When the Devils decided to take Brendan Shanahan, there wasn’t a question if he would help the team. He is well known throughout the league and it was pretty obvious that with him in your lineup, the offensive struggles the Devils have had in the past might not be a worry with fans any longer.
It is also assumed that when you sign a player who hasn’t played the first half of the season, there may be some pains in getting back up to the condition they need to be in – in order to play well and to regain their focus.
Someone forgot to tell Shanahan that.
Let me start out with saying I was not happy Jay Pandolfo sat out. I assumed that’s what would occur, but I practically brainwashed myself into believing that Pandolfo was more valuable to the team than Mike Rupp, so Rupp would be the one to take a seat.
With that said, Shanahan looked to be in good form. For yet another player to increase the Devils “team age,” he aided in giving the Devils the first goal of the night and being credited for his first goal with the Devils since 1991 – before their team colors were Red, White, and Black.
What’s interesting is that Shanahan is one of two players from the 1990-91 Devils team that are still playing today. The second, Claude Lemieux – who just signed with the San Jose Sharks. Although active, Lemieux has yet to see an official game in the NHL, and is currently playing in the Shark’s minor league affiliate for 21 games with 3 goals and 7 assists.
Watching the game last night, I realized that if Shanahan continues with his current scoring, the Devils may find themselves with three scoring lines. Now I know what your thinking, because I’m thinking it too. These are not your typical Devils teams. What we see before us is something very new to the organization, where Offense has trumped the Devils typical Defense style teams. But to be honest, that shouldn’t be too forign to the Devils.
The idea behind the Devils defense shouldn’t dominate the story behind the team. Defense should be a quiet killer, something that isn’t at the forefront of your mind, but when the fore-check fails, the defense is there to back them up, and behind that is a grade A net minder who keeps the opponent with a goose-egg on the scoreboard. This is partially what the Stanley Cup teams the Devils had back then – with one minor change.
Change is good though, right?
Sure, especially when the rest of the league has already changed! That one minor difference is the fact that in previous years, the Devils would score a couple of goals and then shut down. You wouldn’t see the team normally score 5 goals a night, because they simply didn’t have to. But with the new focus on scoring these past few seasons, it’s inevitable that the Devils need to increase their scoring as well, which brings us to the “Why” of their current roster.
Think of the top scorers the Devils have right now: Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, and Travis Zajac alone have given the Devils nearly 60 goals. The current standings give the Devils 140 goals scored this season. They are on a pace to score 250 goals this season, something they haven’t done since the 1999-2000 Stanley Cup winning team, and 2000-2001 Stanley Cup finalist team.
The Devils also only have 116 goals against, which puts them in fourth in the league.
So at this point the Devils find themselves in first place of the Atlantic Division, third in the Conference. The interesting thing is that they are not too far out of second – only 4 points behind the Washington Capitals. Forget about first for the time being – Boston Bruins are sitting up high with 71 points, tied with the San Jose Sharks.
Sidebar: You may remember not that long ago that we were looking at the Devils record as a percentage, since they had fewer games played than any other team in the league. The Devils hectic away schedule has eliminated that difference. The Devils sit with 46 games played at this point, which is about what the average team in the league has players.
One last thing, which I plan on typing more about later on this week (depending on how well the team does this week) – remember that we are missing our #1 goaltender. Martin Brodeur still remains out and it looks as if this will be so until the end of February – at the earliest. Scott Clemmensen, and yes even Kevin Weekes, have done an incredible job keeping pucks from going in to the net. It might seem like a scary though, but does Brent Sutter want to mess with the chemistry of the Devils right now, after winning the last 7 of their 10 games?