There is still one last game left to play on their away stint this month, But out of the five games played, the Devils have won four of them. The nice thing that has come out of this is that the Devils are starting to look like their old selves *.
* It is worth noting that their solid 60 minute effort in which they did just about everything right was against the worst team in the league. Nevertheless, one can hope that this most recent victory against the Islanders merely bolsters their confidence.
Why are the Devils playing so well? What makes this team better than the previous Devils teams we have seen the past few seasons?
There a combination of things that make this team one of the best Devils teams I have seen since the lockout. Sure acquiring veterans Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston help, and Brent Sutter, no longer in his rookie season of coaching, understands that much more about coaching the game at a professional level. But this Devils team has done something this year that no other Devils team has had to do:
Play without key players for an extended period of time.
This one important facet to the Devils game has pushed every line to their best. Prior to this, the lower lines could get away without needing to play as hard as they knew the top line would carry them. This led to extremely inconsistent play and never able to play a whole 60 minutes.
Now every line the Devils put out on the ice is a good line, with players who are either a threat to score, or at the very least, keep play in the offensive zone.
If you remember last season, coach Sutter tried to make four top lines that could play at the same level. What he wound up with was 0 lines that could produce. He made some shifts but that left him with an A line, a B line, and two D lines.
Last night against the Islanders, the Devils did a great job of winning every battle against the boards or getting the Islanders to turnover the puck. Two of the Devils three goals were scored that way.
The other advantage the Devils had last night was their ability to fore-check, which led to the number of turnovers and giveaways and which prevented the Islanders from doing much against the Devils. This also gave the Devils the opportunity to score nearly every type of goal you could score – a shorthanded, a power play, and an even strength goal. The only thing they were missing was a penalty shot goal and an empty net goal!
Two of the Devils four wins during this away stretch came from net minder Kevin Weekes. Both times he played was during a string of back to back games. It has been indicated by Sutter that Clemmensen needed a little bit of a break so he didn’t want to push him on consecutive nights.
This is very important, because the Devils need Clemmensen to be competitive, and if they overuse him, he may not be able hold up up near the end as the standings become more important. Of course you can always look at the silver lining which says Martin Brodeur will return by the time Clemmensen is used up.
In any event, look to see Clemmensen remain as the number one goal for the Devils, but for him to get a break every couple of weeks.
Kevin Weekes did play well in both victories; but it is apparent he will continue to only be the Devils backup to whoever is the number one goalie.