Cam Canned, Lou Makes One Deal

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello made one final deal before the trade deadline ended on Tuesday, February 26 at 3:00; it was truly only a gain for New Jersey. Cam Janssen was traded to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Bryce Salvador.

Cam Janssen, who never saw ice time once during the regular season, was injured in fight during the pre-season. When he became healthy a few months ago, Cam never found a spot on the roster.

The reason being may lie in the fact that the role of enforcer was taken by rookie David Clarkson. But Clarkson has one facet to his game that Janssen never had: offense.

Yes, Janssen had one goal scored last season, but so far this season Clarkson has made 7 goals, 12 assists, and not the most ice time available to achieve these points. He also has sat in the penalty box for a total of 153 minutes.

In essence, Devils coach Brent Sutter had no reason to remove a forward who is making offensive chances and replace them with a forward who doesn’t have offensive experience.

Playing Devils Advocate for a minute, Cam Janssen didn’t have much of an opportunity to play under Sutter’s new style of play. Maybe given the opportunity he could have scored more and racked up a fair amount of points, but from the previous history and in their minor league careers, David Clarkson showed more offensive talent and promise, in addition to his hits and physical style of play.

Bryce Salvador, the Devils acquisition, will most likely see his first game on Friday, February 29 against the Washington Capitals.

Devils, Brodeur Take 1st in the East

It’s been a very long struggle, but Sunday the Devils finally took first place in the Eastern Conference from the Ottawa Senators, and now sit 3rd overall in the NHL.

The Devils did have first for a few hours on Saturday, but Ottawa took first back with their victory over Pittsburgh.

Nevertheless, the Devils have won 5 games in a row. They have 7 wins in their last 8 games. They are on their best stretch of the season. And Devils netminder Martin Brodeur has been the star in the accomplishment.

He has been in between the pipes for the past 22nd consecutive games and is showing no sign of needing a break. In fact since February 8th, the start of his streak, the Devils have gone 14-6-2.

The Devils have been playing well together as a whole, making better passes, connecting on key plays, and scoring in the clutch. In fact, the Devils in the past month have never really dropped an entire 60 minutes.

It is probably no longer possible to play a consecutive 60 minutes all the time anymore with the division of talent that you now have. What this means, aside from more close games, is that teams need to be conscious of this and understand that if they do play poorly for a period, they need make sure to return to the ice for the next 20 minutes and play harder.

Looking back on Sunday’s matchup against the Washington Capitals, the Devils played poorly in both the first and second period. Not so bad that the Capitals were able to score, but the Capitals certainly outplayed them. At the end of the second period the team spoke up as a whole in the locker room and the Devils came out with 18 shots on goal, nearly double the amount they had in the first and second periods combined.

Martin Brodeur was given the first star of the game stopping 37 of 38 shots on goal by the Capitals.

Martin Brodeur has been a star of the game 19 times this season. He was a star 27 times last season and 24 times the season before that.

Devils Notch Important Win, Tie Up Atlantic

A win is also the main goal, but when playing up against your division rivals, the games become more important – especially when positioning within the division changes daily.

Frustration sets in, and the Devils are taking a great deal of penalties. Even Devils Play-by-Play announcer “Doc” made mention of the fact that this season the Devils have taken more penalties, and it’s simply unlike them.

Two of the penalties the Devils took led to Power Play goals by the Pittsburgh Penguins. And the Devils were having a tough time offensively. In fact, Doc said at one point during the second period that the Devils had their best scoring opportunity since the warm-up.

In the third period, something changed. Zach Parise made mention of it after the game that Brent Sutter had said some things in the locker room, and it rallied the troops. It was obvious.

After the penalties had ended for the Devils and the Penguins were up 10 shots to 3 nearing the mid-way point of the third period, the Devils started getting chances and attacking the Penguins when they were tired. It worked.

First, Patrik Elias just barely got the puck in the far post and past the line, and not two minutes later David Clarkson ripped one to tie the game up. For once the ability to blow a lead came from a team the Devils were playing against!

The next trick for the Devils was getting good scoring opportunities in the Overtime period. It only took one, as Martin Brodeur started the play, getting the puck down to Zach Parise, who sent it to Patrik Elias. Zach then drove to the net and Elias sent one off of Zach and past Penguin Netminder Ty Conklin to win the game – 37 second in to the OT period.

In the first two periods the Devils looked a little shaky and there was obvious room for improvement, but the team rallied in the third to get the job done and get a much-needed win.

Now the Atlantic Division has a three-way tie for first place between the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The NY Rangers sit in fourth three points behind them. From now until the end of the season, every game is important. Teams will continue to jockey for position in the standings and everything down to Overtime extra point losses will be important to see who will be crowned the Atlantic Division champions.

In the Stands: Devils Beat the Worst Team in the NHL… Whop-De-Do

Alright, I’ll stop being cynical. Devils coach Brent Sutter did light a fire under the Devils and it paid off, as they scored 6 goals to beat the LA Kings 6-3 on Saturday night.

