Rewind to 2006. The New Jersey Devils won 11 straight to end the season, and then proceeded to sweep the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. After a longer than usual break for the playoff season, the Devils faced the Carolina Hurricanes in the Semi-Finals. You have to be a good team to win 15 wins in a row, but the team that came back from a break was not that team.
Back to 2009. The Devils won 8 games in a row, in convincing fashion, against tough opponents, before facing the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, February third. The game was a tough one as they seemed to forget all the little things that a team has to do in order to succeed. They suffered a tough loss against a team they are battling with for second in the conference, but in the end the positives just might outweigh the negatives.
On Saturday night, the Devils faced off against the Atlanta Thrashers and from the puck drop they played the game they knew they needed to play to win. They won battles along the boards, limited the shots through complete puck posession, stuck up for teammates, had a strong penalty-kill which produced two short handers, and also scored on the powerplay.
Their turn around and dominance in play on Saturday night can be attributed to becoming aware of those little things that they failed to do on Tuesday night. When winning, a team can easily forget to think about doing the little things because they seemed to come second nature. The loss to the Capitals made them aware of what they failed to do and they were able to pay more attention and do those things on Saturday night.
The NHL season is a learning process. The disappointing loss to the Capitals was just another stepping stone in the process of preparing for the playoffs. A team that can rebound from a tough loss and play as well as they did against Atlanta is a team with a strong identity which is completely vital for playoff success.
Those 2006 Devils didn't get to learn. They were so accustomed to winning, they forgot what those little things were. Who knows, if the first round series had been prolonged, the outcome of the second round could have been different. No need, though, to wonder or speculate, it is what it is, but it just goes as proof that sometimes you've got to lose to know how to win.
News & Notes
- If you're well enough to sit on the bench, shouldn't you be able to play? This was the question that was running through my head on Saturday Night as I watched Stephen Valiquette get tortured in net for the New York Rangers. Allowing ten goals isn't like a regular hockey game, it's more like an all-star game. Sure, they were in Texas and it was hard to call up a backup, but flu or no flu, I think Henrik Lundqvist should've stepped in.
If he was that terribly ill that he couldn't step in in a scenario like this, he shouldn't have been on the bench.If you're truly a good teammate, you do not sit around and watch as your fellow goaltender allows ten goals. It all happened pretty fast, though, in the third period, but that is even more reason why he should've stepped in. Lundqvist would have only had to seen about 10 minutes of playing time, and that's not a lot.
The bigger question though is was this really the flu, or was he just sitting out to save himself and his GAA. Lundqvist is a great goalie, but sometimes I question his sportsmanship. He lost three games prior to this, and then all of a sudden gets the flu. I have seen him, too many times this season, pull himself from the goal. That to me says that he could have not played for selfish reasons.
- The Devils are apparently in the bidding for defenseman Chris Pronger, as reported by Rich Chere, Devils beat reporter for The Star Ledger. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? There were concerns about Brendan Shanahan ruining chemistry, but since they have only lost one game since his arrival, maybe it built chemistry. But how much is too much before you ruin the chemistry?
One of the defensemen, all of whom have had great success this season, will have to sit out, and that could potentially create bad blood. It can be looked at, though, that it could create some more healthy competition. What would the Devils have to give up, though, to get Chris Pronger?
Chris Pronger is one of the biggest defensive names in hockey so they would definitely have to give up a lot. Could this deplete the crop of prospects? Could it get rid of a much needed first round pick?
Clearly the Devils and Anaheim are in talks, as shown by the trade made the other day which sent Sheldon Brookbank to Anaheim in return for prospect and current Colgate student Greg McIntire. Could this be the beginning of a big move to acquire Chris Pronger??