Quote: Clarkson Unsure About Future

Postgame Thoughts: Devils 3, Canadiens 2 (4/23/13)

Corey Griffin

Links: Pregame thread | Twitter | NHL.com recap

As I said on Twitter postgame, this was an impressive win for a lot of reasons. Yes, the Devils probably should’ve played like this at some point during their 10-game slide. No, two more wins like this won’t drastically change how we look at the season. However, there were bright spots in this game that lend themselves toward a positive look for next season and it’s possible missing the playoffs flipped a switch in the psyche of a lot of these players, which is another topic for another day. As forĀ  tonight’s game, some thoughts…

Fortitude: At least for me, the most impressive part of tonight’s win came after the Canadiens scored two unanswered, the second of which came including one in the final minute of the second period. We’ve seen the Devils melt down multiple times in that scenario, giving up an early goal in the third and going on to lose in regulation or in extra play. It’s been one of my biggest criticisms of this Devils team, particularly during their recent slide. This team lacked a strong enough mental edge to their game to rebound from “woe is us” moments. Tonight, though, they didn’t need a timeout to correct them and while they struggled to get shots on net in the third, they still kept the Canadiens at bay for long stretches. Also, the Habs came out in the third and tried to bully the Devils, who fought right back. Ilya Kovalchuk, for one, went right at the Canadiens after he got hit from behind. Kovy’s response, along with the the energy he’s played with and the way he drives the train (so to speak), has me wondering if it should be Kovalchuk with the captain’s “C” next season. I know Salvador is respected in the room and a lot of guys like him, but would it kill them to give it to Kovy and have Salvador take an “A?” I think it would be a wise move that would help shape the team’s mindset going into next season. Food for thought.

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Postgame Thoughts: Rangers 4, Devils 1 (4/21/13)

Corey Griffin

Links: Twitter | NHL.com recap

A lifeless start, a couple of bad penalty calls and suddenly the Devils were frustrated, losing and on their way to playoff elimination. All in all, a sad but fitting end (as far as playoff chances go) to a season that was flawed from the get-go. Some thoughts…

Two things: When you combine a lack or energy with some questionable officiating, you usually get one of two results. Sometimes the team will take on an “us against the world” mentality, snap out of their funk and go on a tear the rest of the game. That didn’t happen today. Instead, the Devils went further into their shell and seemingly quit on the game and essentially their season. Even Martin Brodeur admitted that he felt his teammates gave up when things didn’t go their way. The Devils basically mailed in the first period, negating to forecheck or apply any sort of offensive pressure on the Rangers. It was almost like the Devils came out assuming they were already eliminated from the playoffs. While it was a mathematical eventuality, it’s still disconcerting to hear players after the game talk about how they knew it was just a matter of time. When you hear stuff like that, you can understand why you get a first period like the Devils had today.

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Postgame Thoughts: Devils 6, Panthers 2 (4/20/13)

Links: Pregame thread | Twitter | NHL.com recap

If you didn’t watch the first 10 minutes of today’s game, you’d think it was one of the Devils’ best efforts all season. Despite that (very) sub-par start, the Devils once again managed to “turn it on” after Pete DeBoer’s timeout and just dominated the Panthers for the next 50 minutes. Some thoughts…

Wake-up call: The Pete DeBoer First Period Timeout should be sold in pharmacies across the country. It’s best wake-up call I think I’ve ever seen. Why the Devils continue to need it — especially in the throes of a desperate playoff chase — is beyond me, but it certainly is the magical elixir this roster covets. The Devils came out painfully slow and were lacking any sort of energy. The Panthers were skating circles around them, getting to every loose puck. Both of Florida’s goals were a result of out-efforting New Jersey, but that changed as soon as DeBoer called his infamous timeout. You could see him rotating his hand, signaling the Devils needed to pick up the energy. This wasn’t one of those “settle down” timeouts. This was the “well-time expletive” version and it worked. Boy did it work. It took a few minutes but before long New Jersey was all over Florida, like a train that takes time to build up speed and then all of sudden is barreling down the tracks at 80 miles per hour. I know I’ve spent some time cracking on the Devils for their slow starts this season and their reliance on the P.D.F.P.T. (we might need a better acronym), but at this point, a win is a win is a win.

