Pete DeBoer is getting the job done, regardless of his flaws

Jeff OConnor

New Jersey Devils head coach Pete DeBoer very rarely gets any credit when he does things right. A fair amount of the Devils fanbase criticize him over many little things during the course of a day, nevermind a game. It’s time to put aside the little “annoying things he does” and get down to the facts.

Let’s start with the things that frustrate Devils fans: Is the Eric Gelinas benching/scratching/sitting annoying? Yes. Is the shunning of Adam Larsson frustrating? No question. Do people get on him about having optional skates/days off? They sure do.

But what is really important? The bottom line for an NHL coach is to win hockey games. He’s done exactly that since arriving a few years ago.

In his first season, he had two All-Star players, a very good goalie and took them to the Finals.

It’s tough to grade him last year given it was a 48-game season. There’s no question that when Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk went down last year, the team completely changed. Just to point this out, the Devils were on pace for 97 points last year, given their 48-game sample. Just sayin’.Pete DeBoer

On to this year… The Devils are right where they should be; a team that’s right in the hunt for the playoffs. There’s not much more he can be squeezing out of this team. They’re currently a top 10 team in the league in team defense, penalty killing and power play. He’s tinkered his system this season to keep most of the action in their own zone to the outside. In his first full year of coaching Travis Zajac, No. 19 is playing like the top-line center he can be. After a rocky start, Damien Brunner has bought into his system and is now a consistent scoring threat. Adam Henrique has returned to rookie form. Not to mention his handling of Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur… that’s an easy situation to second guess from afar.

Unfortunately, DeBoer can’t control where the Devils shoot the puck. The lack of finish on this team can’t be pinned on him. This team has played very solid hockey for a few months now. They’ve been in mostly every game, while grabbing some victories along the way. All he can do is get the team motivated to play and make sure they’re executing his system.

So, while there are things Devils fans pick at with PDB, please go ahead and find me a perfect NHL coach. I’ll wait.

In his body of work, Pete DeBoer has consistently won during his tenure with the New Jersey Devils. It’s time to give him credit for that instead of grilling him for who is scratched and whether the team is, or is not, practicing for an hour on gameday mornings.

Final Score: Blues 3 – Devils 0

St. Louis gets a small measure of revenge on their home ice with a shutout over a snakebitten Devils team, who could not find an answer to the perfect play of Jaroslav Halak. This one drops the Devils’ record to 22-21-11 on the season.

- Alex Steen is having the season of a lifetime. Tonight he netted his 27th of the year on a wrister from Jaden Schwartz and David Backes in the first. As it would turn out, that goal was also the game winner.

- The dominant Blues power play that the Devils stoned last time came through in a big way tonight, with Brendan Morrow deflecting a shot from Jay Bouwmeester to break the Devils midway through the third period. On the other side of the ice, the Devils went 0/4 on their power play opportunities.

- With all the talk of Corey Schneider’s play coming into tonight, (which was still fantastic, even in a loss) it was Jaroslav Halak who who made a very strong push to be his team’s starter tonight with a 23 save shutout.

Ryan Jahnke

After crashing back down to Earth in the Bronx on Sunday, New Jersey took another hit via a shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues.

On Tuesday night, the Devils were left flustered, frustrated, and finally — for five periods and counting — scoreless. The Blues brought everything they had for their rematch with the Devils. Unlike the fatigued team that showed up in Newark to play on January 21, tonight St. Louis was fast and physical, and showed why they are considered among the league’s elite teams. The Blues didn’t overwhelm the Devils. For the most part the game was 1-0 until a deflected power play goal and an empty-netter changed the look of the scoresheet. Yet, somehow, the game was never really in doubt for St. Louis. The stat lines were pretty even, and might have even favored New Jersey. But, in the end, St. Louis played relentless coverage against their top scorers, pushed the Devils to the outside, and made sure that the vast majority of the Devils chances were no real threat.

For the Devils, it was a game that they’ll have trouble seeing the bright side of. Corey Schneider put together one of those games that he’s starting to become known for, but, true to their own reputation, the Devils offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain. This was more to the credit of the Blues. Whenever Jaromir Jagr got the puck, Barret Jackman was all over him, taking him off his game. The same could be said of Patrik Elias, Ryan Clowe, Ryan Carter, Michael Ryder and plenty others. While they didn’t necessarily play poorly, they were constantly prevented from hitting the top of their games. Every shot was contested, and every pass had two men in the way.

