Friday, March 5, 2010

And the beat goes on (and on and on)

I really have little energy at this moment to give my sorry excuse of a team the rant it deserves. But make no mistake about it, it's DEFCON 2 time in New Jersey right now. After tonight's 5-3 embarassment against ex-coach Brent Sutter's Calgary Flames which wasn't even that close until two late stat-padding goals, the Devils still have gone two months between winning streaks. That's two whole months where our longest win streak is one lousy game! Worse, the team showed little effort at all in the final two periods until it was too late and that's pretty disconcerting considering it's only our second game back after the break.

Truly it's laughable that going into tonight the Devils still had the fewest goals allowed, because make no mistake about it - this defense is utter garbage and showed it again, allowing five goals to a pathetic offense that's been lucky to score two a night for most of the season. Again though, what can you really expect when Andy Greene's your number one guy and he's been getting worse every game, in spite of his nice assist on Zach Parise's first period goal that gave Greene his first point in basically months? But don't worry Devils fans, Martin Skoula's coming soon to an arena near you! Oh, and Paul Martin will be coming back any week now...him and Elvis!

Still, our biggest worry is not even the defense right now - it's Martin Brodeur. Yes, that's right...we all knew this day was coming, when Brodeur would no longer be the Vezina lock and best (regular season) goaltender in the league anymore. I wasn't really prepared for it to be this season considering the strong start he got off to but honestly you can only blame overplaying so long. When even a nine-day break doesn't help you have to ask the question, is this the beginning of the end? Because right now last year's Scott Clemmensen > 2010's Brodeur. Heck, this year's Yann Danis might be better than a Brodeur who's save percentage is plummeting below .900 since New Year's, but of course we'll never know that since Danis is in proverbial jail and only plays about as often as a lunar eclipse. God forbid Lemaire actually put him in tonight when it got to 5-1 in the third period and Brodeur couldn't stop countryman Roberto Luongo's oversized pads from going into the net.

Of course we know what the excuse will be from Jacques Lemaire and Lou Lamoriello, that Brodeur sat for nine days and is now rusty. So he was overplayed before the break and rusty now...eventually we're gonna have to face the music here. Whether you want to trace his decline to the New Year's butt-whipping in Chicago or right after the 50+ save performance at MSG a couple weeks later, there has been a decline. Including his two Olympic game, Brodeur hasn't allowed fewer than two goals in a game since January 27! We know how bad he was in Vancouver against Team USA, and it's been worse since the break with at least one stoppable goal in San Jose Tuesday and at minimum two, maybe three tonight.

Still, Brodeur had plenty of 'help'. Other than Parise, who scored two of the team's three goals tonight including his thirtieth, this team looks like the same disjointed mess it was during Larry Robinson's ill-fated second tenure coming out of the lockout. Only instead of Vladimir Malakhov we're dealt Brian Rolston, what's the difference? Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if Rolston retired once Lemaire leaves a la Malakhov with Robinson though a cynic like me would say he's pretty much retired already, just skating to collect a paycheck. At least he looked like he wanted to skate to show up his former coach tonight - for a period.

Ironically acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk was supposed to spark the Devils, but instead it's turned us into a frighteningly similar team to the Thrashers. Never was this more evident than on the Flames' lead goal in the second period, where Kovalchuk tried a fancy move on the point during the power play and got stripped by Curtis Glencross, who scored on a breakaway though it wasn't even a great goal. He just sort of threw one at the net from mid-range and it beat a clearly shaky Brodeur, who'd already given up a bad goal to get the Flames going. And speaking of the Thrashers, how bad does it look for our esteemed head coach that Nicklas Bergfors is turning into a star the minute he got out of Lemaire's doghouse and is playing for a team that will let him actually show what he can do?

Oy, I think I'm going to cut this one short tonight...maybe we'll actually have another one-game winning streak on Sunday against the lousy Oilers, but at this point are we really that much better? Now we're what, 6-14-2 in our last twenty-two? I can't even look it up. Sadly I am now glad I have to miss next Wednesday's game against the Rangers since I'm fully expecting another disaster in our first home game back in a month.

I'll just conclude with this thought since I was reminded of it with the Lemaire press conference coming up on MSG+...his grandfather persona was nice while we were winning but now we need the nasty sob that wouldn't stand for these kind of crap efforts during his first tenure. We haven't had a strict coach since Sutter's first year, and none that the players respected since Pat Burns. But he's not walking through that door ever again, unfortunately - so it's time for Jacques to shape these guys up. Closed-door meeting, bag skate, whatever it takes. To come out like you don't care for two periods after 80% of the team has had a substantial break is inexcusable.

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