Archives for March 2008

Okay, so after an unplanned day off, we’re back. Because there’s been so much ado already, I present without any FURTHER ado:

THE AWESOME, THE NOT-SO-AWESOME, AND THE DOWNRIGHT RIDICULOUS of the Devils 5-4 shootout victory over the Flyers Friday night.

THE AWESOME: ODUYA RULES!

I’ve done this little-used feature twice this season. The common theme? Oduya has been awesome both times. His first career multiple-goal game couldn’t have come at a more important time for this offensively-challenged team and really got the goal scoring ball rolling. The final score may have read 5-4, but the Devils actually put seven pucks into the net behind Martin Biron (four in regulation, three in the shootout). It started with Oduya.

And that’s without mentioning the insane +25 +/- rating Johnny’s sporting. It would have been a perfect night if not for his leaving Mike Knuble alone in the last minute, giving Philly a point. But I’m willing to overlook that for now. Well done, Mr. Oduya, well done.

THE NOT-SO-AWESOME: VITALY VISHNEVSKI AND SHELDON BROOKBANK

You’re killin’ me, Smalls. We have a small village of defensemen, and somehow these two have played the majority of recent games. I take back what I said after the Ranger game, I don’t want the same defensemen playing for the rest of the year, because I want someone – anyone – in in place of Brookbank. I’ll take Greene back. I’ll gladly take Rachunek in his stead. Vish can stay for now, but only if he starts using his head when using his body. You can’t use the latter without the former, that’s how you wind up the anti-Oduya, with a -11 +/- rating.

THE DOWNRIGHT RIDICULOUS: STOP ALLOWING LATE GOALS!

Remember last year, when the Devils took years off our collective lives by scoring some seven or eight goals in the last minute, with Marty pulled for the extra attacker?

Well, it looks like karma is coming around and the Red N’ Black boys are paying for it in spades this year. Four of the last six games, the Devils have allowed a goal in the last five minutes of play. No two were more crushing that Nigel Dawes’ shoulder shot and Knuble’s tying goal in the last minute Friday night. These are things that cannot happen to playoff teams with such regularity. It’s a frightening trend that must be nipped, like, yesterday.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 271 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/30/devils-beat-philly-im-a-little-late/

Sorry for the downtime folks! We’re back now!

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 210 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/30/where-did-we-go/

Nothing like a visit from the Flyers to save your season.

Hot damn, that was awesome.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 274 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/28/were-back-baby/

So despite a decent effort, the Devils fell to the Penguins last night, this time by a score of 2-0. The loss clinches a playoff spot for the Penguins, opens up a four-point gap between the teams in the Atlantic division race, marks the 10th time the Devils have been shut out this season, and extends the second-longest losing streak of the year to four games.No I don't.

All of this in late March, when playoff-bound teams should concievably be getting better, not worse. Ouch.

It’s getting bad now gang. Three goals in four games, twenty goals in eleven games for the month of March…this is not the way to go into the playoffs, obviously.

The offense has been pathetic. Hell, more fans have scored at Score-O than Devils players have scored in the games lately. Patrik Elias was supposed to spark the forwards when he returned from the knee injury/flu, and while more pucks found their way towards the goalie formerly known as BananaPads, they still couldn’t poke anything past (well, except for the disallowed goal, which – if anyone saw the goal that was allowed in the Capitals/Hurricanes game – probably should have counted, though this team didn’t really deserve it anyway).

The frustrating thing is that it’s obvious that the boys are trying – particularly in the first two periods on Saturday and the entire game tonight – and yet still resemble Mites On Ice more than a top-tier team in the Eastern Conference.

Jumping up and down on the panic buttonBut we all know we’ve got problems. The question is, what to do about it?

First off needs to be solidifying the defense. Whichever six men start on Thursday at MSG need to be the only six defensemen playing for the rest of the regular season. Andy Greene was downright brutal Saturday night, but it’s tough to sit for so long and then come back in like nothing’s changed. Sheldon Brookbank and Vitaly Vishnevski sat for just one game but were nearly as bad. I say, leave the pairings alone and give them time to really feel comfortable on the ice before the playoffs start.

But Josh, the Devils have a goal scoring problem, not a defense problem!

True. But faith in the D will breed chances on the O. Despite numerous good chances, I’m convinced that the Devils team that stepped on the ice gave away a minimum of three good scoring chances by erring on the side of caution in the offensive zone. Whether you lose 1-0 or 5-3, it’s still zero points. With five minutes to play and a scoring drought that is the worst it’s been in a pretty bad scoring year, you need to be going for the goal. You have the best goaltender in the NHL back there, gamble a little up front.

