Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Who Stays, Who Goes?
|Free Agents||Will they be signed?|
|Bryce Salvador||I hope so, but it's up to him as a UFA.|
|Richard Matvichuk||Spent a lot of time in Lowell, probably not. His career is near the end anyway and I don't expect a revitalization anytime soon.|
|Jari Vihukola||Didn't make team, played 10 games in Lowell and went back to Finland. So, no.|
|Jay Pandolfo||Definitely. Question is how much? A little over a million?|
|David Clarkson||RFA-Will be qualified for sure.|
|Aaron Asham||Wasn't that good this season, but maybe he'll stay for one more.|
|Petr Vrana||RFA-Definitely qualified. Called up in playoffs, likely to become Brylin's replacement. Watch for him in camp in September.|
|Olli Malmivaara||RFA-He did get 2 game in NJ; but he's already 26. How much more can he improve? Maybe he re-signs, but it'd be for Lowell.|
|Jordan Parise||RFA-He's the back-up in Lowell, and with Jeff Frazee signed, he may be the odd man out.|
|Rod Pelley||RFA-Will be qualified. Looked OK as a young checking center, should get better. Expect more of him next season.|
|Sheldon Brookbank||Slow as he is, he can handle the NHL. He's a UFA, but shouldn't be expensive. I think he'll be signed if only for depth on defense.|
|Ivan Khomutov||RFA-Well, he played for a full season in Lowell and his production isn't impressive. He may be qualified depending on whether he developed any better despite what his numbers say.|
|Noah Clarke||Did score that one goal up with NJ. He was OK with Lowell. But he'd be going straight back there.|
|Frank Doyle||Lowell's best goaltender - he should be re-signed to keep them competitive.|
|Grant Marshall||Did quite a bit with NJ, but his time has passed. I don't see a need unless Lowell needs his experience.|
|Jason Ryznar||Alas, he will not be a NJ Devil except for call up duty. Lowell only.|
|Barry Tallackson||Despite all the chances, I don't think he'll be a regular either. Lowell only.|
|Mike Mottau||After 7 years since his NHL debut, he finally played a full NHL season. And he wasn't miserable. But like Brookbank, he should be signed for depth.|
(Note: Thanks to Peter Chen at Blogger Tips and Tricks for finding a way to get rid of that gigantic whitespace when you input a regular table in Blogger.)
Sunday, April 27, 2008
2007-2008 Season in Review
- Record: 46-29-7 (2nd in the Atlantic, 4th in the East, 6th in the NHL)
- Home Record: 25-14-2
- Away Record: 21-15-5
- Goals For: 206 (2.42 goals/game average - 27th in the league)
- Shots per Game Average: 28.8/game (tied for 15th in the league)
- Goals Against: 197 (2.35 goals against/game average - 5th in the league)
- Shots Against per Game Average: 27.5/game (tied for 8th in the league)
- Power Play Success Rate: 15.6% (25th in the league)
- Penalty Kill Success Rate: 82.8% (13th in the league)
- Scoring Leader: Zach Parise (32 G, 33 A for 65 pts.)
- Goal Leader: Zach Parise (32 G)
- Assist Leader: Patrik Elias (35 A)
- Number of Devils with More than 20 Goals: 4 (Parise, Gionta, Elias, Madden)
- Clutch Scorer: Patrik Elias (8 game winning goals and 3 overtime goals)
- Minute Leader: Paul Martin (averaged 23:53 of ice time per game)
- Plus/Minus Best: Johnny Oduya (+27); Worst: Vitaly Vishnevski (-12)
- Power Play Goal Scoring Leader: Zach Parise (10 G - team total: 50)
- Shorthanded Goal Scoring Leader: John Madden (3 G - team total: 6)
- Penalty Minute Leader: David Clarkson (183 - team total:
- Hit Machine: David Clarkson (150 - team total: 1471)
- Shot Blocking Leader: Mike Mottau (84)
- Missed Shot Leader: Brian Gionta (104)
- Most Efficient Shooter: Jay Pandolfo (15.4% - 12 goals on 78 shots)
- Giveaway Leader: Patrik Elias (40)
- Takeaway Leader: John Madden (74)
- Best Face-off Man: John Madden (53.7% - Madden took 34.9% of all Devils faceoffs)
- Most Improved Player: Johnny Oduya
- Most in Need of a Better Next Season: Travis Zajac
- Award Finalists: John Madden (Selke) and Martin Brodeur (Vezina)
- Best Goalie the Devils Ever Had and Carried them for Most of those 46 Wins: Martin Brodeur
- Playoff Results: 4-1 series loss to the New York Rangers in Round 1.
