Miller, and having numerous injuries made all the difference. Montreal has Toronto on Saturday and Pittsburgh has Philadelphia on Sunday. Should both teams win, the Penguins secure the conference with the first tie-breaker: wins.
  • Philadelphia gets to "enjoy" the currently #4 Devils and the currently #1 Penguins for their playoff hopes. Poor Flyers! I love it. Does anyone have a tougher pair of games remaining in the East? I think not.
  • The one point Boston got last night helps them stick around in the muck between fifth and eighth. Their splash page for their official site says: "GOTTA B HERE." Good to show some confidence that they'll make it. Too bad they got Ottawa next and the now-spoiling Sabres as their last game. That's almost as bad as Philadelphia.
  • Carolina still leads the Southeast with 92 points. Washington has their last game against Florida (a should and must win for them). Carolina's last game? Tomorrow against Florida. While I think Washington holds the head to head series lead, some help for them will be nice. Up Capitals! Flyers Out!
  • For everyone else? Mirtle has the press release for the 2008 NHL Draft Lottery. Also known as the Steve Stamkos sweepstakes.

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