Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter will both play for Team USA in the world championships in Finland and Sweden.
Ilya Kovalchuk will play for Russia, in the same group as the U.S.
“It will be fun chasing his (sic) around the big ice surface,” Gionta said sarcastically.
Henrik Tallinder will play for Sweden.
All of those additions make sense, but this omission seems perplexing to me.
Team USA did not call Andy Greene. Curious decision— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) April 29, 2013
I’m not sure I understand that one. He should’ve at least gotten a call, right? Greene was the Devils’ best defenseman all year and definitely could’ve helped Team USA. Maybe he let the people in charge know beforehand he wasn’t going to play and they didn’t contact him out of courtesy. I’m not sure if that’s the answer, but not even contacting him makes no sense.
The New York Rangers looked like they had something to play for on Saturday afternoon.
The Devils did not.
New Jersey ended its disappointing campaign with a flat, uninspired effort in a 4-0 loss to New York at Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan each recorded a goal and an assist, Rick Nash scored twice, and Brad Richards had two assists as New York finished its regular season 26-18-4.
The Rangers locked up at least the No. 7 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs and can finish sixth if the Ottawa Senators lose their remaining two games– or if Ottawa finishes 1-1.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 20 shots he faced.
Johan Hedberg stopped 17 shots. The Devils finished their lockout-shortened 48-game campaign with 48 points– a perfectly-mediocre 19-19-10.
While the whole team looked disinterested, the Devils defense looked downright egregious.
Peter Harrold and Andy Greene were the Devils’ only two Even ‘D’ and both took penalties.
Adam Larsson and Marek Zidlicky were both minus-2 — Larsson could’ve gotten a secondary assist on Nash’s first goal. Meanwhile, Zidlicky was caught flatfooted on several occasions and made a weak pass that Stepan easily stole and dished to Callahan on his shorthanded goal late in the first.
Zidlicky will be an unrestricted-free agent at season’s end, and I’d be stunned if he returns. He was minus-10 and was essentially the posterchild for New Jersey’s defensive woes this year.
Ilya Kovalchuk wasn’t much better, finishing a minus-2 and only earning two shots. Kovalchuk was caught watching on Nash’s second goal, failing to backcheck or do anything more than stare as Nash beat Hedberg.
Hedberg’s left pad was Nash’s top foil.
The dynamic winger could’ve had at least four goals– even five– but Hedberg’s pad stymied five of Nash’s game-high seven shots.
Hedberg’s left pad was good in New Jersey’s win Thursday, and he performed admirably in place of Martin Brodeur.
Still, Brodeur was still not immune from MSG ridicule. The Garden’s fans peppered him with “We want Marty” and “Mar-ty” song chants.
The forecheck was as strong as it had been all year.
Marek Zidlicky played his best game this season. The Devils outshot the Buffalo Sabres 39-22 and even scored a power-play goal.
Yet, all that still couldn’t translate into a win.
Such are the breaks for New Jersey these days. The Devils got a key point– No. 40– but fell to 0-6 in road shootouts in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres at First Niagara Center.
Steve Sullivan and Mark Fayne each scored goals for New Jersey, which fell to 0-3-4 in its last seven games. Sullivan’s was his first as a Devil since Feb. 15, 1997. Fayne’s was his first of this season and his first since Feb. 21 of last year.
Still it wasn’t enough as Ryan Miller made 37 saves to lift the Sabres within four points of the East’s final-playoff spot. Miller stopped all three shootout chances– including a stellar pad save on Patrik Elias’ attempt– to drop New Jersey to 0-6 in road shootouts this year.
The Devils will probably say the same things they said after Thursday and Saturday’s losses. They played well enough to win but didn’t catch the breaks. I can’t disagree, but that and 12 cents doesn’t buy you much this time of the year.
Zidlicky was outstanding all night.
He finished with five shots– which was tied with David Clarkson for the team high. He pinched at the right time most of the night, helping the Devils forecheck and dominate possession in Buffalo’s end for large pockets of time.
Zidlicky finished as a minus-1, he was stuck covering for Anton Volchenkov on Steve Ott’s second-period marker.
Jacob Josefson, playing in his first game in more than a month, was very good too. He showed great legs and energy and won a team-high 64 percent (9 of 14) of his faceoffs.
Like the rest of the team, Josefson unluckily finished as a minus player. He was on the ice for Patrick Kaleta’s first-period goal, which dropped him to a team-worst minus-11.
