Have the New Jersey Devils Developed a Reputation for Being Soft?

By Steve Palumbo

There was a time when teams feared facing the New Jersey Devils. It was understandable with players like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko patrolling the blue line. But these days there is no Stevens, no Daneyko and unfortunately opposing players feel as though they no longer have anything to fear.

I heard it mentioned on the Devils radio broadcast that opponents no longer respect New Jersey’s team toughness. I thought about it for a moment before realizing it may not be entirely true. The Devils do not have a player that can intimidate the competition physically….or do they?

Sometimes it’s amazing how much perception differs with reality.

After the Montreal game, all the talk surrounded P.K. Subban and the physicality of the Canadiens. The consensus was that Subban was throwing his body all over the ice, hi-lighted by a massive hit on rookie Adam Larsson. Subban drilled the young defenseman so hard the impact bruised Larsson’s back forcing him to sit at least a game or two.

But, when I dug into the numbers, it was a whole different story.

The Devils actually outhit the Habs 36-28. David Clarkson was actually the one hitting everything that moved. He led all skaters with eight hits. Subban? He has a modest three hits.

On Saturday, the Flyers fell down 6-0 before picking up the physical game in the third period. New Jersey appeared rattled by the rough stuff and Philadelphia made the game interesting. Granted the Flyers resorted to desperate tactics including two flagrant cheap shots from center Zac Rinaldo. The league reacted swiftly issuing fines to Rinaldo for both hits totaling $5000.

The Flyers actually out hit the Devils in this game 37-33 with most of the action coming in the third period, but it was New Jersey that used their toughness to maintain order. Ilya Kovalchuk KO’d Brayden Schenn with a right hook because he was defending his captain Zach Parise.

Despite what the “so-called” experts believe, New Jersey can hold their own. Anton Volchenkov is finally throwing his weight around. Clarkson has been unreal. He is truly having a breakout year. Not only does he know how to bang the body, but he added the scoring to go with it. What more can I say about Kovalchuk. The guy is a beast. He is big, he is strong, he is fast, he can score and he has a mean right hook.

I hope opposing teams continue to follow the same game plan and try to push the Devils around just like the Rangers, Canadiens and Flyers did. New Jersey is 3-0 and has scored 14 goals in those games. It’s working perfectly.

Follow me on Twitter! @StevePalumboNHL

You May Also Like