Thursday, October 30, 2008


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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Marty was fighting a cold in this game.
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