Avery Proves Karma Exists

Mark your calendar. Today is a special day, as it is the first time in the history of The New Jersey Devils Unofficial Web Site or At the Red Line has reported on news other than the New Jersey Devils.

Nevertheless, this story was just too good to pass up!

I am not a bad person. I dislike Rangers forward Sean Avery – as do most hockey fans. Seeing him play junior-style hockey, while still being a goal scorer makes me sad inside.

I would never wish him harm, but a good hit to put him in his place is something I would endorse whole-heartedly. I have never wished Scott Stevens would come out of retirement more than when I watched Avery dance in front of Martin Brodeur.

Tuesday night, in the Rangers third consecutive loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sean Avery was leveled by a hit from Penguin Georges Laraque, but he remained on the ice. He did complain of pain getting worse after that injury, but the Rangers would not confirm that it was Laraque’s hit that caused the injury.

Nevertheless, Sean Avery was admitted to the hospital with a lacerated spleen and some minor internal bleeding. In no way was his injury life threatening; he was able to check himself in to the hospital on two feet.

Therefore, that lesson my mother taught me when I was young, “What goes around comes around,” could never be more aptly applied. Who knew Karma does in fact exist.

Thank You Fans!

I would like to personally thank all the Devils fans out there for a great season. The post-season ended much sooner than we all hoped, but in the pit of many fans’ stomachs, we knew this was probably coming down the pike.

This season marked an impressive year for njdevils.info and it’s child site, At the Red Line. We’ve had more visitors than any other fan site of the New Jersey Devils (excluding message boards). I personally want to thank each and every one of you who has stopped by and for taking the time to check us out. I always enjoy reading your feedback and I will continue to work hard on making these sites the best Devils sites available on the internet!

Looking ahead, there are some exciting new features coming soon to the njdevils.info network of sites, including the revitalization of an old message board DevilSphere, the launch of a News Center worthy of the internet, and a members section that links everything together. We’ll continue to post updates during the offseason to let you know of the progress and I look forward to your return in October for the start of the 2008-09 season!

As always,
~ Kyle Bisignani (DevilBoy)

Devils Take Early Exit (The Complete Story)

It’s been some time since I promised to write a more in-depth entry regarding the quick end to the Devils postseason.

I needed some time to think about the end result, go through those seven stages of grief, and accept what we have in front of us. First, this post is going to take of any rose-colored glasses, so for those of you who are faint of heart, you may not want to read this. Secondly, I blame everyone. What this means is that the failure of the Devils does not rest with one person or small set, but rather this stems from the players all the way to management.

I’m not looking for drastic change, but I am looking for things to be different. And Lou, you are my number one concern here. It started in July of 2007 and I have to say, I’m not impressed. I’ll leave this for last. I’ll begin with goaltending.

Martin Brodeur. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that he’s still up for a Vezina again proves his worth not only to the Devils but the skill he continues to have year after year. He’s getting up there in age and his playing ability still ranks up as one of the top goalies in the NHL – 15 seasons after his first regular season debut. He’s human, and has certainly made some mistakes. In fact it is possible that a couple of soft goals he gave up could have been the turning point of those games. But don’t worry, there’s enough blame to go around. In any event, he needs to realize that he is not 25 anymore and working as much as he does just isn’t a good idea. Play 60 games at most during the season, and save a little for the playoffs, or try for every 4 games played, take 1 game off. And believe me; this is as much management’s fault as it is his own. They feel obligated to play him as much as possible because he’s physically able to play. They need to take mental ability as well. He is physically strong (despite being overweight), but mentally he’s tired. He needs time off and needs to rest, or else we’ll need to play our backup in the playoffs. His best playoff run in my mind is the 1994-95 season… and what do you know, he only played in 40 games because of the shortened season. Besides, the Devils should be able to play and win games when you are unavailable. If not, the Devils are in more trouble than they realize.