On Kaleta’s goal, Andy Greene had a dreadful shift. First, his blind pass turned the puck over to Jochen Hecht at the top of the circles. Then, Greene was beaten to the net mouth by Kaleta, as he redirected Hecht’s shot past Brodeur, giving Buffalo the 1-0 lead just 4:22 in.
The Devils appeared listless until that goal but pushed back after it, dominating the rest of the first. The Devils’ forecheck drew a boarding minor on Kevin Porter, then Sullivan struck– on a neat feed from Steve Bernier– tying the game at 1 at 18:20.
Sullivan’s power-play goal was New Jersey’s first in six games. The Devils finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
With New Jersey’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Dainius Zubrus came up big.
The Devils were trailing 2-1 and were shorthanded with less than 15 minutes left. Zubrus took the puck, weaved through four Sabres, and found Fayne at the top of the circles with a stellar pass. Fayne beat Miller stick side to tie the game.
Fayne’s mark also allowed New Jersey to score more than one goal for the first time in three games. The Devils had scored two goals in their previous three contests.
Though he stopped 13 fewer shots than his counterpart, Martin Brodeur was good in some key spots.
Brodeur stoned Drew Stafford’s chance on a two-on-one break in overtime, and he also thwarted Christian Ehrhoff’s point shot earlier in the extra session.
Brodeur nearly stopped Ott’s second-period goal, sliding and kicking his pads in the air. The puck appeared to hit Brodeur’s pad and trickle across the goal line.
Miller was great too though. The American-born netminder made key save after key save– his best coming on Bernier midway through the second, when he stoned Bernier’s low shot with his blocker.
He also gloved Travis Zajac’s final attempt in the shootout, sealing Buffalo’s win.
The Devils are now two points behind the Rangers and Islanders for the East’s No. 8 spot.
New Jersey will now sit back and hope for some help this week as it awaits its next game, Wednesday at home against Boston.
The Rangers are in Toronto Monday. The Isles will host Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Midterm Grades: On Defense
Bryce Salvador is wearing the captain’s “C” this year, but his play certainly hasn’t been up to that level.
Being that the Devils are at the half-way point of the season (OK, a couple games past it but cut us some slack), we decided to do some “grades” for this team. Originally, this was supposed to be one full post, but after compiling them, it seems better to break them up into different pieces today. Earlier, we gave you our grades for the forwards. Next up, the defensemen.
(Disclaimer: All “grades” comments are usually entirely too general and tend to omit more detail than normal, so apologies in advance if we left a player out.)
I floated the idea in yesterday’s postgame recap of changing up Ilya Kovalchuk’s point partner on the power play and I wanted to see what you guys thought. So vote in the poll and weigh in with any comments you might have below!
That’s a frustrating way for the win streak to come to an end, but not all that surprising in hindsight. The Devils have no-showed the first period a few games in a row now and it was only a matter of time before they got burnt for it. Some thoughts…
Swing period: While the slow first period wasn’t ideal, it’s something the Devils have survived the past few games. The difference tonight was the second period. Each of the last few games, the Devils have come out on fire to start the second stanza, but tonight was the complete opposite. The Devils were manhandled from the drop of the puck in the second and if not for Marty Brodeur, they would have been down much worse than 2-1. As I wrote on Twitter, the Canes’ 20-14 shots advantage after two periods was deceptive in that it was not that close. It’s one thing to start slow, but to get a break and a chance to regroup and come out worse off is unacceptable. In today’s NHL, it’s hard enough to survive one bad period, let alone two. There were multiple culprits, starting with the fact that the Canes beat the Devils at their own game. They aggressively pushed the play up ice, forced a lot of turnovers and forechecked like mad. Carolina was all over Jersey’s zone for much of the first two periods. There also was a defined lack of energy from the Devils, which Pete DeBoer tried to counteract by switching up the forward lines at the end of the first period and for long stretches in the second. You got the sense that DeBoer knew he needed to find a way to spark his team early on, but unfortunately for the Devils, DeBoer didn’t find that spark until sometime during the second intermission.
They can’t all be winners: David Clarkson and Andy Greene, both of whom were big parts of the Devils’ five-game win streak each had off nights. It seemed like they each had multiple “brain farts” during the course of the game. That’s not to say they were dreadful. Clarkson did a fantastic job screening Cam Ward on Ilya Kovalchuk’s power play goal and also was robbed by Ward in the opening minute of the third period. Greene made a couple plays in his defensive zone and nearly helped facilitate a goal with his passing during one particular wild stretch in the third. However, both players committed lazy penalties late in the third period with the Devils down a goal and were both slightly off in their respective games. Greene was out of position a couple times in the defensive zone and had to reach for plays, while Clarkson, who is the engine that drives the Devils’ forecheck, had difficult getting into the zone and maintaining possession for much of the first two periods. This loss isn’t just on Greene and Clarkson, but it does go to show that the Devils are not deep enough to have their top players no-show for two periods or a full game.
