The New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators played a game of hockey tonight in Newark, New Jersey. The game ended with a shootout, which the Devils won. Therefore, they got two points and a final score of 5-4. This is the result of tonight's game: the Devils got a result in the shootout. Basic, simple, done. We, as Devils fans, can be pleased with that and hope the Devils can get a third win in a row against Montreal on Saturday.
Yet, this is In Lou We Trust. This is not a place where we just say, "Got a result, let's move on." No, this is the place where we focus on performances. Where we go into detail about what happened in the game. Where we try to figure out why the Devils won or lost, and whether they should have or not. The events of tonight's game lead me to no easy basic or simple conclusion beyond the Devils winning, which is generally a good thing. Overall, the game left me confused on how to feel about this one outside of a generic thought of they had positives and negatives and so the team needs to do more of the former than the latter.
Rather than doing the usual and throwing up a summary of the game prior to the jump, I'm going to put it past it as it's quite lengthy due to the huge swings involved. Please continue onward for that. In case you want to see an Ottawa Senators' fan perspective, please check out this recap by Peter Raaymakers at Silver Seven. Like Raaymakers, I'm not really sure what to make of this one.
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 game was loaded with ups, downs, saves, goals, and hits. Your mileage may vary on how to feel about it, but it certainly does make for a great highlight video from NHL.com:
A Massive Summary of a Game with Conflicting Feelings: On the one hand, I should be unhappy with the performance. The Devils didn't start off well on the scoreboard. While they matched the Senators shot-for-shot, the Devils ended the first period down two goals. Martin Brodeur softly played a puck after stopping a shot from Jason Spezza, and it landed right on Milan Michalek's stick. As is Michalek's wont, he put it back in the net. Later on, Jason Cowen fires a shot from an angle and Brodeur stops it; yet neither Mattias Tedenby (who crashed into the net) or Mark Fraser (who got lost) picked up the Senator charging at the net, Nick Foligno. Foligno easily goes around a fallen Brodeur and makes it 2-0 late in the first. The only real positive was that the Devils magnificently killed a double-minor allowing only two shots against. Even that's not much of a positive as it meant a Devil, Petr Sykora, high sticked a Senator, Chris Neil, and drew blood.
The second period was worse. Peter DeBoer made a goaltender change, putting Johan Hedberg in net. Down two goals, the Devils would ultimately play most of the period in their end of the rink and generate a mere 5 shots on net. The Senators did benefit from three power plays, including a 5-on-3 that was generated thanks to Sykora spitting obscene verbals at a ref; but only 5 shots on net while down in the game is just terrible. Making matters worse was that the Senators actually snapped the Devils' PK streak. Daniel Alfredsson fired a shot through traffic during the 5-on-3. While it was a great shot, matters looked grim for the Devils as they were down 3-0 and couldn't get anything going. Their only spark was Zach Parise scoring a shorthanded goal. A great shot, yes; but the Devils didn't build on it and the fact it was shorthanded meant the Devils did something dumb - in this case, they got caught with six skaters on the ice. Down 3-1 and with only 14 shots on net, the Sens should have taken this game.
It is in the third period where I should be very pleased with what the Devils accomplished. They didn't give up on the game. After Ryan Carter took a "roughing" (should have been an instigator) minor along with a fighting major, Patrik Elias rushed up ice and found Dainius Zubrus all alone. Zubrus beat Alex Auld with a sweet move and the game became interesting again at 3-2. Yes, a comeback started off with two shorthanded goals. No, it does not mean Devils should take minors along with fights to score goals. (Aside: this would be the only PP allowed by the Devils, so they sharpened up their discipline late - good?) Strange as it may seem, this goal really got the Devils going and they got a big break about six minutes later. David Clarkson fired a hard low shot that Auld stopped, but the puck bounced up. Tedenby was crashing the net and the puck hit his body - propelling it into the net. A review was needed and, get this, the goal stood. Tedenby scored his first goal of the season on a non-shot and the game was tied. Lest the Senators feel hard done, Ilya Kovalchuk followed up on a Zach Parise shot and slammed it into the net to make it 4-3. Yes, in the period of doom, the Devils scored three goals. They made a come back against Ottawa. The Senators answered with shots, but Hedberg stopped them with ease. The Sens handed the Devils power plays to help keep the momentum going; while they didn't score, they weren't bad power plays at all. All the Devils would have to do is hold on.
