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 NJ Devils Keys to a Game 6 Victory

Well, now that the NJ Devils have made it a series….

What are the keys for the Devils to win game 6 in LA?

  1. Improve the offensive attack. SOG and scoring chances in game 5 were dreadful. We scored on a bad mistake by Quick and a lucky bounce for Sal. We generated way more scoring chances in games 1-3 and did not score. While Marty has worked hard all series, Quick took a rest game 5.
  2. Forecheck. It did not exists in game 5 and the Kings brokeout and rushed up the ice into our zone way too easily. Are we too tired to forecheck? If that is the case we need to figure something else out. TRAP ANYONE?
  3. Score on the Power-Play.  Calling Zach Parise… I told everyone before game 5 that in order to win Zach needed to score and we needed to score on the PP. And there ya go. Devils will win the series if they can score on the PP. Kings are very strong 5-5 and we have lost our advantage there that we have had on every other team this year.
  4. Don’t lose Williams and Carter. Richards looks tried so we need to focus and never lose Williams and Carter on the ice. They are getting way too many chances.
  5. To over use the overused phrase, “Our best players need to be our best players.” Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuck (excused for injury), we need you guys to get some points. The Devils magical 4th line isn’t going to with this one for the Devils.
  6. Coach Deboer, it maybe time to put some fresh legs in. Watching a slower-every-game Volchenkov get skated around is going to burn us. How about Harrold? he played so well and has speed. Fayne has struggled this series too. What about Josephson? Anyone think sitting an injured Kovy for Josefson might be a bold but worth-it move?
  7. Play 2 defenseman at the points on the Power-Play. It saved us game 5 from getting scored upon short-handed. Kovy is not well enough to play the point and the Kings pressure so well. We have trouble keeping the puck in the zone so why not? We have yet to score a controlled PP goal. This seems like a no-brainer.
  8. We need to have the greatest goaltender to ever play, to be in net for us. Oh wait, we do. Yes, Marty needs to continue to be marvelous.

DeBoer will probably do none of this and the Devils will win. That’s why I watch games from the stands and not the bench.
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 Devils @ Caps: My View from the Verizon Center in DC
For the first time I did a home and away. I got to see the Devils lose a game they should have won in Newark on Friday vs the Caps and drove down on Saturday. I had my 3 daughters with me (one goes to college there) and the game in DC was a birthday present for 2 of them.

We took the metro from her campus to the Verizon Center. $2 ride in a very well-organized and clean subway… about 20 minutes including a  train transfer.

Okay… Here’s what I saw..

Verizon Center:
Bright building with great site lines and seemingly many more lower level seats than in NJ.. only one row of luxury boxes, meaning better seating above the boxes. There were numerous restaurants in the arena and the food stands around the mezzanine really had character and themes (unlike the Generic City Grill in EWR).. many different kinds of food and lots of shops with Caps merchandise, people selling stuff all over… just a great atmosphere.. There are many video boards with stats that you can see from your seat. The PA address announcer was fantastic and made me realize how lame our guy is. Their mascot is an Eagle and the costume was really poor.. he looked more like a chicken..NJ Devil is way better.

The fans were great. Most dressed in Jerseys.. they are Ovechkin crazy there of course. The chanted at the same time (with chants and timing that only they knew) and there were really into the game.. and it was a complete sell-out… they rooted for their team but were extremely polite to me and my daughters. I sat 4 rows back in-between the blue line and the goal on the end the Devils attacked twice. We were the only Devils’ fans for 20 yards in every directions. Fans were helpful and courteous.. even direct us to the best place to sit for warm–ups to watch the Devils.

Warm-Ups:
We were right against the glass to watch warm-ups… best Moments were Andy Greene who smiled at my daughter who was wearing his Jersey… Tedenby who gave 2 of them  a big tooth-less smile… I knew that look at my daughters.. time to open up a can of whoop-ass on him. And then there was Marty who skate right by and actually smiled  and nodded at us; I knew then he wasn’t playing in the game.. he was very relaxed… the best part of the Warm-up was Clarkson who nodded at me and them proceeded to shot the puck into the glass right at me 3 times during warm-ups and slammed the glass at me twice… he looked like a caged animal trying to get at something..lol… his pre-game intensity carried over into the game…more later on this.

