This game was a lot closer on paper than it seemed on the ice. Sure, the game required overtime and a shootout to decide a winner. Of course, I'm pleased that the New Jersey Devils got it in the shootout over the Washington Capitals. However, I was also pleased that the Devils somehow escaped the third period with a 2-2 scoreline. The home team pressured the Devils heavily throughout the third period, yet somehow, they couldn't re-take the lead. Not on extended shifts, or on a late power play that carried over into overtime.
I emphasize the Capitals' pressure up front due to the game's boxscore. Despite the Capitals spending plenty of time in the Devils' end of the rink for stretches in the second and third periods, they were credited with only 6 shots on net in those two periods combined. Yes, the Capitals were held to 6 shots. By the boxscore, it would seem that the the Caps let the Devils back into the game as they were up 2-0 and somehow couldn't get their offense going in the third period. It would suggest that the Devils defense just shut down the Capitals. That really was not the case as I was watching the game. Just like it wasn't the case that the Devils were so poor for the first 10 minutes of the first period when they were out-shot 7-2 since the Devils missed the net 6 times during that stretch. The game did feature a lot of blocked shots and missed shots along with possession that didn't necessarily lead to shooting attempts. Hence, the shot count was skewed low for both sides in that regard. So, no, tonight's game was not a defensive struggle with the Devils only out-shooting the Caps 19-17. The attempts tell a more complete story, and it was even 50-50 at the end of 65 minutes.
Here's a summary of how each period went: The Devils didn't look good in the first period and deserved to go down 2-0 based on their errors. The Devils got pinned back quite a bit in the second period, but managed to muster up enough offense to get back in the game. Petr Sykora fired another lovely shot off a faceoff to get the Devils on the board; and Ryan Carter re-directed a Bryce Salvador pass perfectly during a good Devils shift to tie it up. In the third period, the Caps kept attacking and when the scorer had to credit the Caps with a SOG, it was because Johan Hedberg came up big. Basically, I was very pleased the Devils even got a point out of the game based on the performance, never mind having the opportunity to get the second.
Fortunately, the Devils managed to steal the second one. The overtime period was better for the Devils, save for one heart-stopping shot at the beginning that Hedberg thankfully stopped. The shootout came and the Devils succeeded on the strength of Zach Parise and David Clarkson displaying a backhand shot I never knew he had. In effect, the Devils made a come back, weathered several storming attacks by the Caps, and edged out a road win over a top team in the East.
There's much to point out, but let's talk about that after the jump. For the opposition's take on this game, please check out the recap J.P. wrote at Japers' Rink.The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts
The Highlights: This highlight video from NHL.com contains two Capitals goal, Sykora scoring yet again off a faceoff, and Carter scoring his first goal as a Devil. Enjoy:
The Difference Between Corsi and Fenwick: As they both approximate possession in a game, I'm a fan of Corsi and Fenwick numbers. The difference between the two is that Corsi takes all shooting attempts into account while Fenwick ignores blocked shots. That difference was pronounced tonight as the Devils had been blocked 14 times while the Capitals were blocked 22 times. Yeah, there were that many blocks according to the scorer at the Verizon Center. Your leaders in attempts blocked on both sides were Adam Larsson for the Devils with 5 and Alexander Ovechkin with 8. Yeah, Ovechkin was denied 8 times. In terms of who was doing the blocking, get some ice for Mark Fayne as he had 8 of them. It was more spread out for Washington; Brooks Laich, who lined up as a defenseman, blocked 4 shots.
Anyway, because of all of those blocks, it's a bit hard to get a grasp on who had more possession. In terms of Corsi, it's the Capitals who were +4 in regulation at even strength. Unsurprisingly, their line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Joel Ward were the most successful in that regard. That makes sense, since that's a combination of two all star forwards and a hard-working winger. On the Devils, two thirds of the Elias line did well: Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias. Somehow, Sykora was a -3 by the end of the night. However, if you focus on Fenwick, the Devils were the superior team at evens with a +4. With those values, Zach Parise (0 to +5) and Adam Henrique (-3 to +7) looked much better than they were by Corsi. The Henrik Tallinder and Mark Fayne pairing would be positive by Fenwick yet at zero in Corsi. Some Devils were negative by both values, but Fenwick suggests a better Devils performance when it came to attempts.
