In what was the ugliest game of the 2009-2010 NHL season, the Devils last night beat the Canadiens in a game neither team deserved to win. On one of the rare occasions the Devils didn’t have trouble moving the puck through the neutral zone, Vladimir Zharkov made a good pass to Brian Rolston, who let go a weak shot that Patrik Elias tipped and then put back his own rebound to give New Jersey a 2-1 victory.
This year the Devils have won tight games and shootouts (figuratively and literally). They’ve won pretty and they’ve won ugly. Last night they grinded one out and ultimately came away with two points.
“We snuck away with two points after making some mistakes early,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner told Rich Chere of the Star Ledger. If anyone had trouble sleeping last night, all they had to do was turn on this game. Both teams generated little on offense as the Canadiens dropped back in their zone playing a game very similar to the Devils.
What I love about this team is its versatility. Too many times last season under Brent Sutter, the Devils would give up a backbreaking goal late that either lost the lead or lost the game. Under Jacques Lemaire, the Devils are constantly doing the right things in their own end as well as their opponents’ and New Jersey is racking up the wins because of it.
“I don’t think they were better than we were,” Lemaire told Chere. “We were not good, but they weren’t better.” How often have the Devils simply been outplayed this year? It hasn’t happened often. Lemaire has instilled a work ethic second to none and the Devils have won game after game simply because they work harder than the other team and never believe they are out of a contest. Last night was another great example of that.
Right now, Jersey has the most wins in the NHL and have done it in the fewest amount of games. There’s no reason this team shouldn’t get even better with regulars David Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus, and number one defenseman Paul Martin returning from injury.
Telling Stat: Against the Eastern Conference’s 1,3,4 and 5 seeds (New Jersey sits #2) this season, the Devils are a combined 8-1.
vs. Washington: 3-0
vs. Buffalo: 1-1
vs. Pittsburgh: 2-0
vs. Boston: 2-0
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