The New Jersey Devils played a very bad game of hockey last night and fully deserved to lose the Nashville Predators. One would expect a team of professionals to at least make the attempt to give a better effort in their next game. Fans are fickle, but they'd generally like to see a valiant effort. If only for the sake of their pride.
The New Jersey Devils went into Atlanta and got blown away 7-1 by the Atlanta Thrashers. Even when the Thrashers understandably let up a bit after achieving a 4 goal lead and started getting out-shot, they still managed to get quality chances and more goals. I give the Thrashers full credit for the win. They were sharp, they were energetic, and they didn't get down on themselves when something didn't go their way. Atlanta rushed up the ice well, they did a good job moving the puck about, offense came from all four lines, and their defense held true.
The Thrashers played as good of a game as you could expect. The Devils, well, they played like poop to put it nicely.
The players played a solid 60 minutes of stupid hockey, the offense did nothing when the game was actually a game, the play in their own end was a nightmare, John MacLean once again showed he was in over his head and did little about it, and the Devils got embarrassed at the Philips Center. The 7-1 loss is now the Devils' 7th straight road loss and their second consecutive loss.
I thought losing 2-0 to the hapless Islanders was rock bottom, but this game would be a strong contender to that ignoble claim. This was truly among the worst performances of the New Jersey Devils this season. Watch as nothing will happen as a result from it. It will likely once again remain the status quo.
I have a few more thoughts about tonight's game and the game "highlights" video from NHL.com after the jump. Please visit Bird Watchers Anonymous for what should be an ecstatic Atlanta-based take.
First, here are the links to the various reports from the game. Here's the game summary, where you can see the Devils out-shot the Thrashers, but it's entirely moot due to the scoreboard. Here's the event summary, where you can notice how spread out the shooting was by Atlanta as compared to New Jersey among other stats to find. Here's the Corsi chart for 5-on-5 play from Time On Ice, where the Devils are largely positive except for the fourth line. Again, it's not really a positive due to the score and how most of that came from when the game was decidedly in favor of Atlanta. Here's the head to head ice time chart for 5-on-5 play from Time On Ice, so you can see matchups and, for example, how much Anton Volchenkov played against Eric Boulton at evens (4.3 minutes).
I could almost sum up this recap by saying the following: Eric Boulton got a hat trick. Eric Boulton, who is primarily known as an enforcer. Eric Boulton, who had never scored more than 4 goals in a season throughout his career. Eric Boulton, who has scored a total of 3 goals in the last two seasons with Atlanta. He scored his second, third, and fourth goals of the season tonight. And the first two involved Volchenkov getting beat. Not only did an enforcer pop a hat trick on the Devils, but he did it by beating on Anton Volchenkov on the first two.
Volchenkov gave up his position by the left post, presuming to stop a pass to that area. All it did was allow Boulton to crash into that space and Volchenkov was in no position to stop Chris Thorburn's pass for the one-timer. On the second goal, Boulton just beats Volchenkov down low, jams it in past Johan Hedberg's left pad to go in before the net was lifted and he clobbered Hedberg. A video review confirmed the goal. The third goal, well, Hedberg misplayed a dumped puck, it came out to the empty net and Boulton jammed it in.
Yeah, it was that bad tonight.
Honestly, I felt bad for Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg. Brodeur started the game and got beat four times. The first was on a rebound the Devils couldn't clear out so Ron Hainsey fired it in. The second and third were off one-timers; Boulton's first goal and Evander Kane got the second to finish off a give-and-go off the rush to beat Broduer on his flank. Andrew Ladd got sprung for a pass, had enough separation from Mark Fayne, and fired a rocket to the top corner. Not much could be done about the fourth goal allowed except if Fayne was closer on the rushing Ladd. Not much can be done about the first three outside of telling the Devils in front of him to pay attention; they were seriously snoozing on Kane's goal which came less than a minute after Boulton's. Hedberg came in and he got beaten by Boulton twice and then late by Thorburn on a one-timer that the Devils
I know some fans wished Hedberg started the game, but you could have put in Dominik Hasek for New Jersey and he'd get lit up all the same. The Devils were miserable in their own zone. Constantly chasing the Thrashers, unable to get clearances consistently, and they just lost the plot over and over in their slot. Brodeur and Hedberg didn't have bad games, they were let down. I feel bad for Brodeur and Hedberg because someone will look at the numbers and conclude that they are . Those people have it backwards; a goalie is usually going to get destroyed if the guys in front of them can't play even fundamental hockey.