The Game:
Well you all saw the game so I’l only add stuff you see from the glass…
Parise: You can see the frustration on his face… he is trying very hard but is squeezing that stick way to hard
Elias: You can see the fear in the other team when he has the puck.. almost a panic.. he plays hockey with his head up and looking far a head.
Salavdor: he had a heck of a game… very physical..really well-positioned
Fayne: Shadowing Ovechkin.. blocked shots every tome he could.. was very physical too
Carter: Great call Coach DeBoer.. he is way better than Pelley
Clarkson: For me the biggest surprise.. I have never been a fan of his..well I am now. He was truly intimidating… he smashed several Caps into the glass right in front of me and you could see how the Caps were avoiding him… his presence and intensity of course were rewarded in the end with the winning Shoot-Out Goal… Like DeBoer said.. guys that can fight, hit and score are hard to find and you are lucky when you have one.

The best part about all of this is my daughter has 4 more years in DC!

 Luongo Better Than Brodeur?

For the past couple of years now in the National Hockey League, many have compared the success of Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo to all-time great Martin Brodeur. Once Luongo replaced Brodeur in net for team Canada in the Olympics, the comparisons seemed to begin. In addition, both goaltenders are from the city of Montreal, which I understand does stir up comparsions between the two from the hockey country of Canada.

Many have said that Luongo looks better at 32, than Brodeur did at the same age. Luongo is quicker, has a better glove and feel for the puck. These were some of the arguments made by people that say Luongo is the better goaltender. But is Luongo really the better goaltender?

Let’s take a look at Martin Brodeurs records and accomplishments:

  • Minutes Played in a Single Season: 4,697 (2006-07)
  • Wins in a Single Season: 48 (2006-07)
  • Consecutive 30 win seasons: 12 (1995-96 thrU 2007-08)
  • 40 Win seasons: 8 (1997-98, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2009-2010)
  • Shutouts in a Post-season Series: 3
  • Combined Shutouts (Regular/Post-Season): 134 (112/22)
  • All-Time Wins: 625

Broduer ranks first in all of the categories above. This alone should prove that Martin Brodueur is not only a better goaltender than Roberto Luongo- but perhaps the best goaltender of all-time.

 Back to Basics Should Fix Devils’ Woes

Well it has been a painful 19 games so far this season for the Devils’ faithful. Off to their worst start in team history with a measly 12 points, the 2010-11 Devils have been dreadful. Their supposedly high-powered offense, with $100M Dollar Man, Ilya Kovalchuk,  has managed a league low 34 goals (only the Islanders with 39 have less than 40!). The Devils have won exactly one home game so far and they have lost Zach Parise for 3-4 months with a knee injury as well as numerous other starters have been or are out to a variety of injuries. They have played with 3 and 4 rookie defenseman at times and defensive acquisitions, Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov have been dreadful for the most part. Rookie head coach, John MacLean has been unable to muster any meaningful strategy to right the ship. In fact he has looked clueless at times. When Devils’ all-time leading scorer and assistant captain Patrik Elias suggested a different playing strategy a few days ago, many started to wonder whether the coach has lost his team already. And the news gets worse today. Just this afternoon (Fri 11/19) the Devils recalled minor league goalie, Mike McKenna, since it appears Martin Brodeur re-injured his bruised elbow last night in a 3-1 loss to the equally dreadful Toronto Maple Leafs. With games against the Blues and the Capitals in the next 3 days, it is clear Devils’ supreme commander, Lou Lamoriello, is going to be forced to do something with losses in those tough games. He knows this mess is his doing and Lou has shown a willingness to pull the trigger on anything at anytime. With former Stanley Cup winning assistant coach, Larry Robinson looking over MacLean’s shoulder from the bench, the heat is on MacLean.

It would be easy for me to suggest to fire MacLean at this point and in fact I do think he has not done a very good job. However, let me suggest how I think MacLean can start to right the ship and save his job. Last night’s loss to Toronto was very typical of how the Devils are playing and why they are losing: They give up an early goal, they play dreadfully on defense in their own zone, they press on offense leading to more turnovers and the puck ends up in their own net again. You can’t win in the NHL finding yourself down 2-0 halfway through games. MacLean has to realize that this team is very weak defensively, especially when they play with 3 rookies on defense and they need to protect those players. Last night the second and back-breaking Toronto goal was scored when rookie defenseman Oliver Magnan was on the wrong side of the ice and left Toronto star forward, Phil Kessel, all alone in front of the Devils net. Devils’ veteran forward, Jason Arnott also made  a defensive mistake on that same play by not realizing Magnan was out of position and also leaving Kessel unguarded. This has been typical of the Devils’ defensive play all year.

