Once upon a time, Wayne Gretzky infamously called the New Jersey Devils a “Mickey Mouse” organization. With the start to their season being one of complete disaster in the first ten games, along with all of the controversy surrounding the club over the summer, it would almost appear like they were becoming that Mickey Mouse organization once again.
But in the land of Disney, the once upon a time fairy tale club got a feeling…tonight’s gonna be a good night. From the start of the game to the finish, the team knew that they would be taking home two points in Anaheim.
What was so different about the Devils in Anaheim? It was the first time the team buckled down and played a complete 60-minute game. They played the game the way they were supposed to play it. They even played with more confidence and didn’t let the Ducks first goal from Jason Blake break them down.
They showed just that when they came back a couple of minutes later when Jamie Langenbrunner scored his first goal of the season at 10:39 in the second period. Patrik Elias sealed the deal in the final act to give the Devils a 2-1 win over the Ducks.
“I think it starts with team effort,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “Marty made some key saves in the end. We played a solid defensive game and we got two points.”
Does it seem like the Devils have got their mojo back? If they continue playing a complete game (with confidence) and doing what the coach instructs them to do on the ice during every single shift, then they will succeed.
That has been the problem since the start. Every shift doesn’t perform their duties the way they’re supposed to. A few guys do what they’re supposed to do, while others don’t. When part of the team is working the way it’s supposed to and another part isn’t, it leads to mistake after mistake. When that happens, goals are scored against them.
The Devils have only scored 17 goals in their first 11 games of the season. They’re averaging 1.5 goals per game. Meanwhile, last night’s opponent, had 27 goals in 11 games. The Ducks are averaging 2.45 goals per game this season.
The Devils are not winning by scoring a lot of goals. They are winning by being a defensive team. In their three wins this season, they’ve won by scoring only a few goals. The most goals they have scored to win a game so far this season has been three goals during their shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens.
On the other hand, they’ve lost a lot of games because a lot of goals have been scored against them. How do they let that happen? By not playing a complete game. The breakdown of a shift could happen on one end of the ice when a player fails to finish their checks or play the puck in deep enough. By not completing the tasks required of them on every shift, breakdowns occur. It rolls from one person to the next…to the next shift out on the ice…until it almost becomes a train wreck.
But when the Devils do what they’re supposed to do out on the ice and keep the mistakes to a minimum, they can win the game…even if it’s only with a couple of goals.
The Return of ZZ Pops
Sometimes going back to the basics means reuniting a line that has proven time and time again that they work…and they work very well. Coach John MacLean decided to reunite the ZZ Pops line of Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner.
They’re doing so well, that even having Langenbrunner and Parise together on the same line without Zajac, the captain was still able to tally his first goal of the season. The reunion of the line is the on-ice chemistry that was missing and could be the answer to getting the top line to score more goals again.
Is MacLean happy with how the line is performing? You bet he is. He’s so happy with it, the line is staying together for the LA Kings game on Saturday night. If they continue to do well there, the line will continue to stay together.
“[Zubrus] has played very well for us,” MacLean said. “Where Zubie goes [is] because he works so hard…he does some things. That line has had success before and I thought Jamie probably played his best game to date. He worked hard. If it’s a familiarity with those guys, then it’s good. It’s a positive for us and hopefully they can keep it going.
“Let’s hope so,” he said of keeping the three together on the same line. “They’ll be playing tomorrow night together definitely. That would be a nice thing to have some balance in their line. I hope they can keep that going.”
As they say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. In the case of the ZZ Pops line, it was never broken. They were split up last season. It took many months before the line could be completely reunited again. Now that they are back together, maybe there will be more offense that can come from their line once again.
Niedermayer’s Number To Be Retired
Last night, Lou Lamoriello announced that they were working towards retiring Scott Niedermayer’s number at Prudential Center this year. Niedermayer was sitting with Lamoriello and goaltending coach Chris Terreri as they watched the Devils defeat the Ducks.
The Devils players had no idea that they were discussing retiring his number until after the game when the press told them that management was discussing the retirement of Niedermayer’s number this season.
“It’s a very deserving honor if that happens, which I’m sure it will,” MacLean said of his former teammate. “He’s a great player. He’s a great leader.”
“That’s fantastic,” Jason Arnott said. “It’s well deserved. No question. The time that I played with him…unbelievable. For me, one of the best D I’ve ever played with. No surprise.
“It’s going by real quick,” Arnott said of how the years are going by. “I think he’s only a year or two older than I am. It’s going by way too quick.”
“For the Devils?” Brodeur asked when he heard about the number being retired. “I didn’t hear that news, but if it is I think it’s a great honor. I think he’s a part of what the Devils are all about…the way he played the game, the way he conducted himself. I had great experiences with him with the Devils and outside with Team Canada. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s definitely well deserving, [especially] for our fans. To be associated with some players like that…like [Ken Daneyko], [Scott Stevens] and then now Scott Niedermayer, it’s pretty good.”
As of now, they are ‘discussing’ retiring his number this year. There is no official word that it is definitely going to happen. It is an open discussion right now, but it is something that the Devils are working towards doing this season.
Matthew Corrente’s hand is broken. Tyler Eckford was recalled under emergency conditions to replace him in the lineup.
Alexander Vasyunov was also recalled and tallied an assist on Elias’ goal. This was his first NHL career point. Kovalchuk helped Vasyunov get that first point. He even grabbed the puck for the young rookie as a memento of the moment.
“I knew that line was going to get something, because they were playing so well,” MacLean said of Vasyunov’s line with Elias and Kovalchuk.
Brodeur will be in net against the Kings.
The Devils finish their California tour tonight at Staples Center when they play against the LA Kings. They’ll finish up their Western Conference road trip after making a stop in Vancouver and Chicago.