Déjà Vu All Over Again

For the second season in a row, Lou Lamoriello found himself behind the bench for the playoffs. For the second season in a row, Devils lost in the second round in five games. For the second season in a row, a weak defense plagued the Devils and lack of scoring hurt them.

Taking a step back, look at the Devils and what is wrong? They are successful, they are competitive, but they aren’t getting past teams they should be able to in the playoffs. They are the square peg trying to fit in the round hole known as the new NHL.

As much as it pains me, it is time to change. Sure they have a new home for next season, but venue is not going to change the mentality of the franchise.

The Devils defense is too young and can’t compete like this. Martin Brodeur has played very well, albeit giving up a few goals he should have had. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, some of his best season occurred with guys like Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer in front of him.

Without a veteran defense, the Devils defensive style falls flat in times of pressure.

Lou mentioned that he does not regret any decision he made, especially regarding his coaching decision. I agree, in that I don’t believe the Devils would have performed any better under the direction of former coach Claude Julien.

“At a time like this, there are a lot of disappointments, and there is a lot of feelings that are going through everybody’s mind, and it’s not a time to look at anything negative. It’s a time to dwell on the positive things that transpired and reflect on that, and only that. But never accept defeat. Never learn how to lose.” These words, spoken by Lou Lamoriello, were said at his post-game press conference.

Devils have Mountain to Climb

With the series at 3-1 in favor of Ottawa, the Devils find themselves in a bleak position, but not out just yet.

If any team can come back in the round and wind three games in a row, the Devils can. They’ve done it in the past and they can do it now.

Now, taking off the rose-colored glasses, this is going to be a tough sell. The team needs to show off every skill at 100% in order to discourage the Senators enough that they won’t rebound in the next game.

It starts with one, though, so let’s focus on winning tonight.

First, penetration in to the Ottawa zone: the Devils need puck possession in the Ottawa Senators zone in order to make scoring chances. They need to crash the net, they need to make crisp short passes, and they need to get the puck on Ottawa net minder Ray Emery.

Second, defense: as a whole, all teammates must play defense at certain times of the game. They need to keep their sticks down and not expose any holes that will allow the Senators to get a good scoring opportunity. They need to keep the box in tight and push Ottawa to the extremities of the Devils zone. Furthermore, make sure to watch the short side from the corners and keep Ottawa out of there.

Third, goaltending: there’s no question – Brodeur has not played up to his potential so far in the postseason. We’ve seen a few games in which he’s played well, but he needs to be at the top of his game, remain focused, and follow his gut instinct. Ottawa has scored over and around Brodeur’s glove hand one too many times. Expect them to continue to shoot up there.

Last but not least, the fans: yes, that’s right, you! For those of you attending the game, don’t let up in chanting “Let’s go Devils” and keep the noise level high. Cheer on the Devils and try not to boo them when something doesn’t go as planned. Feel free to boo Ottawa when appropriate. The excitement of having the fans in the arena helps to keep the team motivated; silence is deadly to the home team.

As always, let’s go Devils!

Hardware Finalists Announced

It’s the time of year to decide who will win the trophies by the best of the best in the NHL. Of course it’s desired to with the main one, Lord Stanley’s Cup, but these individual awards are nice too!

The winners will be announced on Thursday, June 14.

Martin Brodeur was nominated for the Hart Memorial Trophy (given to the most valuable player to his team) and the Vezina Trophy (given to the most outstanding goaltender).

Jay Pandolfo was nominated for the Frank J. Selke Trophy (given to the most outstanding defensive forward).

A complete list of nominees is as follows:

Calder Memorial Trophy – outstanding rookie:
» Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
» Jordan Staal, Penguins
» Paul Stastny, Avalanche

Frank J. Selke Trophy – outstanding defensive forward:
» Rod Brind’Amour, Hurricanes
» Samuel Pahlsson, Ducks
» Jay Pandolfo, Devils.

Hart Memorial Trophy – most valuable player to his team:
» Martin Brodeur, Devils
» Sidney Crosby, Penguins
» Roberto Luongo, Canucks

Jack Adams Award – outstanding coach:
» Lindy Ruff, Sabres
» Michel Therrien, Penguins
» Alain Vigneault, Canucks

James Norris Memorial Trophy – outstanding defenseman:
» Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings
» Scott Niedermayer, Ducks
» Chris Pronger, Ducks

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy – sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct:
» Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings
» Joe Sakic, Avalanche
» Martin St. Louis, Lightning

Lester B. Pearson Award – most outstanding player as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA:
» Sidney Crosby, Penguins
» Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning
» Roberto Luongo, Canucks

Vezina Trophy – outstanding goaltender:
» Martin Brodeur, Devils
» Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames
» Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
» Roberto Luongo, Canucks

Because of a tie for the third finalist of the Vezina Trophy, four nominees have been selected.

Devils Suffer from PPD: Puck Possession Dysfunction

Game 3 for the Devils proved that they can hold off Ottawa’s attack for sustained periods of time and still keep things tied. After all, the Devils favorite method of offense is to “Wait for them to make a mistake, and then capitalize on it.”

Unfortunately, that method doesn’t factor in if the other team doesn’t make a mistake.

Ottawa made some mistakes but the fact is the Devils need more offensive ability, which they had none, in Game 3. In fact the biggest concern the Devils had in the past couple of games, yes even the one in which they’ve one, is that they suffer from terrible PPD, or Puck Possession Dysfunction. In laymen’s terms, they don’t have any.

Fact: dump and run only works if you can recover the puck in the offensive zone and make some type of scoring chance.

Well, as you can tell, even in the Devils win in Game 2, the Devils were limited to 4 shots on goal in both the second and the third period. Without these scoring opportunities, the Devils are going to have a tough time getting past Ottawa and, if they make it past and get to play against Buffalo (I don’t mention the Rangers because I am more confident about the Devils ability to shut the Rangers out and pierce their defense), they are going to seriously need to work on this offensive strategy which they have been molding for years.

On one final note, when on the Power Play, if you have the option to shoot the puck or pass to a teammate across the ice, unless half of the opposing team is disabled on the opposite end of the ice, shoot. Please. At least do it for the children.