Revived Devils hope to stay hot against Habs

Pat Hickey’s Rangers game story and quotes from the room

Quick Hits and About last night …

The Devils provide the opposition in the Canadiens second half of their annual double matinée of Super Bowl weekend and New Jersey has been, of course, a vastly different team since Jacques Lemaire took over from John MacLean on Dec. 23. They’re 8-1-2 in the second half and Lemaire, the former Habs Hall of Fame centre, coach and executive, is largely the reason why.

The 65-year-old Lemaire, who said 10 days ago he won’t coach next season, has coaxed a better game from his team by working on their conditioning and their confidence. He’s also got them playing his usual safe game, with a few extra wrinkles like allowing his defencemen to pinch more than he did in his previous stints with the Devils and the Wild.

The emphasis on team defence has allowed goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg to face far fewer quality chances than they had been. For Brodeur, whose play deteriorated earlier this season, the return to defensive basics has allowed him to rebuild his confidence now that he’s seeing fewer second shots and shots from prime scoring areas.

That doesn’t mean he’s back to being the Brodeur of old entirely, however. Against the Rangers in his last outing on Thursday, he had some shaky moments, including the first goal by Ryan Callahan (video) which beat him over the shoulder stick side as he went down too early.

Brodeur will be in goal on Sunday and against the Habs his lifetime
record is 39-16-5 with a 1.75 goals-against average, .933 save
percentage and
nine shutouts. In Montreal,
Brodeur is 16-8-1 with a 1.52 GAA, .945 save percentage and five
shutouts, including a 3-0 win on Oct. 21.

Brodeur was injured the
last time the teams played, on Dec. 2, a 5-1 win for the Habs in which
they scored on two of their first three shots and chased Hedberg after
less than two minutes in favor of Mike McKenna, who went the rest of the
way.

Hedberg was in goal Friday for a 4-3 overtime loss to Florida, a game in which Lemaire thought his team played well, but only in spurts and were victimized by “mental mistakes.” He said New Jersey “deserved to lose that game” and wondered if they might be a bit tired.

Those mistakes included the defence backing in on the game winner by Rostislav Olesz (video) and playing too relaxed on the power play; Lemaire criticized his team for not backing each other up when there’s a loose puck with the man advantage.

The Devils have been brutal on the power play since Lemaire took over (6-for-56) even though he often uses five forwards on the PP unit. The Panthers’ tying goal was a shorthanded tally by Mike Santorelli which came after Ilya Kovalchuk flubbed a pass at the point (video).

But generally, Lemaire has been quite pleased with his team’s play in the last few weeks. Kovalchuk, who the Devils acquired a year ago Feb. 4 from Atlanta, is playing more like the Kovalchuk of old, as he showed with the game-opening goal against the Rangers (video). Brian Rolston, who was on waivers not long ago, has also been rejuvenated with 5 goals and 8 assists in the last 11 games, including a ripping goal that ended up as the game-winner against the Rangers (video) and chased Henrik Lundqvist in the second period.

And on defence, their two main off-season acquisitions, Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov have been playing more like the guys the Devils thought they were getting than they did earlier in the campaign. After going pointless and being a minus-10 in 24 straight games, Tallinder over the last 11 games has a goal and five assists and is plus-8. Volchenkov is again the shot blocking machine he was in Ottawa.

One can go down the Devils roster and find turnaround stories everywhere in the last 11 games. They haven’t lost two straight in regulation in about a month, so they are not the pushovers they were in the first half. The playoffs are still a distant dream — even with their current hot streak they remain last in the East and 18 points south of the cutoff line. But if they keep this up, New Jersey will have a lot to say about who keeps playing after the regular season ends.

218 Comments

  1. SeriousFan09 says:

    You are talking about the coach who ran Guy Lafleur into retirement, give your head a shake. He also ran one of the most ruthless campaigns in league history to make sure no one would ever enjoy watching a hockey game with his coaching style.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu. Habs and Hockey.

  2. adam76 says:

    No need for a flying delorian.  Kids got 8 points in 50 games and is dominated in the faceoff circle.  He is not an NHL player RIGHT NOW.