Cam do: Pardon the awful pun, if you will, but as much as Greene, Clarkson and the Devils’ overall lack of energy doomed New Jersey — Cam Ward’s excellent play was on part with all of those things. Think about the two goals he got beat on tonight. First, Kovy’s rocket shot from the point that soared over his shoulder but dipped under the crossbar and was shot so hard that it rocketed out of the net quicker than it went in. How many goalies are stopping that shot? Two or three? Maybe? Probably not any when Kovy’s shot is that accurate. Then, on the second goal, his defenseman got pick-pocketed and left Ryan Carter all alone dead center in front of an off-guard Ward with large sections of the net to shoot at. Yeah, he was pretty good tonight, especially considering this was his fifth straight start, all on the road, and he started and played 60 minutes last night out on the Island. The two saves he made tonight that stood out to me were the point-blank robbery of Clarkson to start the third and the low glove save of a Kovy point shot later that period. They both showed different aspects of his game and also demonstrated his ability to make saves that only a handful of goalies can make. As much as Martin Brodeur kept the Devils in the game in the first two periods, Cam Ward kept the Devils out of it in the third.
Yeoman’s work: It’s not all bad news tonight for the Devils. If there’s one bright spot (non-Brodeur division), then it has to be the work of the third line tonight. Carter, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta were the only line that consistently had their legs going from the start of the period. You can see why DeBoer loves to lead games with these guys. They are always working, but they’re not your typical grind line. There’s legitimate offensive talent in each of these guys, particularly Bernier and Carter, but this is a working man’s line and the players know it. It takes a real knack to be good at grinding, especially when you know that’s all your team wants out of you. Any offense from this line is usually treated as a bonus, but it usually comes as a result of a hard forecheck, good coverage in the defensive zone and forwards who seem to have a nose for when to take a chance on a puck. Carter’s goal tonight was a perfect example of everything this line does well. Steve Bernier’s pressure on the right side forced the Canes to keep the puck in and made Faulk try to skate the puck in front of the net. Little did he know, Carter was right there to do a quick stick lift, grab the puck and have all day it seemed to shoot out Ward. The goal was a direct result of Carter and Bernier working together to press the Canes into making a mistake with the puck in their own end. And all of that doesn’t even mention the “hooking” penalty Stephen Gionta drew on Eric Staal and the subsequent troll-so-hard push by Gionta at center ice.
Penalty problem: In today’s game preview, I was wary of how big a role special teams would play during this game and they certainly did. Although each side only scored once on the power play (1-of-5 for CAR; 1-of-4 for NJ), the Devils took untimely penalties and too often failed to get sustained pressure on their power plays. The penalties by Clarkson and Greene took four minutes of even-strength play off the final 7:17 of game clock while the Devils were down a goal. Both penalties were lazy penalties that could have and should have been avoided. In that 7:17, the Devils got only one real scoring a chance — a mad 30-second rush while they were still down a man in the final minute of the period. That’s not enough time for a Devils team that, in essence, only has one true goal scorer in its lineup. Yes, Kovy kills penalties and he made some strong plays on the PK (like when he dominated the puck for 40 seconds and basically did a loop around the Canes’ zone), but you’ve got to give him and guys like Elias, Clarkson and Henrique chances to play the puck at even strength for more than three minutes and change at the end of the game. Multiple penalties are something the Devils have struggled with throughout this early part of the season but they’ve been able to escape real trouble for the most part. Tonight, like the slow start did, the penalties came back to haunt them.
