Friday, October 31, 2008


ILWT to SBN: Thank You All

Not to steal the thunder of naming the October 2008 Devil of the Month, but I have some In Lou We Trust news of my own. If you've been around the hockey-blogosphere, you probably have learned that James Mirtle has made the move - and with a new blog name, From the Rink - to SBNation.

Well, Mirtle's move is bigger than just a new network to write at. He's actually leading an effort to expand the hockey section of SBNation and he has asked me to represent the Devils on the network. I have graciously agreed and I thank James and SB Nation president - and Devils fan - Tyler Bleszinski for giving me the opportunity to expand the scope and audience of In Lou We Trust. They're looking forward to it, I'm looking forward to the move and getting to post on the SBN network, and it's going to happen in a matter of a few days/weeks.

However, what that means is that the domain name is being transferred over to their servers. So over the next few days or so, may lead to absolutely nothing. Until the SBN version of ILWT goes up, I will continue posting here on the Blogger site that I have been using for the last 2 years. That site's URL is I'm hoping that works for everyone involved. Now for the important message:

I would like to thank each and every one of the people who ever linked to or referenced ILWT, be it on a forum or in an e-mail or in conversation or from another blog; the other Devils bloggers both past (e.g. Tom Lycan!) and present (IPB, 2MA); the other bloggers who aren't Devils fans but have complimented me; the others who have corrected and criticized me; those like the NY Times, Rob Kowal, Chris Wassel, Greg Wyshynski, the NHL Fanhouse, Mirtle, and others with media/team connections; and all of the readers - from those who have only visited once and expected something about, I guess, Lou Holtz or some other Lou to those who visit on a regular basis because they love reading anything and everything Devils-related. I understand that's a rather complex run-on sentence, but I truly do thank you all.

I never really expected this blog to take off as it did when I started it two years ago as a bored graduate student, and my only regret has been that I didn't start this sooner. If you have an interest or passion in hockey or news or religion or politics or games or movies or tourism or naked pictures of ugly people or all of that combined - I highly recommend blogging to share and perhaps expand your passion. Just get started at Blogger, all it really costs at the minimum is your time and your Internet connection. If you don't like it, then it's no real issue to stop; and if you get into it, who knows where it can take you. That I'm making this rambling announcement is proof of the latter.

The general point of the blog was really just to get my own thoughts about the Devils out of my head and into some format. If only so I don't try to shoehorn hockey in conversations I have with other people (friends, family, acquaintances, etc.). I'm always impressed at the fact that people, well, read them and either agree or disagree with them; and I think I'll continue to be impressed. I assure you all that the point of ILWT will always be my thoughts on the Devils, Devils-related, and hockey regardless of the network and I hope on your continued readership.

Again, I thank you all and I hope to see you all at SBN when ILWT goes live there. Until then, should be a valid URL to use in case the domain name does go to nothing.



October '08 in Review; Devil of the Month

This October was certainly a lot better than last October. The New Jersey Devils got to start the season at the Rock and play a couple games there before the last week of October, something they didn't do last season. Given that they ended the month with a record of 5-2-2, I'd have to say it was a fairly positive month. However, there was much that happened within the month.

For starters, the Devils came right into the season with trouble scoring goals despite the signing of Brian Rolston, continued changes on the forward lines, continued issues on special teams, developed a new issue of taking far too many penalties, and questions with who the sixth defenseman would be. Anssi Salmela started out there, as the first rookie to wear Devils red this month, and looked OK. Though, ever since Andy Greene got his shot at the spot, he's really taken hold of it. Yet, Martin Brodeur was awesome, and the Devils displayed the tried and true defensive effort to keep opponents at bay (save for the 4-1 loss to the Rangers) and the offense just enough in terms of goal production to get 4 one-goal wins (including a shootout win against Washington) in their first 5 games. Not comfortable, grand, or pretty wins, but wins all the same.

However, somewhere in the middle of this month, lots of things got flipped. Injuries took out Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik, just as they were starting to show why they were signed for this season, and they will be away from the ice for a significant amount of time. While Greene has really showed that he's clearly ready to be a regular NHL defenseman, he just suffered a broken hand to add to the Devils' list of injuries. We saw the emergence of rookie Petr Vrana coming off the scratched list and right onto the first line. We even got to see the player with the longest name since "Sheriff" Vadim Sharifijanov (I think) put on a New Jersey sweater in rookie Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond. And in the final game of the month, Matt Halischuk became the fourth with Nicklas Bergfors nearly becoming the fifth.

Yet, in spite of these injuries taking place (and now Andy Greene is out with a broken hand so it's Sheldon Brookbank's turn at the #6 spot), they put on a magnificent performance at home against Dallas to the tune of 5-0. Unfortunately, the Devils could not build on that and followed that performance up with a very sloppy 6-3 loss to Philadelphia and a close overtime loss in Philadelphia. The 6-5 shootout loss to Toronto capped the 3 game winless streak to end the month. The defensive side of the Devils' game was terrible in these three games - especially against Toronto - and because Marty wasn't perfect, the Devils found themselves conceding way more than we're used to seeing. Bizarrely to the point of irony, these last four games had the Devils' offense getting hot with 15 goals scored total - and the goals were spread around from Dainius Zubrus to John Madden to David Clarkson, among others. We complain that the Devils don't score enough goals in spite of their winning; yet, in this recent stretch, they've only won once when the offense has been doing their job and doing it well.

Still, the team does have a 5-2-2 record, which is much better than 3-6-1 from last season. It's still above .500 and while the month has ended on a sour note, we've sure seen a lot from the Devils. It'll be interesting to see which version of the team we will see in November. Hopefully one where the defense from the first half of the month meets the offense from the second half of the month and plays hockey together. They'll get 13 chances to do it, with 8 of them at the Rock - including the first Devils-Rangers game in New Jersey this season. I'm sure many will use that game as a barometer of the Devils' success so far this season given that it is a rivalry game against a rival who has had an astonishingly successful October.

So in a month where so much has changed, the best Devil of the October 2008 is clearly the one who has excelled in every game. I'm talking about someone who not only keeps up with the play, but tries to turn it in New Jersey's favor. I'm talking about someone who doesn't just hustle, but attempts to get the most out of their hustle. I'm talking about someone who has only been held pointless in one game so far this season - the 1-0 win at Atlanta - and is currently riding a 5 game goal streak. I'm talking about a guy who isn't just willing to drive to the net, pounce on loose pucks, and make solid plays on offense - but someone who has been succeeding in doing all of that. I'm talking about someone who is more than just someone the ladies find hot, but he's also hot in how he's played this month. He is the future of the Devils franchise and by now, you should know who I am talking about. With 7 goals, 5 assists, and excellent all-around play in 9 games this month, the October 2008 In Lou We Trust Devil of the Month is Zach Parise.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Hits, Shots, and Publicity of the Month

First, the self-promotion! Slap Shot at the NY Times is doing their Hockey Night in Blogdom feature and I've answered a few questions from them. Check that out.

Now, for the actual content of this post: hits and shots. Specifically, how have the Devils been hitting and shooting now that Devils hockey is done for October. With only 9 games into the season, the low amount of games skews the results drastically in some regard. But the whole point of keeping track of the Devils' shots, their failed attempts at shooting, and how many times the scorer actually counts a bodycheck is to get an idea of how they are going. It's good to see any trends forming and perhaps find areas where the Devils can improve (or don't need to).

As always, my numbers come from the super stats reports found at I understand the NHL numbers can be biased by scorers being too generous or too picky. A great example is the second half of the home-and-home with Philadelphia last weekend. Amazingly, there were only 22 recorded hits combined in the second Philadelphia game; and that was a very physical and intense game. I really do think there were more than 22 hits in that game. Yet, they are the official numbers and so I will use them. Feel free to take all this with grains of salt.

