Saturday, January 21, 2012

Devils: The good, bad and the ugly of the last 48 hours

Going to Thursday night's game against the Bruins, it kind of had the feel of being the first playoff game of the new season, with all the hype surrounding the game after the Stanley Cup champs kicked our tail two weeks ago at the Prudential Center. The teams' second matchup in fifteen days would provide a barometer for New Jersey, to see how far they'd come in their last twenty games, where they went 14-5-1. Ultimately, the results were mixed as the Devils played very well in the first two periods but couldn't finish on some terrific chances...then collapsed in the third period, as a 1-0 lead turned into a 4-1 loss.

During the third period surfing the Internet (since the game ceased being interesting once the Bruins got out front by two) I found out that the reason Henrik Tallinder was a scratch - something I had no idea about until I saw the scratch list before the game - was because of a blood clot in his leg, and that the big defenseman was expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Yikes...while Tallinder's play has been streaky as a Devil, his calming presence will be missed. So far, Matt Taormina's filled in just fine when called upon though, and Andy Greene's supposedly expected back after the All-Star break.

If the loss was the bad and Tallinder's ailment was the ugly, then last night's trade for Alexei Ponikarovsky was the good...maybe. While Ponikarovsky's career has fallen off the map since his days as a Maple Leaf, giving up a fourth-rounder and defenseman Joe Sova (someone I literally never heard of until last night) for a guy that even in this part of his career is still an upgrade over the dreck we've been running out on the third and fourth line is a trade you have to make. Almost certainly Ponikarovsky's arrival will lead to the demotion of the dissapointing Mattias Tedenby, who's put up just one goal, five assists and is a -15 in 43 games this year after a promising end to his rookie season in 2010.

Assuming Travis Zajac returns soon after the All-Star break (not a safe assumption, I know), the Devils can actually run out three effective lines with Parise-Henrique-Kovy and Sykora-Elias-Zubrus the set lines for the last couple of months and a likely third line of Poni-Zajac-Clarkson. Perhaps going 0-3 against the Bruins and struggling against other top teams drummed in the importance to Lou Lamoriello that the team didn't quite have the depth to compete. Clearly in this day of the NHL, you need at least three lines that are able to score with a fourth line that isn't going to kill you during its 5-10 minutes a night. When healthy, our fourth line will be Jacob Josefson and friends, assuming the staff decides to use him in that role. Anything would be an improvement over goon central, although perhaps Pete DeBoer's finally realizing he can't have 'both' Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton in the lineup at the same time with the scratching of Boulton the other night.

While I'm looking forward to seeing how the new changes flesh out, I'm rather annoyed at this inconvenient first snowstorm of winter putting my plans of going to today's Devils-Flyers game in jeopardy. Perhaps it's for the best if I don't go since I haven't gotten a lot of sleep lately due to my allergic rhinitis but I'd hate to miss three out of four games (with the one I went to being the dissapointing Boston loss) since I sold both Tuesday games last week and this week, one to go to the movies and the other so my friend could go to the game. Especially missing Devils-Flyers, though I already had to do that once during a snowstorm a couple years ago where the Devils contreversially announced the number through the turnstiles instead of the actual tickets sold for their attendance.

I guess we shouldn't complain much since it took a month for the first actual snowstorm of winter, I thought this winter would be bad when we had the pre-Halloween mountain of snow...but there's plenty of time for winter to provide more inconveniences. Hopefully the snow stops sometime in the next three hours or so, since I pretty much have to decide by 11 whether it's worth it to go. Just like Ponikarovsky - who may or may not get here in time for today's game - I'm a game-time decision for today.

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