If the Devils are to right themselves, they need to start realizing they need to protect their weaknesses (not try to out-score opponents) and start playing sound defensive hockey. When you have rookie defenseman on the ice, the forwards need to play better in the defensive zone. The Devils, dare I say, need to take a careful look at former coach Jacques Lemaire’s playbook and start trying to win by playing defense first and counter-attacking when the OTHER TEAM MAKES A MISTAKE. They clearly have talented offensive players which can score on the counter-attack. MacLean needs to change his strategy to get his defense sound and build from there. If he doesn’t do it now, he’s gone and maybe we will see more than the return of Jacques Lemaire’s hockey style. We may see Jacques himself behind the bench in a few days.

 Player Notes: 10/1, Islanders @ Devils

I’m going be doing this more this season… just a “jot down” of my thoughts during games to give  a feel of how I see the players doing… so here goes for the Devils’ last pre-season game…

Rolston sucks.. bad passes, slow skating…floating all night… he had a great shot on the pp, and blasted it by Roloson… Rolston got a lot on minutes tonight (or it just felt that way lol)…

Parise easily could have had 3 goals tonight… he was the best player on the ice. Kovy was being used as a decoy and tonight he didn’t seem to even want to shoot much… on the Parise goal, he took 2 players with him into the corner. The Greene to Arnott deflection goal was beautiful. Andy Greene is going to have a monster year, 55+points…

Elias had his best game yet and rookie Sweedish forward Tedenby played with him and Arnott and looked very good at times.. his best game… he’s still a little off and he actually missed a layup in the 3rd of some very pretty work by him, Arnott and Elias…

Langenbrunner played very little tonight as it seemed Johnny Mac was intending on playing the youngsters a lot…

I followed rookie Sweedish centerman Josefson a lot and he played decently… he was even out there with Tedenby for awhile and they did look good together…but got pinned in their own zone.

Josefson and Rolston have absolutely no chemistry.. keep them away from each other. Josefson is a serviceable player and I’d guess he’ll do fine centering Zubrus and Clarkson (who did not play last night)…

The 4th line of Mair, Pelley and Palmieri was really pretty good. Generated some chances, though they did not hit much. Mair looks decent on the pk. Palmieri is going to be sent down soon but he is close to making as a NHLer…

On “D”, White played a usual Colin White game… some excellent physical plays, some bone-headed passes and a few missed checks… he looked rusty…

Greene was sharp and saw what seemed like limited action for him.. they had him paired with Corrente, who played an ok game tonight, He is not ready to play big minutes against other teams best for sure… but he would be a serviceable 6th/7th d-man…

Free agent signing Tallinder, looked sharp and played quite steady and well… when the game was on the line he and Greene were the paring every other shift and that should tell you what the coaches see…

The Devils were very dangerous tonight, and we should all be excited and a big reason for that was Salavdor and Mottau and Skoula out and rookies Urbom (Sweedish also) and Taormina in. Those 2 rookie defensman are very good with the edge to Taormina…

They were mobile, strong on the puck and quick to react with “almost” an error free game from both. I know its a depleted Isles team but these 2 dudes are ready. Taorima had some hard shots on net. We played tonight with 3 hi-quality defensive pairs and as a result our transition game was unstoppable. With some more work and experience playing in our own zone these guys are going to be blue-line regulars.

Get excited about Urbom and Taormina…

 Devils’ Last Stand is in Hands of Wrong Coach

When the Devils host the Flyers tonight at the Rock, on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 in their playoff series, they will playing with a coaching disadvantage.  Devils’ coach, Jacques Lemaire, is a 2 times Jack Adams Award winner,  and has won 11 Stanley Cups as a player, coach and executive. He has a career coaching record of 538-415-176 in 14 seasons with Montreal, New Jersey and Minnesota. So how can the Devils be at a disadvantage you ask?

I was one who predicted and wanted Jacques Lemaire to return to coaching the Devils. And for half of this season it seemed like the right move. Lemaire was carefully crafting and manipulating the Devils with all of the key player injuries they had.  He saw the game exactly as I saw it and he seemed to be a coaching “genius,” making the right moves, placing the right lines out there and working magic to have the Devils 1st in the NHL with essentially a 1/2 AHL team.

About halfway through the season, as the more talented players returned from their injuries, Lemaire and I stopped seeing the Devils the same way. I held my tongue thinking a greater mind was at work. However, it has become obvious that Lemaire is an expert at an under-talented team but has no clue how to coach elite players to a championship in 2010.

