Hello Devils Fans! I thought I’d give the team a once over and touch on three topics I see as The Good, The Bad, and the What the Hell?
Granted, only five games have been played, but I think that’s enough to look at where the team stands so far. So here goes:
One thing sticks out, and that’s the goaltending. We all knew the Devils had a key edge here, having two viable goalies to share the load of the shortened season. Well, both Marty (4 GP) and Hedberg (1 GP) have been outstanding. Both look to have no ill effects from the long layoff. Moose was outstanding against Boston last night, yielding just one goal before the skills competition.
As for Marty, well he’s Marty. Solid as a rock. Looks like he’s in mid season form. His technique seems sound, and he’s healthy by all indications. The defense has been good as well, making the goalie’s jobs easier. But it’s the stellar play of both that has allowed the Devils a chance to win all 5 games they have played. It’s also why they rank first in the NHL in goals allowed. If the Devils are to succeed, they’ll need both goalies in top form. And from the first five games, that’s just what they have.
Another bright spot has been the penalty kill. The Devils are ranked 4th in the league, killing almost 89% of penalties. This is nothing new, but with current developments (see ‘What The Hell’ below) it is even more vital to the Devils success. The Devils remain not only a great team on the PK, but also a threat to go the other way and score down a man. Most teams would kill for that ability.
Other things that have impressed me so far? Ilya Kovalchuk’s play, Travis Zajac’s play, David Clarkson defiantly looking like he’s in a contract year, and Stefan Matteau looking like an NHLer at 18 years old.
Long a sore spot for the Devils, the power play has been awful, going 4 for 24 in their first five games. That’s an abysmal 16.7%, ranking them 18th in the league. Now I know the PP is new from what Adam Oates had done last year, but as a team who lost a top scorer, you have to capitalize a man up. At least more than they are. I’m hopeful it will get better, as the new system for the PP seems to flow better, but seems to lack shots. That must be corrected.
Dishonorable mentions from the first 5 games – Mattias Tedenby trying too hard, missing Adam Henrique, Booby Butler is in the AHL? And why did we keep Mathieu Darche around anyway? Need more scoring, but we knew that already.
What the Hell?
The What the Hell portion focuses on one thing: Penalties! When did this become such an undisciplined team? Granted, a lot of players are still getting into the flow of things. But it’s been insane. The Devils have received 73 penalty minutes in 5 games. That’s an average of 14.6 penalty minutes a game… Bonkers!! Making things worse is the timing of the penalties (like Andy Greene’s against Montreal). Late in games or periods can kill a team and any momentum they have at that time. The Devils need to get back to being a disciplined team who stays out of the box. They may have an amazing penalty kill, but if it’s overused, it won’t be.
This brings me to my other What the Hell thought. Why is it, in both loses, the Devils blew it late? Very unlike them. They played sloppy in Montreal and were lucky to get a point. But last night in Boston was a glaring breakdown. Those can’t happen, especially when, as Pete Deboer said, the team is relying on wining close, low scoring games. The defense has to tighten up late in games and hold on to leads. There is much less room for error with the shortened season.
What the Hell mentions – Adam Larson not playing; Bryce Salvador’s penalty minutes into the Flyers game; Stefan Matteau on the first line?
So there you have it. My early season assessment. Not a lot of issues, but enough to make you think about solutions. Feel free to poke holes in it, or point out stuff I missed. Thanks for reading!
Jon Michaels – Speaking of the Devils Contributor