Sunday, January 31, 2010

Different year, same late-game chokes

While I knew what type of recap this was going to be after the Devils' unconscionable 3-2 loss to the Kings this afternoon, it's hard to really figure out precisely where to start with this disaster of a game. I guess I'll start with I'm glad I wasn't there this time. I had four different tickets for today's game after all, my own two seats which I sold long ago to a friend's friend and her husband plus two other free tickets after the Lightningate fiasco which I gave to a cash-strapped friend so he could take his dad. Normally I don't bother with weekend games anyway (unless someone's going with me or it's a big rivalry game) since there is usually an hour layover for me between the final horn and the train at Broad Street. So I sat this one out.

Maybe some other people involved in the game should have sat as well! Starting with Martin Brodeur - yes, I know he's Mr. Vezina, plays every game, greatest goalie in the world yadda yadda yadda. Can he freaking sit one or two lousy games before the Olympics now?! After a Carolina Game 7-like choke in the final minute and forty-six seconds?! The only difference between that game and this one really is that the tying goal was the one where Marty gave up a softee - in this case to Wayne Simmonds on a floater from the side of the net, again around the armpit area. Plus of course the Carolina one was a season-ender, this one just seems to portend the upcoming ignominious end of a the Mets it's becoming same crap, different year.

Even worse than Brodeur this afternoon was Mike Mottau - again! What is it going to take for Jacques Lemaire to even castigate him, much less reduce his icetime?! I realize he's become a favorite son much like Jay Pandolfo (and I'll get to HIM and that dopey checking line in a minute), but how many miscues and brain farts can one player make before he's made accountable??? Especially considering unlike with Pando, Mottau's not on a prohibitive contract. We're not stuck with him past this year. Yet, if you have a certain amount of time in the league apparently you're allowed mistakes from here to kingdom com but if you're a rookie like Nicklas Bergfors, banish him to the fourth line for not scoring in a few games!

Just today alone, Mottau's blind turnover with just twenty-nine seconds remaining in the second period led to the first Kings goal by Michal Handzus. Then he takes a dumb penalty early in the third period that the Devils have to kill off. And finally on the Kings' last-minute power play (more on that later too) he and Colin White were predictably stuck in molasses while the Kings circled the puck around to Drew Doughty, whose rocket went through everyone in front incluing Brodeur with just twenty-eight seconds remaining in regulation!

Somewhat fittingly, it was the Lemaire old, slow checking line special that was on the ice for the first two goals as well. Pando, the equally as slow and offensively inept Rob Niedermayer and the flavor of the week at RW (right now it's Patrick Davis, who fits right in with limited offensive skill despite his goal two nights ago) all get around fifteen minutes a night against the other team's best players. If it wasn't so maddening, it would be comical just how many two-on-ones and quality scoring chances Pando and Nieds blow on a nightly basis. Today alone that number was at least two or three.

Of course we could say the same about Pando and John Madden the last couple years, but we were supposed to be rid of the checking line last year under Brent Sutter - who's thankfully screwing up Calgary now with his brother - and we were supposed to be rid of it this year too. Guess again. And if Lemaire doesn't get it through his thick skull that an old, slow checking line just is not going to work then we won't be successful at all when it counts, no matter whether the Devils somehow hang on to win this division over the Penguins. I've said it once, I'll say it a hundred times but all my ranting isn't going to do any good on this matter sadly. Lemaire is who he is and that's not going to change based on anything I say.

And while I don't always believe in hockey karma, particularly after the Canes got rewarded for tanking the last game of the regular season last year, maybe it came back to bite us in the rear end tonight during the third period. After Johnny Oduya (who otherwise had his best game of the year amazingly enough) dove to give us a late power play - which predictably we didn't convert on - a late dive compelled the refs to make an equally bad call on Andy Greene with just a minute remaining in the game. Unlike the offensively challenged Devils though, the Kings did come through on their ill-gotten power play and good for them.

When you blow consecutive two-goal leads in three nights you don't deserve to win. Especially when you're playing a team that's won six in a row on the road, just played in Boston the afternoon before and should have been absolutely gassed. Particuarly when you're going to make the same mindless mistakes on and off the ice over and over and over again. Granted, the Kings are a very good young team, I don't want to take anything away from them. But this is a game that should have been won and choking in the clutch has been a problem for this team since 2007-08. Plus the window's closing on this team given Brodeur's age, Patrik Elias's increasing fragility and a declining defense. Who would have ever thought of my three teams the JETS would be in the best shape going forward?!

The only good news, if you want to call it that - is if this game doesn't finally get the message through to Lemaire and Lou Lamoriello who are both stuck in a pre-lockout mentality of checking line, playing Brodeur every game and leaning on vets until they break down - then nothing really will. No matter what mediocre defenseman we bring in at the trade deadline or fourth-line forward. And we'll be headed for another crash and burn come April, though it's hard to see how we could top the last two years in terms of embarassment (a sweep? That's the only cliff we haven't fallen off of yet), this team will probably find a way.

1 comment: said...

I am a New Jersey Devils fan. I can’t believe they lost to the Kings yesterday, blowing a two-goal lead. Congratulations to the Kings though on going 5-0-0 on their road trip that concluded with the game against New Jersey. It is their first undefeated road trip in team history.

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