Well, this was the worst game of the season for the Devils. The wheels spun off in the second period and the Devils simply couldn’t recover. And to make matters worse, it was against the Rangers.
First, I want to preface this and stipulate that, hey, the Rangers played well. And it was the entire team that was nonexistent after the first period. Anyone wearing red.
Here is something I’d also like to point out. The Devils record since Martin Brodeur has left: 1-4-0
In fact, they should post this in the Devils locker room. The Devils must get it through their minds that Brodeur is gone, and for a long time. They must collectively step up and play harder, grittier, tougher, faster, better. And, to further make life difficult, people are not going to be coming back anytime soon. Rolston, Holik, Brodeur, Leblond, Greene and Martin are all out for a combined 44 games. You may see this number double before you see consistancy on the Devils roster. In fact, the Devils may be lucky if they are able to get consistancy on the roster at all this season.
I can’t even blame the refs for making bad calls. They, in fact, are calling the games consistently. I don’t like the fact that a stick up near someone’s stomach is instantly called a hooking penalty, but the fact is the refs continue to call it, and the Devils need to learn that they can’t continue to do that.
I’m not going to take anything away from Rangers net minder Lundqvist either. He did play very well. But a vulnerability opened up: rebounds work against him. And yet the Devils can’t position themselves in order to take advantage of it. Even Jamie Langenbrunner admitted that they couldn’t capitalize on the chances they get.
To make the game even worse, they Devils got into some serious penalty troubles during the second period, leading to two separate 5-on-3 advantages for the Rangers, both of which the Rangers were able to score on.
Brent Sutter decided to pull Kevin Weekes for the start of the third period, putting Scott Clemmensen in net as his replacement. “I thought at times he looked shaky tonight,” Sutter claimed. “And also I felt that team needed to be shook and changed. That part isn’t his fault. It’s coach’s decision.”
Clemmensen did give up a goal, but did not have the pressure on him that Kevin Weekes had. In fact, during that second period, Kevin Weekes had 20 shots against him. Devils were unable to clear the puck out, they were unable to intercept passes, they were unable to clear out the Ranger forwards from in front of the net, they were unable to get many, if any scoring chances or even really have some form of offensive pressure for nearly two thirds of the game.
So far I’ve discussed the Devils poor defense, lack of offense, and even the goaltending just wasn’t up to par to exacerbate the issue. But the issues drive even deeper than the core fundamentals of hockey. The Devils Power Play and Penalty Kill can’t keep up right now – almost to the point of embarrassment.
This was just a bad game overall. The second period did them in, but they only had good chances during the first period and a little bit in the third.
Sure, you can point to injuries. Sure, you can point to the loss of Brodeur. Sure, you can point to the fact that the Devils have struggled against the Rangers for the past couple of seasons. Sure, you can point to the tough calls against the Devils by the refs. But you cannot deny the fact that the Devils just didn’t come prepared for this game. They went to take the SAT’s and forgot to bring their pencils.
Like Ken Daneyko during the intermission, I am up in arms about this game and the amount that went wrong here. But please, if you take anything away from what I have said above, please let it be that this was a complete collapse across the board for the Devils. Not one aspect was on key tonight. Everything from bad penalties to poor goaltender to horrible penalty kills and lack of defense – not one thing really worked after the first 20 minutes.
In that first period, I would just like to point out, immediately during and after the first goal was scored by Travis Zajac, a skirmish occurred behind the night, cutting short the celebration and I think eliminating the Devils energizing goal to start off the game. I think that may have messed with their heads a little because after the first intermission, that same team was not on the ice. During the first period, the Devils outshot the Rangers 13 to 5. The second and third periods, the Rangers outshot the Devils 37 to 19.
I’ll end with this: the Rangers played well, but we didn’t put up much of a fight.