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.
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.
But 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?
There’s not a single player in red and black right now who is 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.