This isn’t how the Devils hoped their California road trip would start. Whatever their problems were, they hoped it would be solved while out on the road.
But after the Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley dominated the game, it looked like child’s play out on the ice.
“The way that Heatley and that line played against us was like [they were] playing against kids,” Martin Brodeur said. “They could just score all ten goals. They were all over us.”
In the 5-2 win over the Devils, the three forwards generated 13 points between them–and they made it look easy. Thornton tallied his first hat trick of the season after he scored the first, third and fourth goals for the Sharks in the contest.
“Some losses are alright, but we’ll hold onto this one,” Brodeur said. “It’s just by the way we got beat. You get beat by one line, usually you can’t go into the building when three guys take over our game like the way that they did.”
But what is it that’s happening on the Devils’ end? Not so long ago, this team was one of the scariest teams in the league. Now, they are the team at the bottom of the barrel. Their start hasn’t been this bad since the Devils first came into being.
“It’s got to be a question of chemistry [with] the way we’re playing together,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “The locker room and off-ice chemistry is great. We all get along fine. On ice, our chemistry seems to be off. You don’t just lose the game the way that we are. We need to play together. We need to play the same system. We’re struggling with that.”
“There’s always a lot of concern when you’re playing like this,” Andy Greene said. “We’re not playing well. We’ve got to find a way. There’s no other way to explain it really.”
“We all want to get out of this and play the way we’re capable of,” Langenbrunner said. “For whatever reason, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot at some point in the game and never recover from it.”
“We start out good,” MacLean said. “We start playing [by] getting the puck [in] deep. First turnover and they get the first goal off it.
“It can be done. You can put the puck in deep and do a little work on it. Their game is getting the puck in deep, working, and winning battles one-on-one. When we do that, we’re fine. When we don’t, we get in trouble. We have to be committed to doing it shift after shift. We can’t have some guys doing it and some guys don’t.”
MacLean mixed up all of the lines throughout the game, trying to find a new combination that could generate goals for the team. There were a lot of odd combinations. He tried anything, just to generate something.
“I made changes all throughout the game,” he said. “I was trying to find something. Instead of staying status quo, they’re just not working. You’ve got to make changes. You’ve got to find something there.”
He never found the right combination he was looking for. The only line that seems to work is the Z-line with Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus and Zach Parise. But they weren’t the ones getting the goals in San Jose.
There were a few firsts for the Devils in San Jose. Both Greene and David Clarkson finally tallied their first goals of the season.
But as of late, when the top forwards can’t generate a goal, the Devils have to turn to odd bounces and the blueline to put one in for the Devils. The traffic down in front just isn’t generating anything. That seems to be the same issue throughout most of their losses.
The guys in front of the opposition’s net can’t score goals. But a weird bounce gets the goal or a defenseman just fires one in out of nowhere. But those goals are not the goals that win it. It’s Ilya Kovalchuk that’s been generating the wins for the Devils when they do win.
But what happens when he doesn’t shoot the puck once in the game like in San Jose? Well, the Devils didn’t win that one did they?
“No one feels sorry for us,” MacLean said of what’s happening.
Even moreso, there is a lot of angry bashing coming from the media and fans alike. Sitting at the bottom of the conference so early in the season can only lead to one thing for the Devils…the determination to make a turnaround and prove the haters wrong.
As for Brodeur in San Jose, he received the hardest shot to his face last night.
“It hit me in the cage,” Brodeur said of the shot. “It’s one of the hardest shots I’ve ever gotten in the face. When I got my senses back, I was alright. My ears were ringing a lot. Maybe about thirty seconds and then I was fine.”
He was a little nervous that maybe there was blood streaming down his face after he splashed himself with water…only to laugh it off after he found out that it was just water.
The Future of Coach MacLean
With this horrible start to the season (2-7-1), many questions are cropping up on whether Coach MacLean’s future with the Devils as head coach is at stake.
MacLean doesn’t believe his job is at stake. When asked if he thought it was, his answer was simply, “No.” The players also don’t believe that his job is at stake. Their stance is that he’s part of this family. No blame should be placed on him or any individual, for that matter. They win as a team. They fall as a team…and to them, that team includes Johnny Mac.
“A coach can only do so much,” Langenbrunner said. “You have to go out there and execute. We’re not executing the way we need to.”
“I’m worried about us,” Brodeur said. “Johnny Mac is part of us. It’s not fun going through what we’re going through. You get to a place beyond the road trips in the first game, trying to get off to a good start here and you don’t. Three-nothing. By the time you blink your eyes…it’s harder to win games. In the middle of the season, when you start trailing, it’s easy to come back sometimes because you’ve got a feeling. But so far this year, we get down in the game and it’s over.”
The Karmic Goal
Clarkson’s first goal for the Devils was on a lucky break from a quirky bounce off of the boards. Antero Niittymaki had gone behind the net, thinking that the puck was going that way. Instead, the bounce off the boards sent the puck back to the front of the net.
Clarkson got a lucky break when he was in the right place at the right time with Niitymaki out of the net.
“It’s just one of those ones that you take while you can get it,” Clarkson said of the goal. “It wasn’t too pretty. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”
But the strange thing is that a similar incident happened to Brodeur in the second period on Thornton’s third goal. Brodeur had gone behind the net to get the puck. The puck bounced awkwardly off of the boards and Thornton was there to tally the goal with Brodeur nowhere close to getting back in net.
“It happens,” Brodeur said of the goal. “It happened on Maki on the other side earlier. It happened on me. It was just a bad break there…3-1 in the game and we’re coming back slowly and getting chances. We get a bad bounce, instead of [coming] back again. It’s definitely a tough one.”
The Devils head to Anaheim for the second leg of their five game Western Conference road trip. They play against the Ducks on Friday, followed by the LA Kings on Saturday.