In the press conference after the game 4 loss against Philly, he basically said he needed his “best players to make good plays and score.” He seemed clueless as to how that was going to happen or what strategy to employ to make that happen. He has tried desperately to make the power play work, with 2 of the best forwards in the NHL, Ilya Kovlachuk and Zach Parise, to no avail.

The Devils’ power play strategy is over simplistic with 2 shooting forwards at the point and one shoots with a screen, allowing the other team to crowd the box, preventing quality shots or rebounds. In addition, he continues to play Paul Martin and Brian Rolston ahead of future all-star defender, Andy Greene,  who has been a surprise phenom this year. Greene’s speed, game awareness, accurate and deflect-able shot, and ability to keep the puck in the zone make him invaluable on the power play, but he gets little time there. Greene lead all Devil defenders this year with 37 points (more that twice any other Devils’ defender), including 4 power play goals.

Lemaire has juggled the Devils’ forwards lines period to period, game to game throughout the year, much to the dismay of most Devils’ fans (and players). No chemistry has seem to form from his top 6 players. He hasn’t even found how to use Kovlachuk (twice a NHL 50 goal scorer) in an effective way. Right now his top 2 lines are Parise-Elias-Zubrus and Kovlachuk-Zajac-Langenbrunner. Those lines have failed to register an even strength goal in the 2 games in Philadelphia. He even scrambled his defensive parings for the playoffs, pairing his 2 best defenders, Paul Martin and Andy Greene together, leaving a 3rd paring of immobile defensemen, Bryce Salvador and Martin Skoula (acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh and Toronto), who have been brutal at times under the Flyers aggressive forecheck.

There is a story floating around that after the game 4 loss in Philly, Devils’ President/GM/Supreme Leader, Lou Lamoriello threw a fit (and a jelly jar) at his coaches over the poor effort that resulted in an embarrassing 4-1 playoff defeat. It appears his tirade (which I have never heard Lou do before) was directed at the coaches. While many may rightly blame the players, both Lamoriello and I agree, if the Devils lose this one, it is on the head coach.

Lamoriello and I were both wrong about Lemaire being the right coach for this team. If the Devils get ousted in the first playoff round this year (the 3rd straight year), Lemaire will surely not be back. He will quickly find work however, since he will be a perfect fit for a team like Edmonton. He might actually get them into the playoffs!

As for the Devils this year, let’s see whether Lamoriello’s jelly jar tantrum gets us a playoff game 6 or a coach that’s toast.

 Trade Winds Swirl Around The Rock

The NJ Devils have been mired in a scoring slump and as a result they have gone 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. They were leading Pittsburgh for the Atlantic lead by 6 points and are now only one point ahead. Scoring has been the issue with seemingly Travis Zajac and Zach Parise being the only Devils who can generate offense, let alone score. If it wasn’t for the stellar play of Martin Brodeur, the Devils would probably be 0 for 10.

Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond, both excellent and cheap free agent pick-ups, who were playing above their heads for much of the early season, have cooled off and have looked like the 4th line centers they really are. The injuries to top six forwards Danius Zubrus, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson and top defender Paul Martin have finally caught up with the Devils. You can only substitute AHL players for so long and win; even when your head coach (Jacques Lemaire) is a genius.

The Devils are in desperate need of a play making centerman. Did someone shout out Scott Gomez? An impact player on defense would be helpful too. Did some shout out Dion Phaneuf? Ok, I know, the Devils did not have the players to offer Calgary that Toronto was able to. But we can fantasize about Dion can’t we?

Getting us back to the issue at hand,  it appears there is traction to rumors that the Devils and Atlanta are looking to make a deal. According to Tom Gulitti of northjersey.com:

“Atlanta Thrashers associate GM Rick Dudley reportedly attended Lowell’s game tonight. Dudley was also in Toronto for the Devils’ game against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. Thrashers GM Don Waddell was at Sunday’s Devils’ game against Los Angeles at Prudential Center.”

We also know that the high powered scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk, is on the block as the Thrashers and him seemed destined to part ways as he becomes a UFA this summer. Word is he has been told to expect to be traded in the next few days. Could a package of young players be going to Atlanta for Ilya Kovalchuk and maybe a centerman? An internet rumor suggests that a package of Niclas Bergfors,  John Oduya ,  top AHL prospect Nick Palmieri and a Devils’ first round pick would get Kovalchuk.

