The New Jersey Devils have been a very resilient team so far this season. They've only been shutout once, they've came from behind in several games to equalize or win them outright, and they have scrapped whatever points in the standings they could get. Against one of the league's hottest teams, the Boston Bruins, this trait would be most useful. The Bruins have won their previous five games and have done so in a dominating fashion, scoring no fewer than 5 goals in each of those wins.
Tonight, the Devils managed to show off their fight-back spirit. They didn't crumble when the Bruins played physical. They didn't get down on themselves when most of their power plays failed. They didn't let Tim Thomas get in their heads. The Devils played a fairly good 40 minutes against a very, very good Boston team on their ice. The Devils got on the board in the second period when they converted a 5-on-3 power play as David Clarkson beat Thomas through the five-hole on a one-timer. The Devils unfortunately gave it away when Johan Hedberg forced a clearance right to Gregory Campbell, who flung it into the slot for Chris Kelly to score on the empty net. As stupid, ugly, and stupid that goal against was, it was only 1-1. The Devils were out-shooting the Bruins 24-19. In terms of Corsi (difference of shooting attempts at even strength), the Devils were a +2. The forwards were backchecking well, the defense didn't look too overwhelmed, and Moose - gaffe aside - wasn't too bad. 1-1 after 2 periods on the road against a hot team isn't the worst situation for a team to be in. It was still a game.
Then the third period happened and it quickly became Boston's game. Immediately, Zdeno Chara caught the Devils unaware, sprung Brad Marchand on a breakaway, and it was suddenly 2-1. The Devils, as they have in several games this season, managed to respond. Nick Palmieri was all alone in front when Andy Greene slung a pass to the top of the crease from the side-boards. Palmieri cooly slid it in and it was 2-2. Hey, not unlike some past games with the Devils, so no big deal, right?
The Bruins were not deterred. If anything, it just steeled their resolve. Their forecheck picked up, the Bruins crashed the net more and more, and they were knocking on the door for a third. They got it on a breakdown by the skaters. A clearance was blocked at the blueline by Campbell, Thornton slung a long shot wide, Jordan Caron won it on the sideboards and flung it in front. Campbell just did a one-touch pass behind him and with nobody on Shawn Thornton, he beat Hedberg on his flank. 3-2. But the Devils weren't doomed. No, Zach Parise sprung Adam Henrique in the neutral zone to skate forward. Henrique torched Johnny Boychuk, went around Steven Kampfer, drew David Krejci away when he charged the net, and Palmieri cleaned up the mess by pounding the loose puck home. 3-3. The Devils' resiliency proved to be more than just narrative.
There was about 13 minutes left in the third period at the time of the goal. Most of it would be Boston attacking. Constant rushes up-ice. Constant attempts at cross-ice passes or shots. Constant crashing of the net to find rebounds. Hedberg made a few saves that absolutely robbed the Bruins. The goal frame robbed Nathan Horton on a chance where Hedberg was beaten dead to rights. A few missed shots spared the Devils. For the most part, though, the Devils looked gassed and the Bruins weren't letting up. As time went on, I began to wonder, "Maybe the Devils can steal a point." Then Ryan Carter lost a defensive zone faceoff, Joe Corvo fired a shot that Hedberg stopped high, the rebound went to an open Benoit Pouliot in front of the net, and Pouliot fired it low and far post to make it 4-3. The Devils pulled Hedberg late and tried desperately to get a third equalizer, but it was not to be.
The Devils have been resilient this season and they were tonight. But that trait only gets you so far; it doesn't always result in points in the standings. Simply put, the Bruins steamrolled the Devils in the third. The Bruins out-shot them 18-6 in the third. The Devils' Corsi went from +2 after the second period to a miserable -18 by the end of the game. The game certainly opened up in the third period, mostly at one end. I don't know whether it was New Jersey's defense was just that porous in the third period or the Bruins just made look that porous. I almost want to say both would be fair assessments.
One could find some moral victories in the Devils defeat to the Bruins. They played a hot team tough and showed the league that they aren't invincible. They didn't get intimidated. They held the Bruins to less than 5 goals. They got rolled in the third period, but managed to score two and nearly a third. They finally scored a power play goal and it was against one of the best goalies in the league behind a good PK. So on and so forth.
Unfortunately, moral victories count for nothing in the standings. Onto the next one in Buffalo.
As usual, I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. For a Bruins-based take on tonight's game, please visit Stanley Cup of Chowder.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: From NHL.com, here is your highlight video of tonight's game. There's a lot in this one.
Who Did the Damage in the Third, Shot Edition: The Shot Summary helpfully breaks down not only what situations a player has taken a shot in a game, but also what period. It looks to be fairly spread out, which makes sense since the entire Bruins roster kept coming in waves.
The line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton did combined for the most shots on goal at even strength as Lucic and Horton each had 3 shots apiece. Horton's shots were more agonizing as he should have scored on 2 of them and he hit the iron on another attempt that wasn't recorded. Given their blend of size, skill, and speed; they definitely gave the Devils fits.
Who Did the Damage in the Third, Score Edition: However, the three goals allowed came from the other three lines. And each of them came on plays where the Devils made errors, so the Bruins just capitalized on them.