First, let's look at hits. Over all 9 games, the Devils are barely outhitting opponents 166 to 163. Compared to the other team Their most physical game this month has been against the NY Rangers where the Devils outhit them 43 to 37, a total of 80 hits. The least physical game has been against Atlanta, wherein they were outhit 6 to 8, a total of 14. The Devils average approximately 17.25 hits at the Rock and 19.4 on the road; opponents are averaging 17 and 19, respectively. The differences in averages when the Devils win is +1 (17 to 16) and -0.5 when the Devils lose (20.25 to 20.50). Basically, it's pretty even. And games like the Rangers game as well as the Thrashers game does skew things. Here's an interesting fact: the Devils have been outhit in their last 4 games - all by 2 hits per game.

Based on this, it seems that the Devils do hit more on the road, but that is heavily skewed by the 43 they dropped on the Blueshirts (2nd highest total on the road is more than half that - 20 against Pittsburgh). While I have no issue with the Devils taking the body a bit more, it's too soon to really conclude that they do need to be more physical or not.

The shooting is a bit more complex. In total, the Devils have an overall efficiency of 56.54% and opponents have an efficiency of 56.65%. Devils have a higher total number of attempts on net (520 to 436); shots on net (294 to 247); and, unfortunately, shots blocked (137 to 93). But the Devils have missed fewer shots: 89 to 96, that's a bit new. However, I think their blistering 49-shot and 88 shot-attempt performance against Pittsburgh, I think, tends to skew the averages. Yet, the Devils remain with a total average of 32.667 shots per game and 57.778 attempts per game this month. Opponents this month have put on an average of 27.444 shots per game and 48.444 attempts per game. What surprised me is that the Devils actually miss close to one less shot per game on average than their opponents: 9.889 misses per game compared to opponents' 10.667 misses per game. Blocks are still in the opponents' favor by a huge margin: they have blocked 15.222 Devils' shots per game whereas the Devils only block 10.333 opponent shots per game this month. This is a combination of poor decision making by the Devils - seriously, shooters, stop trying to force shot through defender's legs, skates, sticks, and bodies - as well a conscious effort by opponents to make their shots count.

The most efficient game the Devils have had this month was their second game against Philadelphia, where the Devils put 31 of their 48 attempts on net, good for 64.58%. In contrast, their worst performance in this regard has been against the Rangers, where only 27 out of 58 attempts (46.55%) got to Henrik Lundqvist. The best opposition performance was by Philadelphia in their first game against New Jersey, they put up a rate of 68.29% - 28 out of 41 attempts. The worst opposition performance was Pittsburgh, who got a mere 15 shots on net out of 38 attempts (39.47%).

Differences between at home and on the road have been huge, as well as the differences in wins and losses. Again, small population sizes skew this heavily; but currently the Devils have been more accurate at shooting on the road than at home. They have had an average of 11.75 more attempts on net; 7.05 more shots; an improvement of .36% in efficiency; and 1.55 fewer missed shots. Only the average blocked Devils' shots are better at home by 3.30. For wins and losses, as one may expect, the winning team is more accurate and more proficient at shooting on net - be it the Devils or the opponents. The Devils difference in efficiency isn't large, only 1.22% greater in wins; but they have many more attempts on net (10.85 more average attempts) and shots on net (7.05 more shots on net). The efficiency is more dramatic among opponents: as their rate is a mere 52.53% when they lose; but it balloons to 61.06% when they win. That goes along with more attempts - 10.45 more attempts on average when they win and an average 10.45 more shots on net. Again, numbers are likely influenced heavily by the Pittsburgh and Toronto games, but the trend appears clear. Shoot more pucks and make more them go on net, and you may be more likely to win.

Of course, given that we're discussing the New Jersey Devils, we all know it's more than just shooting and hitting that causes teams to win hockey games. Still, it's interesting information to consider from the past month.

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Welcome to the (Lowell) Devils, Alexander

According to Chere, the New Jersey Devils have signed Alexander Vasyunov. He has been assigned to Lowell and this is excellent news for the Devils' prospect. According to Gulitti, a driver for this move was Vasyunov's playing time in Russia - rather, the lack of it. He played in only 2 games for his KHL team Yaraslavl Lokomotiv and so he wanted out. Now, he'll be in Lowell getting minutes every night for the AHL affiliate. This is exciting for him and for fans of the Devils' prospects. He's quite talented, he's represented his country in the U18 tourneys and in the World Junior Championships, and now he's going to get proper development in games while being close to the parent franchise. The Devils don't have a lot of offensively skilled players in their system with top-six forward potential outside of Bergfors and Tedenby, so this is great news for their system.

If you don't know who Vasyunov is, there's a comprehensive profile of Vasyunov at Hockey's Future. The big concern in the profile was whether he would get the playing time he needs to progress. He should have no problem with that in Lowell if stays healthy. Given that he's played in the KHL already this season - albiet not that much - I think he might have to clear waivers to transfer to New Jersey. So I expect him to spend the season in Lowell short of injury concerns. I think we're going to hear and see much more about him in next season's preseason anyway. If you're wondering how the Devils' system of prospects look, take a look at Jared Ramsden's audit of the Devils' pipeline at Hockey's Future. It's looking a lot better than it did a few years ago; and should Vasyunov improve with playing time in Lowell, it will be even greater.



Devils 5 - Toronto 6, SO Where Was the D?

The New Jersey Devils fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 in a shootout at the Rock last night. This game is evidence that the even a team known for the better part of the last 14 years for their defense can show up and not play much of it at all. Scott Mackie at 2MA has his thoughts from Section 209. IPB has their thoughts as well. The Star Ledger has Brent Sutter calling the team lifeless in their performance last night.

See, the fact that Brent Sutter claims that the Devils were lifeless is just not true. There was definitely some life on this team. We're talking about a night where the Devils scored 5 goals. The Devils just do not score 5 goals all that much. Colin White even had a bomb from the point that beat Vesa Toskala, and people, when Colin White scores, it's a rare occasion. The points came from all over the lines - David Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Zach Parise all lit the lamp. Brian Gionta had a solid night with 2 assists. Matt Halischuk got his first NHL point on his debut - and looked OK overall. What's more is that even when they coughed up their initial 2 goal lead after the first and their 1 goal lead in the third, they came back with equalizers. While the power play didn't convert, they at least kept up pressure on Toronto and got some legit scoring chances in the process - which is the next best thing to scoring on a man advantage, I think. And, on a health note, Patrik Elias took a puck to the face but came back so he's not the next one on a growing list of injured Devils (h/t Gulitti).The offense last night was solid and the only time they really failed was in the shootout and has to do with the other end of the rink. Were they perfect? No. Were there confusing coaching decisions? Yes (e.g. Why was the bench shortened in the third?) But they put a Toronto defense to the sword, I can't fault a Devils offense wherein they did their job and earned 5 goals.

What I can fault - and agree with Sutter regarding the lack of mental focus and other criticisms - is the defense. The defense was absolutely pathetic. Not just the defensemen - while Mike Mottau and Andy Greene put up three points and White added a goal - but the entire Devils team was pitiful on defense. The Maple Leafs love to shoot; but 48 shots on net against is absolutely pathetic. Giving up 48 shots in 60 minutes is never acceptable. Yes, the Devils held Toronto to nothing in overtime; but that just emphasizes my point. The first period wasn't so bad; but from the second period on, they didn't even try to position themselves or take a stand. The Devils' idea of defense last night was to chase Toronto around and hope for a turnover that never came. It wasn't that Toronto took 48 shots, but most of them were high quality shots. It's no wonder they scored as much as they did. The defensive game by New Jersey was poor, I don't know why Sutter didn't try any adjustments. Then again, it really was one of those nights where they couldn't do much right on that end.

