With only 18 games left in the regular season, most playoff contenders are fine-tweaking their game and preparing for the rigors of the postseason.
The Devils, however, are trying to figure out a way to right the ship.
Last night’s loss shows the problems facing the Devils in their final 18 games. They were shutout, 2-0, to an Edmonton team that allowed a league-high 217 goals. They’ve only won five games since December 11 – including three in regulation. The Devils only generated 20 shots last night, and only had one quality scoring chance. Meanwhile, the Devils were outshot 32-15 in the final two periods of yesterday’s game.
The only reason the score stayed 2-0 was the play of goalie Martin Brodeur. But even his play hasn’t been stellar as of late.
The team only has six wins in their past 20 games (6-12-2). They’ve lost 10 of their past 13 road contests, and they’ve now fallen five points behind Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division. They’re only ahead of Ottawa by two points in the conference.
Zach Parise said the team needs to play better to keep up with the “hot” teams in the conference.
“It’s been going on for way too long,” Parise said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It seems that Pittsburgh right now is catching their stride and winning all of these games and we’re going to find ourselves far away from them pretty soon if we keep it up. We’ve had pretty good success against them this year. We’ve beaten them four times. But, regardless of what they do, we’ve got to play better. We can’t be doing this going into the playoffs or we’re going to be done pretty quickly.”
What’s the solution? The Devils need to play like their playoff lives are on the line. Watching the game last night was the most frustrating game I’ve seen in quite some time. They couldn’t get any pressure on the Edmonton defense, and they were continually beat to the puck. They showed no punch and no fire. It looked like the team was going through the motions.
I believe Jacques Lemaire needs to shake-up the lineup, and he should start along the defense. Either bench Colin White or Mike Mottau and play Mark Fraser. The rookie, who should have earned more minutes, will probably be sent down with the arrival of Martin Skoula. But White and Mottau haven’t played well enough this season to warrant immunity. Bench one of them and let the rookie log some minutes. Fraser already netted three goals this season (two against the Penguins), and his potential is far higher than that of White and Mottau.
The Devils, who didn’t arrive in New Jersey until 5 a.m., but they will practice at 3 p.m. today. They face a pivotal game with the Rangers on Wednesday. If the Devils can’t get motivated to turn their streak around against their bitter rivals, than I don’t know what will motivate this team.