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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