There’s one other thing that needs to be done. It’s probably the most difficult thing for a team in a scoring drought in late March to do, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that if the Devils do this, they’ll get their goal scoring touch back in no time.

What do the Devils really need to do?

CHILL.

There’s not a single player in red and black right now who isI hate using this picture. relaxed, except for the perenially zen Marty. That’s understandable, but it needs to change. Too many scoring chances lately have been rushed, too many shots duffed, too many passes a step behind or a step too far, too many shots fired without anyone ready for a tip or a rebound. It’s painful to see, really.

I advise watching tape of the 7-3 win over Philly and the 6-1 wins over Carolina and Tampa Bay earlier this year. Remember how much fun was had then?

Or perhaps a nice soothing yoga session. Guided meditation, maybe? Reverse psychology? I don’t know for sure. But the longer this lack of scoring (and therefore lack of winning) goes on, the more the Devils need to stop thinking and just start doing. The only play in last night’s game where it looked like anyone on the Devils just said “to hell with it” and drove the net nearly produced a goal, if not for a call that could have gone either way on any given night. I worry that the boys are thinking to much about not scoring goals. I know I am, anyway.

Oh, and if this can be figured out and fixed by Thursday, that’d be awesome.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 228 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/26/oh-dear/

If I had any brains at all left in my bewildered head, I wouldn’t even bother with tonight’s hoe-down with Pittsburgh.

But I will. And I’ll probably regret it.

There really isn’t anything left to say at this point. The Devils have probably dropped the grenade and threw the pin as far as winning the Eastern conference is concerned, and in my mind the Division will be out of reach should the Pens walk away with a victory tonight.

That being the case, I beg this simple plea:

Please. Stop. Sucking.

I’ve known this attempt to prove futile in the past, but figured I’d just give it a shot for the hell of it.

Hey, at the very least, we’re not the Islanders.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 278 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/25/i-probably-shouldnt/

Seriously.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 150 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/22/i-have-no-words/

Poor penguin...

Put on your game faces, boys and girls. It’s time to get serious.

…Or at least as serious as a post starting off with a cartoon Devil having his way with a cartoon penguin can get, anyway.

The Devils tonight look to erase the painful memories of recent failures in the Metro Ice Challenge by taking on the Penguins, co-holders of the lead for the Atlantic Division and owners of an identical record. The good news is that the boys in red and black have already taken four of six from Pittsburgh, giving the Devs the tiebreaker should the two teams end the season with identical top-of-the-Atlantic records.

Also good news? Sidney Crosby remains sidelined for both tonight’s tilt and Tuesday’s rematch at the Rock. You may recall Sidney went down with a high ankle sprain earlier this year, and it seems the Kid is still feeling the effects. It might not be classy, but I’ll take a Crosby-less Pens any day.

In roster-related news on the New Jersey side of things, Arron Asham’s one-punch takedown of the Isles’ Matthew Spiller aggravated a hand injury, so he’s out, per the extremely awesome Tom Gulitti. In his place is Barry Tallackson, recently recalled from Lowell. Also in are Andy Greene and Karel Rachunek, who thankfully are taking the spots of Vitaly Vishnevski and Sheldon Brookbank. Greene and Rachunek may not be perfect, but anyone’s better than Brookbank after last night’s game.

Patrik Elias and Bryce Salvador both remained sidelined for the Devils as well.

This is going to be a big game kiddies, so kick back, have a beer (root beer if you’re not of age, of course…), and let’s put the memories of offensively challenged games against the Rangers and Islanders to bed, yes?

Check back with us for a post-game wrap-up and other crazy shenanigans!

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 242 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/22/lets-get-serious-now/

A note to the New Jersey Devils:

You’d better just be getting all of the losing out of your system before the playoffs start.

If that is the case, fine.  But I do have to remind you that you have not yet guarenteed your invitation to the post-season dance just yet.

Get it together already.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 238 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/21/well-that-suckedagain/

The Zubbiemonster counts for something, no?

Yeah, I’m not happy either.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 184 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/20/at-least-zubrus-scored/

9:44 PM ET: This also leaves just two chances for Patricia to avoid having to burn her skin off after wearing a Rangers jersey.  Check the story below for more on that.  That’s it for me tonight though. Goodnight!

