I shouldn't be up but somehow am because my schedule has been wacky lately. Well, maybe not as out of whack as the Devils right now but yeah. They're not the only Battle club struggling as the Sabres are stuck on three wins in 10 games (3-6-1) just a couple of points clear of last New Jersey (2-7-1). With October about to close, two of the East's top three clubs just last Spring are in the basement trying to get going.
Even the biggest doomsday scenario couldn't have predicted this for half the Battle clubs. Especially when they boast two of the game's elite goalies. I'm not about to write off Martin Brodeur yet. He's gotten off to slow starts before. It's just that now his defense is AHL caliber without Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador, who remains on LTIR with a concussion. Hell. As our resident NJD blogger Hasan alluded to, even Mark Fraser is missed. Between a matador D reminding us of some of those dreadful Ranger teams and lackluster starts from Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, it's no wonder the Devs are where they are. First-year coach John MacLean must think he became one of Freddy's nightmares. Benching Ilya Kovalchuk legitimately due to tardiness for a team meeting and unable to find the right combos. Even Zach Parise only has three goals, which sadly is good for a tie for first on the club with Arnott. Can it get any worse? They'll look to get back in the win column tonight at Anaheim.
As for the Sabres, they haven't looked much better. Not even with rating Vezina winner Ryan Miller doing his part. In a 6-3 road loss to old rival Philly, their lack of attention to detail was disturbing. Sloppy turnovers led directly to odd-man rushes which the Flyers were only too happy to take advantage of. Even if Lindy Ruff's club made it interesting late, they know they must be more consistent to get out of this funk. Since defeating Ottawa in the season opener, they've dropped seven of nine. In particular, Tyler Myers is going through a rough patch in his second year, posting a team worst minus-nine rating. When Steve Montador is your most effective blueliner, that's a problem. Thomas Vanek has just begun lighting the lamp after another MIA stint. Let's be honest. He hasn't been the same since he signed that huge Oiler offersheet which Darcy Regier matched. One of the game's top talents should be putting up between 40-50 goals every season. Not going through funks which have Western New York scratching their heads. Only Derek Roy, rookie Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford have performed. More is needed from Tim Connolly, Jochen Hecht and even Patrick Kaleta, who's been far too quiet. They're still missing Jason Pominville, whose status is uncertain due to a concussion.
On a day in which both teams play with the latter visiting the house of horrors Atlanta, can they dig out of this early hole? For sure. But, it would be wise to get untracked soon before it morphs into Carolina last year, who despite a furious rally, couldn't recover from a horrid start. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll see what each is made of.