In an interview with Stan Fischler after the game, he stated that the importance of this game was huge, and that the fact that it wasn’t against a divisional or conference opponent was irrelevant.

I tend to agree with the Maven since the Devils are coming off of a three game losing streak, two of which were against divisional opponents! They needed a win, regardless of who it was against.

In all seriousness, they did play well. Each goal came from a different stick, which is nice to see because it means that the team as a whole played well and there was a very nice balance in the line combinations. The Devils used a number of different methods to score goals as well, and not just the typical dump, run, and attempt. Colin White’s goal was made on a shot right off of the faceoff. Travis Zajac scored at a scramble at the net. David Clarkson scored on a toe-drag that could have easily been a simple dump in during a line change, but he put it on net and scored.

Colin White scored his first goal of the season, leaving Sheldon Brookbank as the only “active” Devils player without a goal. Sheldon Brookbank was a scratch for last nights game, along with Andrew Greene (healthy), Jay Pandolfo (expected to return this week sometime), and Cam Janssen (who is ready to return, but there are no open spots on the roster just yet).

The Devils next match-up is on Monday the 4th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game will be broadcasted on Versus. They have seen each other 5 times so far this season and have a 3-2-0 record. The Devils have 12 Goals For and 16 Goals Against when playing the Penguins this season.

And now for some Arena Observations:

* The Prudential Center is still awesome. The atmosphere is phenomenal, the inside is tremendous, and the sights are unique.

* John Oduya is looking better and better. I have criticized him a great deal, but it looks like he’s improving. I do not believe I can blame him for every mistake made during the game.

* Scoring is just what the doctor ordered. Their last win prior to Saturday night’s was January 22 against the Flyers in which they scored 7 goals.

* Jen (Strawberrie) was on TV. The family sitting in front of us knew someone from FSN, and thus the cameras just happened to pan up and show them. When they were shown on TV, you could see Jen in the top-right corner of the screen. If you have the game recorded, go to 2 hours and 3 minutes of the broadcast. I’ll post a screen shot when I get it. The leg next to her is mine.

* Jen also wanted me to post that her and I are engaged. She said she typed it on here somewhere but I can’t seem to find it. We got engaged on January 8th in the Gulf of Mexico. We were on a ship – not just floating around in the Gulf of Mexico.

* Its fun when you sit next to someone who doesn’t know hockey very well, and is confused why the crowd randomly chants “Rangers Suck.” For the record, that was not Jen.

Devils Drop the Ball

The Rangers are now 1 point from passing the Devils in the Eastern Conference. That’s 1 point from eighth place in the conference. Last week the Devils sat in second place and have lost five of their last seven games to plummet through the standings.

Friday night’s match-up marks the 5th consecutive loss against the Rangers this season, and although the game play was close, the Rangers still managed to get the upper hand and subsequently the win.

You can’t say the Devils played poorly, but their drive wasn’t completely there. They made some good offensive chances but were unable to capitalize when they needed to. They didn’t take too many penalties, but the 5 they did have cost them valuable attack time. They didn’t make too many bad plays but Colin White’s giveaway lead to a Ranger’s goal and a late Too Many Men on the Ice penalty kept the Devils from having an extra attacker when Martin Brodeur was pulled.

In other words, the Devils didn’t throw the game away completely, but rather played with mediocrity. The same mediocrity that the Devils have struggled with the past two seasons is rearing it’s ugly head during an important stretch in the 2007-08 season.

Devils netminder Martin Brodeur was quoted before the game by Chico Resch saying that the their problem is they are simply not scoring. He was right. Only Zach Parise was able to score a goal to cut the Rangers lead in half during the second period. But pulling Brodeur in the third to even up the sides allowed Ranger Chris Drury to score an Empty Net Power Play goal.

In the past 7 games, the Devils have scored an average of less than 2 goals a game. This is a no brainer; this is simply not going to cut it, and the Devils know that very well. They’ve have two and a half seasons to learn that fact. And yet they still show no signs of beating the mediocrity bug that continues to plague them.

The trade deadline is quickly approaching; will New Jersey Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello make some trades to keep the team playing consistently well? Is it possible for a team to play an entire season consistently well in the “new” NHL (a phrase I am really getting sick of saying)?

Perhaps these questions should not be answered now merely because they may just be going through a bit of a dry spell, and may snap out of this funk as quickly as Saturday against the LA Kings.

But one thing I am sure of, is that Brent Sutter will not sit idle and watch as his team drops position after position in the standings. He will stand up and make sure each and every member of team understands their responsibility and ensure they learn from their mistakes. It’s one of the reasons why I continue to believe in him as the Devils head coach. And he’s the reason I believe the Devils have done as well as they have this season.

Consistency – they still lack. But the talent is there. They just need to figure out how to use it.