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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