The fourth line got on the board thanks to a botched clearance and Ryan Carter (among other skaters) not minding the slot which really helped Thornton's rather easy looking goal. That goal against should be shown to young defenders to highlight the importance of a good clearance. It should also be shown to young centers to recognize the importance of taking the slot if the defender's going away from it.
The third line won the game thanks to Mark Fayne going after Joe Corvo on the sideboards. Yes, he just got away from Mattias Tedenby, but a shot from the sideboards isn't a high percentage shot. Fayne shouldn't have went right at him. As a result, Henrik Tallinder was left with Chris Kelly and Pouliot open down low. With Kelly out of Hedberg's line of sight, Tallinder had to deal with him. Hedberg makes the stop on Corvo, the puck bounces to Pouliot, and he wins the game late.
At the core of each of these goals against, you can find an error by the Devils. The Bruins kept swarming to the total of 18 shots (and one goal frame) against New Jersey; enough to get a sense that they were going to score. They managed to do so when the Devils made some mistakes they couldn't cover up.
Shaky Moose: I don't want to seem ungrateful for some of the stops Johan Hedberg made tonight. He had some huge ones. Four that stood out to me were on Brad Marchand during the Devils' first "power" play; his save on Tyler Seguin during Boston's second power play; the subsequent pad stop on Rich Peverley to his right; and a rebound that Horton surely was going to put away. Yet, Hedberg looked a bit off tonight. Whereas Tim Thomas looked to be square for every shot since he saw most of them; Hedberg was frantic. Especially in the third period, Hedberg was all over the place in his net. While none of those three goals in the third were his fault, he was walking some fine lines between making a big save and getting blown away by a shot.
At least he held it together in net to keep what he could out. Outside of the net, that's a different story. The key word to describe his puck handling away from the crease is random. You don't know what you're going to get. In the second period, on a routine dump-in, Hedberg reminded the Devils faithful why it may be a good idea to tether him. He tried to pass it around the boards to his teammate, but he failed miserable. Campbell was crashing in, got it, and put it in a place for Kelly to score. I can't fault the skaters on that one, that first goal against is entirely on Hedberg. I don't like playing "What if" but had Hedberg not play that puck, Campbell would get it and the Devils would at least have a chance to defend there. Instead, Kelly gets one of the easier goals of his career this evening. Yes, that goal leaves me sour, as it should because it was such a moronic one to allow.
Third Line Attack: While they didn't score at even strength, the third line was the Devils' top attacking line. That's not an indictment on the rest of the forwards, they were quite good. David Clarkson had 4 shots at evens and despite the Devils finishing -18 in Corsi; he managed to stay at zero. Oh, and he scored the power play goal. A good night from #23. Carter looked dumb on the Thornton goal against and lost that faceoff en route to the Pouliot goal; but he kept things moving, only finished a -3 in Corsi, and went 8-for-12 on draws. Mattias Tedenby probably played his best game all season. He was backchecking, he was being aggressive on offense, and he had 4 good shots on net. The young winger actually got ice time in the third period, and why not? He earned it with his play in the first and second periods. Should he do it more often, his place in the lineup will be
When A Team Has a Scary Top Six, It Creates Tough Match-Ups: The line of Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, and Petr Sykora did not have a very good evening in attack. Oh, sure, they had some good opportunities on a few shifts. Zubrus did have 4 shots on net. But by the end of the night, it was clear they were forced to defend a lot more than they could attack. They got hammered the most in terms of Corsi in the third period. The Henrique line wasn't doing well prior to the third period (and the match-ups likely explain why); but they didn't experience the downward swing like the Elias line did. I don't know whether Peter DeBoer wanted them out there against the top six as much as possible, or whether Claude Julien wanted that match-up and kept exploiting it. Either way, those six Bruins forwards comprised of most of their head-to-head ice time and those six Bruins forwards won. Especially the Bergeon line as they out-did the Krejci line in Corsi by a good margin.
The lynchpin appears to have been on the Bruins' defense. While Boychuk looked stupid getting torched by Henrique and for clearing the puck over the glass on a PK, when he was on the ice, the Bruins were driving the play as if they were in a tank. Zdeno Chara only put up a +10 compared to Boychuk's +17, but he was just as dangerous jumping up in the play with his 4 shots on net. That pairing saw the Elias line the most and they clearly were victors in that vein.
Protected: While Henrik Tallinder and Mark Fayne were getting swarmed, Andy Greene and Adam Larsson remained somewhat protected. They did play fewer even strength minutes than the rest of the blueline. I would have liked to have seen more shifts for Greene and Larsson in the third period; but given how up-and-down it was and with the Devils defending so much, maybe they couldn't get on when they would have liked. Besides, I don't know if it's a bad thing to shield the rookie and his partner in a tight game with the Devils pinned back as much as they were.
Your Cam Janssen Section: Believe it or not, but Cam Janssen had a relatively good game. He threw a hit on Chara, he had a shot on net, he didn't take a penalty, and even he got 5:06 of ice time. I had low expectations for Janssen and he's meeting them.