To be fair to Martin Brodeur, the first three goals came on deflections. Can't do much about those; though the second and third goals came on some very questionable power plays. I sat in Section 1 with Marty right in front of me and I didn't see him high-stick anyone. Maybe I missed it? Clearly, the ref thought otherwise. And the Zubrus penalty came when a Leaf just decided to pretend he was a soccer player and fall down when his stick was nearby. All I'm saying is that those calls were weak. Not as weak as the penalty killers or the defense for New Jersey was last night, but weak all the same. That all said, Brodeur really should have smothered up the puck before it led to Jamal Mayers dashing home a loose one (with a d-man right there NOT LIFTING HIS STICK COME ON DID THEY LEARN NOTHING FROM PHILADELPHIA) and he let a soft one go by for his fifth one against. Vesa Toskala had a bad night, as the Devils managed to put just as many past him on fewer shots.

All three of the linked articles of the beginning praised Toronto as being filled with life. To be honest, they didn't play all that well either. Their defense was just as leaky and Toskala was shaky all night except for the overtime and shootout. If I'm Ron Wilson, I've already got the videotape showing his team being particularly vulnerable down low and Toskala's having some additional words with their goalkeeping coach. I don't think either goalie or team was tired (Seriously, Internet, how is Marty tired after not playing for 3 days? In October?), for that matter. Toronto rode their offense to success as New Jersey did and they got it done in the shootout. That's how they got their 2 points - their offense produced and succeeded and everything else was below standard. If that's being filled with life or being the better team, OK, but I really can't agree with that sentiment.

The Devils got a point out of it to go with their now 3 game winless streak, but this one is frustrating because if the defense asserted itself last night or if Marty was sharper on a couple shots in the third period, then the Devils win this game. But life and hockey doesn't care about "ifs" and I'm sure Sutter would agree it isn't about "deserves" either. The Devils got a point and that's the result. From Gulitti, we learn the guys rode their bikes right after the game and Sutter discussed with them how it went down on video in today's practice. This is, I think, a fair way to go and we all hope to see a much better performance against Atlanta this Saturday. Especially on defense.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It Wasn't Just Nicklas Who Got the Call

Well, well, well. After I made a big point of it for the Devils to call up Nicklas Bergfors yesterday, the Devils did as I thought they should and called him up. There's more to it than that, though. As Gulitti reports, Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond cracked his orbital bone, and so the Devils called up Bergfors and Matthew Halischuk.

While they are clearly excited to play, especially Halischuk who will make his NHL debut tomorrow night, I do feel bad for Rod Pelley. He played 58 games with the team last season and showed signs of being a capable defensive center. Given that the more recently injured Devils are wingers (Leblond, Jamie Langenbrunner), it makes sense for wingers to be called right up. I have no problem with Halischuk being called up for a few games. Still, that he got passed over in spite having shown his talents with New Jersey as recently as last season is definitely not good news. Maybe if a center goes down, and I really hope not - I don't want to see any more injuries for a while, he'll get a call up. Regardless, I hope for the best for Bergfors and Halischuk tomorrow night.

Incidentally, Jared Ramsden at Hockey's Future just published a big update regarding who's who in the Devils' system of prospects. Petr Vrana, as well as Bergfors and Halischuk are rated highly as prospective forwards. It's quite an astute analysis as Vrana earned a spot on the NHL roster through training camp and the further call-ups now include Bergfors and Halischuk. It's very informative for those of you wondering how the young guys are doing and how things look for the future. It does look stronger than it was, say, back in 2005. The lack of a solid goaltending prospect in the system still remains, but that can be rectified in short order with a free agent signing or perhaps selecting one in the 2009 Entry Draft.

Not for nothing, but at the very least, the call-ups will drag the average age of the current Devils roster down a bit. James Mirtle found that the Devils are pretty old, with the third oldest team (based on average age) in the league. Only Anaheim and Detroit are ahead and break the 30 year plateau. That's actually not some bad company to keep with as both teams have been fairly successful in recent years. Also, based on what he found out today, that the Devils may stand to gain a few pounds, particularly on defense. OK, it doesn't have too much to do with Bergfors or Halischuk. It's just some interesting demographic information.

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Monday, October 27, 2008


Will Someone Make the Call?

Tom Gulitti has reported that Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston are now officially on long term injured reserve. It's a sensible move as both players have already been out the minimum length to be on LTIR and it's going to be a while before either player returns to action. Might as well free up a little more cap space. Now, earlier in the day, Gulitti has made it clear that A) Jamie Langenbrunner's status is up in the air for Wednesday night against Toronto and B) it's not even clear if anyone will be called up. Sheldon Brookbank did play at forward on the fourth line on Saturday and contributed little - as did the fourth line as a whole, in the bigger scheme of the game.

I'd like to make the point that now is the perfect time to call up Nicklas Bergfors if Langenbrunner isn't going to be ready for the next game or even Saturday's game. While Brookbank didn't hurt the team's efforts; there is a reason he is better suited for defense. He's not soft, but he definitely stuck out on a line with Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond and Mike Rupp. Sutter's lines against the Flyers on Saturday were odd and I think it helped work against the Devils at times. I mean, really, Patrik Elias playing on the off-wing? Come on. I think this set of forwards would be better off for Wednesday if Langenbrunner can't go:


In this set, you keep the tandems of players who have been playing well with each other: Elias and Zubrus, Parise and Zajac, and Madden and Pandolfo. Vrana has shown he can handle playing center in his set of games so far, so I see no reason to change that. Gionta finally potted one in on Saturday to show that he is, indeed, a scoring winger. However, for a few games, I think his speed will mesh much better with the quickness of John Madden than to have him play on the top line with either Elias or Zubrus handling duties at center or shoehorning in on what Zajac and Parise have got going. Also, I think Gionta - just on the basis that he's a Devil - can handle the defensive responsibilities that go with the third line. Besides, he'll make the counter attacks that Madden and Pandolfo generally force just a bit more threatening to the opposition. The fourth line is still a "banging" line and a better one than if Brookbank was in Clarkson's spot, so you got that going for you.

As far as Bergfors goes, we've seen that he has the skillset of a scoring forward and has been drafted as such. Now is a great chance to see that in action. He'll be pumped to be playing in New Jersey and I'm sure will at least give a good effort. Besides, if he doesn't do as well, it's not the end of the world - he can be sent down and someone else can be called up and I can admit that Bergfors didn't cut it in a short call-up. Regardless, I think the lines I came up with would be a better option for what the Devils can do now than what they did do on Saturday afternoon.

And in any case, if things don't work out in game, Brent Sutter will just mix up the lines like he usually does.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008


Oh Yeah, There was This Flare

I think this warrants a separate mention. The big story coming out of overtime, other than Jeff Carter's deflection going into the net, was that someone from the crowd threw a flare/smokebomb onto the rink after Martin Brodeur made a ridiculous save on Mike Knuble in overtime. Incidentally, this occurred before the Flyers scored their game-winner (and I do mean incidentally, there is no reason to believe the Devils lost because of it) The flare landed a few yards in front of the Devils' bench and all the players moved into the locker room hallway to get away from the smoke and the smell. Nearby fans covered up their faces; and Flyers defenseman Ossi Vaananen bravely picked up the flare to move it towards the other end of the rink.

Someone on YouTube had the clip of this, but they don't have it anymore; so unfortunately I can't point those of you who didn't see it on TV in the direction of what it looked like. Imagine a flare on the ice with a whole lot of yellowish smoke coming out of it. (UPDATE: Leave it to me to not search hard enough: Puck Daddy has it. Here's the direct link of what the viewers saw on TV.)

This is clearly an inexcusable act and I should certainly hope no one gets the idea to do this at any other hockey game. I know some supporters groups in soccer do this, but it's really stupid and dangerous be it in a crowd full of people or onto the actual field/rink of play. Hopefully we learn who actually committed the act as opposed to relying on conjecture and when we do learn it, Gulitti/Chere/et al will report it as such.