All throughout the season, the Devils had trouble scoring at times, trouble playing defense at times, and the only real constant was that Martin Brodeur was the most solid player. And he had to be for most of those 77 games. The team switched to a more physical, dump-and-chase approach to offense; with the Devils implementing a forechecker more often than we saw last season. Given that the Devils finished middle in the pack on shots per game and near the bottom in goals per game, this new system has clearly not helped the Devils finish. Last season, the big concerns were physical play and scoring. Clearly, the biggest concern for the Devils now is scoring. Sure, some nights they can put up a bunch of goals but while you're excited over the result you can't help but think why they can't finish or set up plays on other nights. Zach Parise putting up 32 goals is great; John Madden putting up a career high in goals and points is great; but many others on the team really could have produced more. Even then, Parise and Madden weren't necessarily consistent in their own production. The offense was inconsistent.
While the defense looked poor to start, ultimately the Devils exercised some fairly strong team defense. They got exposed by the end of the season and in the playoffs; yet the crew of White, Martin, Oduya (second NHL season), Rachunek, Vishnevski, Salvador, Mottau (first full NHL season), Brookbank (first full NHL season), and Greene (first full NHL season) were better than the sum of their parts. On most nights, at least. Fortunately, Brodeur remained behind them to help them out in case they get burned - which also occurred on those other nights. Regardless, the word to describe the blueline group of eight-turned-nine is inconsistent.
I guess the bottom line remains: as Martin Brodeur goes, so do the Devils. The goaltender is up for another Vezina trophy, which should clue you in as to how well he did this season. A 2.17 goals against average, a 92% save percentage, 4 shutouts, and a record of 44-27-6. He picked up his 500th career win and is well on his way to becoming the NHL leader in wins. I'm sure the Devils themselves would say he was the most valuable player this season. And in a season that can be best described as inconsistent, the most consistent player would clearly be the most valuable. The only one who could come close to being consistent would be John Madden who did score the most goals since 2000-01 (20) and set a career high in points (43) while being the Devils' top face-off man and shutdown center. Perhaps he'll win the Selke; but again: as Brodeur goes, so do the Devils.
Therefore the Devil of the Season is Martin Brodeur. Unfortunately, despite the record and the success earned in the regular season, the team only proved to be a minor threat in the playoffs. Why? Well, I happen to think it sums up the mostly-good-but-not-quite-good-enough season perfectly:
The 2007-2008 Season: Inconsistency - The Consistent Issue
Friday, April 25, 2008
Expect a Season in Review type thing this weekend. I'm still trying to figure out who the Devil of the Year. Suggestions? Make them in the comments. Or say anything else. Go Pittsburgh, for not being the Rangers. Go and beat the Rangers for being the Rangers.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Leading scorers, I think, have an edge in the rookie of the year race
Two of the 10 who weren't leading scorers was certainly surprising. OK, goalies and defensemen, I understand. But Pavel Bure did not lead rookies in scoring back in 1992 and won rookie of the year anyway. Chris Drury's teammate Milan Hejduk had more points but didn't get the trophy. We could see a repeat of 1999, should Jonathan Toews get more votes than Kane.
So while my thought has some value behind it, it's not that big of a gap. 14 out of 24 isn't a dominating percentage and there is precedence in recent seasons - as seen with Bure and Drury - that the Calder Trophy winner may not necessarily lead rookies in scoring. But it does happen more often than not. Therefore, all this research means that Kane's got an edge based on prior seasons. My statement is technically correct - depending on how big of an edge is an edge. And I'm not going to delve into that. One last bit to stretch this out. In doing this, I also decided to breakdown the Calder winners by position:
Well. Centers and right-wingers certainly have done well over the past 74 awards. And that will continue given our finalists are centers Jonathan Toews and Nicklas Backstrom and right winger Patrick Kane.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Second, from James Mirtle, Bruce Boudreau will remain as the Washington Capitals coach. Good for the Caps and good for Boudreau. I'm sure the DC faithful are still feeling that heartbreaking OT loss in Game 7 against Philadelphia. But they have to look at the bigger picture. Boudreau took a fairly young team with some serious talent and turned them into competitors. The team snagged the Southeast Division right from under Carolina and gave Philly a huge fight in round 1. Boudreau was instrumental in that turnaround and so his retainment is certainly rewarding. Expect him to win the Jack Adams this season.
Also from Mirtle we learn that Greg Millen will replace David Nonis as the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Good luck to Millen in figuring out how to get the Sedins, Luongo, and some other people back to the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, Brian Burke will remain as the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks. I know the first round loss to Dallas was pretty bad; but the team did just win the Stanley Cup last season. That's got to count for something in a league where some franchises (e.g. LA, St. Louis) hasn't won the Cup at all yet. I think Burke will retain his job for a few more years based on that alone, short of a catastrophe.
Wait, looking at the comments at Mirtle's post, I misunderstood. I don't think he was on the hot seat, apparently Toronto was making a push for him. Ah, poor Leafs!
Fourth, and most important of all, Round 2 is coming! Remember my stance: ANYBODY BUT THE RANGERS. In that vein, go Penguins. Make Lundqvist pay for his suspect rebound control. Anyway, expect the NY Times Slap Shot to have some previews tomorrow. They already have two stories about Pittsburgh-NY (Staal) and Detroit-Colorado (history). Bruce Ciskie has a preview of the San Jose-Dallas series at the Fanhouse. The NHL has previews of their own.
