Friday, October 31, 2008


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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