Defense. Let’s face it, Brodeur also had a great defense in front of him for most of his career, and today Defense isn’t really something visible or viable in the NHL today. The days of Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens, and Scott Niedermayer are long gone and now teams are poking holes through Brodeur that once weren’t available. You look at the three previous names and those were guys who had a presence on the ice. That just isn’t there today. Sure the NHL era that we’ve entered doesn’t necessarily allow for that as much, but those guys would still get notice and make offensemen streaking down the ice think twice before they try to cross through the slot.

Offense. During the last two months of hockey for the Devils, this seemed to have disappeared. Fact is, in the entire NHL, the Devils were themselves in 25th spot of total number of Goals Scored. Oh, and out of the 16 playoff-bound teams, the Devils were second to last, only ahead of Anaheim, who is also out of the playoffs now. The Devils were never an offensive team, but its time to face facts and crack open the wallet; we need offense if we want another Stanley Cup.

Coach Brent Sutter. I like him, but he’s not escaping this rant today. At the early onset of the team, I looked at him as trying to bring a different style of play to the Devils. The team looked like the Devils would be faster playing, stronger fore-checking, and have a better transition between defense and offense. Oh, and Brodeur’s guaranteed spot between the pipes wasn’t so guaranteed. About halfway through the season, this went away. All of it. Brodeur was always in net, the fore-checking was weak, the transition disappeared (along with any hope of offense), and they were just sluggish on the ice. Even simple things like line changes seemed to put the Devils out of position and have several goals scored against them when changes were taking place. Changing up the lines is a great idea, but not the only viable solution, especially when you are now in the playoffs. I remember when the Devils played especially poorly one game early on, Sutter had the team run drills after the game. Although the players probably hated it, I think that got the message home that they needed to play better. And not for nothing, but the Devils were shut out more times this year than in franchise history. Franchise history includes the years the Devils played as the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies. That’s just not acceptable, ever.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello. I drink the Kool-Aid, and I believed his philosophy of building a hockey team. I mean, stepping back and looking at the big picture, the Devils have not missed the playoffs in 11 consecutive years. They have been one of only a handful of teams in the NHL that are consistently strong year in and year out. They remain competitive regardless of who stays and who goes. That’s impressive.
This isn’t cutting it anymore. If the end-all goal is to win the Stanley Cup, he needs to do more. Lou has made some bumbling acquisitions in the wake of some departures, and perhaps overpaying guys that don’t do nearly as much as they should. I know I shouldn’t but I still blame him for the loss of players like Scott Gomez, Scott Niedermayer, and Brian Rafalski. And fact of the matter is aside from Martin Brodeur, there is not one other player who sticks out year after year as being a threat, offensively or defensively. Sure, guys like Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, Colin White and John Madden are just a handful of our top guys that Devils fan could pick out of a lineup, but there isn’t a big name go-to guy which you need if you want to make a serious run at the Cup. Scott Stevens was one of those guys. Scott Niedermayer was one of those guys. I think what I am saying is that the Devils need more talent… or more guys named Scott.

Owner Jeff Vanderbeek. This is not really a problem that caused the Devils to perform poorly – it’s mostly just a gripe from a frustrated fan – but I think it has some type of an impact, and a cause of some concern. It was mentioned by man players, and perhaps even him, that it was a little disconcerting to see as many Rangers fans in the stands at the Prudential Center, sometimes drowning out Devils fans in chants and being way too loud when the Rangers scored goals. But I bet if you really looked at the arena from afar, you’d notice that there was a lot of white and blue in the lower tier and a lot of red in the upper tiers. Fact of it is, the upper tiers were almost always filled night in and night out, and yet the lower bowl, and even many of those luxury boxes you just had to have more of, sat empty so many nights. Speaking as an average middle class Devils fan, I’m not spending $200 to see the Devils play. If that’s my only option, I’ll enjoy the game in the comfort of my couch in front of my High Definition TV listening to the call of the game by “Doc” and “Chico.” I know lower ticket prices aren’t really an option, but don’t complain when the lower tier is a sea of blue when playing against the Rangers.