Fifth, some numbers. 1471, 1348, 1160. They mean something; but I'll let you all know sometime after the playoffs.
Lastly, check out Yahoo's new hockey blog. Greg Wyshynski is there now and it's loaded with things, items, links, stuff, and even more things.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Even in the Offseason, Gulitti Remains On Fire
Brodeur did that. This season. The same season. Can Nabokov? Can anyone else? I think not!
Third, Gulitti has a smattering of questions with the Devils players, Brent Sutter, and Lou Lamoriello. All three of them are impressive, interesting, insightful, intriguing, and a must-read for all Devils fans. I will not summarize or spoil any of it for you all now. Just go to Fire & Ice and read them. You'll be glad you did.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The Canadiens beating the Bruins. We were the nail and they were the hammer. Nothing ever changed. When I graduated college and realized I had spent two solid decades of my life rooting for a franchise that cared about making a profit more than winning a Stanley Cup, that's the only way I was able to dump the Canadiens from my life -- by not following the sport as diligently. Once the Devils unveiled their hideous zone trap and Gary Bettman tried to turn a blue-collar sport into "NBA 2.0," it was an easy decision to cut the cord entirely.Huh. Maybe Simmons was too busy beating his head into his couch and breaking his nose to notice the Montreal Canadiens. Oh, he noted who was on the team like Larry Robinson, Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire, Bob Gainey, and Ken Dryden. Yes, they were loaded with talent.
But, Bill, they played the 1-2-2!!!
The Canadiens dominated with a tactic similar to that hideous neutral zone trap along with the talent of their players! That's how they were so merciless as a team! They were incredibly talented, yes, but they were also incredibly disciplined and incredibly good at killing the opposition in transition! They were the progenitors of the system that the Devils and hockey teams since 1995 have been using to not get burnt by high-flying squads. And the Devils coach who implemented that hideous neutral zone trap? Jacques Lemaire! One of the defensemen from that juggernaut Canadiens squad who was groomed in that system and found great success with Montreal applied it to a 1995 Devils squad that wasn't exactly a murderer's row of skill and vision like Montreal of the '70s. One of the players who you named, Bill! It worked pretty damn well, when they smacked Detroit in the face with a broom for their first Stanley Cup.
The irony is even sweeter when you consider that Gary Bettman is still the comissioner, the NHL has it's best year ever in terms of total and average attendance, and the self-proclaimed "hockey widow" is back watching hockey again. Not bad for Mr. Bettman and the league, right Bill? You're always welcome to watch the greatest game on Earth. Of course, Montreal just demolished Boston in dominating fashion, so I guess it's back to ignoring the NHL for Mr. Simmons. We'll still be here watching what we love, Bill. If you want to join us, you're more than welcome. Just drop the perception that New Jersey hurt or killed hockey, OK?
Sunday, April 20, 2008
April in Review & Devil of the Month
So, no, it was not a good month for New Jersey.
The ILWT Devil of the Month? Given that so much of the month of April has to do with playoffs, I have to say it was the best Devil in the playoffs. No, not Dainius Zubrus or Mike Rupp - though they were very useful in providing physical play, generating some offense (consider Zubrus against Boston and Rupp against the Rangers on April 6, for example), and bringing some life on the ice when the Devils didn't have much. Their respective fan clubs (Aside: What would Zubrus' and Rupp's fan clubs be called anyway?) should be pleased.
The best Devil in the playoffs was clearly Patrik Elias. He had a point in each of the Devils' five playoff games, 4 goals and 2 assists. More impressively is that three of those four goals came on the power play - impressive considering no one has really stepped up on the Devils' power play units all year long. Even when the rest of the other scoring forwards were floating, Elias was hustling and attacking the Rangers as evidenced by 18 shots on net in the series. The only real criticism you can level at Elias' performance is his poor faceoff winning percentage and his -5 plus-minus rating. While there is nothing to explain the former, the latter has more to do with the defense breaking down more than anything else. The month absolutely sucked for the Devils, yet I have to note Elias' production in the playoffs as a silver lining in a giant, dark cloud. For that, Patrik Elias, you are the ILWT Devil of the Month for the month of April 2008.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Next Day & Thank You
In happier news, the sun still came up today. We got that going for us.
In any case, tomorrow expect April in Review & Devil of the Month. Later in the week will bring tidings of Devil of the Season and a look ahead at what to expect in the next few weeks. Likely some World Championship coverage, playoff thoughts about non-Devils teams, and maybe some more stats. Though I made hold off on the latter until after June.
I'd like to thank the New Jersey Devils organization for the new arena in Newark and putting on one really interesting season. The playoffs were miserable, we can agree on that; but the team also did a lot better in some ways than I and many fans were thinking back in October. Next year will be better and I can almost guarantee an prediction - one originally provided by Jay last night - that there will be a meeting between Lou, Brent, and Jeff Vanderbeek. They will sit down, face the brutal truth that the Devils just decisively lost to Our Hated Rivals in the playoffs, and start planning to improve the team to make sure that nothing of the sort will happen any time in the near future.
