Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Devils Now 1-1 in Preseason
The big differences between the two games were the first two forward lines, two thirds of the fourth line, and the defense. The Philly game featured the potential first line of Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston, and Brian Gionta along with a big line of Bobby Holik, Dainius Zubrus, and Mike Rupp. The Rangers game saw Zach Parise reunite with Travis Zajac and David Clarkson; with the expected third line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, and Jamie Langenbrunner. The fourth line's only consistency was Pierre-Luc Leblond-Letourneau. The defense against the Flyers featured Johnny Oduya, Colin White, Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank, Matthew Corrente, and Tyler Eckford. Against the Rangers there was Bryce Salvador with Paul Martin, Anssi Salmela and Andy Greene, and Jay Leach with Matthew Spiller (an admittedly weaker defense).
Despite the line-up changes, it's fair to say that the Devils didn't exactly shine in either contest. Moreso in the Flyer game, the Devils were all over the place from being pressured to applying pressure. But the finishing wasn't there (not a great start for Elias, Rolston, and Gionta) and the Flyers truly capitalized on the Devils' mistakes (e.g. Corrente's giveaway), leading to the result. Against the Rangers tonight, the Devils looked solid for the first half; the Rangers surged in the second half of the second period; and both teams looked absolutely inept on offense - the Devils not being able to generate a rush, the Rangers not being able to aim a shot against the mighty Scott Clemmensen - until the last 5 minutes or so.
So what does this tell us? Well, the Devils still have some rust to get rid of. It is worrisome that the team can go through long stretches where they generate nothing on offense. Games will have such lulls, but not for 7+ minutes without a shot or much possession on the attack. Between the two games the competition has changed, Corrente didn't really impress against the Flyers whereas Salmela looked OK against the Rangers. Among the consistent forwards between the two games - Fedor Fedorov, Nicklas Bergfors, and Petr Vrana - those three looked particularly lively in both games. Namely because they are all looking for spots on this team and are giving what they can. It's hard to say who sticks out the most. Fedorov showed he can take the body tonight; Bergfors picked up 2 assists across both games; and Vrana got the one goal against Philly. There's plenty more preseason left, so I wouldn't expect much to be determined right now.
Oh yeah, the best Devil overall has to be Zach Parise. He scored a brace tonight . The first on a heads up play from a missed (deflected?) Bryce Salvador shot where he potted it past Henrik Lundqvist and trickled in. The second was an amazing put-back. Backup goaltender Antoine LaFluer stopped the initial Paul Martin shot and before it hit the ground, Parise swooped in and smacked it into the corner of the net. I'm sure there will be some video of it soon. Anyway, Parise clearly showed that he's ready for the season; I hope he keeps that same drive to make goals happen for this season.
Lastly, read Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice. He's got all the impressions, quotes, and thoughts about the pre-season games. He's got way more information of interest than I will and you'll get a better feel for how things are going. Then again, if you're a Devil fan, you should be reading Gulitti anyway.