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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