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Devils 2 - Philadelphia 3, OT

The New Jersey Devils took the Philadelphia Flyers to overtime on Saturday afternoon, but they got beat on a late deflection from Jeff Carter to lose 3-2. I can't say the Devils played very well; but I also can't say that the Flyers did either. Throughout the game in regulation both teams had streaks of dominance. Philadelphia opened the score when Mike Knuble put in his own rebound and the team continued to do well for the following few minutes. The Devils responded early in the second when Zach Parise tipped a Colin White slapshot past Martin Biron; and then they looked good for the next few minutes. And so forth when Scott Hartnell tucked in a rebound, and when Brian Gionta capitalized on the power play by capitalizing on a great play stated by Mike Mottau and Dainius Zubrus.

Overall, it was a very intense and up-and-down hockey game. That it went into overtime was a fair outcome, from what I've seen. Moreover, that the Devils got beat on a deflected shot is more bad luck than it was a Devils' failure. Of course, this is a results-oriented business and given how most of the last 8 goals were scored against New Jersey was, the skaters - be they defensemen or forwards - needs to improve on picking up loose pucks in their own zone. This is interesting as the Devils generally thrive on snagging errant passes and forcing bad plays by the other team in the neutral zone and at the top of the zone. Still, given how loose pucks in front and rebounds can result in real easy chances for the other team, it's something to focus on. Another area is penalties: the Devils (and the Flyers) just took waaaaaay too many minors, particularly in the second period. Some of these were absolutely terrible calls: Dainius Zubrus got tagged with goaltender interference when he was shoved into Biron's arm; and Patrik Elias got 2 for roughing for just shoving Scott Upshall (I think it was him?) after a play was dead - despite that Upshall shoved his fist into Elias' face first, and despite that it's a routine occurrence in hockey games.

That all said, the Devils did play much better and more consistently than they did on Friday night. Did everyone have a great game? No. Paul Martin, in particular, wasn't great; I'm not sure why Patrik Elias was playing at right wing (as noted by Rich Chere); and I'm not really looking forward to future endeavors of Sheldon Brookbank playing at forward. Still, the loss really can't be blamed on any one player and a bad break in overtime ended it. On any other given night, maybe it works out in the Devils' favor. At least the Devils got something out of it and they can rest up a bit before hosting Toronto on Wednesday.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


Devils 3 - Philadelphia 6

The Philadelphia Flyers finally accomplished something that everyone else in the league had already done - they won a game by beating the New Jersey Devils 5-3 at the Rock last night. IPB has their thoughts here and Gulitti comes right out and says this was their worst game all season. I don't know, it wasn't a 4-1 loss to the Rangers, but I don't disagree that it was a very, very sloppy and poor effort by New Jersey. This quote from Brent Sutter in the recap at is quite telling, sums up the game, and almost completely true:
"They played a very desperate game and played well," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "They deserved to win tonight. We weren't good enough to win tonight."
I say it's almost completely true because Sutter doesn't mention the simple reason why the Devils weren't good enough. The Devils didn't play remotely close to all 60 minutes. The offense really showed up for the first period and the first nine or so minutes in the third period. They took the second period off with only 4 shots on net and a good long time didn't have any on net. Given that they scored with less than a minute left in the first, it's very concerning that they didn't build on any of the momentum they generated from Zach Parise's goal or the fact that they ended that period from losing 2-1 to winning at 3-2.

Amazingly, the Devils scored all of their goals by crashing the net. Travis Zajac got a loose puck down low, threw it at the net, and got a favorable bounce off a Flyer for a goal. Dainius Zubrus set himself up in front of the crease on a power play, got a pass from Parise, got stopped on the first shot but banged home a rebound against Martin Biron. Parise tucked a puck in at the end of the period. They all kept with the play and while it wasn't pretty it was very effective. I was surprised at the Flyers defenders were so ineffective in stopping guys up front and how Biron just didn't stop those shots - they were right at him! - until I remembered how much of a goal-sieve they have been this season. Still, the Devils found something that worked; so clearly they would continue to do it, right?

No, they wouldn't. And so, to my dismay that after the Devils led the period 3-2, we all witnessed the Flyers do the same thing in the second period for two goals to take the lead. Did the Devils try and do it again themselves? No. Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell got in front and put home rebounds for easy goals. They worked harder in that period, but given how they scored is particularly infuriating given it's how New Jersey did it in the first. How come the Devils defense didn't do anything to stop them? I couldn't tell you. You'd think that they'd know what to do given their witnessing of the Flyers' failure to do so. Into the third, the Devils realized that they were down a goal and started playing better. They were getting some good chances on net and Martin Biron, showing that he learned something from the first period, did better at covering it up. They weren't getting down low, but compared to the second period, it was at least an effort. Yet, when Mike Richards - who had a very successful night with 4 assists - tossed a killer pass to Joffrey Lupul for an elementary one-timer on a counter-attack, it killed the Devils' momentum for a comeback. They couldn't recover; and the empty-net goal from Hartnell iced it. The Devils found something that worked on offense in the first, they relented from using it (or much of anything else) in the second, and the Flyers' defense found some focus to stop any other attempts in the third while their offense sealed the deal.

Again, I have to emphasize for the 3 of the 5 Flyers' non-empty net goals, the three they scored unanswered, there was no lack of coverage. There were Devils' defensemen where the eventual scorer was set up. They just didn't do anything. Why didn't anyone try lifting their stick, namely on Lupul's goal where the defender was in the right place to do that? Why didn't anyone try just muscling the Flyer out from the slot? Why didn't anyone try just penalizing them just to prevent the goal? Why did the defense get repeatedly caught puck-watching? Why didn't the coaching staff let them hear about it during the intermission (maybe they did?)? Some of the time, someone scores because they were in a great position with no one to really cover them. Last night, the Devils were there - they just forgot that, on defense, you have to do something. You don't win hockey games with such shoddy defending. Just ask, well, the Flyers.

Again, Sutter was right, the Flyers got their act together on defense and in net after the first, preyed on a suddenly-punchless Devils offense in the second, made the most of their glorious chances to retake the lead, and then they ensured it in the third. The Flyers played a more complete game, improved as time went on, and so they won. They earned their win. The Devils, clearly, did not. In any case, it makes little sense to dwell on last night. The Devils get to go to Philly for the second half of this home and home. It'll be interesting to see how fatigue will be a factor as both teams don't even get a full 24 hours between opening face-offs. The game got moved up to 4 PM EST to account for a World Series game featuring the Phillies. While the weather may prevent a baseball game, the hockey game's not getting moved at this short notice. Hopefully the Devils will have learned the lessons of last night's game and apply their new knowledge towards a victory this afternoon. Martin Brodeur will - after a game where he gets lit up, he usually responds with an amazing performance. I think Sutter understands this and if it does happen, it'll help New Jersey's cause greatly.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


Important Correction Regarding Avery Last Night

Kyle Murray e-mails me to tell me the following:
"great recap of last night's game. one thing though. you said none of avery's 4 shots really challenged marty. i disagree. the "beautiful kicksave off of a one-timer" that you alluded to later in the recap was an avery shot. the only reason it was easy for me to pick this up is cause chico made a big deal of it and said it was his best save of the night so far"
Ah. He is right. And I even mentioned that one-timer, I didn't realize Avery shot it. Well, then, I stand corrected. Sean Avery did contribute one thing in last night's game. He had a strong shot on net that Martin Brodeur stopped with a stylish kicksave (and it was a beaut). Regardless, Avery was putrid on the ice, the Devils stomped all over the Stars' neck 5-0, and we at the Rock (and those of us who watched it on TV or heard it on the radio) enjoyed that.

Be like Kyle and feel free to e-mail me whatever you think or any questions. Who knows, they may even end up here!

