Friday, October 17, 2008
Devils 1 - Atlanta 0
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.