Basically, I'm just throwing up my hands and moving on.
The Power Play Did Not Give Up Any Shorthanded Goals Tonight: There's your main positive for the Devils' power play this evening.
I will credit the coaches for taking Patrik Elias off the right point and putting Andy Greene on one of the units. That was a smarter move. Yet, I can't really say the Devils were much better on the power play tonight than they were last night. It didn't hurt the Devils, but it really could have helped - and didn't. Sure, they got 6 shots on net over 5 opportunities instead of 4 out of 5 opportunities last night. Sure, they didn't allow any shorthanded shots against. Sure, the second power play they had looked pretty good. Yet, as a whole, they still went 0-for-5 and they struggled on later power plays to either get the puck into the Caps' end or to keep possession when they did cross the blueline. Basically, the Devils really miss Ilya Kovalchuk in this regard as well as some new ideas for man advantage strategies.
Penalty Kill Remains Hot: The other side of special teams remains undeterred. OK, John Carlson's shot at the point that became the Capitals' second goal was fired just as their second power play was ending, so the PK got saved by the clock from allowing a goal. Still, the Devils killers prevented a very strong Washington power play from ruining their evening. Over 5 shorthanded situations lasting a total of 9:17, the Devils only allowed 4 shots on net. That's excellent when taken as a whole. Though, I will say that it wasn't so excellent that one of those shots came from Dennis Wideman wide open in the slot near the end of the power play time that carried over into OT. Seriously, no Devil was near him. Thankfully, Hedberg stopped him.
The most common killers tonight were Bryce Salvador, Tallinder, Andy Greene, and Elias who each played over 4 minutes on the penalty kill this evening. Not to detract from the rest of the penalty killers, but these four were huge tonight.
A Devils Rookie Committed Another Horrid Defensive Zone Turnover: Tonight, it wasn't by Adam Larsson. In fact, I don't recall any heinous giveaways by Larsson that made me cringe. That's good from the now-19-year-old defenseman, who had a solid night on defense.
No, the horrid turnover came from Adam Henrique. He had the puck in his own end and instead of chipping the puck off the boards or skating it out of the zone himself, he forces a pass into coverage less than 10 feet away from him. Troy Brouwer easily picks it off, skates in, and beats Hedberg high. That was how the Capitals got on the board. No, Henrique did not get an assist on the goal.
As a whole, Henrique's had better nights. He missed the net 4 times and missed the net in the shootout, both of which are ancillary to his big, terrible significant moment of the evening. It wasn't all awful, though. He did play a lot of minutes (22:12 total); he won most of his draws (13-for-21); and he did see Washington's top line more than their other forward lines.
The Match-Up Mix-Up Again: Looking at the head to head match-ups, it's clear that both Peter DeBoer and Bruce Boudreau were mixing things up. The Backstrom line saw most of their ice time against a mixture of the Devils' top two lines - the Henrique line more so than the Elias line. Meanwhile, DeBoer kept the Larsson-Greene pairing away from Ovechkin as much as possible, instead throwing Salvador-Volchenkov and Fayne-Tallinder at him. It definitely made for the up-and-down nature of the game, upon further reflection.
Discipline, Guys, Discipline: While the Devils PK remains untouched, the Devils did play with fire by taking five minor penalties. I'll grant that the fifth one, a holding call on Clarkson, was unclear during play and replay. So I don't know whether that was legit or a make-up call for a non-trip tripping call on Dennis Wideman earlier in the first period. Still, Anton Volchenkov, an important part of the Devils' penalty killing units, got tagged twice for tripping. Those were poor penalties to take. Ryan Carter tagged Marcus Johansson with a high stick on offense, which was another avoidable call. Then there was Hedberg's minor penalty. He continued to display his randomness outside of the crease and fired a puck over the glass within the first two minutes of the game.
I don't think the Devils are an undisciplined team. Yet, recent games have pushed them to fourteenth in the league in times shorthanded with 57. They need to start cutting down on calls now if they want to continue their reputation as a relatively clean team. More relevant to this game, taking these kinds of penalties are dangerous against a frightfully talented power play. The Devils PK units played well, but they should not have to be relied on to kill about a sixth of a regulation game. Especially after doing so last night.
