Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Martin Brodeur - 552

Special team struggles killing Devils

I am sure I am not the only one that was sick to their stomach watching the Devils give up another 3 power play goals Monday night in Philly. What made matters worse is when the game was on the line in the 3rd period and they were down by two they had 3 consecutive power plays, one of which was a double-minor, and couldn't even come close to converting on it. They eventually went on to lose the game.

I never thought I would see the day when I would acknowledge how much Colin White means to this team and our defensive corp. When he is out of the lineup, this is a much different team. Not nearly as physical or intimidating. He is definitely a calming influence back there and balances out or d-pairings perfectly. Additionally, with Patrik Elias being out, our lines looked jumbled and out of sorts as well. I hope both are back in the lineup Friday night when the Devils visit the Blackhawks.

This is definitely not the time to hit the panic button but our Penalty Kill has been working at around 55% percent over the last few games and that is just unacceptable, especially for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The team has a few days off and then will head back to practice tomorrow at The Rock before flying to Chicago for Friday nights game. Hopefully we can get some guys rested and get them added back to the mix on Friday. This team has been playing lights out since the beginning of January, a little bump in the road was bound to happen sooner or later. Lets just hope this is that bump and the team can get their heads on straight and back to playing Devils hockey heading in to the playoffs.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sky's The Limit

Sorry that I have been away for a little bit but I certainly have a few things to say about the current state of the Devils. The Devils have won 19 out of their last 26 games and are currently sitting in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference 8 points behind the conference leading Boston Bruins (with 2 games in hand) With the trade deadline having passed the teams are basically all set and we are ready for the fight down the home stretch.

For all intensive purposes, most people would say the Devils stood pat at the trading deadline. For those that say that, they should be committed to a mental institution. Although a minor deal, Niclas Havelid is exactly what this team needed. Unlike years of past, the Devils have the offensive firepower to compete with any team in the league. I think that guy wearing #30 between the pipes has answered any and all questions about the state of the goaltending situation in NJ. The only thing lacking was another solid, puck moving defenseman. Granted the trade cost the Devils a young promising D-man, but for this team, with all the aging veterans, the time to go for it now. Anssi Salmela is not that special of a player that you don't make this move. Lou Lamoriello has shown time and time again that he wants 7-8 solid d-man come playoff time and now we have that. We have a great mixture of young talent and old wily veterans.

Niclas Havelid was a +4 on a terrible defensive team in Atlanta and was their top pairing shut down d-man. Fortunately, the Devils have enough talent and experience where Havelid will not have to be the one relied on in all key situations, he can just step right in with no pressure and play his game. He had a tough game his first time out for the Devils against the Islanders but who on the Devils didn't? This was another shrewd move in a long line of shrewd moves by the mad genius we all affectionately call Lou.

Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don't make. In this case, I think trading away any piece of the puzzle this season would have been extremely detrimental. This team is as tight as any team I have ever seen. Constantly cracking jokes at each other in the media and I am sure behind closed doors. You can tell from every interview that is done, that it is all about the team and playing for one another. I have a really good feeling that this team is going to do something really special this season. I guess we will have to just all wait and see.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Sorry for not keeping this up to date as of late. A whole bunch of things came up this week and I wasnt able to blog. I will try to get it back up and running this week.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Devils host Kings tonight in Newark

The Devils come in to tonight's match-up winners of 10 out of their last 12 and a 5-1 route of struggling Atlanta. Conversely, the kings stroll in to town winners of 5 out of their last 6 games and 6-3-1 in their last 10 road games. Both teams have been scoring goals in bunches and I am really excited to see this match-up. The only other time these teams have played this season the Devils went in to LA and put a 5-1 beating on the home town team. This is a much different Kings team then the last time these teams met. The Kings are getting some great goaltending from Jonathan Quick and are scoring some goals as well, 2 things that were lacking during the first meeting.

Dustin Brown, the captain of the young king squad, has been on fire as of late with 12 points in 7 games. For the division leading Devils, Zach Parise has been just as hot with 11 points in his last 8 games and has a point in each one of those last 8 games. His linemates havent been too shabby either. The captain, Jamie Langenbrunner has 9 points in his last 5 games 7 goals in that span. The center for that line is Travis Zajac and he has been been just as hot as the other 2 players on his line with 9 points in his last 6 games and is an astounding +10 over that span.

The Devils are firing on all cylinders right now. In last night's game Colin White was struck in the hand with a puck and left the game and did not return. When speaking with reporters after the game he kept his hand in his pocket the whole time and said it will be re-evaluated today. Does not sound good at all. If he can't go it will be Jay Leach filling his spot on the blue line. If White misses any significant time, I fully expect Lou to start working the phone and getting a veteran defenseman in here...*cough*Niedermayer*cough*.

Players to watch:

Patrik Elias has been playing well all season but hasnt potted a goal in 3 games and is due for one tonight. He is doing all the little things and made an outstanding pass to Zach Parise for a goal last night. I fully expect him to get on the score sheet tonight.

Johhny Oduya has been outstanding at both ends of the ice this season and is really developing in to a top pairing D-man in this league. He has 4 goals and 16 assists this season and is an impressive +14. Coach Sutter has moved him around with different partners this season and he never misses a step. Look for Johnny to continue to jump in to the offense and get on the scoresheet tonight as well. 2 assists sounds about right.

Scott Clemmensen played what can be considered his worst game of the season Tuesday night against Washington. After the night off last night, he will be ready to go tonight and be eager to shake off the last start. With the Hall of Famer lurking in the wings now is the time for Clemmer to make the most of the time he has left. Like I have been saying all along, he just needs to keep his team in the game and let the offense do its work and for the most part, he has done that all season long.

