Monday, December 24, 2007

BONY Christmas Report Part I: Devils

Happy Holidays everyone! Whatever you celebrate, I hope you get a lot of nice stuff and it treats ya real nice.

That all said, with the two-day Christmas break upon us, I figured I'd take a look at each team and give a little quick hitting analysis on who's been naughty and nice.

We'll start with the first place Devils.


DEVILS (20-13-3, 43 pts)

Zach Parise (35 GP, 15-20-35): Without him, the Devils would be sunk. He is so important to their offense and has the hardest work ethic. Never takes a shift off.

Grade: A

Brian Gionta (36 GP, 11-15-26): Numbers are a little low due to slow start because of Elias but lately, the Mighty Mite has been more involved.

Grade: B

John Madden (36 GP, 11-11-22): Much like when they lost Bobby Holik across the river, Mad Dog has taken it upon himself to contribute more. He's really exceeded expectations.

Grade: A

Patrik Elias (34 GP, 8-12-20): The streaky Czech has shown signs lately like the OT winner last night. His team best five GW is valuable but the team really needs him to be more consistent if they're to do anything.

Grade: C-

Dainius Zubrus (36 GP, 6-12-18): Started out very badly but has come around and been in on a few goals. Still, for what they invested in him, he needs to be more than a secondary option.

Grade: C

Jamie Langenbrunner (19 GP, 5-11-16): The eighth team captain came out like a house of fire not missing a beat from injury sparking the club's revival. Has cooled lately but that's expected. Still love how he plays.

Grade: A

Travis Zajac (36 GP, 5-10-15): The second-year pivot comes to play every night but the lack of finish is alarming. They could use a little more scoring from the North Dakota product.

Grade: C+

Jay Pandolfo (24 GP, 8-5-13): The likeable vet who was nominated for the Selke last year was playing very well much like his PK partner Madden before a groin injury stopped his consecutive games played streak at 307. Another guy who has excelled under the new coach.

Grade: A

Paul Martin (32 GP, 1-11-12): He doesn't chip in as much as you'd expect from the blueline for the kind of skater he is but that's not his job. He is very underrated in his end. A solid unspectacular guy who doesn't do much to hurt club.

Grade: B

David Clarkson (35 GP, 4-5-9): A solid skater who provides good energy when his team needs it. Always finishes checks and isn't shy about dropping 'em as his 84 PIM would attest. Like his game. If he could hit the net more, that would be nice.

Grade: B

Karel Rachunek (28 GP, 1-6-7): Hasn't hurt club in first season coming over from the Rangers. He has a great shot but doesn't use it enough. He does get PP time. If he could do more offensively, that would help. Is still prone to mistakes.

Grade: B-

Arron Asham (35 GP, 4-3-7): Much like he did with the Isles, the fourth line pest has provided a lift when needed and even chipped in with a couple of deciding markers. Also will fight. A good team guy who understands role.

Grade: B

Sergei Brylin (36 GP, 3-4-7): The other remaining member from all three Cup teams works hard out there and tries his best. But his offense is a little down. He is capable of more.

Grade: C

Mike Mottau (31 GP, 1-5-6): The former Hobey Baker winner has been about as good as expected. Wasn't supposed to make team but has adjusted to the NHL game finally and done nice job.

Grade: B

Johnny Oduya (29 GP, 0-5-5): The second-year blueliner is basically insurance. A decent skater who has his moments but that's about it.

Grade: C

Rod Pelley (36 GP, 2-3-5): Rookie is a decent skater who is defensively responsible. Kind of reminds of a young Pandolfo. Offense a bonus.

Grade: B-

Andy Greene (33 GP, 1-3-4): A solid puckmoving D who is capable of more offense. He really needs to use his shot. Defensively, he's been okay.

Grade: C+

Sheldon Brookbank (24 GP, 0-3-3): Another surprise on the blueline who hasn't hurt team. Also will scrap (44 PIM).

Grade: B-

Vitaly Vishnevski (35 GP, 1-2-3): Very physical D who loves to catch players with their heads down. Got off to bad start but has steadied. Can be beat to the outside.

Grade: B-

Nicklas Bergfors (1 GP, 0-0-0): The former 2005 first round pick was an emergency call-up for one game and still needs fine tuning at Lowell.

Grade: Inc

Michael Rupp (19 GP, 0-0-0): Is an extra forward with size who's not afraid to mix it up. Lately, he's been scratched with the Devils playing seven D.

Grade: C

Colin White (16 GP, 0-0-0): Might be the most important defenseman on club. The team's resurgence coincided with the physical stay at home D's return. His skating has improved and he understands role and plays very hard.

Grade: A

Olli Malmivaara (2 GP, 0-0-0): Got into a couple of games out of necessity and didn't hurt club going plus-two.

Grade: Inc

Martin Brodeur (32 GP, 18-12, 2.23 GAA, .914 Save Pct, 3 SHO): After an awful beginning, the three-time Vezina and Cup winner has returned to form backstopping the club to a 1-0 OT shutout last night (30 saves) in Calgary. It's amazing how durable the 35 year-old vet is.

Grade: B+

Kevin Weekes (5 GP, 2-1, 2.31 GAA, .919 Save Pct): The likeable backup who came over from the Rangers understands his role and has performed well. It's got to be tough because he probably could still be sharing the load elsewhere. A good team guy.

Grade: B+

Brent Sutter: It didn't start out well for the first-year coach who's very much like his brothers Darryl and Brian. His style is eerily similar to Calgary coach Mike Keenan in that he's not afraid to pull punches and call out players as he did with Elias. In New Jersey, his tough love has worked as the team has exceeded expectations leading the very competitive Atlantic by five points. You wonder if his style will last because players have a tendency to tune out these types of coaches. It's working so far and that's what matters.

Grade: A



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