Thirty games later, nothing’s changed for the New Jersey Devils. They remain in a tight race…for last overall in the league, but are first…in least goals scored and goals against. Oddly enough, the Devils went 4-6-0 in the past ten games, two of which they won 2-1 and had to be decided in a shootout. Compared to how they’ve fared at the ten game mark (2-7-1) and twenty game mark (3-6-1), they gradually continue to improve on their point quantity every ten games, salvaging eight points since game No. 21, whereas in their first ten they were only accountable for three points, the next ten, seven points. Yes, it isn’t much to jump up and down about but the way things have been going for this team, we need to take note of any form of positiveness.
What put a damper on the past ten games was the team’s five game losing streak, during which they were outscored 22-9. Obviously, the state of the team wouldn’t have changed, but how would we have felt about this team if those five consecutive losses were spread out, considering they were one win away from going .500? The losing streak may as well be considered a blessing in disguise as there was a locker room scare when left wing Brian Rolston was placed on waivers. Obviously, nobody was interested in claiming the thirty-seven year old and his contract that runs through the 2011-2012 season with a $5.2 million cap hit. Rumors are the Devils are preparing to set Rolston up on re-entry waivers to be claimed by another team, who will only be responsible for half the cap hit. Rolston was quoted saying he feels he still has plenty of hockey left in him and is willing to play, whether he remains with the Devils or plays elsewhere. Everybody’s anticipated a shakeup in the Devil’s organization, and since Lamoriello said he’s committed to head coach John MacLean, this could be the start of something. After clearing waivers, the Devils have up to thirty days or ten games to place Rolston on re-entry or demote him to the Albany Devils, the team’s AHL affiliate.
Since January, Martin Brodeur’s been collecting losses like it’s his job. After returning from his injury on December 10th against the Ottawa Senators, Brodeur’s gone 1-4. During that span, amounting to a whopping 2.80 GAA and a .861 SV%. As I anticipated, his return was simply ineffective, not that backup Johan Hedberg really made that much of a difference either.
Over the past ten games, the defense went a combined minus-twenty-two. Anton Volchenkov evened out with a zero during that span, while Anssi Salmela tied him in the first two games he played since returning from injury. Salmela has the profile of a puck moving defenseman and his hard shot could be of some use. Let’s see how he plays once he gets into game form.
As hard as it is to believe, a few positives have come out of Games No. 21-30. Ilya Kovalchuk notched three goals and six points in the final five games, and currently has eight points in his last seven games (4G, 4A). Patrik Elias had nine points (4G, 6A) in games No. 21-30 and points in his seven of his last eleven (4G, 7A). On a final positive note, the Devils have been coming through on their power play after struggling the first twenty or so games this year. In games No. 21-30, the Devils went seven for thirty-four, having converted twenty percent over the past ten games. Despite the past two losses after game No. 30, the streak continues. The Devils went two for six, upping their total in the past twelve games to nine for forty, a 22.5% power play conversion.
I’ve done my best to sugarcoat the past ten to twelve games this team’s played. At the end of the day, the Devils continue to be a losing team with the chances of a turnaround leading to a playoff run becoming less and less likely. Fans, analysts, and beat writers have called for changes to this team weeks ago and as Lou Lamoriello has become famed for saying this year, all continues to remain “status-quo”. Lamoriello clearly has the patience of a saint if he’s been gone this long without making any permanent roster changes. As many have said, something really has to give with this team, but that could be a topic for a different write up.
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Written by Mike Luciano