Don’t Fall for the Tricks of the Devils
December 21, 2009 by Big Tony
Do not be fooled by the success of the New Jersey Devils through the first 34 games of the season. Granted, they are in first place in the East (with a tie-breaker over the Pittsburgh Penguins) but it is not an indication of things to come for New Jersey come playoff time. One must give them credit where credit is due because they are in fact in first place and Martin Bordeur is being his amazing self winning game after game with the incredible play of the likes of Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac, and Brian Rolston in front of him. Despite their stellar play—as indicated by their record—the problems for New Jersey in recent years have started in the playoffs and quite frankly this season will be no different. From a logistical point of view the rule changes coming out of the lockout have hurt the Devils’ style of play greatly since they benefitted greatly from the clutching and grabbing that was a major target of the rule changes. In that sense, it makes it much harder for the Devils to win games because it puts more pressure on them to score more often than to try to protect a one goal lead they might have settled on doing in the past. Not only that but from the perspective of something more intangible is the fact that now teams not only have a bit of a tactical advantage over New Jersey that was lacking in the past but they also have greater hope.
There is no doubt that the Devils talent level is amongst the best in the league but when lesser teams faceoff against them come playoff time New Jersey’s style of play does not squash any hopes that a lesser team can beat them. Instead, by trying to protect small leads, the other teams start to believe they can actually beat New Jersey. As a result such teams grow in confidence yielding better on ice play and ultimately the elimination of New Jersey from the playoffs. Last year is a great example of that; all due respect to Carolina they were not on the same level talent wise as New Jersey but for the entire series they were able to just keep hanging around until eventually Carolina ousted the Devils from the playoffs. In contrast to that—after Carolina got by Boston under similar circumstances—when Carolina went to play a highly talented Penguin team that could score Carolina was completely outmatched and swept out of the playoffs. Until New Jersey can figure out a way to put teams away in the post-season by crushing their will a cycle of early round exits will continue indefinitely with this year being no exception.