THIS IS SOME NEWS HERE: Gulitti is reporting that Brodeur will start tomorrow night against Philadelphia. As if there was any doubt, but the confirmation is good to have. Also: expect the same line up that torched Dallas for 5 last night. I don't think they'll put up 5, but with the way Philly's bleeding goals - they are tied with, well what do you know, Dallas for the most goals against this season with 29 - who knows!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Devils 5 - Dallas 0 & Avery Sucked

The title is straight forward. The New Jersey Devils soundly defeated the Dallas Stars to the wonderful and glorious score of 5-0. The Devils, outside of David Clarkson for a few shifts, didn't focus solely on Sean Avery. And they didn't need to as Avery played the best game possible. He couldn't make good passes. He couldn't time his own passes or drives into the zone, causing some offside calls. Despite 4 shots on net, none of them really challenged Martin Brodeur. He got hit plenty of times from various Devils and he even fell down once. The fans let him know that he sucks and tonight, he truly did. He didn't contribute much to the Dallas cause of winning hockey games tonight, that's for sure.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Brendan Morrow, Marty Turco, and the collective blueline of the Stars had worse nights. Morrow was clearly frustrated by the third period and he didn't do much of anything all night save for the odd shot or two. Marty Turco misplayed the puck four times and John Madden made him pay on the fourth one with a goal, leading to his eventual benching. The Stars defense had to get desperate at times and got away with making sure the Devils didn't pound home a number of rebounds, loose pucks, and one-timers-to-the-slot. Yet, they were beaten in a variety of fashions. Jamie Langenbrunner got off a short-side backhander early. John Madden split the defense - a phrase most don't get to type too often - to drive in on net and beat Turco for a goal. Funny thing on that play, it looked like the defensemen got frozen and didn't really react when Madden noticed he had a giant gaping hole to skate through to Turco. The defense didn't pick up Turco's mishandling of a clearance and didn't pick up a streaking Madden who nicely tucked in his second goal. The defense couldn't shut down Zach Parise putting home a tight rebound on Tobias Stephan. And the defense just let David Clarkson skate about at the top of the zone to let loose a bomb of a slapshot. To think, some think he only can do toe drags, NHL-09-like dekes, and wraparounds. The Dallas defense was poor, to say the least.

Now, there is some criticism to be had on the Devils' side. First, they took 6 penalties total - with Dainius Zubrus getting caught three times. One of them was holding as Nicklas Grossman got caught holding as well. It was on the far end of the rink, did they hold each other? Anyway, taking a call when the other team is taking one is poor. So, the Devils still need to curb the discipline issues. The penalty kill was on point tonight so it didn't matter. Second, related to special teams, the Devils didn't get a power play goal despite 4 opportunities. Third, and this has nothing to do with the team, but some rowdy people up in sections 132 and 133 just loved yelling anti-gay slurs about Mark Messier and Avery. I have no issue heckling Messier or Avery or most other Rangers, but that's going over the line. It's classless, it's bigoted, it's stupid and it should have no place at Devils games. The Devils can't do anything about that, so that's more of a personal complaint. (And speaking of, Greenman, wear something underneath your bodysuit, please.)

That all aside, the Devils played great. The offense was clearly successful with 5 even strength goals. Madden earned his brace. Langenbrunner, Parise, and Clarkson got on the board - showing that 3 of the 4 lines got points tonight. Only the first line of Patrik Elias, Petr Vrana, and Zubrus was held pointless; but they played very well. Elias put 8 on Turco/Stephan and with a little more luck, someone on that line would have lit that lamp. Even Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond got his first NHL point on an assist, so congratulations to him. And he wasn't only out there to goon it up; he looked decent enough in his 8:41 of ice time. Other players stuck out as well: Travis Zajac got 2 assists as the whole Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner did very well. Brian Gionta looked good at wing with Jay Pandolfo (who had a slapshot on net) and Madden. On defense, everyone played well except for a few brain-fart giveaways by Colin White (other than those, White was fine). Andy Greene, in particular, looked very good by driving to the net which led to Parise's goal; and he got an assist on Clarkson's bomb from the point. Greene is making a great case for being a starter on this team in the games he's played in so far.

And then there was Marty. Brodeur only had a few scoring chances against him and he stopped them all with style. A beautiful kicksave off of a one-timer. Holding the puck in middle of a few scrums. The only time he was truly beat was when Stephane Robidas got the puck right in front of the slot and Marty already went low. Robidas, in hindsight summed up Dallas' night, roofed the puck well over the net on a one-timer. Brodeur stopped all the shots and climbs closer to the all-time wins and shutout records. He and the Devils earned their result tonight.

So, despite my nitpicking, this was an absolutely great game for the Devils. They scored plenty of goals of all kinds - from the opportunistic to the pretty to the powerful. The defense didn't allow a ton of scoring chances; and when the Stars got their few chances, Brodeur essentially told them, "No. Not tonight." Excellent job by New Jersey. Hopefully they can carry this momentum and confidence into beating Philadelphia on Friday. Given that the Flyers are still winless (and rivals to the Devils), we should see some desperate and aggressive hockey from them. For other thoughts from the game check out Scott Mackie's comments at 2MA (he was in section 209); Pookie's game woolgathering from Dallas at IPB; Jersey's thoughts at Imperfect Dynasty; and Gulitti ran a live blog at Fire & Ice.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Jamie Langenbrunner is Putting His Name Out There Too

Martin Brodeur is a living legend of the sport of hockey at his position. Already on pace to smash Patrick Roy's career wins record, he's the cornerstone of the Devils and finally got a website of his own this season.

Patrik Elias is a long-time Devils known for scoring and helping others score (though not nearly as much as he should be at times). He's come through big in the playoffs and came from some trying times, now with his own site and even a fan page (see the big button on the side).

Well, it seems that someone in the Devils office finally got the organization warming up to having their players as sponsors. Verizon is doing an online contest with...Jamie Langenbrunner. The site speaks of contests and the best front page music since Kevin Weekes' old site. With a sweepstakes to meet, well, Jamie Langenbrunner. Assuming that you think you know him.

I have no issue with this. After all, I'm the guy who keeps stating that the Devils need to spread the seeds and a good way to do that is to get them in front of some promotions. Yet, I can't help but think there's one player who may draw more people to this than Langenbrunner. No disrespect to the captain of the team, but he's not nearly as popular as others on the team. That said, good on him and for the organization for doing this. Hopefully, his teammates get to join in on the fun.

P.S. Gulitti says that Brodeur says that Sean Avery isn't a priority tomorrow night. Well, it shouldn't be. They have to beat the Dallas Stars team. They'll surely lose if they just focus on Avery.

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Monday, October 20, 2008


New NHLFA Article Up

I was so surprised by the call up of Latourneau-Leblond that I nearly forgot to note that my new NHL Full Access article is up. It focuses on the should-be-short-lived stats and trends of the early season within the Atlantic Division. I say should-be because, while it would be hilarious and grand, I expect the Philadelphia Flyers to win a game this month. I also hope the Devils play a game where they don't take at least 5 minors a game.

Also: There's another Devils blog out there that is fairly new: Devils Talk by Jim Minutella. The Devilogosphere continues to grow. Step by step - like Huey Lewis (and his News).



Holik Down, Leblond-Latourneau Up? Seriously?

From Gulitti, we learn of two rather important bits of news. First, Bobby Holik's pinkie finger was broken and he will be out for about 3 to 4 weeks. Above all, I hope his finger heals properly before he goes out there to play. His loss is particularly hurting because the line he centered, with wingers Mike Rupp and Dainius Zubrus, has been rather good at generating some energy while being able to play actual hockey. He's been a thorn in opponent's side and I think the Devils will miss that. The other teams won't, as they'll be annoyed a little less.

What I don't understand is the other bit from Gulitti: Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond was called up from Lowell to fill in that roster spot. Why him? Why not Rod Pelley who has experience centering that fourth line? Why not Nicklas Bergfors so he can play up top on the wing and Vrana can play center if only so we can see how much Sergei Brylin he has in him? Don't get me wrong, Vrana did well in his first NHL game skating with Patrik Elias and Zubrus. Maybe the Devils should go fill some of that lost veteran presence with a veteran of the Devils-preseason process and call up Pascal Rheaume. I feel that any of those would be a better option than to call up, well, the next Rob Skrlac. I fear that Latourneau-Leblond will do all of the following against Dallas and/or Philly:
  • Play 3-6 minutes on the ice and maybe get a hit or two.
  • Fight someone (Sean Avery? Steve Ott? Someone else?)
  • Force Sutter's hand to double shift a forward who can contribute more than just physical play and tire them out.
Yeah, I know, he's not a guy being called up because he's got an awesome triple deke. He's called up because he's a tough guy. Still. I'm not a fan of this move. I know it's been done before (like, well, Rob Skrlac), but I don't like it to be honest. Even from a physical perspective, I don't see how a rookie like Latourneau-Leblond is going to keep an experienced agitator (Ott) or an experienced jackass (Avery) in check.

