Sunday, October 19, 2008
Devils 4 - Washington 3, SO How About that Discipline?
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.
I was very impressed with the Devil's speed and puck possession in tight quarters. They moved the puck well and created opportunities. Very entertaining game.
Nice analysis! I tend to agree with you. The great start shouldn't shadow the improvements the team has to go through. Especially keeping out of the box. I am even surprised the issue hasn't been adressed by Sutter yet. Hopefully this will settle a little bit as we go further into the season.