Hartnett: The Devils’ ‘No-Name Defense’ Deserves Your Respect
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‘Devils In The Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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Devils’ defenseman Bryce Salvador heard NHL Network analyst E.J. Hradek refer to New Jersey as the ‘No-Name Defense’ during the Devils’ earlier round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
As hockey players will use anything for motivation, Salvador labelled his water bottle with the message ‘No Name-D’ as opposed to his number 24 and shared it with his fellow defensemen.
Mark Fayne explained how the nickname got started, “We have a water bottle we kinda share. Instead of somebody’s number, it says ‘No-Name D.”
“We don’t really have any marquee names (on defense) to make it this far and have a solid core, I think it’s a pretty good accomplishment,” Fayne mentioned at Tuesday’s NHL Media Day at the Prudential Center.
Well, it worked for the 1972 Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, their defense was famously dubbed — ‘The No-Name Defense.’ Perhaps, the Devils’ deep, yet unheralded defense will lead New Jersey to their fourth Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
The nickname has stuck with the Devils and served as extra motivation throughout their playoff run as something the Devils’ blueliners could rally behind as an ‘All For One, One For All’ kind of mentality.
Over the course of the regular season, the Devils’ penalty kill percentage of 89.6% was the greatest of all NHL teams since the 1968-69 season.
Fayne spoke about the challenge of maintaining a strong penalty kill during the playoffs. The Devils struggled in earlier playoff rounds while shorthanded, but Fayne believes they’ve regained their edge going into the finals.
Travis Zajac wasn’t aware of the nickname but feels the Devils’ entire defensive corps does a great job of leaving little space for opponents and keeping plays alive.
“They’ve been the reason why we had success. They’ve done a great job of keeping pucks alive in the offensive zone, getting pucks through. They’re tough to play against. They don’t give opposing teams a lot of room to make plays and they’re on you pretty quick. They do it by committee, it’s great Devils’ hockey,” Zajac detailed.
The one defenseman who gives the Devils a different look is Marek Zidlicky who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild in late February.
Zidlicky cannot be labelled as a ‘no-name defenseman’ as he’s always been a respected, offensively-gifted defenseman since entering the NHL in 2003.
Zajac believes that Zidlicky has made the difference in improving the Devils’ powerplay from the moment he pulled on the Devils’ red and black jersey.
“He’s been great. Obviously, we haven’t had that type of d-man here since (Brian) Rafalski and (Scott) Niedermayer. Every time the puck is on his stick, he’s going to make a great play. He jumps into the play at the right times. He’s been the reason why our powerplay has gotten better as the year’s gone on, ” Zajac explained.
Fayne can’t get over the skilful moves that Zidlicky is able to pull off both during practice and in games.
“He’s one of the most dynamic defensemen I’ve ever seen. Some of the stuff he does in practice and games, I would never even imagine trying. He does it with ease. He’s one of those guys who’s fun to watch and definitely a pleasure playing with,” Fayne said.
The Devils’ improvement on special teams also has a lot to do with their respected coaching staff of Adam Oates, Larry Robinson and Dave Barr who have implemented structure and strategies that have paid off for the Devils.
Assistant coach Larry Robinson and Dave Barr have done a tremendous job formulating penalty kill strategies and getting the Devils to execute as David Clarkson explained.
“Dave Barr has come in and done great job. Seeing how hard (our penalty killers) work and the shots they block, I think Barsie has really put in play a structure that he wants and the guys have followed through with that,” Clarkson said.
Having Robinson on the bench is a huge advantage for the Devils as he’s seen the game from all angles as a legendary defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens, as an NHL head coach, assistant coach and scout. Robinson’s name has been engraved on the Stanley Cup nine times.
Clarkson spoke about the advantage of having someone of Robinson’s vast experience on the bench.
“Larry played the game tough. He made it hard on you, when you wanted to come into his end. We’re fortunate to have people like Larry Robinson and Dave Barr to guide us. I’ve been fortunate to have Larry Robinson as a coach since I’ve been here, he’s one of the most-respected people I’ve ever been around in the game of hockey,” he detailed.
Whether or not you recognize their faces or know their names, the Devils’ defensive cohesion has gotten to them to the promised land of the Stanley Cup Finals.
How impressive has the Devils’ ‘No-Name Defense’ been throughout their playoff run? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.