I don't expect him to be called up for the entire 3-4 week period. Once the team sees how he does (or doesn't), I think the Devils will make some other moves to fill in that spot. With Rod Pelley, a center who has worked on that fourth line and can play some decent defensive hockey, available, I'd have to think he'll get his shot soon enough. I think he would contribute more than Latourneau-Leblond in general. That said, if Latourneau-Leblond plays well enough and contributes more than just his fists, then fair play to him - he should stay up and I'll be wrong. I just have my doubts about it.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


Devils 4 - Washington 3, SO How About that Discipline?

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Washington Capitals in DC in a shootout, which ended a thrilling 65 minutes of hockey with the score of 4-3 in favor of the Devils. To be honest, I didn't see this game live on TV as I was at Giants Stadium supporting the NY Red Bulls in a must-win game for their own playoffs hopes and so I saw this live instead. Thoughts about the game have already been written at 2MA, IPB, and at Beast of the East (excellent summary of the first 5 games, Tibbs). So I look upon and add my late thoughts.

Generally, getting a win on the road is good and putting in three goals is good when the team hasn't been able to do that all season. That the Devils scored one off a deflection (Petr Vrana), one from down low on the power play (Zach Parise), and a bomb from the point (Andy Greene) are all very encouraging. I still think the Devils rely too much on the strategy of taking long shots and hoping for a rebound, but they were able to mix it up quite nicely. Congratulatons are in order for Vrana's deflection. It gave Patrik Elias the franchise lead in assists and it was Vrana's first NHL goal. Congratulations are in order for Greene as that goal will certainly give the team a reason to keep him on the ice rather than keeping him as a scratch.

The Devils kept pace with the Capitals - who were high flying enough as-is last night - and looked generally good. The top two lines for the Devils were solid, even though they had to be mixed up after Bobby Holik suffered an injured finger; a broken pinkie, as reported by Gulitti. The defense had it's moments of weakness, such as leaving Brodeur out to dry for Alexander Semin's rush in the first period that led to his goal. Also, I felt they allowed the Capitals to make a few too many of those cross-ice passes that opened lanes and holes for them to shoot at. Brodeur was generally solid in spite of what the scoreboard shows. Other than Semin's breakaway, Brodeur was beaten a rebound that he had no chance at on a 5-on-3 penalty kill, and Mike Mottau's unfortunate deflection off dumped puck by Semin. That last one was a fluke, folks. Still, the defense did come up big at times and force a good number of counter attacks the other way.

The penalty killing was strong and they had to be tonight. The Devils just took way too many penalties. Again, but tonight's game has been the biggest offender so far. The Capitals spent a total of 12:46 of the entire game with at least a one man advantage. That's well over a sixth of the whole game! New Jersey has had a reputation of staying rather disciplined as a team. So far this season, they haven't displayed that same kind of discipline. While they have only took two major penalties, they have taken 31 minors in 5 games. 8 of those minors came last night and each one of them resulted in a power play for the Capitals. They took 7 against the Islanders on opening night (8 if you include the penalty shot), 5 minors and 2 majors for fighting against the Penguins, 6 minors against the Rangers, and 5 against the Thrashers. This is simply too many. It's too many opportunities for the opposition to get some offensive momentum and to score goals. It's too much time spent in the game where the Devils have to focus solely on defense. And while some of the calls are soft, the Devils players have to do a better job understanding how the ref is calling the game. If he's calling it tight in the first period, that should be understood by the second and third periods - and definitely after taking some calls. As far as the calls itself go, they are all over the place. They include hooks, trips, holds, pucks going over the glass, interference calls, &c. A gamut of infractions, if you will.

It's not that the Devils are prone to one or two bad habits. It's not that only one or two Devils are the result of this - captain Jamie Langenbrunner leads the skaters with 10 minutes total and there are only five skaters haven't sat this season yet. A majority of the team has been punished for infractions so far in these five games. They are giving away power plays and keeping various players in a box instead of on the ice where they can contribute as a team. Brent Sutter and the coaching staff needs to get this team's mind right about keeping their sticks down, keeping their hands away from hugging an opposition player, and keeping their cool on the ice. The Devils' lack of discipline needs to be stopped now before we start seeing them lose hockey games because the other team dropped multiple goals on power plays against the Devils. They succeeded last night against a Capitals team that played fairly well, but it will not always be this way.

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Friday, October 17, 2008


Rolston's Ankle Opens the Door for Vrana

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention other, rather important result from last night's road win over the Thrashers. Brian Rolston lost his edge and careened right into the corner boards feet first. To say it hurt was an understatement. Rolston had to be helped off the ice with his teammates, not even using his right foot at all. After the game, we learn that Rolston has a high ankle sprain (link is from Gulitti).

Gulitti points out the obvious: changes will have to be made and Sutter already has the quotes on it. He also points out a similar case: Sidney Crosby had a similar injury last season and missed more than a quarter of the season with 29 games. Jersey from Imperfect Dynasty puts it best as to why this is a big loss. He (Rolston, not Jersey) was the key signing for New Jersey this offseason, he's already right up there on the first line and getting significant power play minutes, and was expected to be a scorer. Hard to do any of that if you're out injured.

Jersey guessed last night that it could be Vrana's turn and he's right. Gulitti reports that Petr Vrana will get to start and he's already practiced with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus. He was already up with the team, so it would be a real nasty message to send had the team called up, say, Nicklas Bergfors to play. Vrana isn't just getting some respect from Elias, though, he's getting an opportunity to play his way onto this team. The team clearly notes his versatility, now it's time to see if he's got the talent and the other stuff needed to stick in the NHL. He looked good in preseason, so I'm both confident and hopeful he'll make the most of this opportunity. If not, or if Vrana is found to be better suited on the lower two lines and this injury is prolonged, the Devils may want to consider Bergfors. Rolston's X-rays came up negative per Gulitti, yet it's not certain how long he'll be out. Personally, I don't think it's necessary to rush any recovery; I hope Rolston will make a full recovery before stepping on the ice - something Crosby didn't to last season. But if Rolston is still injured, say a month from now, and Vrana's not up in that spot, I'd have to think Sutter will make a call to Lowell and ask for Bergfors. It would be the chance Bergfors would need to show that drafting him in the first round back in 2005 was a good idea.

That all said, it's Vrana's chance now. I sincerely wish Vrana the best of luck tomorrow night and in the near future. It's your time to shine. (Hopefully, much more than Paul Rodgers.)

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Devils 1 - Atlanta 0

In a rather sloppy offensive game from both sides, Martin Brodeur picked up his 97th career shutout in a gutsy 1-0 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. Marty made some strong saves and was clearly the best man on the ice. but the success in keeping Atlanta scoreless wasn't all him. The Devils defense made some key shot blocks and some important interventions on Thrasher rushes and loose rebounds. While it got desperate at times and the Devils probably benefited on a little luck on some of those loose pucks, the defense as a whole played very well. Bryce Salvador played particularly well with a ton of work on the penalty kill and Paul Martin was a force in backchecking. Andy Greene did OK as well, and he's being rewarded with another start on Saturday.

