This isn’t the way the Devils imagined their season would start. With their continued 18 league minimum roster, they’re finding that the numbers aren’t working in their favor… including one goal games.
No matter how many shots on goal they manage to get, there is always something working against them. Whether it’s a complete breakdown in the offensive zone, or not finishing their checks, or the defense not helping Martin Brodeur out in front of his net, the breakdown starts from one end and heads all the way down to the other end.
This wasn’t the type of team that Ilya Kovalchuk signed up for. The type of team he thought he was signing with was that team he’s seen for years… the winning team. But the Devils did what they could to bring back the Russian winger, even if it meant working with only eighteen skaters.
The team has lost qualitative veterans to their lineup. Instead, they have had to place rookies in roles together that leaves little to the imagination of what could happen next…a goal scored against.
A veteran should be on the blueline with a rookie defenseman during every shift when a young guy is on defense. That is a given. But with the injuries mounting, the Devils decided to place two rookie defensemen together. That led to half of the goals scored against the Devils.
The other half was when Henrik Tallinder, one of the newest defenseman to the Devils, was out on the ice.
Could all of this be a lack of chemistry? Maybe.
“Chemistry… I guess you could say that’s the easy way out,” coach MacLean said. “Hard work and battle…we don’t do that.”
Going away on the upcoming road trip could help the team bond more. Unlike the Boston Bruins, who headed overseas to Belfast and then to Prague to start the season, the Devils have not had any bonding opportunities to bring them together so that all of the new faces can get to know the other members of the club, and vice versa. The team is in dire need of a bonding experience.
When they head to the Western Conference in a week and a half, they’ll finally get that chance. Until then, they are faced with trying to come together as a team to work on their limitations, as well as learn how to overcome them.
“I think getting away from games and practice and going on the road to Montreal and after that, then being home for one game and then we’re on the road for a while,” Martin Brodeur said. “Hopefully, that’s going to help us out [with our] chemistry.”
The game got off to a slow start. It was the revival of the Z-line (Dainius Zubrus, Travis Zajac and Zach Parise) that the Devils saw their only goal. They were the only line that were able to score any goals. The Z-line was a line that Coach MacLean had been contemplating putting together on the ice, and it seemed to be a worthwhile decision to finally put them back together. They were amongst the only two lines that ended up working all night.
Zubrus was the one to get the puck in net during a rebound, while Tim Thomas was tangled up in the crease at 3:45 in the second period.
“There were a couple of lines that battled the whole game,” MacLean said of the game. “The rest [were] passengers.”
Jordan Caron answered shortly after with Boston’s first goal at 5:38. This was Caron’s first career NHL goal.
At 10:44, Michael Ryder helped Boston take the lead, followed by Shawn Thornton at 16:43. Milan Lucic finished up the scoring for the night at 18:09, ending the game 4-1.
Starting off the season with only one win in six games, the Devils fans are showing their distaste for their hockey club. Even though it’s October and all major sports are in season (baseball, football and basketball), including college sports, the Devils, as well as many hockey teams are finding that the numbers are dwindling.
Throw in the fact that there is a global recession. Fans would rather watch the game at home or at a bar these days. But for those who are still season ticket holders or even fans that buy individual tickets, the performance that the Devils have been delivering is a slap to all fans.
Many fans started leaving Prudential Center following the second period, because they all knew that the Devils would not come back from a 4-1 deficit. The fans that remained booed their team. This isn’t the type of hockey that is conducive to being a Devils team.
From one end of the ice to the other, the team has failed their fans, as well as themselves. Something has to change and soon. It may be the start of the season, but many other teams have got it all figured out by now and only have a few things to tweak to make themselves better. For the Devils, they’re nowhere close to being on that same track as the other NHL teams. They’re lost.
“You can’t win in this league doing that,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said of the team’s effort. “You have to play together. You have to play as a five man unit and work with each other…we’re just not doing a good job of that.
“I think the plan is to take tomorrow to regroup, refresh things and get back to it on Monday.”
The Devils’ next game is on Thursday in Montreal.