Really, Brian Gionta couldn’t have said it better. The official Devils record sans Martin Brodeur is now 1-5-0 and we now have two goalies that split this record.
I’m not going to yell at the Devils tonight, though. Personally, I thought the team looked about 175% better than they did on Wednesday. In a way, I think their level of play was consistent and promising. I even was ecstatic about the fact that the Devils only took one penalty.
Brent Sutter, of course, was not happy about it, especially since it was a lazy “Too Many Men on the Ice” penalty, but if you can play the Capitals and only give up two goals without taking a single hooking, holding, interference, or abuse of the officials penalty, I think you did a good job.
Furthermore, the Devils only gave up two goals, and if they could score more than 2 goals in a game, maybe they would win a game or two.
The Devils goal simply capitalized on a mistake made by Washington, however. Patrik Elias took a long pass from Brian Gionta and caught the Capitals in a bad line change. He was in all alone and managed to get the puck through Washington net minder Jose Theodore’s gaping 5-hole.
Hey, and who can forget the fact that Paul Martin returned to the Devils lineup and aided in keeping Washington off the board even more. That cannot be downplayed too much; as the team begins to reassemble with players coming back from injury, the Devils may find the hope and the strength they need to get past this losing streak, now at four games.
The Devils simply need more talent on offense, and better special teams. I do agree with coach Sutter in that Scott Clemmensen played well tonight, but I didn’t think his caliber of play far exceeded that of Kevin Weekes, enough so that Sutter has decided to play Scott again on Saturday for part two of the Devils-Capitals Home and Home series.
Personally, I’d simply flip-flop them back and forth until one of them clicks. As it stands, Clemmensen has a record of 0-2-0 while Kevin Weekes stands at 1-3-0. Neither of those are good, but Sutter apparently sees more promise in Clemmensen than Weekes.
I will admit that in Wednesday’s debacle against the Rangers, Weekes did look flustered during the second period when the team decided to take a 20 minute break. But in the event you couldn’t read the sarcasm in the last sentence, I don’t blame that period on Weekes or consider him at fault for that. If you put Clemmensen in the same situation, I’d be interested to see how he handles it. Maybe he’d be calmer, in which case I take it back. But personally I don’t see that as being the case.
In any event, overall the Devils did perform better; the team as a whole played harder, had more puck possession, more attack time, and better defensive plays. The Devils even out-shot their opponent which is amazing to me because I always find the Devils shoot wide of the net a great deal.
Today, Saturday, I will actually be attending the game and resurrecting At the Red Line’s In the Stands section. I should also be able to take some pictures until things go downhill and I get depressed.
This will be a very telling game, however. If the Devils at the very least pull out one point, I may find a glimmer of hope this season. A win would always be nice, but without one, I may need to resurrect the panic button. Interestingly enough, it was around this time in which I posted that button last season, and right around this time, things turned around for the Devils to a winning streak that stretched between November and December. Maybe it’ll work once again…
Who knows, frustration may be a very good motivator because it’ll make the team desperate. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing: frustrated players play harder, grittier, and will make more hits. That plus the home crowd will lead to a noisy arena and pump up the players (hopefully). And unlike Wednesday night, I don’t imagine we’ll find too many visiting team fans making a ruckus or chanting louder than Devils fans.
The key to Saturday night’s game: offense. The Devils have scored only 9 goals in the last 18 periods of play. They have yet to win a game this week. Although they cannot take penalties, they are simply apart of hockey and the Devils Penalty Killing units must be stronger. And when they have power plays, scoring chances are nice, but they must find a way to get the puck in the net. Collapsing in on the goalie isn’t a bad start, but they can’t get caught out of position. Plays like this come with practice and good coaching, and I believe that the Devils can get it done.
I seriously believe the season is not lost. Not yet. The past ten games they have won twice and lost eight times. They are in a frustrating time, but again as players begin to return I think we could see the team start to play like they did when the season first started, getting five wins in six games, making good plays, having good positioning, and scoring when it counted. It’s not far fetched, but without Brodeur, will the players believe they can do it? I think they can. And now to take off my rose colored glasses for the evening… 😉