Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shanahan Proves Value as Devils Take Over First Place

It might of taken Brendan Shanahan just over one period to get his feet wet, but from then on he made his presence felt in his Devils return. The Devils with their 3-1 win last night over the Predators, finish their road trip 5-1-0 and in the process take over first place in the Atlantic division.

Shanahan, who led all Devils with 6 shots on goal, started off the scoring for the Devils with a five-on-three power-play goal early in the second period. The veteran who turns 40 on Friday, just missed on several other opportunities on the power-play that would have extended the Devils lead.

The future Hall of Famer showed his true value to team with his play late in the third period. After the Preds had cut the Devils lead late in the third to 2-1 , Sutter placed Shanahan on the wing with Madden and Rolston to sure up their defense. Sutter's decision paid off as the Preds pushed to tie the game down the stretch.

One shift that stood out for me was when Shanahan went down to block a shot from the point, got up and back checked a Predator from behind in front of the net to stop a scoring chance and then cleared the puck along the boards. Not finished on the shift, Shanahan then forechecked the puck away from the Predators goalie and then had the presence and strength to control the puck away from the Predators for a good 15 seconds.

The to be 40 year old Shanahan, was not the only Devil that stood out last night as Scott Clemmensen continued to get back to playing well and John Madden stepped up his game.

Clemmensen, made his second solid start in-a-row stopping 33-of-34 shots. Clemmensen, who had struggled controlling his rebounds over the past few starts has been better over the past two starts at clearing rebounds from in front of his net. After 5 straight games with a save-percentage under 90%, Clemmer has had two straight games with save percentages of 97%.

John Madden, who I had suggested would need to step his game up with the addition of Shanahan to the line-up, did just that. Madden was strong killing penalties, won some big late face-offs, added two assists on the night and played at a plus-2. Madden now has 1G-4A and is a plus-4 in his last four games, he only had 4G-7A through his first 36 games.

In first place for the first time this season, the Devils now head home for a Wednesday night game with Montreal before the All-Star Break. The Rangers have held the top spot for 97 days this season and it is about time the weak have fallen.

Devils Notes:
- Jay Pandolfo was the odd man out last night as Shanahan made his debut. Sutter, claimed that Pando was not an irreplaceable player on the penalty kill anymore with players like Zajac, Parise, Elias, Rolston and Shanahan who all can kill penalties.
- Clarkson scored his 10th goal of the season, which breaks his mark of a year ago (9 goals).
- The Devils had killed off 19-of-20 penalties on this road trip, the only goal was when a Jason Arnott blast hit Bryce Salvador in the gut bounced down off Radek Bonk and into the net. I have to admit I miss the likes of Jason Arnott in a Devils uniform.
- The Devils power-play has been off the charts as they have scored 7 goals in 15 opportunities on the road trip. They have also scored at least one power-play goal in 7 of their last 9 games.

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