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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How's the golf course treatin ya?
While I agree Elias had a good month, I would probably go with John Madden, especially in the playoffs. While he isn't as an offensive threat as Elias, I would say he is the heart and soul of this team and what the Devils are all about.

Yes, he missed the penalty shot in Game 5 but I would argue that Madden was the best player.

It is moot either way and Elias did have a very good series against our hated rivals.
Jeff: I seriously considered Madden; but the fact that Elias was the only guy showing anything resembling consistent production in a big situation really pressed me to pick him. One eyed man in a village of the blind, and all that.

Plus, that own goal in Game 4 was brutal.
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