Oh, and To Whom It May Concern, please bring back the “Hey” song. I understand your reason for cutting it out, but enough teams still use it that I really don’t think it’s truly an issue. Oh, and what song played after goals for all three of our Stanley Cups? It certainly wasn’t Zombie Nation, I can tell you.

I’ll be posting a “Thank You” to visitors, as well as some NHL Hardware updates, in the next week or so.

Devils Take Early Exit

I will be posting a more complete post-game report and reaction on Saturday, but I just wanted to quickly post that I am very disappointed to see the Devils out of the playoffs so early.

I cannot blame any one player, and I have to admit that in the pit of my stomach, I secretly knew this day was coming. The Devils just could not compete against the Rangers during the entire season, and although the Playoffs are completely different, the talent and ability of the Devils that played during the regular season was the same that was out for the playoffs.

Although I will include this in the complete post later, I would like to thank the Devils for a competitive and exciting season. And as always, Lets Go Devils.

A Little Wrong, a Lot Right

New Jersey Devils coach Brent Sutter made a claim that while everyone doubts the Devils ability to score, he knows that ability is in them, and they simply need to unleash it. Tonight, his words came to life as the Devils find a way to put two pucks past Ranger netminder Henrik Lundqvist, two of which were power play goals.

Every game has been tough, close, and exciting. In games 1 and 2, the Devils could not seem to catch a break with unusual calls and just not getting a bounce to go their way.

Even the New York Rangers would bite their tongue when speaking about Sunday night’s matchup, because even they knew that these games were too close for a comfortable remainder of the series.

Now this is not to say unusual things didn’t occur during Game 3.

The Devils overtime goal was scored by John Madden, but the puck was shot, hit off of Marc Stall’s skate, and went between the legs of Lundqvist.

Overall pest Sean Avery will be the cause of a new “rule.” During a 5-on-3 man advantage for the Rangers, Sean Avery planted himself in front of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, faced Brodeur, and waved his stick and arms in front of him to distract him. The end result was a power play goal by Avery. This is something that no one has ever seen including the officials, players, coaches, etc. None of the Devils would comment on this either, but Devils coach Brent Sutter hinted that he was warned after the stunt and will most likely be penalized with an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty if he does that again. Avery was not available for comment after the game.

Zach Parise, less two teeth, was able to score a Power Play goal by feathering the puck through Lundqvist’s legs on a rebound.

The two teams will have a break of two days before meeting again at the Garden on Wednesday.

Rock Your Red: Game 3 Tonight!

It’s easier said than done, but there is a very important factor in winning tonight’s matchup against the New York Rangers: score goals.

The Devils need to put the puck past Ranger netminder Henrik Lundqvist. During the regular season, the Devils were only able to score 10 goals, while the Rangers managed to score nearly double at 19. So far in the playoffs, that trend has continued, with the Rangers scoring 6 goals and the Devils, 2.

You could count up the go-ahead goal for the Rangers in each of the last two games a fluke. While that may be true, it doesn’t diminish the fact that, bad breaks aside, they must play to win tonight.

Don’t look at previous years for guidance on how the series will end. The Rangers have history on their side where they’ve never lost a series after winning the first to games, but the Devils have won before when losing the first two games. Simply put, anything is possible.

With the things that have gone wrong in Game 1 and in Game 2, the Devils can only do one thing, let that frustration and anger turn in to aggression and perseverance to turn this series around. The Devils have probably played their best two games against the Rangers than at any time during the regular season. They must continue to come out strong and tough. They must continue to hit. They must continue to make great defensive plays when the Rangers have the puck in deep. They must continue to make great saves. And they must continue to fight.

As always, Lets Go Devils!

Devils Can’t Beat Men in Stripes, Lose Two Games and Two Teeth

I’m not going to beat around the bush. In the past two games, the Devils did a lot of good and a lot of bad, a lot of ugly, and some just plain unacceptable.

The Good: The Devils are coming out swinging. They are not being bowled over and really at no point during the games have the Devils been out of it for a period. They’ve been fighting every step of the way and really making the Rangers earn these past two wins. In fact, tonight the Associate Press even wrote that “the Devils had most of the good scoring chances.” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner was quoted after the game, stating, “Again, like a broken record, we played well for most of the game. One goes in that normally doesn’t, and we have a mental lapse and they score again. We fought hard, showed some character to get one at the end but it was too little, too late.”

