Devils’ roller-coaster continues

After a first half of the season where the Devils were remarkably consistent, the story since New Year’s has pretty much been the same – win one, lose one, win one, lose two…the inconsistency is just mind-boggling. I would say it reminds me of the 2000-01 team in the way they just completely give away games and think they can turn it on whenever they want except for the fact the 2000-01 team was ridiculously talented and actually could pull that crap off for the most part, until the very end of the ’01 playoffs. This team cannot do that but play like they think they can.

For two and a half months now, the Devils’ longest winning streak has been a grand total of TWO games…and they only achieved that one lousy time. Other than that, our longest winning streak has been one game, for half a season almost now. Our latest no-show in Philly tonight was particuarly galling, for it was our fifth loss in six games to the rival Flyers and came just twenty-four hours after a really good win in Montreal, a game that I thought showed maybe just maybe we were turning a corner after our blowout win against the Jackets and a point against the Rangers that should have been two.

Not only was tonight a loss but honestly it wasn’t even a game worth recapping. It was about as much a ‘contest’ as most of the Atlanta-Ranger playoff series was a couple years back, until this year the only playoff experience for one Ilya Kovalchuk. Showing his hunger, Kovalchuk was about the only Devil to show up tonight, getting the Devils’ only goal of the night (of course far too late, in the third period after we were down 4-0) and playing 23:59 with 5 SOG.

Even Martin Brodeur looked flat, after it also looked like he’d turned a corner predictably he had another off night although perhaps he shouldn’t have been playing a fourth game in six nights against a team he hasn’t done all that well against this year, after the team went from Montreal to Philly overnight. Sure enough, Brodeur gave up a couple of bad goals early and was relieved by Yann Danis in the third period. Granted I figured he would sit Tuesday so I wasn’t too up in arms about playing Marty in Philly but now that Danis played the third period it’s almost a certainty Brodeur will play Tuesday anyway.

Of course he had plenty of company in the goat department, specifically slow and slower (alias Colin White and Mike Mottau), who were on the ice for the first four goals against tonight – yes four straight goals. Granted, Mottau’s played better since the Olympic break until tonight and White I don’t think is a problem in and of himself but lemme get this straight, Bryce Salvador can make one bad mistake and get benched for the last half of a game, even the coach’s pet Brian Rolston can get scratched for a game but Mottau can make any number of screwups and never get called on it?

At least their icetime actually got cut a little as both played just over fifteen minutes, better that pairing should be split up entirely though. I’d like to see White with Andy Greene and Salvador with Mottau as the third pairing but somehow I doubt it, since for some unknown reason White and Mottau seem to be hermetically attached just like John Madden and Jay Pandolfo used to be. On the plus side, Lemaire did at least spread around the icetime a little better tonight although some of that was a function of the score.

Not that line combos or who plays more would have done much good tonight, considering the Flyers scored in the first minute of each of the first two periods, the last minute of the second period and after the Devils finally reminded Brian Boucher it wasn’t 2000 with Kovalchuk’s goal, gave up a fifth goal less than a minute later. Whether this team wins the Jennings Trophy or not you just cannot trust it in a big spot. Especially when they even make someone like Wings washout Ville Leino look good. Honestly I looked at the Flyers’ forwards before the game started and thought wow, they only have about one and a half lines. So much for that, the Flyers’ bad goaltending (Boucher is now the third Flyers goalie to beat us this season) or their overall bad play going into tonight’s game.

An expected consequence of the loss was it moved us back behind the Penguins in the division race, though we still have that lovely game in hand it’s hardly going to matter unless the team picks it up. Although at this rate I’d rather avoid the division and risk playing Ottawa and Montreal in the first round than finish second and play Philly or the Rangers – one team and one goalie we can’t beat.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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