New Jersey’s defense, despite what the final score might have you think, played fairly well. They held the Blues to two very difficult goals, the empty-netter aside, and made sure that the team was in the game all the way. Eric Gelinas and Andy Greene played their part in the offensive zone, and, in general, the D did what they could to help push the team up the ice. In terms of intensity, however, they failed to match what St. Louis brought to the table. The Devils shooters had to work for every opportunity they had against Halak, and usually got a little roughed up for their trouble. The Blues, on the other hand, seemed to have plenty of time to work with against a very cautious Devils’ team. This is something that they must change if they want to right the ship Thursday in Dallas.

Despite the outcome, the NHL hit it out of the park with the Stadium Series

Dave Turner

Relegated to the back page and beyond on most days in the New York/New Jersey area, for one day in January, hockey was king.

The sights were incredible. Gazing upon Yankee Stadium decked out in NHL logos was quite a sight. There was a buzz even before you entered the stadium. With media crews working to get fan interviews and photos, it was clear that this event was so, so much more than just a regular game.

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The Atmosphere

I met a large group of fans for the game and we enjoyed standing outside of Gate 4 as the droves of people entered the stadium. It was cold, but it was fitting. I couldn’t help but feel that the outdoor game in Los Angeles lacked something because it wasn’t exactly “hockey weather.”

Walking into the stadium, it hit me that this chance to play a game outdoors, with a “neutral site” game was so rare. Yes, the NHL plays the Winter Classic every year and there will be plenty more Stadium Series games to come, but never have they played a game between two bitter rivals that are located so close together.

There were tons of fans for both teams. Some were surprised at how many Devils fans showed up for the game, but those are just people who don’t understand the passion and dedication of the New Jersey Devils fan base.

The fans were fantastic. Between some good natured ribbing and tailgating in the few parking lots around the stadium, it was a sight to behold. Swarms of people dressed in red and blue, ready to support their teams.

This game did something for the New York area in terms of hockey coverage. It showed everyone that hockey DOES matter to a lot of people and that a major event involving hockey can fill up a baseball stadium.

Inside the Stadium

To read more of this story, click here

With six games before the Olympic Break, will this stretch define the season?

Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Rangers might have felt like more than a loss, but it wasn’t.

Sure, the Devils lost a chance to pull even with the Rangers in the standings, but losing those two points doesn’t yet spell disaster.

In the coming weeks, the Devils will need to address what is a hole at first line left wing. Whether it’s moving someone like Dainius Zubrus back to the first line and sliding someone Steve Bernier onto the line with Patrik Elias, the lack of another scorer on that top line is an issue that the Devils will have to tackle. Patrik Elias2

As of Monday morning, the Devils are just one point out of third place, behind the Flyers (56 points) and Blue Jackets (56 points). With Columbus playing Carolina, (55 points) that game means that the Devils will be two points out when they take the ice on Tuesday at St. Louis if Carolina wins, or three points out if Columbus wins.

As for the wild card, they currently sit just two points behind Detroit (57 points).

So, as bad as Sunday’s loss was, the playoffs are still right there for the taking.

Tuesday, January 28th – at St. Louis

Thursday, January 30th – at Dallas

Friday, January 31st – at Nashville

Monday, February 3rd – vs. Avalanche

Friday, February 7th – vs. Oilers

Saturday, February 8th – at Capitals

Dave Turner

Looking at these six games, there are certainly no gimmes. A road trip that starts with St. Louis is no easy task. As much as you can expect the Devils to try to raise their play in their first game after the outdoor game, St. Louis is home and will certainly remember the 7-1 defeat they suffered on a snowy night in Newark. The Blues are one of the best teams in the league and they’ll be more than ready for that game.

After that, Dallas will be no easy pickings either. The Stars are on the fringe of the playoff picture and need every possible point to stay alive. Expect Dallas to be very formidable in their own building.

Nashville has their issues scoring, but they’re still hanging on (just barely) in the Western Conference playoff picture. If I had to rank these games in terms of difficulty, Nashville is a game that the Devils should win.

After that, the Devils move back home for two games, taking on the Avalanche and Oilers. The Devils stuck with the Avs out in Colorado and though the Avs are a speedy team, if the Devils are able to control the tempo in their own building, they can come away with a win. The Oilers have had their struggles, but as the Devils remember, this team can score goals.

They’ll finish off their pre-Olympic schedule with a trip to Washington. It’s a divisional game and the Caps are still right in the thick of it. This is one that the Devils will need to win.

