NEW JERSEY DEVILS HOCKEY
The New Jersey DEVILS open up their 2010-2011 season tonight at "The Rock" (Prudential Center in Newark) versus the Dallas Stars.
From the neck down...?
This team is going to be unlike what Devil fans are accustomed to. This team is going to score plenty of goals, but their defense will be uncharacteristically porous. That is in stark contrast to what the Devils have historically been; a defensive oriented team first and foremost, with a great counter-punch. The Devils used to "trap" you to death causing neutral zone turn-overs. They then would capitalize on your mistakes and cash in.
The Devils defense was predicated on pushing everything to the sides while meeting you at the blue line. Martin Brodeur was always the beneficiary of that system. Historically he's been able to stop shots with clear vision of the lanes and shot angles. He also minimized rebounds/second shot opportunities, again, because of the brand of defense the Devils played in front of him.
I'm not trying to pooh-pooh any of Martin's accomplishments. He's one of the greatest goalies EVER and I like him. So no, I'm not trying to minimize his career or abilities. What I am saying is he will no longer have a great defense playing in front of him; that's all. The shots he faces will increase in quantity and quality and come from many more angles than he's used to dealing with. He will be playing in a much more crowded crease area where there will be sticks sniffing around for rebounds and bodies knocking him out of his zone of concentration. It's easy to rattle Marty that way. (Ask Sean Avery.)
Yea, that's Hockey but the Devils had a way of keeping Marty's front yard very clean. Bryce Salvador and Colin White are the old guard veterans on defense. Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and who ever else rounds out the defensive lines will not offer Martin Brodeur the clean, tidy, organized day at the office Marty enjoyed over so much of his career.
I do believe he will be up to the task of being Great. But I can just hear it now if and when he goes through a bad streak, that he's too old...Blah Blah Blah. One watching his last three "end-of-seasons" is inclined to make that argument. This year I say it won't be his play so much it will be the defense who we'll be pointing fingers at should things go awry in Newark.
But I honestly have no doubt Marty will be as great as he's ever been for as long as he submits to taking more games off during the season. And yes, that's based entirely on age and durability. He's been stubborn in that regard but it's up to Coach MacLean to advise him otherwise and make it stick.
So...., I would just caution Devil fans, when you think your goalie is slipping take a look at the level of defense being played in front of him.
How do you alleviate all this anxiety about a potential defensive weak spot? Score a lot of goals! And that's exactly what the Devils are going to do starting with Mr. Big Bucks; Ilya Kovalchuk. The contract mess has been cleared up and this guy will be scoring goals by the ton playing on the first line at wing.
Jason Arnott centers a potent second line. That's two top flight lines the Devils will be rolling out. Two lines; two centers ~ Travis Zajac is ready to become a star. With Arnott on one line, Zajac gives the Devils two extremely capable centers and two formidable lines. Langenbrunner, Zubrus, Zach Parise, Patrick Elias and Rolston return to fit on either side of those centers.
Yep! This team is going to score a ton. They'll have to. They'll be giving up a bunch and it won't all be Marty's fault. Remember, Paul White is gone from the defensive unit this season.
So I ask Devil fans..., when was the last time you were concerned with defense? Wierd, isn't it?
I expect a very strong season from the Devils. I don't think they can be pushed around by the Flyers and they can score with the Capitals.
They can go far. They can go very very far. If the defense pulls together and surprises....Look Out.
Next up: My Broadway Blueshirts ~ The New York Rangers.