I'd like to thank all of you for reading this site be it for the first time or for the hundredth. I'd also like to thank the people around me in Section 1 for putting up with me and hearing me yell and rant and rave and generally being the loud supporter in the area - thanks Jay, Herb, Aaron, Mark, Marylin, Barbara, Chris, Matt, and anyone else I'm sorry I forgot your name. I'd like to thank the other people in the Devilogosphere (I'm sorry I just typed that): 2 Man Advantage, IPB, Fire & Ice, Devils Daily, Battle of NY, the NHL Arena Program, Beast of the East, Snowman on Fire, and even the older ones like Trendon Lynch and Tom Lycan (Devils Due). Also thanks to those in the larger media like Rob Kowal at NY Hockey Talk and Jeff Klein at the NY Times for giving me more than I ever expected to get out of this blog. Thank you all.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Game 5: Devils 3 - Rangers 5
I have nothing left to say for now. IPB may something to say. 2 Man Advantage basically sums up the 2008 Playoff Run. I'm sure Tom Gulitti will have plenty to report on. But me? Nothing else. I'm sorry, but what can I say?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I Guess I Do Have to Talk About It
Excluding Scott Gomez's empty-netter [an own goal by John Madden - JF], all of the Rangers' goals came after Devils' mistakes.
**Before Gomez's first period power-play goal, Colin White should have cleared the puck after Patrik Elias won the draw outside the blue line.
**On Martin Straka's 3-on-1 goal, Zach Parise turned the puck over just inside the Rangers' blue line (on a pokecheck by Marc Staal) and Colin White made a bad decision to step up in the neutral zone, allowing Brandon Dubinsky to chip the poke past him.
**On Chris Drury's deflection goal, Parise made a soft play trying to backhand the puck off the boards and out of the zone and Fedor Tyutin easily intercepted at the left point.
**On Staal's game-winner. Elias and White bumped into each other -- though they had plenty of time -- and Elias got very little on his clear attempt, which was easilty intercepted by Straka.
You can't expect to win a game in which you make that many mistakes.
Too true, Tom. Too true. I could end it there, but I won't.
First, I must emphasize this. This game is not Martin Brodeur's fault. Hell, this whole series outside of the Game 1 Gaffe in the third period, Ryan Callahan's and Brandon Dubinsky's first goal in Game 3 isn't Brodeur's fault. He's been hung out to dry by the defense, beaten by shots that would beat all goaltenders except for the ones who see in the future and/or in a third-person view. Given that Marty isn't running a late night infomercial promising to look ahead into your life for a substantial fee per minute or that Marty isn't playing himself in a video game, it's not his fault. If Brodeur - or anyone - stops uncovered guys nearly behind him (Gomez' goal), one-timers to his blind side in a two-on-one (Straka's goal), a well-placed deflection (Drury's goal), and pucks he can't see (Staal's goal), it's a miraculous save. It's to the point where I feel like I need to take a page from MGoblog and go Upon Further Review (example) with goals against the Devils. If only so people don't look back, say, 10 years from now and think, "Huh, Marty let the Devils down in that series."
I'm nearly (?) ranting at this point; but this is ridiculous. Could Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac, and Brian Gionta play much better. Yes. But even if the Devils go out and sign that big scorer that they so desperately need, would it even help all that much? Look at the Rangers. They broke the bank for Chris Drury and Scott Gomez and ended the season...with only 7 more goals than the Devils. Yeah, they are outscoring the Devils - but that's due to their constant pouncing on New Jersey's errors. It's not a matter of being totally outclassed. I look at this game and think, "If the Devils didn't make those crucial defensive errors, they could have won this one. If the Devils played harder in the first two periods, they could have won this one. If I had a million dollars, I'd be rich," &c. But that's all what I'm left with: what-ifs.
Honestly, I can't say this team is terrible. They are clearly better than 14 teams in this league; and I'd argue they are better than Ottawa (who is the first to be eliminated), Boston (who is just about dead like NJ), and Washington among others. They just aren't...great? Maybe that's the term? And the main proof of this is that they are down 3-1 in a series to a team that plays like the Devils once did and is honestly on the same level as the Devils. I don't know now, I didn't know then, and only time will figure it out. Regardless there is tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be there screaming my head off and be loaded with the nearly-intoxicating feeling of total optimism (and write more pretentious sentences like this one). Could the Devils come back? The odds don't favor them. Bizarrely, the team is calm and understands the importance of this according to Gulitti. I'd love to agree, but they've said the upcoming game is important and they need to better than they did the night before again, again, and again. And yet I don't think we have not seen a full 60 minute effort or even a 45 minute effort that would prove their words. I know, I know, easier said than done and all that, but that's rather telling, don't you think?