Realistically, anything under six points would probably put the Devils in troubled water coming out of the break. Seven or eight points might have them right where they are now, within a game or so of cracking the top eight. The Devils took a regulation loss on Sunday and too many more of those will make it substantially tougher to find a road to the playoffs. As we’ve said before, if they’re going to lose, it has to at least be a one-point loss.

Three regulation losses in the next six would be tough. At some point, the Devils need to start gaining points in chunks. A win one, lose one stretch will eventually lead to them losing ground.

Eight points would be a strong number of points to come away with. That’s a number that would keep them right in the mix. It certainly won’t be easy, with four of the next six on the road, but this team did well to get themselves back into the playoff picture.  At the very least, they keep themselves in the postseason conversation going into the Olympic break.

In terms of the goaltending split, I expect that Cory Schneider will get at least the next two starts, barring an injury or sub-par game. Schneider’s numbers have been excellent lately and he has to be given the chance to take the reins at some point. Martin Brodeur will get some starts before the break, but a 4-2 Schneider split seems completely feasible. With the Devils needing every available point, from this point out, it would be the responsible choice to put the best netminder in the net every night that gives the team the best chance to win. That being said, you can’t ice Brodeur and expect him to have to step up if Schneider goes down with an injury.

These next two weeks will tell a lot about this team, starting with a tall task in St. Louis in the wake of the Devils’ worst defeat of the season.

Pregame Primer: Game Fifty-Three, Outdoor Series game vs. Rangers

NHL Stadium Series 2014- Some ticket info announced, special logos unveiled - SBNation.com

New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers – 12:30 pm EST

Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York City 

TV: NBC  Radio: WFAN

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Here’s our mega-post for Sunday’s afternoon tilt from the Bronx against the New York Rangers. We’ll have predictions and unit by unit breakdowns.

Jacob Josefson – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Dainius Zubrus – Patrik Elias – Damien Brunner
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier

Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov – Eric Gelinas

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur 

Three keys to victory for the Devils: 

1. Win the special teams battle- The Rangers have a good power play and with the ice expected to be a little slow, anything can happen when you’re a man down. As for the Devils power play, it has been excellent as of late. If they expect to win tomorrow, they’ll need the power play to be a part of that.

2. Don’t give anything easy- The Devils allowed some odd-man rushes to the Capitals on Friday night. Against a team like the Rangers, that will spell disaster. The Rangers have quite a few players who can beat you and if they’re going to give up a goal, they’ll have to make the Rangers work for it.

3. Play Devils hockey- Maybe this one is easy, but with the slow ice and a playoff-style game expected, the game plays right in to the Devils system. Look for the Devils to slow it down and possess the puck, they’ll make the Rangers run around their own zone for periods of time. Make the Rangers defend for long stretches and it will limit their scoring chances. The Devils will look to find some of the clutch goal scoring that they’ve had from all four lines lately.

Ryan Jahnke

Defense 

With the showdown in the house that Jeter built looming less than 24 hours from now, we have to take a deeper look at the defensive end for both teams.

That means that we have to start with the marquee matchup in net, as we can now confirm that the first ever Stadium Series game between the Devils and the Rangers will see Martin Brodeur go head to head with Henrik Lundqvist. So far this year, the numbers between the two goaltenders are pretty even, with the edge going to Marty. The Devils have had Henrik’s number thus far, taking three straight against the league’s highest paid netminder. However, in the last two meetings, both of which Brodeur started, the Rangers have come closer and closer to turning the tables on the Devs. Games two and three of the series were decided by a single goal, scored by the Devils mere moments before and after the start of overtime period.

Coming into the Stadium Series, Andy Greene and Ryan McDonagh are the defensemen to watch from their respective teams. These two have been having two of the best years of any of the league’s top defensive players. Both are playing stellar in their own zone, and both have put up some great scoring numbers. As a whole, however, Jersey’s defenders, like Marek Zidlicky and Eric Gelinas, are proving to be more productive. New Jersey’s defense has contributed 24 goals and 71 assists to the effort, as opposed to 14 and 51 from the Rangers D. What’s more, the defense for the Red and Black has found the back of the net on the power play 12 times, while Ryan McDonagh has the only blue line power play goal for New York.

In the end, it will be the Devils’ forwards that make the biggest difference in the defensive game. While both sides dress very strong defensemen, the Devils offensive players are some of the best defensive forwards going. Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique are among the league’s elite right now, and backing them up are the likes of Ryan Clowe, Danius Zubrus, Jacob Josefson, Ryan Carter, and Stephen Gionta. These men are a big reason why the Devils have allowed fewer goals than all but three NHL teams, and fewer shots per game than anyone.

