Tonight was very disappointing.
The New Jersey Devils opened the month by hosting the Vancouver Canucks. The Devils were coming off 3 straight wins from the last week and won their last 6 home games. In my preview for the game, I raised the question that if the Canucks look good on paper, why are they 4-8-0 on the road? Needless to say, that record and New Jersey's streaks meant nothing tonight. The Devils looked very poor in both ends of the rink, and the Canucks took advantage in a big way to cleanly win 5-2. In a nutshell, that's what happened.
For the Canucks-based reaction to tonight's game, which must be a very positive one, Nucks Misconduct is where you should check out. If you want a straight overview of the game with boxscores and other stats, NHL.com has you covered with this recap. Read on for my further thoughts on the game.
First and foremost, here is a video of all the highlights from tonight's game from NHL.com, including all of the goals and big saves. That is, of course, you would like to see all of these over again, or even for the first time.
Where do I even begin with all of this? Martin Brodeur did not have a good night, period. I will say that up front. He's had better games, he's had games where he stops some of those goals against. This was definitely not a game that helped his stock for Team Canada. Not that Roberto Luongo was great; but Luongo made the game-shifting-in-hindsight saves that absolutely robbed Zach Parise at point blank in the second period (see 3:45 on the above video). Had Parise get one past Luongo - and maybe he should have done better - that would have been the equalizer and tonight could have been an entirely different game.
Of course that didn't happen, Luongo robbed him, and the Canucks maintained their lead through the second. However, Luongo had the help of his skaters playing fairly solid defensive hockey. The defensemen in front of him were generally first for rebounds. On defense, the Canucks broke up their fair share of Devils' passes and collected way more than a few bad Devils' passes and dumps.
That said, while I don't think he played well, Martin Brodeur cannot necessarily say the same of his defense (or backchecking forwards). Sure, Alexandre Burrows' deflection was point-blank and perfect; I get that one going in. While Alexander Edler's shot took a deflection off of Rob Niedermayer (who played tonight, no really, he did, I swear to you he did), the puck did go 5-hole on Brodeur. Regardless of Brian Rolston giving up the puck during a line change that led to the Vancouver attack, I feel that shot should have been stopped.
But the other ones, well, Brodeur can't say the guys in front of him helped him out on those. Not after Mike Mottau tipped in Sami Salo's shot for Vancouver's second goal; not after getting left hung out to dry on a bad line change leading to a goal by Daniel Sedin; and definitely, absolutely, positively not after Colin White made the boneheaded decision to go after a puck carrier on a two-on-one, leaving Jannik Hansen wide open for a beautiful goal against. I don't care if they only allowed Vancouver to 26 shots. When opportunities and deflections like those come a team's way and leads to 5 goals on the scoreboard, the number of shots on net isn't so important.
Really, Colin White? You have a legendary goaltender who can take on any shooter and instead of letting him challenge the shooter, you leave the other man open? Really? I thought that was textbook defending; and you managed to forget that basic . I know it ultimately didn't affect the outcome, the Devils were losing anyway; but the fifth goal against falls on you in my opinion.
This is not to say the Canucks were just fortunate. Oh, no. They played well. They were given opportunities to score and they came through big time. They looked more confident on the ice, they were calmer with the puck, and their passes weren't a mix of "good idea, poor execution" and simply duffing the pass. All traits the Devils did not really show for much of this game.
Thankfully, the Devils got lucky late in the first period and scored their only two goals of the game. Good heads up plays by Niclas Bergfors and Travis Zajac to finish off the opportunities. Good work by Andy Greene and Jamie Langenbrunner for making them happen. They made the game an actual "game." But they were really the benefits of good bounces going the Devils' way. Bounces that didn't come at all in the rest of the game. The Devils had a few more opportunities - Zach Parise being robbed in the second, a 5-on-3 power play where some bad bounces prevented some high quality scoring chances - but Luongo reacted very well to everything and the defense cleaned up the mess the Devils' offense made. What was notable was that Zajac had 8 shots on net, Parise had 5 on net, Patrik Elias looked vigorous but didn't get much for his efforts, and Brian Rolston looked nothing at all like he did in the previous two games and helped Vancouver get their offense going that led to Edler's game winning goal. Everyone else was sort of forgettable outside of the goals.
We may be able to take solace in the fact that in the long run, this game may not be so important. We know that the Devils can do better, we've seen them do better, and they will do better. Regardless, it really was a bad performance and a bad loss to take. It wasn't a failure for 60 minutes, I felt the game was very even in the second period - perhaps some edge to the Devils, but the Canucks clearly won the first and third periods and did so quite easily. But I'm getting the impression that this is leading to a blueprint on how to beat the Devils: Get a 3 goal lead, force New Jersey to keep turning over the puck via clearances or bad passes, keep attacking if they mount a comeback, and hold on. While the Devils have made comebacks from deficits, they have yet to win after going down 3 goals in a game. That appears to be the mark that opponents should be aiming for.
The fans, small crowd as it was due to it being a midweek game against Vancouver, were right to boo, sigh, get indiginant, and/or leave early. By mid-way through the third period, this game was pretty much in the bank for Vancouver. I can't blame them at all, the Devils played very sloppily - far and away different from what Devils fans saw on Saturday against the Islanders. The few Canucks fans in the crowd, as well as the thousands across the continent, have every right to be happy with their team's victory. Jacques Lemaire has already said that the team clearly needs a "good practice," as reported by Tom Gulitti.
Me, I just want to see the Devils I've seen in the past month at the Rock. To me, I was just waiting for the "real" Devils to show up. The Devils team that gave consistently strong shifts even if the situation wasn't in their favor. What I actually saw tonight was just an ugly performance that reminded me of a Buffalo game at the Rock from October 28. That too was a bad loss (4-1) and hard to watch. I don't think that is a coincidence.
Thanks to Steve for the GameThread, the commenters who joined in, and, of course, the readers. Please feel free to leave your thoughts, complaints (and I know you'll have a few), and other feelings about tonight's loss in the comments.