9:40 PM ET: Not a good start to a three-week long set of crucial divisional matchups. The Devils played well through most of the game but fell flat at the exact moment they needed to hold up most. On the bright side, we’re still in first in the conference and the Rangers haven’t gained on us. Nonetheless, this one hurts.

9:38 PM ET: Dubinsky and Parise both get shut down and thats it. ANOTHER Devils loss to the Rangers. That one stings too. Rangers in the shootout 1-0, pick up the 2-1 win.

9:37 PM ET: Dawes scores. Gio does not.

9:36 PM ET: Shanahan is… stoned by Brodeur! Langenbrunner gets shut down too. boo.

9:34 PM ET: Langs, Gionta and Parise to shoot for the Devils. Shanahan, Dawes and Callahan for the Rangers.

9:31 PM ET: And we’re headed to a shootout.

9:30 PM ET: Not a lot of big chances here in OT, neither crew wants to be the team to give up that extra point.

9:27 PM ET: Shots for both sides here at the start of OT. The Rangers have really picked up their play here though and look a lot better when they have the puck.

9:25 PM ET: OT is underway. Tension!

9:23 PM ET: Regulation ends with the Devils on their heels a bit. Each team will get a point and we’ll head to overtime. Boy I miss Patty in this situation.

9:20 PM ET:
Marty makes a HUUUUUGE kick save on a slapper from the point with a minute to go. Oh man. I think I just pooped a hammer.

9:17 PM ET: The boys look shaken after that goal and Sutter calls a a pow wow timeout with 3 minutes left.

9:16 PM ET: Why?! Why can’t there be a Devils game that isn’t crazy intense down the stretch? If I had one word to describe this season it would be ulcer.

9:14 PM ET: Boy did I speak too soon. Brookbank leaves his position and the Rangers get a wide open Drury at point blank range, and he puts it in. 1-1 game.

9:11 PM ET: Goooood kill by New Jersey. I’ve got to imagine that puts a dent in what’s left of the Ranger’s confidence.. which has looked akin to a rusty El Camino to begin with.

9:09 PM ET: Paul Martin just put a shoulder on Nigel Dawes like a linebacker! Man, everyone just seems like they woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Good stuff.

9:08 PM ET: Boo. Rupp takes a holding penalty at a baaaad time. 7 minutes to go and the Rangers will be on the PP for the next 2.

9:06 PM ET: Zubrus has really been taking it to Avery along the boards since the penalty last period.. but I guess most probably take it to Avery whenever they get a chance.

8:59 PM ET: Talk about your true-blue Devils game. 1-0 with 13 left in the 3rd, the Rangers just being stymied and held to next to no solid chances here in the third.

8:55 PM ET: Not a whole lot happens on the powerplay and we’re back at full-strength. Parise gets the lone chance, a big shot form the slot, but it’s smothered by Lundqvist.

8:52 PM ET: Big time kill for the Devils. The Rangers got nothing going and we’re back at even strength. Then again… Colton Orr takes a holding call as I was typing and the Devils are back on the powerplay!

8:51 PM ET: Back for the third and back for a Rangers powerplay as the puck hits the ice.

8:32 PM ET: A pretty listless powerplay by the Devils save for the Langenbrunner chance. Mottau takes a silly hooking penalty in the waning seconds of the period and the Rangers will start the 3rd with the man advantage. That’s it for the second!

8:31 PM ET: Big defensive play by Chris Drury. Langenbrunner was about to bury a rebound and Drury took out his stick at the last minute and we’re still 1-0.

8:29 PM ET: Fedor Tyutin takes an interference call and we’ve got another Devils powerplay! Kinda looked like Gionta just slipped as he came in on Lundqvist but the ref felt otherwise, and I’m not going to argue.

8:26 PM ET: Pretty quiet period overall here. The Devils are really locked into their game, breaking down New York’s attack. The tension’s building and the physical play is picking up with just 3 minutes to go in the third, as the boys in red n’ black really seem like they’re starting to get under the Rangers’ skin.

8:21 PM ET: The freight train from the Ukraine just made a stop on Colton Orr’s face! Vishnevski connects on an unsuspecting Orr (for once) and sends him flying.

8:18 PM ET: Back at even strength, but the Devils have completely thrown a wet towel over the Rangers, who seemed like they were waking up a moment ago.

