[This is a new column where instead of breaking down the game further, we’ll have a chat between two of us in regards to the prior game and where the team is headed now. It’s more free form and off the cuff]
Jeff: Alright Dave, you watched the whole game. I saw from the second period on, so apparently I only saw the Devils not wanting to win a hockey game. They still had a lot of chances and I thought the defense was still pretty solid. A bounce or two and they probably win the game with a bit of comfort.
Dave: Yeah, it was sort of an odd game in the sense that they had some chances and looked pretty good in their own end, but what they really lacked was urgency. They got another quick goal and it almost seemed like they sat back in the 2nd period and then just tried to hold on in the 3rd. It wasn’t the effort I was expecting after their loss on Saturday
Jeff: Yea, it had a feel of the Philadelphia game where they got that first goal so quick, they thought it might be easy. Normally Devils teams are consistent. Think back to last year. They were .500 for the first few months, then they played winning hockey on a consistent basis.
So far this season, here’s what they’ve done; 3 Wins. 4 Losses. 5 Wins. And now they’ve lost three of their last four games. It may just be one of those weird years, when you consider some of the new faces, young players, short season and a mostly new coaching staff to deal with.
Dave: I think that all has to be taken into consideration, that the quick turnaround and such will hurt teams, but i don’t think you can use that as an excuse. I know most Devils fans would agree that a couple of weeks of solid play, going something like 4-2-1 or something where they were competitive in all their games and didn’t lose any back-to-back games would be better than coming off of the high of beating the Penguins two straight and following that up with the streak they’re on now.
Jeff: Agree, but then who takes the blame for the performance over the last few games? I’m not sure it can be pinned on any one person, which leaves me to believe that this is a funk they’ll come out of rather quickly, that this won’t drag out for another 4-6 games.
Dave: I certainly don’t think its the coaching at all, but it’s hard to point a finger. I think the biggest thing that you can pin their current struggles on is the special teams. They’ve been torched on the penalty kill lately and if they were able to convert on one of their power plays today, or even early on in the Carolina game, we may be singing a different tune right now.
Jeff: I wouldn’t call it a must win, but if they don’t win on Thursday, they’ve got to face the same team on Saturday during the afternoon, a timeframe they haven’t coped well with over the last few seasons. And then they get Winnipeg at home. They can still rebound well if they lose Thursday, but boy, it’s going to feel like they are in a full downward spiral if they don’t get two points in the first matchup with Washington.
Dave: Yeah, it really does feel like a must win against the Caps. It’ weird to say that for a team that’s tied for the conference lead, but the problem is that if you take too many losses in a row, the questions start to come and it makes it tougher to focus and play their game. It would make the Saturday game against the Capitals very precarious, that’s for sure. The good thing is, with two days off, they can rest up, get some practice time and really focus on the task at hand
So Jeff, we put up a new poll asking about what area of the team is everyone most concerned with. What area stands out most to you?
Jeff: It’s tough for me to pick one undoubtedly. It’s definitely not the goaltending. The defense is Top-10 worthy right now. The offense has been ok at 18th in the NHL. The PK though is at 20th right now, so I guess I’ll say the special teams even though the PP is converting at a solid rate. We saw first hand last year in the last game the Devils played, taking penalties and how you respond to being a man down can decide where the game/series/season goes.
Dave: I think for me I’m going to have to go with the defense. Not to say that they’ve been bad, because they haven’t, but there is a lot of room for improvement. You just look at some of the breakdowns and I feel like the Devils are lacking another big stay at home body that can just clear people out of the slot. Henrik Tallinder has been shaky and so has Marek Zidlicky, though he’s been better lately. I think that the two best defensemen have been Greene and Larsson. I just feel like they’re missing that nasty streak in their own zone.