And the Devils came ever so close. With the net empty, Elias rushed up ice in the hopes of sealing off the game. But Erik Karlsson tripped him, and with coincidental minors issued ten seconds earlier, the Devils got a rare 4-on-3 chance. It started off well, but it ended with what we all feared: a shorthanded goal. With about 20 seconds left, the Senators finally got possession and stormed up ice. They pulled Auld and so it was 4 skaters against 4 skaters. Tallinder got held down by Chris Phillips, Zubrus got beat to the puck along the boards by Spezza, Alfredsson was fed the puck at the point, and Hedberg stopped it through traffic. Only for the rebound to pop to Jesse Winchester who tied up the game with about 5 seconds left. Another SHGA. A blown chance at a regulation win off a massive comeback and a wonderful recap already pre-written in my head. I was mad, somehow acting like a peeved Jake Morgandorffer. Mad at Hedberg, mad at the skaters, mad at Karlsson for making this so difficult, mad in general. I imagine Devils fans had similar feelings, quite possibly a mixture of horror and total surprise.
Yet, why did I feel and act that way? Based on the first 40 minutes, the Devils should have been blown out of the Rock. They should have lost and lost big. That they salvaged a point out of it should be seen as a positive since they were down 3-0 halfway through the game. Under normal circumstances, we should be fine with that - I should be fine with that. Yet, the Devils had earned the 4-3 lead in the third period and did almost everything right to keep it. The Sens equalized on a SHGA, but it wasn't like it came off a bad giveaway or a breakaway or whatever. The Sens got desperate, threw it in deep, won a puck, and Winchester was in the right place, right time. In that sense, that's not too bad. And it's not like it lost the Devils the game, it just extended it. The Devils showed up in OT, tried to break through, didn't, and so they won in an extended shootout.
I still can't get past that this team only put up 14 shots on net against a weak goaltender behind a team that not only played last night, but allowed 44 shots in the process. I still can't get past that this team nearly matched that in one period of play, scored two shorties, got a good break, and capped it off all in a period where they've been horrid since early-to-mid November. Do I praise the coach and players for getting their acts together for the third period? Do I criticize them for such a poor second period following a poor first period? Do I thank whoever that Auld's not a good goaltender at all? Do I curse the Sens offense, as potent as I feared they would be? Can the answer be just "Yes?"
What is clear to me is that the Devils won and they could have done much better. Over the course of 82 games, there will be nights like this, I suppose. A "your mileage may vary" game. You can come to a completely different conclusion based on the events of tonight's game and be entirely right. That said, let's focus on some particulars.
They Should Call You OMG Because You Reminded Me of Olivier Magnan-Grenier Tonight: Andy Greene did not play tonight due to an injury to his foot. During the game, Tom Gulitti (among others) reported that X-rays showed that Greene broke a toe and will be out for four weeks. I wish Greene a speedy recovery. I also wish Mark Fraser wasn't the immediate replacement for Greene based on tonight's game.
In a way, I can understand Fraser's situation. He's usually a scratch and when he does play, it's usually after a considerable length of time. He hasn't had the chance to really get into a groove, much less establish himself on a pairing under DeBoer this season. That said, Fraser was terrible tonight. In only 8:21 at even strength, Fraser managed to "achieve" a Corsi of -9, the worst on the team tonight. He was out there the most with Anton Volchenkov (who also picked up a -9) and in limited action, he saw the Foligno line the most. Still, Volchenkov can't really stop Fraser from making soft plays on the puck or losing his coverage regardless of who they saw at evens. Fraser was out of place on Foligno's goal, his most notable appearance tonight outside of a fight. I don't like fights, but I was glad that he did it because it meant he couldn't be on the ice for 5 minutes. That's how bad Fraser was in my eyes.