However, the offense in this game was putrid. Both teams had multiple power plays in the first period and proceeded to do very little with it. Both teams struggled to gain any momentum with the puck, much less shooting it on net. The Devils, bizarrely, started to figure it out in the second period. As the period wore on and as Brent Sutter jumbled the lines (so what else is new), the Devils started having more shifts with the puck and in Atlanta's zone. Their efforts resulted in 21 shots on Kari Lehtonen - who also was on top form last night - and one put-back goal by Brian Rolston. Congratulations to him for his first goal as a Devil in this second go-around with the team.

Yet, the third period wiped away any of that good momentum. The Devils were seemingly in a powered up mode in the second period and the effects of that power-up faded sometime in the intermission. They came out sloppy again on offense and struggled to get good shots on Lehtonen. Don't get me wrong, they had a few good odd man rushes on a counter attack. But during one of the Devils' two penalty kills, when John Madden completed a pass to Jay Pandolfo on a 2-on-1, Pandolfo - with all the time and space in the world - fired it right at Lehtonen's left leg, I knew the Devils weren't likely going to get a second goal. Unfortunate and the Devils really need to start turning on the offense. They didn't just try to shoot hard at Lehtonen's legs or body and hope for a rebound, they did mix it up. For example, Dainius Zubrus found the puck right in the slot and picked a corner! It would have gone in, had the shot not gone about 3 feet above the net, but hey, small steps.

The Devils have proven so far that they can score just enough to beat teams, which is fine. Wins are wins. But for the Devils to take that next step, they'll need to at least generate more chances, generate all kinds of chances, and finish those chances. That the Devils only mustered one and basically spent the last 5 or so minutes holding on to that lead is a little concerning. On the other hand, it is four games into the season. It makes little sense to fear that the Devils will blow it in Spring 2009 based on what's happening in October 2008. Actually, no, it makes no sense. But I digress.

That all said, it wasn't as if there was nothing to be happy about. As mentioned, Brodeur and the defense came to play and did well. Zubrus, missed shot aside, had a good game and looked good filling in at center when Sutter slotted him there in Line Mixup #39-C. Bobby Holik's stat line wasn't impressive but he was a pain for the Thrashers to play against and that's all he really needed to do. Plus, while the penalty killers got too much work to do - Devils! Stop taking so many penalties! - they did succeed. Last night was the first game where the Devils didn't give up a power play goal this season. That's got to be a big step for that side of the special teams. Hopefully, the other half of the special teams can take some steps tomorrow night in Washington DC. Yeah, I know Rolston's goal was on the power play; but outside of that - it certainly wasn't powerful on the ice. For other thoughts on last night's game, check out 2MA and IPB.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


Doc & Chico Appreciation

Tonight, the Devils get to go visit the Atlanta Thrashers for a little game of hockey. They'll get underway in under an hour, but I want to take the time to show a little appreciation for Dr. Michael Emrick and Glenn "Chico" Resch. I cannot name a better duo on commentary for Devils games on television. Namely because they've been a feature on Devils games on television for the better part of this decade.

"Doc" Emrick is one of the most successful announcers in the game today and in the world of sports. Just check out that Wikipedia entry. In addition to a doctorate in radio/television from Bowling Green University, he's won an Emmy; called the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the World Cup of Hockey, and the Olympics; and he's been the voice of the Devils since 1993. And what a voice it is. He knows when to get excited, he knows when to stay calm, and he knows when is a good time to talk and when isn't a good time as to let the play develop itself. In addition to being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Doc's got a sense of humor, too. Recently, he threw this quip during a broadcast: "If Pandolfo and Madden got a nickel for each takeaway, oh, wait, they do!" Perfect. During the 2004 summer Olympics, I stayed up and watched water polo just because Doc was calling the games. He made them more exciting to see on TV - this in a sport where drowning an opponent seems to be the standard for defense. A few years back, Doc was named "the best hockey announcer" in a survey conducted by The Hockey News in an issue called, well, the "Best of Everything." (Aside: At color, John Davidson won out. Oh, baby!) It was true then, and it's true now.

As far as Chico goes, he's an offbeat kind of a color commentator. He can provide some good analysis along with what's going on the ice. He's knowledgable, and favorable, in the realm of goaltending - the position Chico played for the Islanders, Rockies/Devils, and the Flyers in the 1980s. OK, he can defend them a little too much at times. However, Chico generally acknowledges when he is being a homer - even to the point where he qualifies himself by saying, "Now, I don't want to sound like a homer, but..." Regardless, Chico is always good for an interesting anecdote and his own brand of sayings. He is the man who referred to Scott Gomez as the Galloping Ghost from the Alaskan Coast, Brian Gionta as the Rochester Rocket, and Dainius Zubrus as the Lithuanian Freight Train, after all. Then again, they don't come out quite right at times leading to some moments (e.g. "Oooooh, Doc, I gotta take another look at that" after botching a call). Still, he's commentates like he's sitting next to you and it's very enjoyable - from his thoughts on food at the Devils to his hushed tone when something goes awry to his genuine enthusiasm when the Devils do well (usually starts with, "Oh, Doc!").

The fans always cheer at the Rock when Doc and/or Chico are on screen, and for good reason. They are the perfect duo for this franchise's games. They have excellent chemistry with each other and, most importantly, improve the experience of watching the team playing on the ice. If only the other 29 teams can have commentators just like them for their telecasts! And, if you're local (sorry Chris), we can enjoy them again tonight when the Devils play the Thrashers. Or any time they are on TV and Doc's not on assignment elsewhere. (Sorry, Steve Cangelosi, I don't think you're bad; but when a Devil puts a puck into the net, they did not "scar.")

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Patrik Elias Also Has a Fan Page

And why not? Patrik Elias has pretty much cemented himself as a big part of the team's success from this decade. He's been a part of 2 Stanley Cup teams. Only John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Bobby Holik, and Colin White remain on the team with as many rings as Elias (of course, Brodeur has more, but that's not my point). He's been the key player in two famed, ruthlessly efficient, and somewhat short-lived lines: the A-Line with Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora and the EGG Line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Elias holds the franchise record for most points in a season (96 in 2000-2001), most points in the playoffs (23 in 2000-01), he will take over the franchise lead in assists this season (currently tied with Scott Niedermayer with 364), and he's the second leading scorer in Devils history. Elias has battled bravely to recover from Hepatitis A and came back in 2005-06 with a roaring 38 game season (and an equally roaring playoffs). He was the first European captain of the team, and remains as one of the top offensive threats on the New Jersey Devils.

So why shouldn't I be proud to be a Patrik Elias fan when he's accomplished so much in the past 11 seasons?

OK, so it's a Facebook profile; but I'm told it's going to be regularly updated. I mean, it has that neat badge that you can see on the sidebar to your left. Besides, who else on New Jersey has a profile like that? Other than Martin Brodeur (with an old picture)? His people are going to put an effort into it and it'll show some other sides to Elias that we may have not seen so much of. I mean, right on my first visit we see that Elias has been in bed with the Cup. You won't get that at the official Devils site.

P.S. HockeyDB has been re-designed with a sleek and slick new look and layout. Gone is the plain broad color background, now there's other colors! Now if only they can kill the pop-up ads.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Devils 1 - Rangers 4

The New Jersey Devils suffered their first loss of the season to the team we all bitterly hate and despise losing to: the New York Rangers. The loss was a magnitude to 4-1, but even if it was a 1-0 shootout loss after a hard-fought game, losing to the Rangers is just plain disappointing. The Ookies were underwhelmed (to the say the least) at the effort, Josh at 2MA didn't bother with the third thanks to some requirements of sleep - but he didn't miss much, Colin Stephenson's column on the game from the Star Ledger is a good of a recap as any, and some fans may consider the performance to repeat of what we saw in the playoff loss of 2008.

They aren't wrong, in that the root causes was the same. The Devils, as a collective whole, did not play anything close to a complete game. I would argue they didn't even play a collective good 20 minutes. The start was OK, the second half of the second period was more of what we wanted to see from New Jersey: the defense stopping the Rangers stone dead, the forwards upping the tempo and getting more on Henrik Lundqvist, and a goal. But that's...17-18 minutes? The rest of the game was controlled by the Rangers. They performed much better on special teams, they controlled the puck better more often than not, they held off New Jersey from getting a shot for significant portions of time, and they even got some of the breaks as a result of their hard work and play on the ice. I hate typing this, but the Rangers were the better team last night and the game's final score reflects this.

