The Morning Skate: Devils Bounce Back At Home

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Dave: Well Jeff, this was a pretty big win last night. You were there, what did you see from this game? Should we be feeling better about this team after winning 2 of the last 3 ?

Jeff: I LOVED the way this team played defense last night. They controlled this game. Offensively, there is no doubt this was the most aggressive game they played on the blueline. They pinched so many times on the boards to keep pucks in and create more attack time. They were skating down as far as the bottom of the circles to send a puck behind the net. This is the type of stuff they did last postseason that they need to do more of NOW! Defensively, there weren’t many great chances for Winnipeg. The Devils overall played MUCH nastier in their own end and in the neutral zone than they have in a long, long time. They don’t have to put everyone in the first row from a check, but consistent, physical play will help this club go a long way. Great building block tonight.
Dave: I totally agree. I want to say that it’s almost a let-down that they didn’t win the game in regulation, but considering where they’ve been this is a VERY solid step. This is a good Jets team, a team that will absolutely be there fighting for a playoff spot, whether it be the Southeast Division crown or a lower seed, so it was a good thing to see them play well against a solid team and a team that beat them twice already. I think there was no other player that stood out tonight more than Ryan Carter. We’ve been talking about him a lot, what have you seen from Carts?
Jeff: He out-thinks, out-hustles, out-executes and out-positions every player he goes against.  He knows when to dump it, when to hold on to it and when is the right time to cycle it and hit a point man with a pass. I think his smarts are his biggest asset. He is only 6’1″ but man, doesn’t it feel like he sometimes plays like he’s 6’5″??  He doesn’t get knocked off the puck and he seemingly wins every loose puck race/battle. I thought he was a nice addition when they got him last year; I had no idea he would be THIS valuable.
Dave: Absolutely. There were a lot of players who played well tonight. I thought Andrei Loktionov had a very good game and even Marek Zidlicky looked good too. We saw the Devils being more aggressive tonight, guys pinching and jumping in to the play at the right time. It really seemed like Devils hockey tonight. But the question is… where was this for all of these games and can it continue?
Jeff:  Good question. I think it can.  They really haven’t played this aggressive all season, even during the early successful part of the year. Tonight, they picked their spots and when their defense got beat on their pinches, the centers were there to help out and cover them. That’s how they need to play the rest of the year. Philly always brings out the best in this team. Rangers are on the way too. During this awful stretch, they really only played the Islanders division-wise. They’ve shredded Philly, held their own vs. Pitt and beat the Rangers the one time they played them. This is perfect timing to get some division rivals on the schedule.
Dave: Yeah I think this will go a long way for this team. They have two with Philadelphia next week and those are HUGE games. With the Flyers chasing them in the standings, those games may go a long way to either making the playoffs or determining playoff seedings. Maybe it took a win followed by a game that proved that they have to compete night in and night out to finally get this team moving.
Jeff: Yea, I’ll sign up for two wins per loss the rest of the way. I think the team can have some laughs now and not have to overthink every little touch of the puck. Even tonight, I saw shorter and smarter passes which led to more neutral zone rushes than usual. That was encouraging to see. So to pick up wins against teams near you in the standings while you’re trying to climb the ladder to the ceiling of playing that top-notch level of hockey, is a really good thing.
Dave: This really was the kind of game the team needed. They can take away a lot of positives from this and I think it’ll mean a lot moving forward. The fact is, this team has the talent to win games and with Martin Brodeur on his way back (hopefully, soon than later) they should be okay. This really felt like “Devils Hockey” tonight. There was the aggressive nature, where you expected things to go right, quickly getting through neutral ice, making sharp passes and keeping teams pinned in with the forecheck. It’s a lot to build on, but it certainly wont be easy.
Jeff: Also, I wouldn’t touch the lines. Some may have performed better than others, but PDB needs to keep the basic structure here. They’ve in essence scored three goals in each of their last three games. Keep these combos together and see if they can gel. I think the Lokti line has potential. I really liked Bernier with Henrique and Elias. Even Barch, Gionta and Kostopolous had some nice shifts tonight.
Dave: Absolutely, it really felt like they finally found some good combinations. I even liked Zajac with Clarkson and Carter. That line has the ability to really cause havoc with the forecheck and you have to assume that David Clarkson will pot a few, sooner or later.
Jeff: While it might stink to split up CBGB, I think they’ll be able to fit in with any group of players. Unreal to think at how huge those three guys have been over the last 12 months.
Dave: I think these guys embody the M.O of this team. When the Devils are playing their brand of hockey, it’s about winning in the corners, playing tough and using strong defense to allow for a good transitional game. Perhaps we saw some of what’s to come in the next few weeks. We have to hope at least. Alright Jeff, the Devils have a few days off before their home-and-home with Philadelphia. Should be great to watch!
Jeff: Let’s Go Jersey!!!