Tag Archives: mottau

Just When It Can Get No Worse

It gets worse.

I love Chico’s comment: “This team might not be together next year.” Of course they won’t be together next year, because short playoff runs are depressing.

Colin White: miss your guy, then reach instead of skating. And his guy was Carcillo. Kind of sums it up.

Mike Mottau: Three words: “Where’s my guy?” Three of the best words fans can hear: Unrestricted Free Agent.

No even strength or single man advantage goals. Too many uncontested shots. When Paul Martin doesn’t close the gap and pressure the guy coming in, you know the team is played conservatively, scared and badly. Sure, the officiating was inconsistent, but that can’t possibly be a factor when you can’t score, don’t skate, let the Flyers run rampant and look like you’re in cement. Another three power plays wouldn’t have mattered.

Yes, the Devils might win three in a row. But they’ve been so badly, badly outplayed in three of the last four periods of hockey, it’s hard to believe they can sustain nine good ones, including scoring some goals. I am not giving up hope, and I’ll cheer until the final horn of the last game of the season, but it would be nice for the Bubba to see the Devils actually produce in the playoffs before he goes off to college (their last 3rd round or better series was when he was completing the ever-challenging 2nd grade).

The good news, if there is good news, is that sharing defeat through sports brings families together. When we pass on fan loyalty to our kids, we give it to them as another form of genetic material that can make us grow as easily as it makes us susceptible to disease. We cheer, and share the pain when our teams lose, and find ways to console each other until the season starts again. I just really want the Devils to win another Cup before I am taking my grandchildren to games.

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Pathetic Devils Effort

Why are Colin White and Mike Mottau together? On the winning goal, Colin White (a) followed his guy behind the net (b) reached, leaned and otherwise made lazy swipes at the puck and (c) left Mottau to remember to cover the weak side (oops). These two don’t belong on the ice at all, let alone playing first pair defense. The same dumb mistakes re-inforcing each other. It’s like the cyclotron of stupid. The particle accelerator of bad defensive plays. Who needs the Large Hadron Collider when you have these two ejecting pucks to the Flyers at near-relativistic speeds?

Will Elias hold on to the puck? Patty, we love you, but shoot the puck, control it, and more crisp passes please?

I’m laughing that Kovulchuk believes this post-season will help set his market value. It will, but his stock is taking it in the shorts worse than Goldman Sachs right now.

Langenbrunner either needs to step up and get pissed off, like Scott Stevens, or step down as captain. Amazing that the biggest emotional outburst from him all season was when Lemaire sat him for a game. Go listen to some more emo music, maybe that stack of Coldplay albums and Dave Matthews whining will help you find a way to get your teammates to step up.

No shots in the last fifteen minutes of regulation is a sign that either the wrong guys are on the ice, or the right guys are on the ice too long. Stop juggling the lines, let guys know who they’re skating with, and then demand that they produce. Or sit them. Why is it every coach gets this except Lemaire? No forecheck, no pressure, no movement. If you don’t create time and space, all you do is drop back and set up a shooting gallery for Marty – an appropriate description of tonight’s game.

Pair Mike Mottau with whoever else is in the press box on Tuesday. It’s a must-win game, and he’s a must-move player.

And finally, Devils fans – can we please sell out a home playoff game? I know it’s hard to cheer for an effort like the one tonight, but if we come back to the Rock even up, Game 5 matters. Let’s support the team. Then everyone who paid for a ticket can join in the call for White, Mottau, Langenbrunner, Kovulchuk and Lemaire to collectively figure out which end is the one they’re supposed to shoot in.

I don’t mind watching the Devils lose games. It’s a game, it happens. I hate to see them lose games when they look like they’re already packing it in. That’s not what professionals are supposed to do, and the lack of professional effort is flat-out disturbing, from behind the bench to lazy plays behind the net.

Marty looked great. Without him, it would have been a 6-2 drubbing. I know the Devils haven’t won in Philadelphia since my hair was all black, but three of the remaining games are there. Figure it out.

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Heartless and Winless

The Devils have become impossible to watch. Guys standing around, falling down, or making passes that are blind, ill-timed, or just flat-out stupid is not competitive hockey. It’s not even good hockey. It’s disheartening.

If I were GM and coach for a day:

Langenbrunner loses the “C”. Where is the leadership on this team? Where are the guys standing up for Salmela and Salvador? No wonder nobody wants to put in the extra effort, because no teammates will get their backs.

Langenbrunner gets benched until he learns to connect a pass. He is a turnover machine. Passes into the middle are dumb, blind passes are dumb, taking an extra step is dumb. Watch Kovulchuk pass. All of his assists are on sharp passes, not accidents.

