Postgame Thoughts: Rangers 4, Devils 1 (4/21/13)
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.
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.
- The usual collection of links from New Jersey’s 10th straight loss, a 2-0 defeat in Toronto (NJ.com) (NorthJersey.com) (NHL.com) (AP)
- As NHL.com correspondent Mike Brophy points out, the Devils’ and Leafs’ fates have reversed this year (NHL.com)
- According to Patrik Elias, Pete DeBoer and his staff are not to blame for New Jersey’s 10-game losing streak, notes Rich Chere (NJ.com)
- Among Tom Gulitti’s notes, it appears Ilya Kovalchuk will rejoin the Devils on Thursday in Philadelphia (NorthJersey.com)
Watch: Patrik Elias Tries To Explain
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.
Postgame Thoughts: Bruins 5, Devils 4 (4/10/13)
This one hurts as much as a Zdeno Chara slapshot to the wrist. While the rival (and eighth-place) Rangers won in a shootout to move four points head of the Devils, New Jersey lost what felt like a microcosm of their entire season. There was the awful start, injuries to key players affecting the team and the Devils coming up just short of a tie game and a guaranteed point in overtime. Like I said, this one hurts. Some thoughts…
Fragile: It’s a word Pete DeBoer used to describe his team after the Devils allowed three early goals despite the Bruins taking four penalties in five minutes AND Martin Brodeur stopping a penalty shot. It seemed a wildly appropriate description for a team that has been known to cave at the end of periods, surrender goals in bunches and lose their heads in their own zone. There’s a reason why the Devils always seem to play better after DeBoer calls a timeout. He can read whether they need a kick in the ass or a moment to breathe and then suddenly, they look like a different team. It happened tonight and it’s happened countless other times this season. The team’s psyche is fragile and they don’t have enough extraordinarily talented players on the roster to carry them through rough patches. Without Ilya Kovalchuk, it’s a collection of “guys” — some with high-quality talent, but most without. A “fragile” team combined with a limited roster is a bad combination and it’s why they’ve gone one two very bad losing streaks this season. This is not a team that can answer the bell and fight through adversity, which is so strange since it’s nearly the same team as last year’s that basically made adversity its 24th man on the bench. THIS is where we’re seeing and feeling the loss of Zach Parise, who’s attitude, work ethic and willingness to buy in no matter what would drive the Devils through difficult times. Maybe Travis Zajac or Adam Henrique will get there some day, but they’re not there now.
- Andrew Gross explores how rare it is that the Devils, Rangers and Islanders are closing in on playoff spots together (NorthJersey.com).
- Rich Chere examines the prospect of New Jersey re-signing David Clarkson and Patrik Elias (NJ.com).
- The Devils received some help from the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night when they knocked off the Rangers 4-3 (NHL.com)
Postgame Thoughts: Sabres 3, Devils 2 S/O (4/7/13)
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.