At this point, all I ask is that they win Game 5 and give the Rangers one hell of a fight. That sounds reasonable enough, right? Right? In any case: Go Devils.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Game 4: Devils 3 - Rangers 5
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Jamie's Due; Brian Too
Monday, April 14, 2008
The biggest and more relevant story within this game was the Devils' performance. They took the puck to the net more and finally broke through Henrik Lundqvist with varying attacks. They scored on the power play. Twice. A rarity for the Devils in general! They even had...the lead. Yes, the lead. Emphasis is on the had; as the Rangers did equalize twice in this contest. Most notable of all, the Devils got the bounces with two unfortunate own goals by the Rangers. The first, Sergei Brylin was in the right place to draw the sticks of two Rangers. A careening puck from Aaron Asham did not hit Brylin's leg; but the shaft of Blair Betts to give NJ the early lead. The overtime winner was the result of a big faceoff win by John Madden, Jay Pandolfo closing off Michael Rozsival, Madden throwing it into the slot and bouncing right off Marc Staal's skate and in. Ugly? Yes. Wonderful? You bet. They worked their tails off throughout overtime, outplayed the Rangers in those 6 minutes and 1 second, and got the deserved result. I was happy, Kevin Smith was happy, Steve Stirling is pleased, and even IPB is continuing their Ric Flair impersonation.
To be fair, the Devils did have some troubles. They slowed down in the later part of the first period and Martin Brodeur let up a soft one from Brandon Dubinsky. In the first half of the second period, the Rangers capitalized on a two-man advantage and dictated much of the pace of the game then. The Devils also got caught again shorthanded with Dubinsky scoring on a one-timer in the slot early in the third period. The penalty killing last night left a lot to be desired. The two-man disadvantage, I understand. You can't just key in on one player when there's only three on the ice. But the second one, someone really should have tied up Dubinsky.
Yet, the Devils have a lot to be proud of. They were threatening on their eight power plays and potted in two in the second period after the Avery goal. The Devils were mad, they got physical, and Mike Rupp had some choice words for Paul Mara that got picked up by Versus' microphones that you may or may not find on YouTube. And they were rewarded. How? Taking it to the net created the opportunities for goals. Patrik Elias had a laser coming in late into the slot; and Zach Parise slapped a puck that trickled in after some chaos up front.
Most of all, they held tough in a physical game and got the win when both teams shot evenly. An exciting hockey game, filled with passion, energy, emotion, and lots and lots of concern and cursing by all involved. Devils out hit the Rangers 49-47 (leading hitters: Colin White, Jamie Langenbrunner - seriously); Devils outshot the Rangers 33-30; and the Devils got the bounces to win the game.
Of course, should NJ drop Wednesday's game, then this would all be for naught. This game was excellent as it breathes life into New Jersey; but Game 4 will determine whether or not the Devils have it in them to make a serious comeback. I certainly hope so. Gulitti has more quotes from the team that shows that they know they got to win. But it's still up to them.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Game 3: Devils 4 - Rangers 3, OT
Prior to Tonight's Game
In other college hockey news, the Alaska Nanooks have had their first player named to the RBK All-American first team. Who is it, you ask? Offensive defenseman and Devils prospect, Tyler Eckford. Congratulations to Alaska and Eckford for the honors. The link gives the full list of All-American teams for this recent college season. As you would expect, Gerbe is on the first team as well. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award was won by Michigan forward and Phoenix Coyotes prospect Kevin Porter (h/t Mirtle). He was captain of the Wolverines, finished second in scoring this season (33 G, 30 A), and is considered to be a two-way forward. Congratulations to him as well.
I found this at HFBoards, 2008 prospect Nikita Filatov has a blog running at Sports.ru. For all of you who can read Russian or know someone who can, this should be an interesting read. The CSKA forward has already revealed that he wants to play in North America after being drafted. Should the translation at HF be true, I don't blame him - such a small amount of playing time is, I would think, counter-intuitive for develeopment.
From the It Could Be Worse File: The defending Stanley Cup champions dropped another decisive game at Anaheim to Dallas by the score of 5-2 last night. The Ducks had the second best record at home this season with 28-9-4, making this turn of events even more surprising. Poor, poor J-S Giguere!
I missed this earlier Pt. 1: According to Mirtle, the Washington Capitals are asking their fans to...Rock the Red. I know, it's not the same as "Rock Your Red" as the Devils have been promoting; but the Capitals marketing staff could use some originality. Maybe a picture of the Flyers logo with the words EPIC FAIL underneath.
I missed this earlier Pt. 2: The NHL site has celebrities blogging about the playoffs. For the Devils, it's director, writer, and legit Devils supporter Kevin Smith. I know this is a few days old but you get to learn what is at the bottom of his toilet. No, it's not the cover of Magnolia.
And for no reason at all, a video of a car chase. (Warning: Dirty language, inexplicable explosions)
Tom Gulitti is reporting at Fire & Ice that Vitaly Vishnevski will play in tonight's game. Andy Greene will be scratched. It's clear that Sutter is looking for additional physical play and size on the blueline since that's what Vishnevksi does best.
