For those of you who missed it, here is a recap of the NHL Network’s New Jersey Devils preview:
The Devils were previewed after the Penguins, Rangers, and Flyers but before the Islanders. I could only assume this was the order in which they feel the teams will finish the season in.
During an interview with Lou Lamoriello by EJ Hradek, Lou noted that the speed of the deal being signed to season start is very quick, and the organization has to avoid letting themselves get distracted, and stay focused on what they have to do.
He mentioned you can not waste any energy on things that you can’t control (which, I think, is a good life lesson we should all learn).
He said that aside from Henrique, injuries are not a concern and that Anton Volchenkov has played since his injury but the big question will be getting the players on the ice and seeing what kind of shape they are in.
He added that there is a chance that players, at various points during the lockout, might have trained a little harder in anticipation of a deal getting done, only to then back down their training when nothing happened and he isn’t sure what effect that will have on their bodies.
Back in studio, they switched focus to Martin Brodeur and how the shortened season and quick start might help or hurt him. Barry Melrose feels that the short season is a benefit to older players but the team isn’t as good as last season because of the loss of the team’s best player, Zach Parise.
Melrose continued by saying that Brodeur will be facing more shots than he has ever seen and from different angles than he is used to, including down the middle of the ice (although he did not mention why he feels this way, I hope he isn’t trying to make a correlation between the increase in shots to the loss of Parise).
Melrose goes on to say that there will be increased traffic in front of Brodeur and that the Devils will struggle with this and he doesn’t feel they are a playoff team, he doesn’t see the Atlantic getting 4 teams in the playoffs.
Kevin Weekes said the key to this season is Brodeur finding his game early, and that he usually takes a while to hit his stride. He feels it is better for the team if he hits it early or they might have to utilize Johan Hedberg. He believes this team has an excellent tandem in net.
Mike Johnson feels Brodeur’s competitive nature and ability to adjust is a key to his playing good this season. Johnson adds that Brodeur will be able to adjust to seeing pucks from different parts of the ice if the defense isn’t as good. He might need a little time to get in game shape, but his competitive spirit will carry him through that time.
Kelly Chase added that there were a lot of players during the “last lockout” (I would assume he means 1995 because in 2005, there wasn’t a season) that weren’t able to find their form because of the shortened preseason. He feels that Brodeur will get off to a slow start and that could spell trouble for the Devils. Mike Johnson tagged that, echoing Weekes’ point, that Hedberg is a great security blanket to have and, as one of the best backups in the league, he might get a little more action than usual if Brodeur is slow out of the gate.
Bob McKenzie, in a spot that was obviously pre-taped, started his preview off with the fact that this team has a healthy dose of skepticism hanging over itself. He says that as good as they were last year, Parise’s departure and Adam Henrique’s injury for the first two weeks of the season means Ilya Kovalchuk will have to prove he didn’t leave his heart, or his scoring touch, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
He continues that Brodeur is another year older (aren’t they all another year older, why do these “experts” feel that Brodeur the only one who ages??) and wonders if he can be as good as he was leading the team to last seasons Cup Finals, adding Brodeur, with Hedberg backing him up, is always tough to bet against.
Noting that Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, and Peter Harrold are the identical seven defenseman that played so efficiently last season, McKenzie wonders if maybe Adam Larsson is ready for more prime time duty which would free up a d-man as trade bait for some much needed offensive punch. He continues that a lot of goals are gone with the losses of Parise, Petr Sykora, and Alexei Ponikarovsky, but the top six could be quite good; Travis Zajac between Dainius Zubrus and Kovalchuk, and Henrique between Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, but there are also enough health and age question marks to qualify it as a fragile balance.
The bottom six, with Jacob Josefson and Stephen Gionta down the middle, he adds, are sneaky good and can chip in offensively but there is no guarantee that the 3rd and 4th line that excelled last spring can score at that clip this season.
If history counts for anything, the Devils like their chances in a lockout shortened 48 game season, noting their Cup victory in 1995.
StevenWoj – Speaking of the Devils Contributor