     

    I predicted he was not ready for the NHL, and I was right.

  3. The Cat says:

    I think the habs might lose this one this afternoon. Habs havent played well on Sundays this year and are 6-4-2 on the tail end of a b2b, not too mention the unlikeliness of sweeping two b2bs in a row.

     

    [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

  4. Storm Man says:

    Do you watch what players do in a game or are you a stats guy?

  5. habsgod says:

    that, and brodeur has our number i never like playing the devils when he’s in net especially in montreal! when he finally retires the devils will not have much success against us!

  6. ed lopaz says:

    Martin admitted 2 days ago that 5 on 5 scoring was his biggest concern going forward.

    re: the insults – I try not to get involved in that crap – and I really try not to throw the insults back.

    Enjoy the game!!

    Habs hockey is “smart” hockey – we play 5 man defence, not just 2 – we move up the ice as a 5 man unit, we back check with 5.

  7. ed lopaz says:

    As long as Subban, Price and Leblanc are off the table (Subban because he is the Habs version of Vladdy Guerrero, and Leblanc because I know his parents), I would trade any other Hab in the right package to land a player like Iginla.

    In fact, the Habs are quite rich right now with excellent prospects.

    Now would be the time to go after a franchise player like Iginla.

    I am a huge Iginla fan – HUGE!!

    Habs hockey is “smart” hockey – we play 5 man defence, not just 2 – we move up the ice as a 5 man unit, we back check with 5.

  8. Mark C says:

    It’s worth noting that Montreal is a very good 5 on 5 team, currently ranking 8th in the league in 5 on 5 goals for/against ratio.

  9. andrewberkshire says:

    Define dominated. On the road, yes Eller has been dominated in the faceoff circle, yet in home games he’s dominated everyone else, with a 53.9% win rate. As a rookie he’s winning 44.4% of overall faceoffs. That’s a solid building block. Being dominated on faceoffs is a veteran Malkin winning only 38.5%.

  10. SuperYogurt says:

    Dude what? Eller almost never played as a centre this season. He was almost always on the third and fourth line as a checking winger. You want him to score with checking line teammates while adapting to an entirely new position? Not to mention he has had an average ice time of only 10:46, with little to no time on the PP.

    Honestly, the guy’s a playmaking 2-way centre, and people expect him to score in the buckets as a fourth-line winger with no ice-time, in his first real NHL season.

    When I watch him, I see a fast, strong, hard-working player with great hands and awesome determination.

  11. _Habsoloutly_ says:

    “When I watch him, I see a fast, strong, hard-working player with great hands and awesome determination.”

    Thank you.  Good to see someone who get’s it and understands the game. 

  12. WindsorHab-10 says:

    Get off the cheap drugs ASAP, because you are clueless.

  13. habstrinifan says:

    You are right! Do not give up on this kid because of this season. He has too much determination, size, courage and smooth silkiness. Let’s wait.

  14. habstrinifan says:

    You are on!

  15. observer says:

    Lemaire wore #25 with the Habs. Solid hockey player, clutch performer in his day.

  16. jimmy shaker says:

    All the stats are against us today, with Jersey getting hot, marty doing his marty thing against us like usual, this is going to be a tough game. I think today is the day that the boys have to have a huge start and get the all important first goal. IF the devils score first, it might be a long boring day. SO, here’s hoping the boys can score first, win the game, take over 3rd spot in the conference and stand only 2 pts back of tampa for 2nd overall in the conference. Sounds good to me. Oh and let the wiz sit again today, give Picard another shot!

    Shaker

  17. TomNickle says:

    On Picard Jimmy, no thanks.  Made some really nice desperation plays yesterday but made a lot of mistakes that could have bit us in the behind.

  18. jimmy shaker says:

    I just think rushing wiz back in might be a bad thing.  Give him the rest so he’s ready for the cubs on wed.  If he had the flu yesterday, I don’t see how he could be ready to go today.  I think Picard feeling fine vs wiz feeling 50 or 75% is a better fit in the game today!