Third Line Weirdness: The third line of Mattias Tedenby, Ryan Carter, and David Clarkson didn't have such a great night. They were defending more often than they were attacking (negative in Corsi and Fenwick), and only Carter had a shot on goal among the three. Clarkson had 6 attempts, but nothing on net; Tedenby just had a missed shot; and Carter had a shot on goal. Yet, they contributed to tonight's game. Carter's one shot on goal was a re-direction of a Salvador pass that surprised Michal Neuvirth enough to beat him. That shot never would have happened if Tedenby didn't charge to the net, which got the puck over to the corner that Salvador pinched in on. As for Clarkson, well, he scored the shootout winning goal. Weird.
#6 Looked Like He Was Everywhere: Just a note, Dennis Wideman played 33:52 this evening and in all situations for the Caps. Yes, it's really was possible that you kept seeing that man all over the place.
Fourth Line Shorted: Cam Janssen and Vladimir Zharkov played just over 2 minutes, while Brad Mills just got over 4. It was a close game and having that fourth line out there would have been a detriment either when the Devils were down 2-0 or when it was tied. I can understand that, but I really do hope the Devils start thinking of the near future and put together a solid fourth line. Relying on three forward lines for a vast majority of the game works now, but should one of them have a bad night or if the energy is sapped, having a weak fourth line could come back to haunt the Devils. Also: Zharkov needs ice time.
Sykora Off the Faceoff: Petr Sykora has three goals this season. All three came off the same play. Elias wins an offensive zone faceoff from the right circle. The puck goes behind Elias and Sykora curls over to take the puck. He takes one look and slings it towards far post. Against Dallas, he picked a corner. Against Carolina, Cam Ward got a piece of it but it still went in. Tonight, it just went past Neuvirth's glove. At this point, I'm thinking this is some kind of set play. If I'm right, then I look forward to it in the future. Sykora still has a great shot and this play takes full advantage of that skill. If only Elias was better on faceoffs, then we may even see it more often too.
Moose Redemption: I didn't like how Moose played in the first period. He cleared a puck over the glass without pressure, which was just plain stupid. He didn't look calm early on in the game, scrambling in his crease and not getting back into stance quickly. Most of all, he saw John Carlson's shot cleanly in the first period. There was no screen by Jason Chimera. There was no screen by a Devil. There was no interference with the goalie. The scorers thought Chimera tipped it in, and gave him the goal. I thought Carlson's shot beat Hedberg cleanly - and so it was a soft one to allow; but if it was indeed a tip, then that changes things. My point is that Moose wasn't all that great in the first period.
He totally redeemed himself in subsequent periods. While the scorer was seemingly stingy in counting shots on net, what the Caps did get on it weren't easy shots for Hedberg to stop. 5 of those 6 shots in the second and third period were highlight reel saves (as in, you can see them in the highlights at NHL.com). His stop on Wideman in overtime was crucial too. The Moose was just as strong in the shootout as he was only beaten by an incredibly hard Ovechkin shot from the slot that picked a corner. He moved well in denying Matt Hendricks, Backstrom, and Alexander Semin. The only real problem I had with Hedberg outside of the first period was that he continued to be random outside of his net in playing the puck. For better or worse, that's nothing new to Devils fans.
Ovechkin Still is Scary: He wasn't left wide open, but he kept skating hard into space. Ovechkin was making plays (e.g. finding Wideman all alone in the slot in overtime), attempting to fire shots (2 on net, 8 blocked, 1 missed), and kept getting in one-on-one situations with Devils defenders. While those Devils did well in those situations (e.g. Larsson in OT), every time he's got the puck, I'm suddenly worried. I'm kind of glad I don't have to see #8 try and ruin New Jersey's night for another 6 weeks.
Good Result to Start a Road Trip: While it wasn't a complete game or a great game by the Devils, they did get a win. It's something to feel good about before their next leg of the road trip: a back-to-back with Buffalo and Boston.
Those are my thoughts on tonight's game. Now I want to know yours. What was your impression on how the Devils played this evening? What from tonight's game stuck out from you? What's a bigger problem: the Devils lack of success on man advantages or handing the opposition several power plays? Power play and/or discipline aside, what do you want the Devils to improve on for their next game based on what you seen tonight? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented and read the Gamethread; thanks to everyone who followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter during the game; and thank you for reading.