This month. This month was the month. To say it was successful wouldn't really be fair to the term successful. As January began, the Devils were sitting in third in the Atlantic, not far behind Philadelphia and the Rangers. Not bad for a team which was wrecked by injuries early in the season, most notably to Martin Brodeur. They end this month sitting in first place with a cushion. The Devils looked like a good team going into January, and now Chere's got 10 reasons why the Devils may be the best in the East.
11-3. I cannot stress this enough. 11-3. The Devils went 11-3 and ended the month with a 8 game winning streak, spanning 6 games on the road and two at home to some solid teams.
In terms of moves with the Devils' roster, the team added Brendan Shanahan to the lineup. That signing already looks good (somewhere Lou is smiling at this) as Shanahan already 3 goals and an assist. He's made an impact already, much more than some veteran major player who had also recently got back into the league. Poor Jay Pandolfo, he's now relegated to being a scratch for the near future!
|2008 - Brendan Shanahan||5||3||1||4||2||10||2||0||0||0||12||25.0|
|2008 - Mats Sundin||9||2||1||3||-6||16||1||0||0||0||19||10.5|
The month started well with two wins, but took a down turn with two losses - including the worst loss at home all season. A 6 game road trip ensued, and the Devils sparkled. Anaheim was the only bump in the road to victory, a road where the Devils defeated LA, Vancouver, Columbus, the Islanders, and Nashville. The Devils won with routs, being the better team, sniping an extra goal past a tough goalie, and any other way they could. When you're hot, you win games in various fashions.
And the Devils remained hot when they returned against Montreal, went back on the road to pick up a win on Ottawa, defeated the Bruins on their home ice for their 6th non-win in Boston, and finally cracked the Penguins in an exciting affair at the Rock. That capped the 8 straight wins and first in the Atlantic. This month ruled.
To put in another perspective, consider the following. I was reading Battle of California yesterday , and Earl Sleek linked to a site called Sports Club Stats, where the chances of success for various teams in various sports are calculated with simulations. It's pretty neat. According to both their 50/50 (assuming every team has an equal chance to win) and weighted (every team doesn't have an equal chance to win) predictions, the Devils are at least 99.1% likely to make the playoffs. And it's not even February! That's how successful they've been in January.
When a team is doing as well as New Jersey, everyone's playing well. Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya (especially Oduya, Chere's have been like a rock as the top pairing on the blueline. Special teams play has been much more effective in both areas. Zach Parise continued his role as a top scorer in the league with 8 goals and 6 assists. Patrik Elias continues flying high with 5 goals and 11 assists. Even Kevin Weekes, in the two games he played this month, looked excellent - only allowing one goal in each game. To my mind however, if I could give an award to the best line this month, it'd be the Parise line.
The Captain had the best month in terms of offensive production. He ended the month with 6 goals in the last 3 games, including 2 game winning goals in overtime. Chere got word from Elias Sports Bureau that Langenbrunner was the first Devil ever to do that! The captain ended January with 9 goals and 8 assists to go along with continuing to be a excellent complimentary fit, like Dainius Zubrus is for Elias and Brian Gionta, for Parise and Travis Zajac. He's definitely raised his game to new heights recently!
However, I've been more impressed with the play of Zajac over the whole month. Zajac hasn't been a slouch in the points department with 5 goals and 11 assists. Moreover, he's been skating with a work ethic and a hustle up their with Parise over the past month. He'll rush up ice shorthanded to make a scoring chance happen. He'll rush back to make a play on defense. He'll get into traffic in the slot looking for the rebound, or get into the boards and help win those battles for the puck. And he's set up Langenbrunner four times on those six goals he picked up this past week. Zajac has been playing strong both literally and figuratively, a far cry from the slumping sophomore center we saw last season. Now, he's looking like a #1 center!
And so I name Travis Zajac, the In Lou We Trust Devil of the Month of January 2009!
#19 / Center / New Jersey Devils
May 13, 1985
January 2009 ILWT Devil of the Month
GP: 14 G: 5 A: 11 PIM: 4 SOG: 38