Get a defenseman, now. It’s clearly not White, Mottau or Fraser. Salvador and Salmela are hurt, or rotate being hurt. Get someone who can control the puck at the blue line, who can clear the crease, and who plays with passion.

It’s just amazing that the Devils have blown three 2-goal leads in a week and a half. Since New Year’s Eve, they haven’t played a single, solid three period game. The glaring, stupid errors are like watching a badly coached beginner’s team. They aren’t a bunch a forty-something asthmatics (like me) playing at 11:00 PM on Sunday night; they’re supposed to be professionals. What they’re doing borders on gross dereliction of duty.

10 points out of 30. 33% point conversion, compared to 75% earlier in the year. I think fans go through a process like grieving: first we’re in denial (it’s only a three game losing streak), then angry (waive White! Marty plays too much!), then we bargain (Kovulchuk!). What’s next? Acceptance of this style of play? I don’t know of any fans that enjoy watching a high-calibre team play so far below its potential, night after night, creating new ways to lose games. Please, act like professionals. Put in the work, for a full game. Beat a team that’s streaking in the opposite direction. Or save me money on my playoff tickets.
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How To Beat The Devils

The Devils have gone from mildly upsetting to tragic. It’s Shakespeare on ice without the clever anachronistic puns. It hurts to watch, like the guy who wipes out on the ski jump slope during the intro to “Wide World of Sports” for those of you alive in the 1970s.

Here is the young person’s guide to beating the Devils:

1. Play 20 minute periods. The Devils don’t. Not even close. Between late goals in the Toronto game on Friday, and then coughing up two goals in the last 90 seconds of tonight’s travesty against Los Angeles, there was a goal with less than 30 seconds left in tonight’s game as well. This isn’t pee-wee hockey.

2. Take flagrant penalties. The Devils power play is 3 for 31. There was a stretch a few years ago when it was 4 for 100, and with the current 0-for-25 spurts we’ve seen, that’s easily equalled. If Langenbrunner is going to continue to make ridiculous passes into the middle when there’s no red jersey there, take him off the point. Put Oduya there, at least he can shoot the puck.

3. Get behind by two goals. Twice against Toronto, and then against Los Angeles, two goal leads held up about as well as a house of hockey cards in a nor’easter.

Lou lost out on the Phaneuf lottery, although I’m not sure he was a prize worth winning. But there are plenty of other defensemen who can shoot, move the puck, have a modicum more hockey sense than Mottau and White (combined) and know to clear the crease when the goalie is screened on a power play.. Maybe this is pee wee hockey.

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Pain and No Gain

I haven’t written about the Devils since mid-November because frankly, there wasn’t much to write about through the end of 2009. They were playing well, scoring goals, coming up big on defense, and Niclas Bergfors was making a bid for the Calder Trophy. A short stint as the best team in the NHL, a nice lead in the Eastern Conference, and there was much to celebrate as we came up on New Year’s Eve. Then the wheels fell off.

The Devils are 6-7 since December 31st, and are angling for the middle of the Eastern Conference pack. It’s not just one losing streak or a few bad games — it’s an entire 4-week period of inconsistent, low-scoring, badly played hockey. And as a fan, this is ugly and distressing. Of course, it’s also about the time the Devils ask us to pony up for playoff tickets. Advice to Lou: win a few games before sending bills, or your aren’t selling out the playoffs this year either.

Right now the Devils are simply painful to watch. They don’t move the puck well, their defense is shoddy on a good night, they aren’t scoring goals, and the power play has ceased to exist. They’re getting shut out (twice in this span). Half of their goals seem to come on long feeds for breakaways or semi-breaks, which feels more like pond hockey than the NHL. One power play goal in nearly an entire game of power play time is pathetic – and that goal was more of an errant pass by Parise that happened to rattle into the net. Getting beaten to every loose puck, and making passes that So it’s time to write about this mess of a team — or lack of a team — because it’s both cathartic and because this seems to happen once every season.

What’s wrong?

Injuries: Elias, Martin, Clarkson. Zubrus is back. Oduya hasn’t quite been the same end to end rushing guy since he got hurt.

Trepidation: Way too much passing, not enough shooting. Too much thinking, not enough driving to the net. I think you hit a point when things are running badly that you worry more about not making mistakes rather than making something happen. Failing to create opportunity is the first problem. How many passes miss their target, have no target, or are intercepted by an opposing player in the slot?