Power Play Woes: The positive tonight was that the Devils scored on an abbreviated 5-on-3. Clarkson snapped the 22 advantages goalless streak. That's good. I'm still not happy.
The Devils had 4 advantages tonight at 5-on-4 that lasted 8:18 and the 5-on-3 lasted 18 seconds. In that total time of 8:36, the Devils got 6 shots on net. Just 6. That's not going to get it done. Oh, and they allowed a shorthanded opportunity to Marchand during their first advantage. Right at the beginning we were using the rationalization, "Well, at least they didn't allow a goal."
The nadir just happened to be right before the Devils got their 5-on-3. Patrik Elias got the puck in the left circle and he waits. And he waits. And he's looking all over the place, but he's just waiting. The Bruins are content to stay in their box formation and let Elias eat about 10 seconds of power play time. During this whole time, the Devils aren't moving all that much either. It was nothing that would make Elias pass the puck. After what seemed like forever, Elias forced a pass into the slot, which was broken up by Boychuk, who proceeded to throw it over the glass for a penalty. The Devils were fortunate to get that call because they did little to earn it. Elias sat on it because he had no choice for quite some time, then he settled for a low-risk play. Very little movement, very little urgency, and very little for Boston to be worried about at 5-on-4.
Adam Oates, Peter DeBoer, Batman, somebody get these Devils doing something productive lest they want to be scoreless for another 22 straight power plays.
(Oh, and the penalty kill was awesome again. But that's not new.)
Faceoff Woes: The Devils got demolished at the dot tonight. Carter (8-for-12) and Brad Mills (3-for-4) were the only Devils who came out ahead this evening. Henrique was creamed as he went 5-for-17. Elias got dominated by going 7-for-22; and Dainius Zubrus was even worse at 1-for-7. As a whole, the Devils went 25-for-66, which bad. In contrast, Boston was led by one man: Patrice Bergeon. He owned faceoffs like a boss by going 24-for-33. He was 9-for-12 both in the offensive and defensive zones. He helped the Bruins clear out in their own end, and helped his own team get going in New Jersey's end.
No, A Penalty Shot Wasn't Deserved: In the third period, the Carter line actually did something rare for the Devils: they had extended possession in Boston's end of the rink. A puck was jammed in from Thomas' left and it actually got past him. Bergeron jumped on the loose puck and then a scrum of black and white jerseys fell in the crease. The first thought was whether Bergeron intentionally covered the puck with his hand. That would lead to a penalty shot. The refs decided against it.
The refs were proven right. Say what you want about the MSG+2 broadcast, but they had a top-angle view of the crease. Bergeron did try to fall on it, but the puck actually hit his forearm and was loose in a tiny bit of space in between Bergeron and Thomas. Then players started jamming and diving in and it was lost. Good non-call by the refs in that situation, and a good catch by the local TV production staff.
Keeping It Simple: Nick Palmieri was protected this evening by playing 11:22 at evens. He didn't play nearly as many minutes as Parise (16:08 at evens) or even Henrique (14:48 at evens). Yet, he showed off what he should be doing at this level: go to the net. He did so and he cashed in on Greene's pass early in the third period. He did it again by trailing Henrique. While Henrique drew the coverage, Palmieri was smart to follow up in case there was a rebound or loose puck - and he did just that. Two goals, and both were equalizers at the time. Not bad at all for less than 12 minutes of ice time. We may want to see more from Palmieri in general, but it's clear from tonight's game is that driving to the net is what he's good at - and he should continue to do so.
Back to the Porosity: The Bruins are deep, talented, and on a hot streak. In a way, I'm not surprised they manhandled the Devils' defense as they did in the third period. What does surprise me was in how they were doing it. The Bruins were looking for cross-ice passes off rushes and came agonizingly close on several of them. There always seemed to be a Bruin trailing either as an option in the slot and/or to get after any rebounds. While the Devils paid the price in part of their own errors, the Devils defense getting exposed as they did really hurt their chances. It certainly stunted their offense. It's surprising enough they managed to score 2 and force a fracas in trying to get the go-ahead goal on one shift (and seemingly only that shift). It helped the Devils get more fatigued as a line or a pairing can't get a change if they're still chasing Bruins in their own end. Most of all, it just gave Boston the justification to play as aggressive as possible - which makes it hard for the Devils to fend off. The Devils didn't really adjust to cover the slot more; they chased more than they should have hung back in spots where they didn't need to chase the Bruin; and they relied a bit too much on Moose to bail them out. The Bruins made the Devils look spotty on defense in the third period, and the Devils seemingly helped by not making any on-ice changes.
It's hard to win against any team when the defense doesn't adjust or can't handle the intensity the Bruins were providing this evening. While they were close, they need to improve in that regard.
What did you think of tonight's game? How shocked were you during the third period at Boston's aggressiveness? Did you think the Devils deserved a point, or did they earn this loss? How surprised were you at the Devils scoring a power play goal? Do you think they'll do it again soon? How good was the Devils' third line? What impressed you (positive or negative) the most from tonight's result? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you to everyone in the Gamethread for reading and commenting this evening; thank you to everyone who followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter; and thank you for reading this recap.