There is no question in anyone’s mind that the start to the Devils 2011/2012 season has been much more enjoyable than the start they got under head coach John MacLean last season. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems or things to worry about.
First, let’s look at some of the good things about this team. The one thing to take away from the first quarter is that there is certainly hope about the future. Adam Larsson looks to be a very promising young defender and Adam Henrique has certainly delivered when the team has needed him to. Zubrus, Elias and Clarkson are all playing at levels we haven’t seen in recent years and Hedburg has once again proved how valuable he is to this team.
The Devils have had their fair share of injuries this season. Marty missed a bunch of games to begin the season, Ilya Kovalchuk had a stretch of 5 games where he watched from the cheap seats, Jacob Josefson has been shelved for 3-4 months with a broken collarbone and our #1 center has yet to even practice with the team this season but despite the injuries, the Devils have found ways to win.
If all that is going on and the Devils are within striking distance of the playoffs, why do I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop? Let me tell you why…
• The Power Play is awful, plain awful. It’s bad enough that the power play can’t seem to score but we’ve let in too many shorthanded goals. I personally think the Devils should just roll their regular lines during the power play at this point. Maybe that will ease the stress that the Devils seem to experience when up a man. Obviously, Elias and Kovy as point men where the defensemen should be is creating too many shorthanded chances.
• A buddy of mine used to joke that the Devils were a “third period team.” Ok, it wasn’t a joke, the third period used to be a great period for us but this season, we’ve lost a lot of leads in the third period.
• Ilya Kovalchuk, our superstar, the guy we’ve paid so much money to only has 4 goals. I know he was hurt but he needs to step it up in the goal scoring department. I mean David Clarkson has more goals. Maybe he should be moved back to left wing because he’s obviously more comfortable over there.
• Figure out the fourth line. Look at the teams that win the cup. They successfully roll 4 lines. DeBoer’s refusal to play the fourth line in the 3rd is just plain stupid.
And finally, the biggest issue for me this season:
• Name our best defenseman…………………. (I’m still waiting!!)………………….(Can’t do it can you??)……
Even with all that, I do feel the Devils are going in the right direction. We learned last year that the slow start was the nail in our coffin. We’ve had a decent start this year and are right outside of being a playoff team. I don’t expect the Devils to get on a tear like they did when Lemaire came in last season but if they can improve a little bit or even sustain what they’ve been doing, there is no reason to think they couldn’t grab a spot in the playoffs, even if it was the 6, 7 or 8th spot.
The one thing I know for definite, I am on board with Peter DeBoer as our head coach, which is something I certainly couldn’t say about John MacLean 1 year ago.