    Shaker

  19. jimmy shaker says:

    That was brought up yesterday at about 3pm, by me the former MAB fanclub president when he was with the habs. I’ll be watching tonight to see him light up the blues, as I’m sure Timo will be doing the same. This game is going to be better than the superbowl. I’m excited!

    Shaker

  20. HabsFanInTampa says:

    Correction: Where is Timo AND Shaker!?!? Yeah, I’m going to watch in between play stoppage of the Habs game just to see Halak and MAB. FYI, Lightning/Blues game time is 3pm EST.

  21. PrimeTime says:

    Maybe the wrong forum to discuss, but what’s up with Crosby?? Every player reacts diffrently when concussed but is it Lindros and Savard serious?? Or are they just being extra cautious with him?? He was having one of those rare seasons when 1 player really stood out from the rest of the league. It will be a huge tragedy if Sid can’t continue to be player that he is.

  22. HabsFanInTampa says:

    yeah, huge tragedy for the Penguins. Also of note, Malkin out for the season with torn ACL.

  23. jimmy shaker says:

    oh man, I thought they were playing at 7pm which I thought was weird because of the superbowl, but now I’m going to have to pvr it. oh well, and I think Jaro is on the shelf right now as well.

    Shaker

  24. habstrinifan says:

    Needed to post following with plea for some sanity.

    Immediately after habs-NY game “Cool ice price” posted about sending his 15yr old daughter to room for saying aloud the word “shutout”.

    The first few responses were all in good spirits. I went back to read the additional responses after ‘Cool’ had reposted that he was hurt by the unduly mean responses which later followed.

    He was not over-reacting. Some posters dumped on him pretty meanly and used a nice story to vent against him…totally destroying the charm of his story.

    Please folks.. some sanity please! ‘Cool’, I apologize for the ugly posts.

    Now everyone say after me… SERENITY NOW SERENITY NOW!

    Besides we need to band together for today’s game…. the team needs the good KARMA of a united HIO.

  25. dasbooth says:

    Last night looked like a replay of the series against the Caps. The guys were limiting quality scoring chances, and Price was taking care of anything that got through. Great game.

    “Shutouts are really more of a team stat” – Carey Price

  26. anotherhab says:

    Hopefully G-Love can score today against another former team — it’s like Old Home/SuperBowl weekend for him. This is the time of the year he gets hot.

    Can Pleks can start winning some faceoffs — man is he brutal in that department lately!

    AK46 has playing with more jam which is great to see — his hard work should result in some points today!

    Love to see Price get another shutout — man is he one cool calm dude! Our future looks real good with him  and the kids PK, MaxPac and Lars!!  Lars is like the energizer bunny — he just keeps on going, gets bowled and mugged game after game and doesn’t quit. Loved the way he gave it back to Stall yesterday!

     

    “I find your lack of faith disturbing” Darth V

  27. Ian Cobb says:

    Always nice to have your slant on things STU.!

  28. LA Loyalist says:

    Great article. A coach who adjusts to the talent he has (or hasn’t?). Who knew?

    Hope JM brings a pencil and pad and takes notes from a master.

  29. sholi2000.com says:

    65 years old and still coaching.  You’d think that team would give you a heart attack.

    Life is good whe you’re around hockey.

    They Call Me Shane

  30. LA Loyalist says:

    Hopefully extra cautious, problem is it is really hard to evaluate head injuries and make accurate prognosis as you say everyone is different.

    Now w/ Malkin down, too, hopefully they will not be tempted to rush him back. Gary Bettman? Are you taking notes? Oh, sorry, you’re busy at the superbowl?

  31. novahab says:

    I am predicting Kirk Muller as the next head coach of the Devils. What’s the chance of the Habs getting Doan from the Dogs.

  32. BKAK72 says:

    Everything that’s wrong about modern day hockey i.e. defense first can be blamed on Lemaire and Martin.  I was at the NOV game b/n these two teams and wanted to poke my eye out…so incredibly boring!  A win is a win for sure, just wish the NHL would encourage a model that didn’t permit more than four defending players in the d-zone.  This forces a winger high and perhaps a 4 on 4 model in the offensive zone.  Go HABS Go!

     

    – I will not apologize for being a delirious HABS fan! –


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