The only thing more disturbing then how quiet the Prudential Center has been during home games lately, is that the last four games have sent the New Jersey Devils on a slide in the Eastern Conference standings from 1st to 4th & in this week’s power rankings on NHL.com from 3rd to 11th.
Besides some hiccups keeping players out of the line up like Zubrus, Carter, and Brodeur in yesterday’s game versus the Jets, there’s something else missing from the Devils game lately. Now I’m not in the locker room interviewing coaches or players, I’m not on the bench hearing the conversations going on, or on the ice executing what’s being done in practice. What I am seeing is a huge void of attitude & energy. The only Devils I’ve been impressed with over the past 4 games have been Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, Patrik Elias, and Andrei Loktionov.
Besides Hedberg having a couple of off games while he tended the crease, I don’t put the blame on him those games. I don’t think the Devils need to panic but I do think they need to wake up and get back into the form they were in during their 5 game winning streak. I’m just not seeing the energy and leadership from the top down that we saw earlier in the month. From DeBoer to Bryce Salvador to Ilya Kovalchuk. I’m just not seeing the big names step up and make the decision to go out there, play physically, lead by example and take ownership of their results. While their PK is still ok, it’s slipping and their PP unit is sitting in the middle of the pack still. The Devils are averaging 2.53 goals/game but have let in 17 goals the last 5.
Defense is not doing its job. From turnovers in the zone, poor positioning, not winning puck battles down low, foolish penalties & turnovers, all do not help the Devils solidify the decision that they were the team they were just 2 weeks ago. “There’s always cause for concern, but am I concerned? No. I think that every team is going to go through adversity. We know how to handle that. We know we’re going to come out the other end of it. We just have to stick with it. You look around the league and these situations are happening to just about everybody but the Blackhawks and I’m sure they’ll get theirs eventually.” DeBoer spoke of the slump.
The best thing going for the Devils right now was their start to the season and their 5 game winning streak earlier in February. If it wasn’t for that, you’d see a quality hockey club out of playoff contention right now. Hedberg offered up his comments as well about what the Devils have been going through. “It’s a tough season. Some nights you’re playing a team that’s on and you might not be all there and if you’re not on top of your game in this league it’s tough to win. There’s things we can do better and, hopefully, we can use these couple of days of practice here to fix whatever we need and build off that.” The Devils saw a sharp Hurricanes, Islanders, Capitals, and Jets team over the last two weeks that all resulted in losses. The frustrating part is that every Devil fan knows when this team is hot, they can’t be stopped. So were the other teams really that good, or were the Devils really that bad?
We’re going to find out as the Devils head on the road for two games before returning home Tuesday to play the Tampa Bay Lightning. They play the Jets again Thursday night to wrap up a home and home and head to Buffalo to play the Sabres Saturday night in Buffalo.
I hope that someone on our roster decides to make a statement this week so the rest of the club can feed off of that. Whatever problems the Devils need to fix, I hope they fix quickly on the road, and leave them behind in Winnipeg.
The puck drops at 8pm Thursday from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.