Let's go Devils. Take the train to victory-ville and happy-town; it's too soon for the off-season to begin.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
OK. About Last Night.
Watching them, you notice that the team was looking for the great chance, passing up the good chance. That may be fine if you're winning or not slumping in the scoring department, but it's definitely not fine now. I mean, the one goal the Devils did get was a deflection. A low shot by Elias from the left faceoff circle, deflected by Madden - who was in the vicinity of the slot. The Devils need to do more of that. They need guys in the slot. The constant reliance on long shots and screens isn't working. Consider this. When you're ordering a Double Whopper™ at Burger King through the drive-through, you don't drive your car out 50 feet and yell for the bag. You drive to the window. When the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (of 2007) has the ball on the first yard line in the red zone, the first play is not Mike Teel throwing an out to the fullback - it's Ray Rice taking it inside for the touchdown. In many things in life, you need to get into it to get it - be it earning a job, making a friend, writing a blog, etc. You can't be passive. The Devils need to drive to the net to succeed.
And so the Devils really blew this game with their tepid and tired attack. I am pleading to the Devils organization to mix it up on offense. Take the puck inside. Drive it to the net more often. Take some "OK" shots instead of waiting for the "great (if no one was in front of me)" shot. Go low (it worked last night) on Lundqvist sometimes. The Devils had at least two periods and advantages to take control of the game. The Rangers were playing patient, 1-2-2, opportunistic hockey; they played like the Devils played a few years ago. And instead of pinning the backcheckers back and going with a more aggressive, inside-style offense, they only really felt the urgency to score late in the third period after the Rangers realized that attacking the net is a good idea (and they succeeded, hint, hint, Mr. Sutter) and scrambled for offense then. They got one, but it was too little too late. All in a crucial Game 2 - killing off the home ice advantage and half-digging their own grave. Knowing full well the Rangers have never blown a 2-0 playoff series lead and the Devils only came back from one of those once.
I'm unhappy. I'm angry. I'm frustrated. And now NJ has to do it all on the road. All I want now is just one win.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Game 2: Devils 1 - Rangers 2
Thursday, April 10, 2008
At the Rock, the Red-Rockin Fans will Rock Out Should New Jersey Rock New York
Anyhow, tomorrow is Game 2 against the Rangers in Newark. It's a must-win should the Devils want to have a shot at this series. It's a must-win should the Devils want to prove Larry Brooks right (aside: awesome column by the way). The only group in the organization this doesn't directly effect are prospects - including the newly signed Jeff Frazee (h/t Gulitti). Now, I'm just a fan, but given what I saw in Game 1, this is what I'd like to see from New Jersey tomorrow night.
1. ACCURACY. My goodness me, the Devils got one shot less on net than the Rangers; but they did hit more posts than they did (3 to 2), had more of their shots blocked (16 to 9), and missed the net more (15 to 7). The Devils had many scoring chances where they didn't get the right bounces or apply the proper finish. However, it's hard to win games when you have more attempts on net not hitting the net than attempts on net that actually do so. It's been a problem all season long, and ultimately this is a root cause for the shortage of goals.
From what I saw, I felt the Devils tried to screen Henrik Lundqvist many times on offense in the hopes of scoring. Unfortunately, it has led to missed shots and blocked shots instead of the goals. For example (and most notably), John Oduya's blasts from the points hit the Rangers' skaters legs 5 times and Lundqvist 0 times. Not to pick on Oduya, but it sums up the problem I have with reliance on screens. To correct this, the New Jersey attack needs to take it inside and take more mid-range and short-range shots. Mix it up a bit and the Devils may have more success.
2. SHADOWS. What was impressive about the 1995 Devils Stanley Cup victory? The neutral zone trap? A young Martin Brodeur showing the world what's to come? The sweep against Detroit? Well, all of that is impressive. But the relevant one is one Claude Lemieux shadowing the opposition's top forward in each series to great success, 13 goals, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. I don't think the Devils necessarily need Lemieux. However, they do have someone who can shadow - and more importantly, someone to shadow.
In Game 1, Scott Gomez has been leading the breakout and was the straw the stirred the drink for the Ranger's offense. Clearly, slowing him down would slow down the Rangers as a whole. John Madden is a top-class shutdown center. So it seems obvious to me that Sutter should try shadowing Gomez with Madden. I do not want to see line matching. All that will do is keep the checking unit (which hasn't been bad, Brian Gionta is due for a goal) out for a significant portion of the game. Since Sutter has been mixing lines all season long, he can do that throughout the game. Madden can shadow Gomez, but Madden's linemates will change. If Sutter wants more offense; Sutter can slot Gionta and Zach Parise out there. If Sutter wants defense, he can use the standard line. If Sutter wants pain and a lot of it, well, Mike Rupp and Aaron Asham are right there. More to the point, Madden is just as fast as Gomez, Madden's been checking against the opposition's top forwards for the better part of his career. I think Madden can do it and it would help the Devils greatly should it frustrate Gomez.