Somehow, not only the Devils penalty killers did not get beaten for a goal against, but they held Atlanta to only one PP shot on net in 4 minutes of 4-on-5 hockey. How can they do the simple stuff at 4-on-5 but not at 5-on-5?
Going back to goaltenders for a bit, Ondrej Pavelec had one of the easiest games of his career. He didn't start facing a lot of rubber until after Atlanta put up 4 goals. And the one puck that did beat him was a rocket from Ilya Kovalchuk on a power play. Like the Ladd goal, I don't believe there's no shame in allowing a goal like that. Just a great shot. Even so, with the big lead, Pavelec had every reason to feel confident. A bad bounce or a fluke wouldn't change the course of the game. He could have put a puck in his own net and still looked great since most of the Devils' attack was akin to squeezing blood from a stone - and just as effective.
Sure, Ilya Kovalchuk put up 5 shots on net and got a goal to continue his point streak (yeah, someone has a point streak on the Devils). Sure, Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, and (somehow) Anssi Salmela got 4 shots on net apiece. That also includes zero shots from Travis Zajac, Jason Arnott, Dainius Zubrus and Mattias Tedenby. So three forwards did most of the work in attempting shots - but it would have been real great if those four got involved or did something to make themselves involved. Of course, it would have been great if the Devils made more of an effort to get possession and get pucks forward before the game was 3-0 or 4-0.
I am both infuriated and that the Devils went into this game after last night's game and learned little from it. Again, no forecheck by the Devils. Again, no defensive scheme to try and slow down Atlanta. Again, passes were made by New Jersey as if it was practice or these guys just met for the first time. Again, no actual response after a goal against. Again, no sign of accountability for bad plays or performances - Volchenkov kept getting shifts despite being beaten twice by Eric Boulton for goals. To take a point from one of Bruce Boudreau's profane rants from the current 24/7 series, it's like one bad thing - just one goal against - happens to them and the Devils just feel sorry for themselves instead of going out to prove a point, to salvage the game, to not turn into doormats, to make it right, etc. Is it John MacLean or the players? My answer is yes.
Oh, this game provided more examples of why John MacLean should be fired. John MacLean decided to use a timeout only to give the guys a rest after an icing late in the second period instead of, you know, using it after the second goal allowed to try and get their heads right. MacLean saw that the third line of Tedenby-Rolston-Clarkson wasn't getting much offense and the line of Kovalchuk-Arnott-Zubrus wasn't doing much outside of Kovalchuk trying to make something happen. He decided to make a change, except he did it when the game was 4-1 and he switched centers. Yep, Rolston got rewarded with more ice time despite playing like he should be waived (wait a second). The third line continued to do, well, little; but that was it for changes at forward. And there was those wonderful lack of adjustments on defense and between periods that I've come to loathe so much. There wasn't even any adjustments after last night's loss in this one tonight. Same garbage effort and execution, different day.
You may not agree with my stance that John MacLean should be fired, but you can't say it's unwarranted or rash. Especially, not after tonight's game.
No wonder MacLean ran out of things to say today. He cut his postgame news conference short after only 63 seconds, saying, "I’ve got nothing else for you guys."
The Devils’ players said after the game that MacLean said nothing in the postgame locker room.
When asked if he talked to the players about their effort tonignt, he replied, ""We talk to them, but we can only talk to them so much. They have to take some responsibility also."
(Note: emphasis mine)
For once, I can agree with MacLean here. I can only repeat the same points over and over. Bad fundamentals, bad coaching, bad decision making (not making a choice is a choice), bad attitude, bad focus, and bad breaks all combine so bad games keep happening.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Here's a video of the game's highlights. New Talking Red tomorrow, expect more anger and frustration.