After last night’s shootout loss, Dave and Jeff take a look at where this leaves the team.
I’m honestly not all that worried. The positives…this team put up four goals in regulation without Ilya Kovalchuk. That alone is a feat in itself. They built up a pair of two-goal leads during the course of the game. They were never really outplayed during any stretch. Yes they allowed some big-time opportunities to Tampa, but the Devils controlled the tempo of play in all areas of the ice.
The negatives…the defense and Martin Brodeur were shaky. The third goal that Brodeur allowed near the side of the net to Stephen Stamkos was brutal, no doubt. The goal that was allowed thanks to Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov not communicating and cutting off a forechecker was disappointing as well. And on the game-tying goal, how many times have we seen that cross-slot pass burn the Devils for an EASY goal for the opposition? Too many.
Tampa was due for a game like this. They fire their coach during a bad stretch…and they rally for a big win for their new coach in his first-ever game. The hockey gods were smiling on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
If the Devils don’t produce a similar effort against Florida on Saturday, then I’ll be concerned. Here’s the beauty of all this. According to projections, if the Devils post a 6-4-4 record over the next 14 games, they’re better than a 90 percent chance to make the playoffs. Does this mean anything? No, not really. But it does display that at the worst, they are going to have a shot going into the final week of the season. This loss may help focus them up on a struggling Florida team that took them to a 2-1 decision last week in Newark. Don’t panic yet, folks. They’re still doing a lot of things right over their last four games.
For some reason, this game just struck me the wrong way. I usually find myself being very even keeled, even in the face of a big win or loss. This loss was awful. You simply cannot give up two separate two-goal leads to a team that is in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Yes, I know they can score, but if you expect to be a playoff team, these kinds of losses sting.
Last night was by far one of the worst performances we’ve seen from Anton Volchenkov. He looked lost out there. Even Peter Harrold, who has been very solid since his return to the lineup, had some poor moments last night. More on that later.
The fact that the Devils scored four goals last night was a good one. I know the Lightning are a poor defensive team, but the Devils, with their offensive struggles, needed a game like that. Simply put though, you MUST win games when you score four goals. But, that’s on the defensive end. Blowing that two goal lead was awful. Who knows if that point might be the point that keeps them out of a playoff spot?
I don’t want to absolve Martin Brodeur of any blame for this one. He made some excellent saves in the first period when the game was still scoreless, but he wasn’t so great the rest of the way. If this team is going to make the playoffs, he has to be the rock. They will go as far as he carries them this year.
As much as it is despicable to lose a two-goal third period lead, it is only one game and they did get a point. I think this will be quickly forgotten IF they go out and win against the Panthers today. Two points today will give them a five game point streak and three wins in their last five. In the big picture, that’s not so bad. That’s eight of the last ten points.
This team has to be mad about their defensive performance from last night. That anger needs to be channeled into a total team effort against a gritty but lets face it: Not as talented Panthers club. Get a win today and everything is fine. A loss today and they could be a loss to the Islanders on Monday away from being out of the playoff picture once again.