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Dave Turner

Offense

The Devils are finally boasting four lines and it can’t come at a better time. With Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner back in the lineup and Ryane Clowe and Adame Henrique producing, New Jersey now has some of the depth that they had hoped for coming into the season.

Coming into this game, the biggest question mark is at first line left wing. Slated for that spot tomorrow is Jacob Josefson. After being drafted, the Devils had so much hope for the young Swede, but he has struggled to stay in the lineup. Now, he’ll get a chance to play on the top line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. Playing with those two should bring out the best in almost any player’s game and the Devils are hoping that Josefson can slide in easily. He’s a strong two-way player, which should allow him to log the kind of minutes needed to be on the top line, but he’ll have to show some promise to stay with that line throughout the game.

As for the rest, the Henrique-Ryder-Clowe line has been excellent lately. This line brings a lot to the table due to the diversity of their skill sets. In Michael Ryder, there’s a pure goal scorer, someone who can shoot the puck with accuracy from almost anywhere on the ice. Henrique has found a niche playing in front of the net and is making plays. Ryane Clowe has done a nice job of using his size and toughness to win pucks in the corner and create havoc in front of the net.

Not to be forgotten is the line of Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter. This line has a penchant for scoring clutch goals and they certainly know how to score against the Rangers. If the fourth line is able to produce, it’ll make for a much more well-rounded attack.

The Blueshirts have been paced by Rick Nash, who is on fire lately. Mats Zuccarello, who was resigned last season after leaving the club has been a strong addition to the club. Brad Richards and Derek Stepan give the Rangers a great one-two punch down the middle.

The Rangers have five players with double-digit goal totals, but have been a team that has relied on scoring from it’s entire roster. Ryan Callahan is settling in after injuries early in the season and Benoit Pouliot is dangerous as well.

With the ice expected to be slower than the “normal” ice found in a hockey arena, winning battles in the corners and creating traffic in front to bang home a rebound will be crucial for both clubs.

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Jeff OConnor

Special Teams  

Don’t look now…but all of the sudden the new jersey devils have a top-10 power play, checking in at ninth in the league with a conversion rate just under 20 percent. That’s truly working wonders to go along with leading the league in fewest penalty minutes. For what the Devils lack in consistent finish, they certainly make up here.

The PK has stayed sharp really the whole season as they rank 2nd in the circuit. DeBoers ability to trust a majority of his forwards to take care of business on the PK keeps his offensive guns rested with enough energy to play a strong third period.

The Rangers aren’t shabby on the specials either…they are 7th on the PP and 9th in PK. Especially regading the PK…Alain Vigneault should be given a lot of credit in keeping some of the success John Toroltorella had during his tenure in NY.

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Predictions: 

Ryan Jahnke – 3-2 Devils 

Dave Turner – 2-1 Rangers 

Jeff O’Connor – 3-2 Devils (SO)

Our picks vary, but perhaps the most interesting is Jeff’s pick of the Devils winning in a shootout. Considering how bad they’ve been in the skills competition this season, why not break through on the big stage. While Ryan believes that the Devils will do just enough to skate away with a tough one goal lead, Dave picks the Rangers in a low-scoring affair.

Enjoy the game everyone and stay warm!

 

Cory Schneider’s numbers have been fantastic and that’s why Martin Brodeur should start on Sunday

Dave Turner

It has been announced that Martin Brodeur will be between the pipes for Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium.

The way Cory Schneider has been playing of late, from a sheer numbers standpoint, it would have made sense to give him the nod. Those numbers are exactly why Brodeur should be starting.

As the Devils head into the stretch run of the season with a playoff spot right in their sights, it needs to be Schneider playing the majority of the way as long as he continues to play at the same level. Cory Schneider

The old saying, if you have two goalies, you really have none, is true in a sense. If neither goaltender is playing well enough to take the job, then you’re without a real number one netminder. Look at the St. Louis Blues for example. Great team, but neither Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliot have been able to completely wrestle away the job.

Even when asked about who the starter should be, prior to the announcement, Schneider was quick to praise Brodeur.

“It’s a pretty special game and Marty’s been a big part of this and gotten a lot of wins for us this year and whether he picks him or me i don’t think it changes the way we feel about it or how we play, I think we both trust each other and respect the way we’re playing,” Schneider told the media after Friday night’s win over the Capitals. “This is a game that would mean a lot to Marty, having never played an outdoor game in his career and i’m sure he would really enjoy it.”

