Thursday, April 10, 2008
At the Rock, the Red-Rockin Fans will Rock Out Should New Jersey Rock New York
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).
If we don't manage to win this game, I think the series is already over.
I didn't think we would win the series but I at least hoped we would put up a fight.
Last thing Devils fans need is to hear about a sweep or a 4-1 series win for the whole summer. Yech.