The Bad: The Devils need to score. You can say a lot about breaks, how the Rangers have gotten a lot and the Devils can’t seem to get any. But nevertheless, when it comes down to it, the Rangers have gotten the goals when the Devils have made a mistake here or there, and the Devils are simply not capitalizing on anything the Rangers have given up. In fact, in looking at how the Rangers are playing, they are playing like the Devils of old, with great defensive ability, not giving up much, if anything, and capitalizing on the opponents mistakes. It may just be coincidence, since the Devils continue to play hard throughout the 60 minutes, but so far 5 of the 6 goals scored against them in round 1 have been scored in the third period.

The Ugly: Friday’s night game was riddled with poor officiating. I could complain that the Devils were getting all the calls against and no calls for, but fact of the matter is, the officiating was simply inconsistent. There were questionable calls on both sides, and it seemed like calls were being made on assumptions of what a player looked like he was about to do, not what actually is happening. I’m sorry, but in the playoffs that’s unprofessional, unlikely, and simply unacceptable. For those of you that missed Sunday’s game, you missed the Devils being shorthanded on a questionably call with only a minute left in the game. Then, with Devils netminder Martin Brodeur pulled (so the Devils are still shorthanded but have an equal number of players on the ice), an icing gets called against them. If you have spent 30 minutes watching a hockey game, you know that when you are shorthanded, you can’t get an icing. Well the officials recognized the mistake very quickly, but the faceoff must come to center ice when that happens. This is extremely upsetting because if it were not for that call, the Devils would have most likely been able to keep the pressure in the offensive zone and at the very least made a few more scoring chances.

Now if you read the title and are questioning the teeth comment, Zach Parise was cross checked in the mount by Christian Backman. Parise immediately went down, and a 4 minute penalty was called. The Devils failed to get a shot on goal. This too is unacceptable. Zach Parise was on the ice for his next shift, but he did require dental work after the game.

The Devils haven’t lost the series, they are only down two games, but the next two games will be played at Madison Square Garden.

This may be presumptuous, but I am going to start the blame game for Game 2. And trust me; I have plenty of blame to go around.

Officials. I am sorry, but this is the playoffs. There is no need to make assumption like calls. Sure, there is a ton of emotion in this game, but let them go after each other. They earned it, and they should be allowed to go a little over the line. They will police themselves.

Devils Offense / Devils Power Play. I am grouping these two because they are aiming towards a common goal: scoring. For the past month, scoring has been an issue, and they must step up their game. It starts with getting shots through on the net. I have simply seen way too many shots fly wide when there was no deflection or interference – it just goes wide. Get it on net, keep the shots coming, and please for the love of New Jersey, get someone behind you when you shoot the puck eager to scoop up rebounds. The Devils are having a tough enough time transitioning in to offense and they can’t simply dump, shoot, and run back to play defense. They need to put pressure on for longer than 5 seconds. They must get those rebounds and keep Henrik Lunqvist, the NY Rangers netminder, moving.

Devils Defense. Twice now the Devils defense has made some type of error in either judgment or positioning and cost the Devils a goal. In both cases, it was the tie-breaking goal. This is simply unallowable.

Devils Coaching. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m not behind the scenes, but I don’t see players being held accountable. The anger and frustration Brent Sutter showed towards the officials in Friday night’s game should also be exposed to the players. They need to get their butts kicked especially with the lack-of-scoring funk they seem to be in.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello. We all love Lou to an extent, but this makes the third consecutive season that the Devils have missed a vital component that they need now to be truly a threat in the NHL: scoring. Lou, we need offense, and we needed it 4 months ago. I’m not saying the Devils don’t have the ability to go all the way, but please look over the depth of this team and really consider what we need in order to make this team a Stanley Cup caliber team.