Both goaltenders have been eloquent and supportive when asked about each other and because of that, an entire “goalie controversy” never happened. Even when one was outplaying the other, the team and both netminders stayed the course and had nothing but positive things to say about each other. That peaceful coexistence certainly helped to keep things together when the team was struggling early on in the season.

Now, as they inch towards the playoffs, they need to do so on the back of one of the goalies. Right now, the numbers say that it is Schneider.

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Not to say that Brodeur hasn’t been playing well, because he has had some brilliant moments this season, but Schneider’s numbers are among the league’s best. Among goaltenders who have enough stats to qualify, Schneider’s 1.84 goals against average is second best in the league and his .928 save percentage ranks fourth.

Cory Schneider is becoming the number-one goaltender on this team. Sure, things can still change between now and the end of the season, but the former Vancouver Canuck has played more than well enough to establish himself as the man moving forward.

If this was any other veteran goaltender behind him, it would be no big deal, but it’s Martin Brodeur. The outdoor game serves as perhaps Brodeur’s last big moment of his career. 20120110-155120.jpgHe’ll get to play in front of 40,000-plus and on national television. With the area basketball teams struggling, this is one of the biggest moments for New York area sports this winter. No. 30 needs to start this game, there is no other way.

Sunday’s game against the Rangers can be one final moment to revel in the play of the greatest and most decorated goaltender in NHL history. Brodeur’s accomplishments and decades of service, serve as the reasons why he should start. He has been the face of the franchise for years and with the entire NHL and tri-state area looking on, it has to be Brodeur showing what he can do one last time with the bright lights on him. He has earned that opportunity, even with the strong play of No. 35.

By the time that Brodeur skates off of the Yankee Stadium ice on Sunday afternoon, this might be Schneider’s team. But that’s okay. One of the classiest men in hockey may soon show us  that he’s able to valiantly pass the torch if needed.

Final Score: Devils 2, Capitals 1

In their final game before Sunday’s outdoor game at Yankee Stadium, the Devils got out to a lead and held on for a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals from Prudential Center. The win moves the Devils 22-19-11 on the season.

- The Devils got out to a 1-0 lead on a 2-on-1 goal by Stephen Gionta in the first period.

- In the second stanza, it was Adam Henrique who lit the lamp off of a beautiful feed from Jaromir Jagr.

- Playing without their superstar, Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals struggled to get sustained pressure on the Devils, though they did manage 31 shots on the evening.

- The difference on Friday night was Cory Schneider, who has been superb lately. The only blemish was a third period tally by Jason Chimera.

Dave Turner

It might be freezing cold on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, but the Devils are starting to bring the heat at the right time.

Cory Schneider might not start on Sunday, nor is he a member of the 2014 US Olympic team, but his numbers are reaching an entirely different stratosphere. With the win, the former Boston College Eagle evened up his record at 9-9-7, while lowering his goals against average to a minuscule 1.84 and brought his save percentage to .928%.

Not to be overlooked is the play of the defense in front of him. Much maligned players in the offseason, Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador are bringing strength and grit to the lineup. Since Salvador’s return on December 28th, the team is 7-3-3. Bryce Salvador

While there are plenty of Salvador detractors, the captain has been a stabilizing force in the lineup. No. 24 is a plus-one since returning to the lineup.

The seven-goal outburst against the Blues is far from the norm. If this team hopes to make the playoffs, they’re going to have to win these kind of hard-fought 2-1 games. With the power play looking better of late and players like Ryane Clowe and Adam Henrique starting to sizzle, it’s going to come down to the ability to win one-goal games. Considering that the Devils do not have a regulation loss when leading after two periods, they are going to have to rely on that lock-down prowess during the stretch run.

This was a game that the Devils had to have and they got it done. Washington, who seemed like a lock at one point to make the playoffs out of the Metropolitan Division are suddenly struggling. For the Devils to take two points against the Caps without them gaining at least a point is a big plus.

With an assist on both goals, Jaromir Jagr moved into a tie for the 10th most assists in NHL history. He’s tied with former teammate Mario Lemieux, with 1,033 helpers.

Up next is the big one. The Devils will skate at noon from Yankee Stadium on Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Rangers. Speaking of the Rangers, with the Devils win against the Capitals, a regulation win by New Jersey would bring the Devils into a tie with New York at 57 points.

Every Devils-Rangers game is big, but with 40,000-plus watching and a two huge points in the standings at stake, this has the makings of a classic.

For the Devils, this matchup is coming at the right time, as the team has notched points in eight of their last nine games.