3. SPECIAL TEAMS. No shorties. Please. I shouldn't have to explain this.
4. FANS LIKE ME. Now, this one is directed at me as well. There wasn't a lot to cheer for in the third period at Game 1. Understandably so. But it's a new game. Brodeur's not shaken up. Gionta is ready to go. And we need to cheer on the Devils. There's going to be a lot of guys in the other team's jerseys. We can't let them out shout us in our own building again. How does that happen? The Devils need to win and they will need all the encouragement they can get. We can do this. Whilst Brodeur will play most of those 60 minutes; we must become the Extra Man. (Note: Band name not safe for work, content not safe for those who don't know how to rock).
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Game 1: Devils 1 - Rangers 4
And then the third period came where it all went wrong. Well, not all wrong; but the Devils had two very bad breaks. One at the end of a power play, where the Devils broke down and the Rangers responded with an odd-man rush. That in of itself is unacceptable. Then the initial shot was saved; but no one picked up on the rebound or the trailing skater. The puck trickled wide, Martin Brodeur stretched out, then stood up, and then made a last attempt to poke it away. It wasn't enough as Ryan Callahan had an easy put-back. A series of errors by New Jersey and that ultimately doomed the Devils. While the Devils pushed on and had numerous opportunities - including three straight power plays in the game as well as a number of scoring chances with 13 shots in the third period - they could not get it through. Either being robbed by Henrik Lundqvist, getting the shot blocked (16 blocks against) or missing the net (15 missed shots).
Instead of calling a time-out to sort things out, the Devils kept pushing on. Then a horrific bad break late in the third. Gomez fired the shot off Brodeur's right, whilst Brodeur was sliding. There was a rebound that Sergei Brylin was about to get. Only it hit his skate, leaving it wide open. Sean Avery had the whole open net and scored the easiest goal possible. It was so easy that anyone could have scored there. Me. You. Avery's ladyfriends. My dead grandmother. Etc. The Rangers faithful - and there were an embarrassing large number of them at The Rock - were pleased as they could be. Devils fans like myself were all of angry, unhappy, and besides themselves.
The Devils need to win. They need to score on those chances; they need to put them away; and they need to avoid those costly breakdowns in game. I'm still optimistic - being a fan and all. But even I have trouble in thinking the Devils will win this series by being down 2 games when going across the river. Game 2 is now a must-win game. Let's go Devils. Please.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Once Again at The Times
That will look all the more delightful if/when the Devils win. Of course, you could say the same thing in reverse; but why would I suggest that?
Monday, April 07, 2008
Interestingly enough, the Rangers have been successful season playing like...the Devils of old. A reliance on the trap, scoring coming off the transition, and riding Henrik Lundqvist if things get hairy. We are talking about a team that despite big names like Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez, and Chris Drury, they only scored seven more goals - and gave up only two more - than the Devils this season. And all those seven wins against NJ and they still finish two points behind them. The teams are quite similar in terms of results and styles. Too bad that the Devils have been doing this for a while, the experience could see them through.
What else is going on? Well, David Clarkson has been highlighted at NHL.com with as a part of their Rookie Watch. They praise his work ethic and we learn that Clarkson digs Wendel Clark. In a second NHL.com article, Dan Rosen focuses on the Devils' cornerstone - Brodeur. If the Devils crash out of the first round, it's not going to be because of Brodeur. For a series preview, NHL.com even has that for you and it's pretty meaty. There are many other previews, such as ones at TSN and ESPN wherein we learn that Scott Burnside thinks Mike Mottau and Bryce Salvador are young. Well, in the long term, 30 years old isn't that old; but it's clear Burnside could have researched his preview a little better.
IPB also previews the playoffs as well. They start with the East and approach it in an interesting way. They base their preview on how the team does and does not deserve to win the Stanley Cup. Here's a snippet from their Devils preview:
Why They Don’t Deserve To Win:Well, I can't argue with that. I think most of the people at the now-live Devils Legion fan section of the official team website would agree with that.
There are no reasons why they don’t deserve to win. Please.
Also, at NHL.com, the league pats themselves on the back for their highest average attendance ever. As they should. On the internet and in general sentiment, there's so many negative feelings about how the NHL is terrible, how Gary Bettman is horrible for the sport, how hockey will never be big here, and so on and so forth. Yet, here is a big stat - some would call it a "statbit" - that completely flies in the face of what some would call "tra-la-la feelings."
In international hockey news, Pat Burns has been named as an assistant to Team Canada according to Tom Gulitti. Awesome news. Good luck to Burns and Team Canada - except when they play the US, of course.
Lastly, the big winner of the Steve Stamkos sweepstakes? Tampa Bay. Good job to the Lightning for winning the lottery. Check out Steve at Kukla's Korner for full national coverage listings to get ready for the playoffs on TV. Gulitti reports that the TV for the Devils-Our Hated Rivals is going to be mostly local. The playoffs are here.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Devils 3 - Rangers 2, SO
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
We can beat you.