Prediction: Devils continue to roll in this one. They will go down early but fight back and earn an exciting 3-2 victory. Elias 1 goal and 1 assist, Parise 1 goal, Zajac 2 assists.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Devils hope to take out the Thrash

It's time to put the game against Washington behind them and move on. The Devils are visiting Atlanta Friday night to face one of the worst teams in the league. However, the Devils have struggled against them this season for some reason. The last matchup between these two teams was by far the Devils worst performance of the season where Kari Lehtonen blanked them 4-0 in front of a none to please Prudential Center crowd. Hopefully that was just an off night. The Devils have won 3 straight games at Phillips Arena,

All signs point to Scott Clemmensen getting the nod between the pipes again Friday night. I personally, disagree with the decision and think Kevin Weekes should get the start but the only thing I can think of is that Coach Sutter is hoping to restore Clemmensen's confidence after a shaky game Tuesday night against the Caps. With games Saturday and Monday, I would think Weekes will get the start in at least one and my guess is that it will be Saturday night against the Kings whom he's has already beaten this season.

Up front, I dont expect any changes even though Brendan Shanahan has not been practicing. The team is stating that they are just keeping him fresh, and I agree that it is a great move. No reason tiring him out. He has been around long enough to be able to not practice and still perform at game time. The hot line continues to be the ZZ-Pops line (Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner). They have been on fire as of late especially Jamie Langenbrunner who has 7 goals in his last 4 games. That is not to slight the Elias-Zubrus-Gionta line who has been just as good. It seems like every other night it is a different line doing all the scoring and that is a great sign for a team that has Stanley Cup hopes.

The defense will also remain the same. For a no-name defense, they sure have done a hell of a job. The media has been writing this team off since the offseason because of the lack of experience and "talent" on our blue line. I think it is safe to say they have shut those clowns up at this point. The Devils own the 5th best GAA in the league and have given up only 128 goals (5th best in the NHL). Part of that is the solid play of Scott Clemmensen but he can't do it by himself and he has been getting alot of help.

Players to Watch:

Zach Parise has 7 goals and 4 assists in his last 12 games against Atlanta and look for that to continue. Zach had a ton of excellent scoring chances against Washington and just couldnt get one to go in. Zach is a pitbull on the puck and will continue to get his chances. With hands like his it's only a matter of time.

Travis Zajac is playing his best hockey as a professional. He is consistently getting scoring chances on the PK and is keeping the opposing PP on their toes. He is winning 51.7% of his faceoffs. He has 15 points in his last 11 games and has been a +15. He is quickly developing in to the playmaking center the Devils have lacked since the departure of Scott Gomez. Coming off a sophomore slump Travis has really gotten his act together - 15 G - 28A - 43P - +26

Brian Rolston scored his 5th PPG of the season Tuesday night. The Devils are looking for more from him. He scored against Atlanta earlier this season before leaving the game with the high ankle sprain that put him on the shelf for a while. Power Play goals are great but we need more out of him even strength and I think he will show up on the scoresheet in this one as well.

Prediction: Devils come out on fire looking for some payback for the 4-0 beatdown they took in January. Devils win 5-1. Parise with 2 goals, Zajac with a goal and 2 assists.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

State of the Devils

Coming off an 8-game winning streak, where do the Devils go from here? They play in Atlanta Friday night. They have had some difficulty with Atlanta this season and this should be a decent test for them. Based on how Clemmensen played last night, I have a hunch Weekes will get the start Friday night, especially since the Devils are playing 3 games in 4 days.

Only time will tell really how good this team is but one thing is for certain, they will not lost because of lack of effort. Brent Sutter has really instilled something in this team and you can really tell they trust him this season. Last season was a feeling out process for both sides but not this season. Everyone is playing for each other and giving 100% each shift. As a coach and as a fan, that is all you can ask for. We are virutally in every game and sometimes you get a bad break or a bad call (*cough*Mcreary*cough*) and you lose a game. You can't win every game but you can take away positives from every game which is a good sign.

Last night the positive of the game was the conitinued great play of Jamie Langenbrunner and his entire line. Zach Parise had a lot of chances again last night but couldnt cash in. Travis Zajac is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous short handed players in the league. It seems like every game he gets 2 or 3 excellent scoring chances short handed.

The defensive corp as a whole has really developed nicely and everyone understands their role and where they fit in and just does their job. Bryce Salvador has been rock solid back there this season. Johnny Oduya has been ourt best two-way defenseman as well. People are clammoring for a trade for a veteran defensemen and the only player I wouldnt mind seeing replaced is Andy Greene. He has been inconsistent since coming back from injury and that is not something that can happen with this team. This team can not rely on a few players, it takes a team effort and every man doing their job to get the result they are looking for.

Scott Clemmensen has been a great story this season and has been extremely solid and has done his job almost every night. His job is to keep his team in every game and he has done that with the exception of last night against Washington. He let in a few that were just backbreakers. A report came out that Martin Brodeur is targeting February 26th as his return date. I fully expect him to be eased back in to the lineup and Clemmer will continue to play. Come playoff time Marty should have the rust off and be ready to go.

Regardless of last nights result, this team has the makings of something special. I revel in the fact that people are doubting the Devils and underestimating them. We play the best as the underdog and under the radar. When the end of the season comes and the Devils are in the top 4 of the eastern conference again, there will be no sneaking up on anyone in the playoffs and the Devils are going to have to come correct. Based on what I have seen from this team, I dont feel any trades need to be made and the sky is the limit for these guys.