The Devils lost 4-0 to the Atlanta Thrashers at the Rock tonight. The only good Devils were the loud fans in the stands, the Devils Dancers, and the mascot, N.J. No one actually playing in a Devils uniform played anything resembling good. Were I to be fully honest, this story would be filled with all kinds of four, five, seven, and fifteen letter choice words; but I keep it clean here (and so will you). I could just say this game was like watching someone at a party vomit while everyone else is having a good time. Gulitti says that there was nothing positive to take from the game and he's right. I really could just leave it at that.
Of course, I won't leave it at that. When I wrote up the game preview in the game thread, I had this quote from this Gulitti post:
"You get tired from playing so many game, so you have to play a little bit smarter," left wing Patrik Elias said. "One of the big things is we're getting rid of the puck and not putting it in places that we can get it back. We're not making the good sharp passes, short passes. We're not making those. We just keep throwing it at each other. What happens from there is a lot of the times we're just standing still and it's because we're not supporting each other well enough and we're not coming as a five-man unit."
I thought, hey, this is good. The team realizes that they haven't been sharp as of late. From the rest of the Gulitti post, the Devils worked on passing and other "small things" in practice yesterday. Based on what was seen tonight, it's like the Devils somehow forgot all that. As well as how to play a calm, poised defense; a functional offense; and something resembling an effective power play. Passing? Awful. Shooting? The Devils were more effective hitting a Thrasher's stick than hitting the corners. And when it was at Lehtonen, it's not like he had to be great - just shift towards the shot and he got it. The team talked about it and I'm sure they truly did work on their game. Yet, the performance from the Devils somehow got worse despite all this work!
The offense, or the lack thereof, is what just rubs me the wrong way from tonight's game. These are the Thrashers. They give up over 3.5 goals per game on average. They allow over 30 shots per game. Their penalty killing is among the worst in the league and isn't even effective 75% of the time.
And they shut out the Devils! A team that has shown that they can score some goals this season! Instead, Devils made a team whose calling card has been not stopping the other team from scoring look fantastic in stopping the other team from scoring! Inexcusable!
The Devils had chances to start the game: Brian Rolston literally shoving a Thrasher aside to take Kari Lehtonen on in a breakaway. The Devils even had a 3-on-1 (granted, they didn't do much.) It wasn't a great period, but those 2 chances was something we didn't see against Carolina at all. Figure that the Devils would pick it up in the second.
WRONG. From Scott Clemmensen's error leading to the game's first, and ultimately winning goal, on, the Thrashers found success. Ilya Kovalchuk slammed home a blistering slapshot right through Clemmensen's legs on a power play. Christopher Thorburn (really!) found Jim Slater (really!) burning Johnny Oduya (really!) and then Clemmensen for the game's third goal. Not a good night for Chris Terreri Ver. 2.0. Kevin Weekes entered in the net for the third and the first official shot on him floated over his shoulder and in to really kill it.
What were the Devils doing about this? Not much! They kept wasting chances to get success - something the undisciplined Thrashers were giving away. You know how long the Devils were on the power play in total? 12:24! That's over a sixth of the game! That's over half of a period! And I don't think the Devils even had 10 shots on net. Even with a short 5-on-3, a 4 minute minor to Eric Boulton, who was a real piece of work tonight, and a smattering of minors - the Devils did nothing with these power plays! The Thrashers even let them have the shot from the point and I don't think any of them were tough for Lehtonen. Assuming they even got to him. I repeat myself: inexcusable! Sutter jumbled the lines all kinds of times and yet none of the combinations got anything going on the attack even in even-strength situations. Lehtonen earned his shutout in the sense that the Devils earned it for him, in my opinion.
Name a Devil from tonight's game and I'll tell you that they were bad. Paul Martin? Terrible; maybe Jay Leach should have played instead of him. Mike Mottau? Miserable, maybe Sheldon Brookbank should have played instead of him. Travis Zajac? Ineffectual, more like Pat Sajac on the ice. Zach Parise? Invisible. He was named an all star today and ironically he didn't play like one at all tonight. Patrik Elias? Stinky, he amazingly couldn't create soup if you gave him some Campbell's and a stove. Brian Gionta? This game could be an argument for trading him later this season. So on and so forth.
I don't want to take any credit away from the Thrashers, they were lethal when they had a chance and they did play very well in their own end - New Jersey offensive ineptitude aside.They outplayed the Devils on the road and they should feel great about this win. Just as I feel rather unhappy about this loss. The crowd was hot tonight and their booing at the end of the second and third periods were well deserved.
From Gulitti's post-game post, Sutter talks about battle level. I really hope the Devils can raise their passing levels, positioning levels, special teams levels, and finishing levels. If we see more of these "performances," it's going to be a very, very ugly roadtrip indeed. I'm glad tonight's game was over; but I have the luxury of forgetting it. The Devils' don't and they shouldn't. They need to learn from the myriad of mistakes and deficincies they displayed tonight.