And last, and feel free to yell at me, THE FANS!!!!
This is pathetic, but there is no excuse for letting Ranger fans out-voicing you in the chants at the Prudential Center. I find it disgusting that fans would taunt Martin Brodeur screaming “Mar-ty” and no one attempts to start a “Lets Go Devils” or even a “Rangers Suck” whistle. This is OUR home, and you know that you would never hear that at the Garden, or at least live to tell about it. If we get to a game five or even a game seven, we better turn that around. We need to support our team in the good times, but now more than ever – the bad times.

In the Stands: Oh Thank God

In a sea of Red, Black, White, and Blue – almost patriotic – the Devils finally beat the New York Rangers for the first time this season… oh, and the last time, since this was the last game of the season!

It was fun to be in the stands as the Devils’ Patrik Elias scored the game winning goal in the shootout. I guess seven wins would make any team cocky and think they were untouchable, but this is the first time where a game would really affect the standings.

Prior to Sunday’s matchup, the East was set, except for two teams: the Devils and the Rangers. If the Devils were to Win or simply take the game in to overtime, regardless of the outcome, they would have the fourth spot in the East and have home ice advantage. They would need to lose in 60 minutes for the Rangers to take fourth.

Because of this situation, the Rangers pulled their netminder Henrik Lundqvist with a minute left in the period. Without a regulation win, they would stay in fifth place in the standings. The Devils made the situation worse when John Madden was called for hooking with 30 seconds left. Thankfully, the Devils killed off the 6-on-4 advantage for the remainder of the third period to bring the game into overtime and secure the home ice advantage.

Here’s the bad news: things look a lot like they have in the past few seasons. The Devils played a great first period and then drift off the second and third. Of course the situation was exacerbated when Rangers fans out-cheered the Devils fans… either we were all too busy stuffing hard pretzels down our throats or watching in disbelief as the Devils blew a two goal lead.

Now the good news: The Devils have some momentum finally against the Rangers, especially beating them in a clutch game. Now the Devils have 4 to 7 more games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Devils are set to begin Round 1 on Wednesday at 7:00 in the Prudential Center.

Devils Get Wins, Secure Playoff Spot

They are not decisive wins… in fact, far from. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the New Jersey Devils saw action against both the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins, respectively.

Tuesday, when the playoff spot was actually clinched, the Devils took the Islanders to Overtime and Patrik Elias’s shot, deflected by Zach Parise, got the game winner.

On Wednesday, the Devils needed a shootout to clinch the victory, with Zach Parise getting the lone goal in the shootout.

Unfortunately, the Devils will not be seeing a divison title this year, despite the two-in-a-row vistories because the Penguins also won on Wednesday and now hold the lead in the conference with 102 points and one game left. The Devils have two games left, but only 97 points, and two games left. The most the Devils can get up to is 101 points.

Regardless, now the Devils will most likely take the fourth spot in the conference, which could pit the Devils against teams like the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, or the Boston Bruins. Other mathematical possibilities include the Carolina Hurricanes, the Philadelphia Flyers, or even the Washington Capitals.

In good news, the Devils have clich├ęd their 11th consecutive playoff spot. Nevertheless, their weak offense should not be overlooked. Sure, anything can happen in the playoffs, but they must improve scoring if they wish to post a strong stand in the playoffs. With the exception of a March 28 game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Devils have scored no more than two goals in regulation since March 15th. To be precise, that’s 7 out of 8 games in which no more than two goals have been scored. That’s early low, especially for a team approaching the 100-point mark in the season.

The Devils will see the Flyers one more time, playing against the April 4, and the Rangers for the last game of the season on April 6. For the record this season: NJ vs Philadelphia: 6-1-0 and NJ vs NYR: 0-4-3.

The Rangers are technically do not have a guaranteed playoff spot, but have the most games remaining. They are only one point ahead of Ottawa, Boston, and Carolina; two points ahead of Philadelphia, and three points ahead of Washington.

The Flyers find themselves in the last seat for the East and could very easily drop out depending on what occurs with Washington and even Buffalo if they do not get critical points in the last two games.