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"Fixing" the New Jersey Devils

Apr 21, 2010, 3:30 PM EDT

devilslosing.jpgHere’s a strong understatement: things aren’t looking good for the New Jersey Devils right now. Just look at some of the all-time numbers for teams facing 3-1 series deficits, from Tom Gulitti.

The Devils have [come] back from a 3-1 deficit to win only one in their history in eight tries. That was in the 2000 conference finals against the Flyers. That was one of just 21 times in NHL history (out of 234 opportunities) that the it’s been done.

To become the 22nd, the Devils must find a way to win three consecutive games for the first time since mid-December and do it against a team they’ve lost eight of 10 to this season. The Flyers are 17-2 when leading 3-1.

The focus isn’t really on if the Devils can win, but rather, who is to responsible for their problems. NHL Fanhouse’s Chris Botta blames Jacques Lemaire, but Botta missteps when he gives general manager Lou Lamoriello a free pass.

I cannot help but wonder if the Devils simply are built more for the regular season than the playoffs.

Is it all about Martin Brodeur? He’s had some rough playoff stretches; for instance this year he has a sub-par 88.6 percent save percentage and was under 90 percent in the 2007-08 playoffs. Some might say that he “choked” against the Carolina Hurricanes last year, but I find it hard to fault him for his overall performance (just under 93 percent save percentage) even if the end of that Game 7 was rough.

What the Devils really need (in my opinion) is a standout defenseman. During the regular season, they can get away with matchup problems but in the playoffs they struggle without having a) a true #1 lockdown guy and/or b) a defenseman who can generate points on the powerplay. The Devils only scored once out of eight PP chances in yesterday’s loss and went 0-for-5 in Game 1.

So instead of splurging on Ilya Kovalchuk, maybe the team should look into luring Sergei Gonchar away from Pittsburgh this summer. Then again, all this talk could be useless if they actually start winning some games. What do you think is ailing this team?

  1. Roger - Apr 21, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Being a long time fan, since the early 90’s, the problem is defense. The Defense prevents the puck from being in the defensive zone the entire game (see game 4) as well as setting the stage for offensive attack. The Devils couldn’t clear their zone repeatedly, passing was awful, and the offense players were left to play defense. Kov can score, but he can’t play defense well, so why let him?

  2. Anonymous - Apr 21, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    The Devils changed as a team when Scott Stevens hung up his skates. Stevens’ was a once-in-a-lifetime player. You just don’t replace that easily. The team had tried but either draft picks or trades never panned out and that is why this team has been bounced far too many times in first round over the last six seasons.
    This team was a tight defensive team and is now a finesse team with guys like Parise, Elias, Kovalchuk, Zajac, etc. Finesse teams usually do not win the Stanley Cup. It was only when the Red Wings got tough and took the fight to the Avalanche that they became champions. It was only when Scott Stevens scared the living daylights out of the opposition did the Devils raise three banners.
    Lamoriello trading for Kovalchuk was a great trade. The Devils have never had a guy skate and move like Ilya. But, the core problem was on the blue line. That was painfully obvious last year in Game 7 against Carolina when they could not clear the puck at the most important time in the game.
    The main problem is that guys like Mike Mottau, Bryce Salvador, Martin Skoula, and Paul Martin seem to play the puck more than the man and when you do that guys get away from you and are left open in front of the net. While Marty Brodeur has not stood on his head this series, there really is not a goalie who could have won two extra games in this series when the Devils have scored a whopping four goals in the three games they have lost in the series.
    There is a reason why the Flyers are winning is that they are taking the play to the Devils and the Devils are not strong enough to fight back and be physical enough to win the battles in the corners that get results on the scoreboard.

  3. Al - Apr 21, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Now all Devils fans know what we knew for years in Atlanta – a talented sniper that refuses to back check, skates in circle eights, and cherry picks shots does not help the team when help is needed most. Yes we had ownership and management issues, but #17 was the biggest curse on our season this year. You guys in Jersey now know why. Frustrating, isn’t it?

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