8:15 PM ET: Strong powerplay so far, but no goals. Dainius Zubrus looks like a new man these days, grinding it out in front of the net big time. 50 left on the PP.
8:12 PM ET: Just as it looks like the Rangers are starting to control the play, Zajac breaks out with Langenbrunner on a 2-on-1, gets hooked and we’ve got a 2nd Devils powerplay coming up! Deja Vu please?

8:10 PM ET: A wild flurry in front of the Devils net after a quick shot from a Ranger clangs off the post. Whew. No goal. We caught a break on that one.

8:08 PM ET: Zubrus’ penalty for asshole-badgering is over and we’re back at even strength. The Devils are creating some good chances on turnovers so far this period.

8:06 PM ET: Marty makes a cliffhanger of a save after a weird bounce jumps off Colin White’s butt and heads towards the line. Marty cartwheels and snatches it just in the nick of time.

8:04 PM ET: Wow. There are few people I hate more than Sean Avery. He leans on Zubbie in front of the Devils net, they tumble and somehow Zubrus takes the penalty. Rangers PP. Unbelievable.

8:03 PM ET: We’re back in action here in the 2nd and we’ve already got some fireworks. Avery takes a cheap shot at Clarkson before the puck drops, smacking him in the face with his stick. No penalty.

7:48 PM ET: That’s it for the first, see ya in 17.

7:44 PM ET: Rupp smears Avery into the board while Brandon Dubinsky distracts the ref by clipping him from behind. Thanks for running the pick Brandon!

7:42 PM ET: Ok seriously though, come on Oduya. Our perennial punching bag slips and falls on his keester to allow the breakway for what seems like the umpteenth time this year. Can we get some backwards skating lessons for this guy?

7:38 PM ET: Martin Straka breaks in free and clear and Marty shrugs it off like a fly on his arm!

7:37 PM ET: A healthy boo goes up from the crowd as Gomez gets an extended touch on the puck. Good to see we showed up in strong numbers for this one.

7:33 PM ET: Good kill by the boys. Vish jumps back on the ice and were even-Steven again.

7:31 PM ET: Vishnevski gets called for a hook and we’ll have a Rangers PP coming up. A real borderline call as the play looked fairly harmless but so it goes these days in the ‘new’ NHL.

7:28 PM ET: The Devils have slowed things down a lot and look like they’re already trying to break the Rangers spirit, playing a frustrating defensive game.

7:25 PM ET: I’d totally fire up the Zubbie counter, but alas, I’m HTML-handicapped. I suck. Assists to Rupp and Brylin on the goal.

7:23 PM ET: Woo!!! We’ve got another Zubrus goal! Dainius puts in a rebound early in the powerplay and we’ve got a 1-0 lead 7 minutes into the first.

7:22 PM ET: I’d like to take the chance to wish Mike Mottau a happy 30th birthday!

7:21 PM ET: Parise takes a stick up high but looks O.K. Powerplay for New Jersey though as Rosival heads to the box for 2.

7:20 PM ET: Good energy here to start the game, scraps breaking out everywhere. Gio breaks in with a good chance but sails it over the glove of Lundqvist. Madden and Pandolfo get a nice chance 30 seconds later but again is stoned by Henrik.

7:12 PM ET: Clarkson and Avery drop the gloves already! Woo!! Both get some good swings in but Clarkson really controlled it in the end! Atta Boy Clarkie! Already a physical game and we’re only 35 seconds in! EDGE — Clarkson

7:11 PM ET: Here we go, Clarkson and Avery out on the ice to start the game. And we’re underway!

6:58 PM ET: We’ve got all the makings of a dogfight here. I’m excited. We’ll do it without Elias, who’s still nursing a bum knee, as well as El Salvador, who’s sidelined with what Steve Cangialosi called “a lower body injury thing.” Our favorite angry pirate, Colin White, will be back in the lineup however after taking a few games off.

6:48 PM ET: I can not physically put into words how huge these two points are for both teams. We’re looking to stay atop the division and end the streak of futility against the boys in blue from across the Hudson. If we lose, the Rangers will be nipping at our heals, just three points behind at 87. If we can manage to finally take down King Henrik and his band of hooligans however, they could very well be just 3 points from being out of the playoffs with Washington set to lock horns with Chicago tonight. Craziness!

6:47 PM ET: Saddle up boys and girls, we’re about to get rolling with the first installment of a divisional slugfest. Devils v. Rangers coming up in 15.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 215 user reviews.

http://www.2manadvantage.com/2008/03/19/rangers-new-jersey-livecap/