The Devils may still sit in first place in the Atlantic Division, but last night’s shootout loss to the Boston Bruins was more proof that the team needs a bigger arsenal up front.
The team was holding on to a one goal lead (on a sick-as-a-dog David Clarkson deflection goal – seriously that tip was nuts – perfect position and what an amazing play), when a bad line change left Nathan Horton open on the right wing for what seemed like an eternity, giving him ample time to push the puck into the
net with 4:05 left to play in the third.
It was a small mistake that lead to a big goal. The problem wasn’t that the Bruins scored, it was that the Devils didn’t score enough. The return of Adam Henrique, which should happen by the end of the week, should help things out a bit, but there still seems to be a hole in the offense.
We can play the line shuffle game all day, but I think it makes sense to move Henrique into the second line between Clarkson and Patrik Elias and bump Dainus Zubrus up to the top line with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk.
The next question is what will be done with Stefan Matteau? The 18-year-old forward just played in his fifth game, and if the Devils do not send him back to juniors they will burn the first year of his contract. Is he ready for the NHL? He has shown poise, and yes he makes rookie mistakes from time to time, but the short season might benefit him. He has been playing the past few games on the top line. Moving him back to the foruth line may help alleviate some of the mistakes, but limiting a rookie’s ice time might slow his development. There is no easy answer.
Overall the team needs more from its offense. The defense has been pretty stellar thus far and have allowed the Devils to remain competetive by keeping games close. They just need to get more scoring from all of its lines.
They have a busy weekend ahead of themselves with games on
Thursday, Saturday and Sunday – Islanders, Penguins, Islanders respectively - and I’m hoping for a clean sweep in the Division, winning those three will give the
team the bosst it needs to stay at the top of the Division.
Let’s go Devils!