All I Want for My Birthday is a Win
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Devils 0 - Philadelphia 3
I'm glad the players agree with Sutter's proclamation that the Devils were terrible and, what's more, they displayed a lack of professionalism. It certainly isn't professional or wise to pretty much take the entire game off - Martin Brodeur excluded - in a big game at the end of the season. Philadelphia coming out strong was to be expected. They are on the bubble for the playoffs, the Wachovia Center was filled with fans and thundersticks, and they have every reason to go out there and get two points. The chairman of the Flyers was pleased, according to the NHL recap - as he should be. It was a crucial game where the Philadelphia Flyers actually outplayed their opponent and won. A rarity for the Flyers. You would think the Devils would at least play a competitive game of hockey, but they didn't even do that. They were walked on like a cheap rug. That's unacceptable at any time of the season, and it's not a good sign with the playoff so close.
However, what I feel really doomed the Devils is the distribution of the puck. I'm not a hockey player or an expert. I admit this. However, you can not win hockey games if you can't distribute the puck properly. This means failing to make clearances out of your own zone when the other team is pushing - which is what the Flyers did for much of the game. This means failing to make passes in the neutral zone and on the attack. So many passes either missed the receiver entirely, hits a skate instead of the stick, or it's easily taken away by the Flyers. It's the chief reason why the Devils struggled to generate many attacks or complete any counter attacks. The Flyers' defenders played aggressively and it resulted in many more possessions for Philadelphia in conjunction with the inaccurate dishes. Why Sutter didn't think to change the approaches on offense to compensate for the bad passing and this (e.g. allowing a player to carry it in themselves) is beyond me. Shots? Goodness gracious, the Devils seemed to been confused by the black worn by Flyers that night. They hit the Flyers' skaters just as much as they hit Martin Biron with the puck. 22 shots on net and 22 shots blocked. 22! Blocked! Shots! That's amazing in it's horribleness! The only real bright spot on offense was John Oduya carrying the puck deep into the zone, getting tripped up rounding the net, still getting a pass off - only for it to be duffed by Aaron Asham. The resulting power play? Negated by a stupid decision by Travis Zajac abouta minute in.
Outside of goaltending - Brodeur and Weekes didn't lose this game - it was a terrible game all around. Now, the Devils have a must-win game at home to Our Hated Rivals. Oh boy.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
One More Thing
Not enough evidence, huh?
(I found this at IPB, who found it at Fire & Ice - originally posted by one "AfroThunder396." Thanks to all of them!)
What's Shaking in the East
But with the Devils fighting for fourth, let's look at the rest of the East.
- With a 3-0 win over the Islanders, Our Hated Rivals have clinched a playoff spot. They sit in fifth and it's entirely likely that the Devils will play them in the first round. To be honest, despite the 7 losses against them this season, I don't think it's a terrible match up. I'll explain myself should that be the match up.
- Fighting for a return to glory, Ottawa dropped a hammer on the Toronto Rang...er..Maple Leafs. For a team that was once at the top of the East for much of the first half, they're fighting Our Hated Rivals to get back into fifth. Since both teams won, the Senators remain in sixth. Too bad Our Hated Rivals have a game in hand, so the Senators will need help to gain fifth.
- The Washington Capitals surged against Tampa Bay 4-1 tonight. Since Philadelphia was idle, they have technically slid into eighth. But they need help to get in to the playoffs. The Devils could certainly do that by beating the Flyers in regulation. That would be grand. The Devils helping to knock the Flyers out of the postseason. Maybe AO can dress up in Devils red for one game? (OK, that would be ridiculous...and wrong, but it'd be cool.)
- It's not possible for the Devils to catch the Penguins, as Pittsburgh did win last night. That's 102 points and the Atlantic Division and a top three seed for them. Good job for them and for doing so with a brand new superstar in Evgeni Malkin.
- Montreal had their game in hand on Pittsburgh and their 3-1 win over Buffalo ties them in points AND knocks the Sabres out. I guess losing Briere, Drury, Miller, and having numerous injuries made all the difference. Montreal has Toronto on Saturday and Pittsburgh has Philadelphia on Sunday. Should both teams win, the Penguins secure the conference with the first tie-breaker: wins.
- Philadelphia gets to "enjoy" the currently #4 Devils and the currently #1 Penguins for their playoff hopes. Poor Flyers! I love it. Does anyone have a tougher pair of games remaining in the East? I think not.
- The one point Boston got last night helps them stick around in the muck between fifth and eighth. Their splash page for their official site says: "GOTTA B HERE." Good to show some confidence that they'll make it. Too bad they got Ottawa next and the now-spoiling Sabres as their last game. That's almost as bad as Philadelphia.
- Carolina still leads the Southeast with 92 points. Washington has their last game against Florida (a should and must win for them). Carolina's last game? Tomorrow against Florida. While I think Washington holds the head to head series lead, some help for them will be nice. Up Capitals! Flyers Out!
- For everyone else? Mirtle has the press release for the 2008 NHL Draft Lottery. Also known as the Steve Stamkos sweepstakes.