Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ranger effort simply not good enough in loss to hot Hudson rival

Okay. So last night's latest installment of the Battle Of Hudson wasn't a work of art. With all due respect to Hall Of Fame coach Jacques Lemaire, there's nothing beautiful about the agitating style his teams employ. The neutral zone trap or 1-2-2 or 1-4 is what it is. It forces undisciplined opponents into mistakes. The defensive team is then opportunistic enough to pounce on those errors like the red hot Devils did during Friday's 1-0 blanking of a Ranger team that simply wasn't good enough.

Like future captain Ryan Callahan noted in the postgame, it didn't matter if they were tired from the night before of what amounted to a hard fought win over a good LA team. The schedule is what it is with the Rangers having more back-to-backs than anyone else. For the most part, they've fared well showing the trademark resiliency that's made them rootable for Garden Faithful. Even if the Devils are making a frantic second half push for the final playoff berth occupied by Carolina who still sits 12 points up with the final meeting of the season tonight in Raleigh, John Tortorella's club had to be better yesterday.

Fifteen shots just won't cut it. Credit must be handed out to New Jersey for staying so focused on the defensive side by doing the little things that win in this league. Even if it makes you want to nap, they executed Lemaire's strategy to perfection. Johan Hedberg went out of his way to praise the defensive effort, referring to it as the best he's ever seen. But what would the latest Devil win be without rejuvenated megabucks star Ilya Kovalchuk victimizing Marc Staal, who fell at the blueline- allowing the red hot Russian to go in on a breakaway and rifle a laser off the far post past Henrik Lundqvist for the winner halfway through the tactical contest.

The problem for the Blueshirts wasn't so much that the Devils dictated every inch of the ice but more about how much they gave. Until the third, there was nothing to write about. They got outhit, outhustled and outworked for a second straight time against the close Hudson rival. Sure. They were better in the third with Tortorella shuffling his lines featuring Sean Avery a bit more effective with Marian Gaborik and Erik Christensen. But it still wasn't enough.

When they face a team they haven't beat yet since last year in the top seeded Flyers, there can't be any excuses. They're only two up on Carolina with Atlanta, Buffalo, Toronto and the Devils hanging around. It won't get any easier with a visit to Raleigh Tuesday and another tough game next Thursday. It's time for them to step up!

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