Sunday, March 7, 2010

There are no words


This Devils team is so bad right now I can't even fathom how a first half that went so swimmingly is turning into such a crapfest. I guess Ottawa Senators fans can relate after what happened to their team two years ago, being first in the league after half the season and then nose-diving in the second half but still making the playoffs (and then getting outsted very quickly by the Penguins in them). At this point we're on our way to a similar fate.

To lose is one thing, to lose in Calgary is bad enough but to get shut out in Edmonton is just so mind-boggling it's beyond belief. This is an Oilers team that is the worst in the league right now, especially after salary-dumping Lubomir Vishnovsky and losing Nikolai Khabibulin, Sheldon Souray and Ales Hemsky to IR. I mean the score was 'only' 2-0 but it could have been even worse if Martin Brodeur hadn't actually rebounded from his craptastic performance the other night with a good game. He couldn't be faulted on either of the two goals, but there was plenty of blame to go around for everyone else.

I have to admit I pretty much zoned out of the game once the Oilers took control in the second after an uninspired first despite the Devils holding Edmonton to three shots on goal, they didn't exactly show any offensive punch either. After the first period, the Oilers outshot the Devils by a ridiculous 32-16 margin and a bang-bang play led to a Gilbert Brule one-time goal when our third defensive pairing of Martin Skoula and Anssi Salmela (how fast has the rose gone bad on him?) both got caught in the corner and Rob Niedermayer couldn't cover Brule in front.

Even worse, Ilya Kovalchuk got hit on the same hand he hurt two nights ago and it looks like whatever's going on he's not able or willing to take the big slapshot he's reknown for now. For the second time in three games, he got snuffed out on a breakaway - this time early in the third period, and soon after the Oilers got the goal that ended the game with an assist from a falling Robert Nilsson, who somehow managed to get the puck to Mark Poulliot in front for another one-timer that basically ended any chance of the emotionless Devils coming back. For the coup de grace, after Andrew Peters committed another dopey penalty late, Jacques Lemaire put Patrik Elias in the box to serve the minor...what?!

And that division race that we were actually leading through the Olympic break? You can probably put that one to bed after the Pens' last two head-to-head matchups with us. Pittsburgh's 4-0 week combined with our floundering has left us five points out of first. Now that the division's getting more and more out of reach (while the team is still going to make the playoffs barring this losing streak getting to New Jersey Nets-like proportions), there'll be even less of a reason for this team to play down the stretch.

Until tonight, I haven't believed there was any scenario that would see Lemaire getting canned. He and GM Lou Lamoriello think alike and I believed our GM had too much regard to treat him the way he did Robbie Ftorek, or Claude Julien. With the acquisition of Kovalchuk and the amount of time (two months) this malaise has lasted, really any other coach would have been fired by now. It's now getting into DEFCON 1 territory though...if the Devils get embarassed at home Wednesday by a mediocre Ranger team which frankly I'm expecting, in my mind all bets are off and something will happen. Whether it's Lemaire getting fired or some other shuffling of the coaching staff or the roster, Lou's not going to allow this season to leak away like a baloon running out of air, not with the clock running out on Brodeur and FA-to be Kovalchuk.

If there was any good news tonight it was the pre-game interview with Paul Martin. Not that I expect him to have much impact for the rest of the regular season at this point, with all the time he's missed...but it's nice to know he's alive at least.

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