Tonight’s game is a big statement game for the New Jersey Devils.
It’s a chance for New Jersey to show they aren’t as bad as their record implies. They can show themselves and the league that their record reflects a still developing chemistry. New Jersey can show the potential that many experts see in this team.
The other side of the coin could rear its ugly head. If the Devils lose, and lose convincingly, the media and fans will look to expose any locker room issues. Every player and coach will be questioned, and the organization will come under more scrutiny. They’ll become the under-the-radar Rangers, an over-priced, too-old veteran that can’t compete in this NHL.
New Jersey has failed to give consistent efforts night after night so far this season, leading the team to a 2-5-1 record. Falling behind the eight ball early isn’t always bad, but it’s been the manner the Devils lose games. For example:
- The Devils scored first in five of eight games this season. Their record in those games – 2-1-1
- In the second period, Devils’ opponents have outscored them 15-3.
- Players and coaches admitted the team doesn’t put forth a complete, sixty-minute effort night in and night out.
The Devils struggled to find consistency through their eight games, and the negative impact shines brightly. Some of their uglier stats include:
- They’ve allowed five or more goals twice in nine games. Last season, they only allowed five or more goals seven times.
- Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias are a combined -20.
- The Devils have scored the least amount of goals in the league (14) and are last in goal differential (-13).
The Devils have a chance to fix the situation tonight at Madison Square Garden, as the team travels across the Hudson River to face off against the New York Rangers in an important intra-division matchup.
The Rangers enter the game winners of two in a row after defeating the Bruins in Boston last night. What’s more impressive is that the Rangers have reeled off wins without Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury.
The Devils enter tonight’s game after being thrashed by the Buffalo Sabres, 6-1, last night at the Prudential Center. The game featured terrible defense, sloppy play and the mysterious decision to bench Ilya Kovalchuk. It was, once again, a lackluster effort for the New Jersey Devils.
After the game, coach John MacLean took full responsibility for the team’s sloppy play.
“I’m having trouble finding the answers for that myself,” MacLean told reporters in his post-game press conference. “But ultimately it falls on my responsibility to get the guys prepared to play.”
The Devils need to be prepared for tonight’s matchup. In six games last season, the Devils earned a winning record against their rivals, going 3-2-1. But the Rangers were able to blow out the Devils, and they still retain that ability. It also won’t get any easier for New Jersey, as they face on of the game’s best young goalies in Henrik Lundqvist.
The Devils need to put a consistent effort on the ice to even have a shot against the Rangers. The team held a mandatory meeting before an optional skate this morning, and no details were released about that closed-door meeting. But for the Devils and their fans, one could only hope MacLean used it to clear the air and focus his players.
Tonight’s game looms large for the Devils. Lose, and the team continues their slide and drops a game to a hated rival. Win, and the team heads into a Western Conference road trip on a high note.
It’s an early statement game, and the Devils need to make a loud, positive one.