The New Jersey Devils defense, with seven healthy skaters, is lacking chemistry. In last night’s 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, the Devils used all seven skaters, constantly changing the defensive pairings. The constant changeover showed this lack of chemistry, as defensive partners struggled to get comfortable on the ice.
The lack of chemistry led to several breakdowns in both the offensive and defensive zone. Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur admitted the team played “a little bit” sloppy in their own end.
Head Coach John MacLean said the team needed to make the right adjustments.
“When you rotate guys, it is what it is,” MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “We’ll adjust accordingly. It is the regular season. You have to adjust and if we have to make some pairing changes at some point we will.”
The Devils will need to adjust quickly, because they face a Washington Capitals team that thrives off of mistakes.
The Capitals enter their home opener after losing to the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-2, last night in Atlanta. The teams entered the second period tied, 1-1. But Andrew Ladd changed that, as he put the Thrashers ahead, 2-1, at 15:43 of the period. Evander Kane scored the eventual game-winning goal, beating Caps goalie Michael Neuvirth on a penalty shot to extend the Thrashers lead to 3-1.
The Devils, meanwhile, surrendered three leads in their loss last night.
The Devils jumped ahead quickly, with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise giving the Devils an early 2-0 lead. But the Devils defense broke down, and the Stars cashed in.
Brendan Morrow scored the Stars first goal, cutting the lead to 2-1 at 11:16 of the first period after getting behind rookie defender Matt Taormina. Loui Eriksson tied the game at 3:02 of the second period, scoring on a rebound in front of the net as Henrik Tallinder was caught out of position.
The Devils defensive lapses continued to cost them in the period. Jason Arnott gave the Devils their third lead of the game, putting the team ahead, 3-2, with a powerplay goal at 10:22 of the period.
The Devils defense would fold again, as Andy Greene lost the puck behind his own net. Steve Ott, who caused the turnover, passed the puck to an open Brad Richards in the slot for the one-timer that beat Broduer to the stick side for the goal.
The overtime period followed the same script. Greene turned the puck over in the offensive zone, and the Stars broke in on a 2-on-1. Tallinder guarded against the pass, but Eriksson beat Brodeur with a shot for the game-winning goal.
MacLean didn’t seem to agree with Greene’s decision in overtime.
“Well, you give up a 2-on-1, sometimes that happens,” MacLean said. “Greenie tried to jump up there and tried to make a play offensively. You give up a 2-on-1 and (Eriksson) made a heck of a shot on Marty there. Greenie tried to make a play, so we’ll address it. He maybe could have shot it at the net instead of making a hope play, but he didn’t. So, we’ll live with it and we’ll move on.”
With scorers like Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Devils will need better defensive chemistry. If not, it can be a long night for Brodeur and the blueliners.