While the excitement for Devils’ fans grows at the prospect of finally getting a n NHL top 5 player, one must temper themselves knowing that Lou Lamoriello is the least likely GM to mortgage the future for a potential rental property. Kovalchuk is asking for a huge contract going forward; the kind of long-term contract the Devils’ never do. On the other hand, Martin Brodeur is 36 years old and still at the top of his game. The future may be now.

 Devils Whip Stars 4-0 for Brodeur’s 106th Shutout

Just another dominating performance by the NJ Devils last night. Patrik Elias with 2 goals and Martin Brodeur was spectacular in net. Devils now stand at the season’s halfway point at 30-10-1, which is the best start ever in franchise history. Wow!

Enjoy some photos from the Rock last night:  Devils vs Stars 01-05-2010

And on a side note: I love when The NY Post  Devils’ beat writer, steals stuff from my NJ Devil’s forum, www.njdevs.com.

Setting team records is the best they can do these days, with an eye-popping 30-10-1, and they still could use the same offensive center and top-four defenseman they lacked in August. Their top backliner couldn’t crack last year’s squad, and two of their key centers were unsigned by 29 other teams until after camp began.

“General manager Lou Lamoriello has work to do in the next two months, making sure that this best-ever base doesn’t go to playoff waste when he has the opportunity and cap space to beef it up, perhaps with a center like Saku Koivu and the return of defenseman Scott Niedermayer.”

Read what I wrote yesterday: www.njdevs.com

Read more Everson: NY Post

 Devils on Top of NHL at Halfway Mark

Who would have thunk it? Head Coach Brent Sutter walks out unexpectedly on the Devils this past Spring after 2 consecutive first round playoff losses. The Devils lose veterans John Madden, Brian Gionta and Mike Rupp  to free agency. They lose top defensemen, and USA Olympian, Paul Martin (still out) for much of the season. They have been or are without key starting forwards, Danius Zubrus, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Jay Pandolfo, and Rob Niedermayer. They currently are playing without Clarkson, Salvador, Martin, and Zubrus. All of these players have been or are being replaced by:

  1. Brilliant free agents pickups such as Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond
  2. A procession of AHLers from Lowell

Some younger players that have finally made the Devils’ team like Nichalos Bergfors, who is second in rookie scoring behind the Isles’ John Taveres and has 8 power play goals.

Last night the Devils improved their LEAGUE LEADING winning percentage and  59 points in 40 games (Sharks have 61 in 42 games) by beating Jacques Lemaire’s previous team of 8 years, the Minnesota Wild 5-3.  One could argue the Devil’s should have easily beaten the Wild and the victory was no big deal. But what is most interesting and so typical of the Devils is the way they won last night. They beat Minnesota at their own game. The Devils have been very successful this year adapting their game to meet the way the other team plays. If they need to run and gun they can. If they need to play tight checking, simple hockey they can. Whatever it takes to win Jacques dials up the answers and the Devils respond…seemingly no matter what players are on the ice. Last night the Devils played with essentially 4 defensemen, and their top center, Travis Zajac, having an off game. That’s no problem for these Devils. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner registered his first career hat trick, Martin Brodeur continued his stunningly brilliant play in goal, Patrik Elias played like the underrated superstar he is and Andy Greene played defense like the all-star player he is becoming. The result is another Devils victory. To paraphrase Ken Daneyko’s from the other night, “I sat next to Gordie Howe tonight and he remarked that the Devils are playing the best team game in the NHL right now. They work hard shift after shift as a 5-man unit.” And that is why they lead the league.

There was a sequence of plays from the game last night that typifies the Devils’ season. The Devils were changing lines and Patrick Elias had the puck on the boards, trying to delay long enough for his teammates to come on the ice. Dean McAmmond (a player no one wanted this September), alertly came onto the ice. Elias flipped the puck up the boards to him and he out-skated the defenders to the goal and shot a back-handed, highlight reel goal past Minnesota goalie, Nicholas Backstrom. While that was a fantastic play, and typifies the smarts, awareness and teamwork the Devils have shown most of the year, it is what happened next that is what the 2009-2010 Devils are about. After the very next face off, with McAmmond’s line on the ice, Devils’ defenseman Johnny Oduya, made a mistake. He “pinched” into the neutral zone and missed his man and the puck. McAmmond, who could have been distracted by his own glory, was on top of the play. McAmmond sped into Oduya’s position, pressed the puck carrier to slow him down and then rushed toward the Devils’ net to recover the Minnesota forward breaking to the net, who was waiting for the cross-ice pass from the man McAmmond just delayed. The play was defused. There’s no stat for that kind of play from your 4th line center other than in the win column.

 

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