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Note: David Clarkson Takes Maintenance Day

Clarkson was cut across the face during the final moments of Friday’s loss to Ottawa. It’s unclear if this is related to that injury but we’ll keep an eye out.

Postgame Thoughts: Senators 2, Devils 0 (4/12/13)

Corey Griffin

Links: Pregame thread | Twitter | NHL.com recap

There’s going to be a multitude of reactions to tonight’s loss. Many will cite “puck luck” or the lack thereof. Others will claim a screwjob from the refs in the third period. Some will say Pete DeBoer isn’t doing his job and needs to go, if only to shake up the team. I’ll give you the first one. I may even listen to you on the second one, too. But this loss, like most of the last nine have not been the fault of one, Pete DeBoer. This loss, like this skid, is a combination of factors, but the blame resides largely on the ice. Some thoughts…

Car, meet wall: We talked about it in our pregame thread, the idea of a team struggling to score running into a very good goalie in Craig Anderson. We were concerned that if Anderson was on his game, it might not matter what the Devils did — and after 60 minutes it was pretty clear that Anderson was going to win tonight no matter what the Devils did. Although he got a little help from the iron maidens, he did plenty of work on his own. At times, Anderson used excellent positioning to give the Devils almost nowhere to shoot. The rest of the time he flung his legs or his glove or his blocker (or the butt end of his stick) into the Devils’ way (and faces). Flat out — Anderson was a damn beast tonight. He might have missed too much time with a sprained ankle to still be considered for the Vezina, but he put on the type of late-season performance tonight that usually rockets a goalie’s name to the top of the list. You know what tonight was? It was the Coyote vs. the Roadrunner. The Coyote painted the train tunnel on the rock, thinking it would fool the Roadrunner, who of course (through the miracle of dated animation) ran right through that tunnel. When the Coyote tried to follow, he either found himself flattened by a train or up against the rock. Craig Anderson was both the train and the rock tonight, sitting back and attacking and basically steamrolling a Devils team that basically gave everything it had and came up with nothing.

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Point-Counterpoint: Will The Devils Make The Playoffs?

Ilya Kovalchuk hurt

The last time the Devils were in the midst of a lengthy losing streak, Pat Pickens and I got together and debated whether the Devils were in real trouble. Pat was a little more optimistic than me, although we both saw a chance for redemption. Then Ilya Kovalchuk got hurt and the Devils went off the rails. With eight games left, Pat and I faced a simple questions: Will the Devils make the playoffs? What follows is a quick answer to that question followed by a debate over why it happened, how to fix it and whether Pete DeBoer should be part of the solution or on the chopping block.

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Results Simply Not Coming For Devils

Pat Pickens

In talking with several Devils and head coach Pete DeBoer after their 2-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday, it’s patently obvious that they are playing well enough to win.

“We’re a confident team, we believe in ourselves,” forward David Clarkson said. “We have to continue to keep pushing and working hard every day.”

Still, six-straight losses– three straight in regulation– have left the Devils searching for answers.

One thing is clear, they’re not playing badly. New Jersey’s outshot its opposition 17 of the last 19 games but is 5-9-5 in those games, having scored only 40 goals in that stretch.

“We’re doing our share defensively,” goalie Martin Brodeur said Saturday. “Offensively, it’s just tough on guys. We’re getting the chances, we’re just not putting the puck in the net.”

Still, putting pucks in has proved problematic. New Jersey’s netted just two goals in its last three.

“We’re repeating ourselves here for the past few games,” forward Patrik Elias said. “It’s tough to win with one or not scoring any goals.”

“It’s frustrating,” forward David Clarkson said. “You’re there, you’re making the plays, you’re winning battles, we just seem to be on the other end of the bounces … we know what we’ve got to do, and we’ve got the leaders in the room to do it.”

Falling behind has exacerbated the problem. The Devils are 3-13-5 when allowing the first goal and are 12-1-4 when they score first.

“We’ve got to find a way in that first period to get the first goal,” DeBoer said Saturday. “The table was set for us, and we didn’t take advantage of it.”

Obviously, losing Ilya Kovalchuk– for a team that struggled to score when the star winger was healthy — has been devastating. But the club isn’t feeling sorry for itself, nor can it. New Jersey needs points and it knows that it must get them without No. 17.

