The biggest question many Devils fans are asking is “what is wrong with the defense?” Many have blamed the players. To be more precise, guys like Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov whose level of defensive play has seemingly dropped off from last year. Did they over-achieve last year? Perhaps. That’s really a matter of opinion. But one thing that isn’t an opinion, the one thing I’m certain of and you all should be too, is that the only “member” of the Devils defense-core to have departed from last seasons top-10 defense is Larry Robinson. He is the reason for the Devils success last year and his absence is the reason for their struggles this year. Let’s look at the numbers by comparing this years and last years New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks teams:
(Note: While goaltending is, of course, an issue in and of itself, it is also part of the grand scheme of team defense. If the defense in front of your goaltender is porous, your goalie isn’t going to make matters much better. Slightly, yes. Significantly, no. Not in this age of hockey.)
-Sharks: 210 goals against in 82 games. That’s a GAA of 2.56.
- Good for 7th in the Western Conference.
-Devils: 209 goals against in 82 games. That’s a GAA of 2.55.
- Good for 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
-Sharks: 54 goals against in 23 games. That’s a GAA of 2.34.
- Good for 2nd in the Western Conference.
-Devils: 73 goals against in 25 games. That’s a GAA of 2.92.
- Good for 9th in the Eastern Conference.
As you can see, the Sharks improved on their overall GAA from the 2011-12 season to the 2012-13 season. Could the improvement in defense be a result of having different players? Well, unless Matt Irwin is the next Chris Pronger, I highly doubt it’s due to a change in rosters. Irwin is the only addition to the Sharks defense from last year. You can also see the Devils had a significant drop in their GAA between the two years. The Devils defense core this year is exactly the same as last year. The difference? The Sharks now have Larry Robinson, a guy who has been a professional coach since 1993. And the Devils? Well, they replaced Robinson with Scott Stevens who’s only had 4 years of any type of coaching experience. I think it’s clear now why this isn’t the same Devils defense as last year’s top-10 ranked unit.
Lineups: (Courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com)
- Update 5:21pm-> Salvador in for Fayne (surprising Harrold isn’t the one sitting), Barch in for Matteau (whose positioning last game was horrendous)
Devil’s Keys to Success:
-Play some freakin defense for once. What I mean by that is, use the brains I know your Momma gave ya and start thinking on the ice. Don’t dump the puck at the goalie during a line change. Don’t glide on the back-check when the opposition has a 3 on 1 (Zidlicky). Help Hedberg out for a change and maybe, JUST MAYBE, good things will happen.
-Score the first goal of the game. For heavens sake if you do nothing else today, if you wind up losing 7-1, just make sure that goal you scored was the first one of the game. 8 straight games us fans have had to put up with the nonsense of being down for the entirety of the game. End it now.
-If the Devils struggles continue, I will introduce a new segment to the Devils Keys to Success.
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