It's not that Brodeur fumbled a Brandon Dubinsky shot or Aaron Voros was allowed to set up one too many times right in front. Yes, those were flaws and those need to be addressed. But the underlying cause is that pretty much the entire team didn't bring the effort they needed. Only the fourth line of Mike Rupp, Bobby Holik, and Dainius Zubrus was who I felt played consistently well - and a large part of that is because they sparked the Devils to play much better in the second period and get some momentum going. Even then, this wasn't a game that warrants high praise for anyone on this roster. It's not one player or one line, but the 19 guys (I can't really criticize Kevin Weekes, can I?) active in the game and the coaching staff lost this game.

They said the Devils were ready (h/t Gulitti). Yet, the penalty kill forgot that they can move Voros from the slot. The Rangers did it well on their penalty kills when Sutter tried to set up two people in front of Lundqvist in third; it is possible. However, until the Devils realize that they need to set the tone early, diversify their offense, tighten up their special teams play, and don't get discouraged when the Rangers have a few good shifts, we could see this repeat again. Next time it may not be Voros screening Brodeur; but maybe Nigel Dawes bombing up the wing to much success or the Rangers defense (who did a good job styming New Jersey's offense along with Lundqvist) just shutting the Devils down in the neutral zone. The particulars will change, but the root cause and general result may not.

Fortunately, the Devils don't get time to dwell on this and feel sorry for themselves. At least, I hope Brent Sutter won't let them get that down - they are looking to move on. They got the Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday, followed by the Capitals in DC on Saturday. Changes are already afoot for the next game: Gulitti has reported that Anssi Salmela will be scratched in favor of Andy Greene and Brian Rolston won't be leading the power play. Most important and not mentioned is whether the team will put out a more complete and improved effort for all 3 periods for the next few games.

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Monday, October 13, 2008


A Quick Thought about Tonight's Loss

After the Rangers' third goal, their second power play goal from Aaron Voros, Glenn "Chico" Resch had the following to say on the telecast: "Well, it's difficult to clear the crease."

That doesn't mean you don't try. Marty can't stop what he can't see. The fact that Voros was able to do it multiple times is inexcusable, especially after the first goal. That said, Voros isn't the new Sean Avery, but the old root cause of the Devils' playoff loss turned it's ugly head; but I'll touch on that tomorrow.

I will say this: this loss sucks, but the sun will come up tomorrow and the season is far from over. This will not last.

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Rest in Peace, Alexei Cherepanov

Alexei Cherepanov, 19 year old forward for Avangard Omsk and New York Rangers prospect, has died either during or shortly after a KHL game earlier today. He collapsed on the bench, and either then, as he was being transported to the hospital, or upon arrival, Cherepanov's heart stopped. While the link goes to TSN, the New York Rangers' site already has a short statement upon his passing.

This is absolutely terrible - a 19 year old man's heart just stopped, and while involved in doing what he loved. My condolences to his family, friends, teammates, fans, and those who have had their lives touched by him.


New NHLFA Article Up: Summary of the Beginning

In the further interest of self-promotion, my new Atlantic Division article at NHL Full Access is up. With all 5 teams having started their seasons - and in the case of New York and Pittsburgh, continued - I felt it was appropriate to summarize what happened. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it'll catch you up to speed on who's doing well and who's not. Go check it out and check out the rest of the site for additional articles and information for your knowledge and enjoyment.

Tonight, the Devils play the Rangers at MSG. In a perfect world, this is what would be predicted. Hopefully, the Devils can also tack on a loss in the Rangers' otherwise perfect record in the process. According to Gulitti, the team hasn't forgotten last season and they are ready for tonight's game. It's time for revenge. Sweet, glorious revenge.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008


Player Sites & More

The Devils, since Friday, have increased the number of players with their own personal websites to three. Martin Brodeur's site and Patrik Elias' site (in Czech only) both went live this recent Friday and both are pretty filled with content. That's right, I said three - Kevin Weekes' site is still up and has a brand new look to it too. No, it doesn't have that 70s throwback music that welcomes you to his front page. But it does give you a direct link to Kevin's cameo on Everyone Hates Chris from this past (television) season. It's not bad, you should watch it and wonder who spells it "Gritzky." I think if all three sites are regularly updated and provide some good content - and there already is on Brodeur's and Elias' sites, I don't see how this can be bad.

A quick recap of the first two games by Richard Adragna summarizes that it's been a rather eventful first two games. So much for the Devils being boring. Adragna comes through in this summary with video of the Green Man. He's dancing with a shirtless fat guy in what appears to be Secton 232. I remember this guy appearing on a Devils "Flex Cam" during a stoppage in play during a preseason game. Namely because the crowd collectively went "Ugggggh." upon appearing on the big screen. Anyway, the video is...well, it's a thing. I'm not sure what, but it's a thing. If you haven't seen the Green Man, this is a good introduction to what it looks like as any. Good job to the cameraman./?

From Tibbs, there's an article in the Ottawa Citizen where former Devil Mike Jefferson/Danton is pleading to Ken Dryden to get transferred to Canada. I'm not really going to speculate over the legal reasons here or why the Canadian government hasn't approved it whereas the American government has. What worries me is that he intends to find a job in the NHL. Any team in the league thinking about it should talk to Lou first. He's had to deal with him twice. While I understand (and sympathize) that some of it was at the behest of the deplorable David Frost, we're talking about the guy who gave the world the following quote: "I'm not drinking Lou's Kool-Aid anymore."

While some have taken that line and ran with it (which I endorse), it definitely reflected poorly on Danton. He was assigned to the minor league (which is, I think, when Danton made the statement) and suspended for the whole season for not reporting. He was eventually traded for little to St. Louis and didn't do anything of note there in terms of hockey. If he's grown up quite a bit and sorted out a lot of his personal problems such that he won't be an issue in the locker room, maybe. But I have my doubts. The tribulations of Mike Danton have been well examined in depth by the CBC, and summarized well by Buffalo weekly Artvoice (from 2006) if you want to read more about this mess of a situation. According to Mirtle, Frost is going to on trial soon under sexual explotation charges. Expect more of his saga to come out and expect it to be more messed up than it already is.

To end this on a much lighter note, check out this post at the Slap Shot blog at the NY Times of which I must disagree with. Consider Jeff Hale's post about Roberto Luongo being named captain of the Canucks. He mentions calls the lack of a "C" on Luongo's jersey to be silly - I don't see how as he can't be the captain on the ice - and brings up an example of a referee conferinng with him about a call. Of course he went to Luongo in that case, the call involved him. The reason why the rules are what they are because goaltenders who had the C would go to great lengths to talk things out with the referee and therefore delay the game and give their team an extra break. Bill Durnan did this with Montreal in the 1940s and it's what drove this change. If Hale's idea of "common sense and imagination" to allow goalies to be captains is for refs to go to the goalie, it will only serve to delay the game with longer stoppages in play. I don't see why the NHL would go for this just for Luongo.

That he brings up Martin Brodeur is interesting, as he's an example of being a leader without being denoted as such. You don't need a C to lead. And even if the Canucks find success with this, I don't see a reason to anticipate an increase in goaltenders who are captains. Durnan was one of only 7 goalies who were captain back when it was allowed, and who else other than Brodeur can be considered a leader on their team? Just because a goalie may be the best player or the foundation of the team's roster doesn't necessarily make them worthy of a "C." Do they motivate the team? Do they relate well between the rest of the players and the coach? How do they handle the locker room? Captains have to deal with these things as well. As it stands, if the Canucks feel Luongo is a leader, he can certainly be one without a "C." I don't see a reason for the NHL to change their rules.

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