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Simpler game paying off for Devils

Thursday, 12.02.2010 / 2:29 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Simpler game paying off for Devils
Henrik Tallinder
MORE: Langenbrunner, Corrente return | Gionta vs. Gionta
The Devils have been playing better hockey, but Henrik Tallinder thinks it’s too soon to call it a turnaround.

With wins in three of their last four and four straight victories on home ice, though, the team has used excellent goaltending from Johan Hedberg and some timely plays to get on its first roll of 2010-11.

The Devils (8-14-2) face another test tonight against visiting Montreal (15-8-2).

“We’re trying to get it shift by shift,” Tallinder said. “I don’t know if it’s a turnaround yet. I think it comes down to, you realize how New Jersey plays. It’s a lot of new faces, a lot of injuries and stuff. Guys have to learn, especially for me, too. A lot of the new guys have to learn the New Jersey style and how we play it.”

Even taking things one shift at a time, winning is much better than the alternative.

“Way better,” Tallinder said. “You build confidence with wins. Even when you play pretty good hockey and still lose, it’s no confidence boost. It’s wins. That’s all it is. “

Tallinder and Hedberg were just two of the new additions the Devils brought in over the summer. Couple that roster shuffle with injuries to core players like Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise and Bryce Salvador, and the Devils have had to work through some serious lineup churn.

So they went back to basics and simplified their game. And it's worked.

“We’ve been really solid in our own end the last couple of games, the last four games,” Tallinder said. “I think that’s the key, because we haven’t been able to score. We’ve tightened  up defensively first, and that’s where you have to start. Hopefully the offense will come by itself, but you have to start somewhere, and we started with defense. That’s what we have to keep doing.”

As Tallinder sees it, the Devils' style is: “Very strict defensively. A defenseman is going to be a defenseman.”

With the talent-laden roster they still have – Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott to name only a few – Tallinder feels the team might have been guilty of thinking they’d get by on skill alone.

“We maybe thought that we were a great team on paper and it doesn’t work like that,” he said. “Maybe we were overdoing things instead of keeping it simple.”

The Devils couldn't have asked for more from Hedberg, who has excelled in the absence of Martin Brodeur (bruised right elbow). He’s stopped 113 of 117 shots and denied six of seven attempts to capture consecutive shootout wins. His shutout streak of 108:01 spanned three appearances from the third period at Toronto on Nov. 18 to the third period against Calgary on Nov. 24. In between, he blanked the Capitals, 5-0.

“He’s been awesome, he’s been really good,” Tallinder said. “It’s really good when you have that, but overall as a team we’ve been able to help the goalie a little bit better. Obviously when he plays as great as he has it’s a good feeling to have him back there.”

Head coach John MacLean echoed Tallinder’s praise of Hedberg: “I’m just glad that his work ethic is showing up. He seems very comfortable, very square to the puck right now. He’s playing big in the net, he’s challenging (shooters). I’ve known that he’s always worked hard and been a good goalie. We’re happy that he’s risen to the occasion for the team here. It’s a credit to the hard work that he does put in in practice and in taking care of himself.”

But the Devils’ improved performance has been a total team effort.

“We’ve been playing a better game overall,” MacLean said. “Our whole game’s been better overall. I can’t stress enough that we’ve been a little more desperate as far as, somebody makes a mistake and we’re covering up for him. It’s been a collective group effort that we need night in, night out. That’s something that I think we’re starting to get.”




1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52


J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51


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