Notes: Despite all of that, the Devils were about four inches (combined) from scoring three different goals tonight. Adam Henrique just missed getting the tip of his stick on the puck during an early rush on Ward and both Kovy and Butler came within a split hair of putting the puck in the net during that late rush in the final minute. Butler looked stunned he couldn’t get to that cross-ice pass that would have given him an open net … Speaking of open nets, there wasn’t much much Greene could’ve done on the Jokinen goal. He blocked as much of the net as he could, but the Canes’ excellent, rapid-fire puck movement sequence put Jokinen in position to shoot at half of a wide-open net. Marty even admitted after the game that he never saw the puck go to Jokinen, which explains why he left so much of the net available. … Adam Larsson is the real F’n deal. He’s playing extremely well in his own zone and just wait until he develops the confidence to deploy his offensive game. … Maybe Marty should try out for the Mets after the season is over. Did you see that swatting save with his stick during the first period? … Boy, that first period felt awful similar to Sunday in Pittsburgh didn’t it? Almost like carbon copies. The Devils capitalized on one of their few scoring chances, but were nearly drowned by the opponent’s pressure in the Devils’ end. … Can’t say it enough: That’s an impressive win for a Carolina team at the end of a six-game road trip on the second half of back-to-back games. … The third period was aggressive, in-your-face, Devils hockey. The forecheck was working right off the bat and they put all sorts of pressure on Ward. Too bad it took then 40 minutes to find that energy. … The bounces did not go the Devils’ way tonight. At least two of the Canes’ goals, including the game-winner, were deflected and clearly changed direction on Marty. But as DeBoer loves to say, in this game, you make your own bounces.
Buzz: Which Devils Are Headed To Sochi?
Yesterday, Martin Brodeur told French-Canadian journliast Renaud Lavoie that although Brodeur wouldn’t pick himself for Team Canada, he would go to next February’s Sochi Olympics if asked — even as a third-string goalie. That got me to thinking, which Devils are destined to play for flag and country in a year’s time? So, after looking at the Devils’ current roster, here’s an extremely early roundup of players I think will, could or won’t get the call next year. Again, this is all my random guessing based on players I think have a shot. Here goes.
Definitely Sochi bound: Patrik Elias (Czech Republic), Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia), Anton Volchenkov (Russia)
As long as they keep this up: David Clarkson (Canada), Andy Greene (U.S.)
They’ve got a shot: Marek Zidlicky (Czech Republic)
Probably because it’s Marty: Martin Brodeur (Canada)
Your time is coming, just probably not now: Adam Henrique (Canada), Mark Fayne (U.S.), Adam Larsson (Sweden)
I know the first name you’ll notice not on the list is Travis Zajac. I really like what he brings to the Devils and think he’s a very good player, but have you seen Canada’s forwards group? Do you think he’s getting in over Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Eric Staal, John Tavares.. Okay, I’ll stop. Why Clarkson and not Zajac? Call it a gut feeling. While Zajac may be more offensively “gifted” than Clarkson, I don’t think he brings the same gritty, in-the-corners, screening-the-goalie game that Clarkson does.
What do you think? Which Devils do you think should or shouldn’t make the Olympics? Sound off in the comments below!
That was such an impressive win for the Devils and it came after a poor first 10 minutes that may have been partly due to the earlier start. Regardless, the last 50 minutes of that game were reason for the Devils and Pete DeBoer to smile. Some thoughts…
Huge, Tom, huge: To borrow a phrase from TV car mogul Billy Fuccillo, there’s not enough “U’s” on the keyboard to describe how big of a win that was for the Devils. Not only because they beat a division rival that was one point ahead of them for first place in the Atlantic. Not only because they shut down the high-powered Pens offense for long stretches. Not only because they sent a message by rebounding from last week’s 5-1 win. This was big because of how the Devils played after nearly getting run out of the rink in the first 10 minutes while the Penguins were all over the ice. Part of that was due to the three first period power plays, which took Pittsburgh out of its offensive rhythm, but also because Krys Barch stood up to Deryk Engelland roughly nine minutes into the first period. Engelland was running all over the ice, getting in David Clarkson’s face and giving the Devils all sorts of trouble every time they tried to enter the Pittsburgh zone. After Barch fought Engelland, the Devils started to get some offensive momentum going and began to push back against the Pens. I know I’m not always a huge advocate of dressing a guy like Barch, but he was one of the big reasons the game turned around halfway through the first period.
Matteau, Matteau…: Obviously, you’ve gotta give it up to the kid who scored his first NHL goal, but it was how the goal came about that was even more impressive. Travis Zajac lost the draw, but Matteau swooped in and immediately won the puck back. He tried to get it to Kovy, but it bounced back to the point to Adam Larsson, who threaded it over to Andy Greene. Greene made one of his roughly seven great plays, faked the shot and in the same motion shipped a pass right onto Matteau’s backhand. The puck was bouncing, but instead of panicking, Matteau took his time, fielded it softly on his backhand and went to his forehand within a split second, eyed up the open net and wristed a shot high before Marc-Andre Fleury could adjust. The smarts, the skill with his hands and the patience Matteau showed on that play prove that he can play at this level. He only played about seven minutes today, but it was more important when and on what lines he played. I never saw him on any other line than the first line and even though he only scored once, he had a couple other chances and was good on the forecheck. Matteau seems a lot more calm with the whole contract situation kinda, sorta resolved, which is huge with Dainius Zubrus possibly out for an extended period. Plus, you gotta love Matteau today for the simple fact that after he scored, Chico Resch began to go into the famous call from the ’94 conference finals then quickly trailed off after the second “Matteau” perhaps realizing he was now taunting his own fan base. Best unintentional comedy of the season so far.