The word “frustration” spread around New Jersey’s dressing room after Saturday’s loss. Not only were the players irritated, but the fans are losing their patience too. The sellout crowd booed New Jersey’s hapless power play, especially while the Devils failed to set up during a first-period five-on-three.

“We’re not winning games, we’re not scoring,” Elias said. “We’re not playing bad hockey, so it’s more frustrating.”

As the Devils’ PP has gone, so has gone their offense. New Jersey has not scored in its last 11 man-advantage tries and is 2-for-19 over their last seven games.

“When you’re not scoring, you focus on … getting more pucks to the net, getting more bodies,” DeBoer said. “We had to cash in on our power play … you’ve got to make hay this time of year.”

DeBoer’s tinkered with lines, he’s changed lineups, he’s benched players, and thus far nothing has worked. Still, Clarkson believes in the team’s resilience because he’s seen it.

“Last year, we had some bumps in the road as well,” he said. “It’s being a good hockey team, you learn how to guys being injured, you learn how to deal with pucks going your way and not going your way. That’s something we’ve always been good at as an organization. I think we’ll be OK.”

But with the Devils sitting in 10th place in the East, a mere three points behind the Islanders for eighth with 10 games left, it’s time to start making things work.

Postgame Thoughts: Maple Leafs 2, Devils 1

Pat Pickens

The Devils’ frustration level is rising.

On a night when the Jets, Rangers, Islanders and Capitals all won, New Jersey could only muster one goal in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at Prudential Center.

“There’s some frustration in not winning,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “We have to find a way to win games … that’s where the frustration lies.”

David Clarkson potted New Jersey’s lone goal, and Martin Brodeur stopped 16 shots, but the Devils lost their sixth-straight game, falling into three points behind eighth-placed Islanders with just 10 games left.

“It’s a big mountain to climb when you can’t score,” Brodeur said. “We’re not playing bad … it’s tough when you have chances and can’t come through.”

The Devils had five power-play opportunities, including a first-period two-man advantage for 1:04, but could not find a way to beat Toronto goalie James Reimer.

“We’ve got to cash in on the power play tonight,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to make hay this time of year when that opportunity comes.”

Reimer stopped 27 of 28, earning his 14th win of the season.

Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov each scored goals for Toronto. Bozak’s goal, the game winner, came on a breakaway at 8:02 of the third.

“He had a breakaway and shot it,” Brodeur said. “It just popped up, and I just missed it.”

Steve Sullivan, playing in his first game back in New Jersey, had a glorious first-period opportunity but was robbed by Reimer at the top of the crease.

“I think that’s one of those where nine out of 10 you’ll take the time needed to corral the puck and put it in the space it can go to,” Sullivan said. “I think … I was hoping more than just putting it in, especially being the first period of your first game back.”

Sullivan played 17:21 and was a minus-1 in his first game back in New Jersey.

“It was an adjustment,” Sullivan said. “The timing was a bit off, but as I get a few games under my belt, I think that will come.”

DeBoer said of Sullivan: “He gave us some good minutes tonight.”

New Jersey outshot Toronto 14-8 in the first period yet still trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.

Komarov re-directed Mark Fraser’s point shot at 3:49 of the first, giving the Leafs the lead. New Jersey had a number of chances but could not solve Reimer.

“We had a flurry of shots on net,” Sullivan said. “We carried the play in the offensive zone … I thought it was a great first period, but we were still down 1-0, so it was not the way we wanted to have a first period.”

DeBoer thought New Jersey could’ve been more desperate.

“We’ve got to find a way in that first period to get the first goal,” he said. “The table was set for us, and we could not take advantage of it.”

Clarkson’s goal broke up the Devils scoring drought at 143:36.

“It wasn’t for a lack of trying,” he said. “It’s just not going in right now.”

Forward Patrik Elias thinks New Jersey played well but simply didn’t get the desired result.

“The work ethic was there,” Elias said. “We created a lot of good chances.”

DeBoer said that Brodeur would play again Sunday in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Brodeur has played in eight straight since returning from a back injury. It sounds like Sunday will make that nine in a row.

The second-year coach also said he thinks the Devils can close the year with a win streak.

“I think we can win nine or 10,” he said.