Leadership: Hate to say it, but where are the reports of a team meeting? Of the team doing something without Lemaire in the room, of the captains sitting with the team and airing out whatever it is? Seeing Langenbrunner get angry and skate hard is encouraging; but this has to carry over to the guys who have the “A” on their jerseys as well.

Defense: Colin White is making dumb plays, or no plays, and when he’s on the ice with Mottau they seem to amplify each other’s bad choices. The most egregious case here was in the Montreal game over the weekend when there were three red jerseys behind the Devils’ net, while Cammalleri was eating a sandwich in the slot. Worse than basic coverage, the defense isn’t starting the puck out of the zone, and there are more times per game than you can count where the Devils get pushed back in on a forecheck because the puck doesn’t make it through the neutral zone. I’d even argue that the breakout schemes the Devils have been using through the first half of the year were well-scouted and now well-checked by their opponents. It’s only getting harder from here, not easier.

Rookie disappearance: I was expecting big things out of Bergfors, Corrente, Zharkov, Halischuk. Bergfors looked great early in the year, and now he’s just vaporized. Zharkov had his moments and now can’t produce. Halischuk is just gone. Yes, it’s unfair to ask rookies to make up for veteran players with solid locker room personalities, but absolutely no contribution from the new kids is worrisome.

This streak of ugliness, like all things, will pass. But I think the Devils need a wake-up call; a specific action and point of focus that will rally them through the Olympic break and into the last third of the season. I can’t watch the hockey equivalent of the Mets any more.
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Mike Mottau Uncovered

Mike Mottau gives me hope at the blue line. He’s emblematic of the path taken by a number of Devils players: a Massachusetts native, played for Boston College (at the same time Gionta was there), and I (for one) had never heard of him. On the surface, he appears to be a dark horse for a true rookie season: 30 years old, drafted in the seventh round by the Rangers back in 1997, and survivor of very short stints with the Rangers and Flames, interspersed with long runs in the AHL in Hartford, Worcester, Peoria, Saint John and Cincinatti. He was tradeed (Rangers to Flames), picked up as a free agent (Ducks) and then signed again as a free agent (Devils, in 2006).

But the guy has a great pedigree, including winning the Hobey Baker Award in 2000, a year in which his competitors were Steve Reinprecht, Shawn Horcoff, Brian Gionta, Mike Comrie and Andy McDonald. Perhaps he’s last to make it to the NHL full-time, or maybe he needed some of Kleinendorst’s “get simple” methodology at Lowell, but he’s turned into another Paul Martin style defenseman in the bud.

Now if only Sutter would stop putting Oduya out on the power play (am I the only one who thinks Johnny O looks very lost at the PP point?)

Hell Week For Rookies

It was a rough day to be a Devils rookie, or someone who wants to be a rookie on the big squad. The Devils booked the ice at South Mountain today from 8:30 AM until deep into the afternoon, and then they took another sheet for the dinner hour. When I popped in around lunchtime, most of the regulars had already departed, and it was a crop of somewhat familiar faces doing breakout and two-on-two drills: Rod Pelley, Dave Clarkson, Mike Mottau, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre (of double-hyphen semi-fame, sporting #37), Petr Vrana and Mike Pandolfo. Could have sworn I saw Kurt Kleinendorst with a whistle along the boards. It was the “best of Lowell and Trenton” show, with a mix of some guys who have bounced between the ECHL, AHL and NHL.

These guys worked hard today. It’s rare to see professional athletes, at any level, look tired. By 6:00 PM, the four blueliners left skating on the big rink at South Mountain were dead tired. And probably equal parts dead and tired. While they were skating, showering, skating some more, having a healthy lunch and skating still more, I managed to get in most of a day of work, run a dozen errands, and wrap up loose ends for the youth hockey home opener tomorrow night. Anyone who gets a spot on Sutter’s team has most definitely earned it.

While the Newark practice facility remains under construction, the Devils have camp running at South Mountain, open to the public and with the usual assortment of well-wishers, autograph seekers and random skaters. It’s a great feeling to have the horn and tails grace our ice sheets, one more season. As camp opened yesterday, the team signed just about every promotional item the club will need to stock for the coming year: pictures, programs, pucks, souvenir sticks, and perhaps someone’s younger sibling. Check out the photo shoot of the great inking (not just a reference to Colin White’s guns). I am still laughing at the players dressed in jerseys and shorts, or sport coats, ties and shorts. Reminds me of 8th grade graduation pictures, when we were assured that the world would only see us from the waist up in the final product.

After some of that fashion show, maybe the 10-hour skate wasn’t so bad.