Greene Day: As mentioned above, Andy Greene was absolutely fantastic today. He is the Devils’ best defenseman right now, hand down. He directly set up Matteau and Bobby Butler’s goals today with deft work at the point and he continues to be incredibly reliable in his own end. There were at least five to six times when I marveled at a play he made and how simple he made it look, in particular the Matteau setup. Ever since Greene was elevated to the Devils’ top defensive pairing, he’s really taken his game to another level. I don’t think there’s any question that by the end of this season, he’ll be far and away the Devils’ best overall defenseman. Just fantastic work by him.
Butler has the power: Melding Bobby Butler and the power play seemed incredibly poignant since the two were so perfectly entwined today. Butler’s beautiful, blistering shots created one goal, scored another and generated at least one more chance that I noted. He unquestionably had his best game of the season and was part of a fourth line that was really strong in the offensive zone at even strength today, as well. The combo of Josefson, Butler and Barch were extremely aggressive and seemed to be the only line skating from start to finish in the first period. Easily that unit’s best game since they’ve been together. I’d also argue that after that dismal first power play, the Devils’ man advantage had its best day as well, in part due to Butler. Obviously if you get 10 power plays in one game, you’d like to score more than twice, but on at least three of them either Fleury or bad bounces seemed to foil the Devils at every pass. They did a great job maintaining possession and winning draws while on the power play and were able to score twice with the “second” power play unit. It would have been nice if they had finished more chances, but they showed a lot more energy after that first one and it really helped them dominate the flow of that game.
Frustrated Malkin: Boy, the Devils really got into Evgeni Malkin’s head today didn’t they? He was pushing back and jawing at the Devils almost all game and in the end, it cost the Pens big time, since his two third-period penalties both led to Devils goals. Any time you can get Evgeni Malking off the ice for two minutes at a time is huge, but kudos to the Devils for being able to get one of the best players in the world out of focus when it mattered most. The only problem is something Chico alluded to during the broadcast. You don’t want to make Malkin angry, because usually when Malkin gets angry, he gets focused and he makes you pay. That didn’t happen today, but you can get Geno is going to bounce right back tomorrow night at home against this same Devils team. If you were asking me to guess now, I’d say I’d be shocked if Malkin doesn’t score at least one goal while being the most dominant player on the ice. That’s not saying the Devils still can’t win tomorrow, but they’ll likely have to go through a very determined Malkin to do it.
Notes: How about that Steve Bernier? I didn’t get a chance to mention him in the power play segment, but he was just as responsible for those two PPGs as anyone else. His two screens on those goals were each a huge part of why those pucks ended up finding the back of the net. … Man, that Henrique guy just knows how to find loose pucks in big moments, doesn’t he? Brilliant job of sagging to the high slot on the power play to finally bury one of the rebounds the Devils had previously been unable to get their sticks on. … It’s amazing to see how masterful a job the Penguins do of creating space on the ice with their movements and shifts and then how freely and skillfully they move through that open space. It’s not hard to see why they’re so good. … Marty Brodeur. What can you say? He robbed Malkin of two goals on the doorstep, the second of which left Geno noticeably stunned. … The Devils scored twice in the third, but it was their play in the second period that won them that game. They dominated the entire period from start to finish and Marty snuffed out the few chances Pittsburgh had. The tide of the game completely changed during the second. … Marek Zidlicky has played two very solid games back to back and you wonder how much the demotion to 13 playing minutes the other night got to him. He stopped at least one 2-on-1 from generating a shot in his own end and drew a penalty with a rush to the net for the second straight game. … Shoot, Kovy. Almost always shoot. Good things happen when the puck leaves your stick and heads to the net … The Pens block a lot of shots and have very active sticks, especially on the penalty kill. … You’ve gotta think the Penguins will come out flying to start tomorrow’s game. They almost never have two bad games in a row and their penalty problems kept them from getting their offense going. The Devils will have to weather a pretty hectic storm to start tomorrow’s game.