I'm willing to give Fraser a few more games. Again, he hasn't played regularly and this could have been just one bad game. If he continues to get walloped in limited action over the next few games, then I'll be among the many to demand Alexander Urbom or Matt Taormina to get a chance.
Actually...They Might Get A Chance For Another Reason: Did you notice that Anton Volchenkov didn't play in any of the final 15 minutes of the game? I didn't during the game, though I did wonder why I didn't see #28 late in the game. Apparently he hurt his hand again per this post-game post from Gulitti. That DeBoer has already mentioned the possibility suggests that this may not be a minor injury. I hope I'm wrong and it is minor as Volchenkov is a key player on the PK and a solid defender in his own right.
The Best in the League: There was one positive to Fraser's night: he put in 4:01 of solid penalty killing work. In fact, all of the penalty killers had a great night. They were steadfast in the first period while killing Sykora's double-minor; and they hit the Sens on several rushes for great gains. Let me just hit you with this: the Senators had six power plays lasting 10:46 of tonight's game. They only got 5 shots on net; and the Devils PK units matched them with 5 shots of their own. While Ottawa can be proud that they scored the first PPG at the Rock this season on a 5-on-3 (thanks Sykora); the Devils PK units can boast that they out-scored the Senators power play 2-1. Long live Dave Barr and the Devils penalty killers.
A Sign of Inconsistency: Your most offensively active line tonight, on paper, was the Adam Henrique line. Parise had 6 shots on net, Kovalchuk had 7, and Henrique had 2. Individually, they played a key role tonight: Parise scored the first goal of the game, Kovalchuk scored the fourth and what was then the go-ahead goal, and Henrique played a role in winning the shootout. Combined, they represented 48.3% of all of New Jersey's shots this game. They also scored the fourth goal of the game for New Jersey. At least they had a good night, right? Yet, if you look at the shot summary, you'll see that their shots were spread out across all three periods and the power play boosted Parise's and Kovalchuk's shot counts. It helps explain why Parise was a -2 in Corsi while Henrique and Kovalchuk were a -3. So while that trio stands out, it wasn't like they had a completely good game; they fluctuated from period to period. That said, Kovalchuk's goal was sweet as much as it was important in the game.
Before You Buy This Narrative, Read This: In this post-game post from Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, we learn that DeBoer gave the team a piece of his mind after the first period. Given that they were down 2-0, I can't say it wasn't warranted. Yet, I'm not seeing the connection of the DeBoer "critique" leading to the Devils comeback. The Devils weren't good in the second period. Down two and then three goals, they generated a low number of shots. That's unacceptable, especially against a team that was a defensive sieve the night prior in allowing 44 shots on net against the Caps. I wasn't expecting 40+ on Auld, but just 14 while losing is rather pathetic. Moreover, the Corsi doesn't lie. The Devils were a +3 under Brodeur; but under Hedberg even after that comeback and overtime, the team was a -5. I don't know how low it got after the second, but I suspect it was much worse than -5. So much for the
Also, the team didn't get any smarter as evidence by the two stupid penalties they took: Tedenby's hold on Chris Phillips and Sykora's unsportsmanlike conduct. The fans hated the call on Tedenby as it wiped out a call and ignored his being interfered with prior, but I clearly saw him impede Phillips all the way from my seat in Section 1. Sykora's call was worse as it handed the Sens a 5-on-3. After he served his minor, he didn't see the ice until the third period as punishment.
Oh, and just to add more evidence, the Sens nearly scored a shorthanded goal during the Devils' first power play. Hedberg was beaten five-hole, but the puck hit the post and just stayed out. By the way, that was the only item of note on that Devils power play. All of this and little else on offense in the period after the "critique."
I'm not blaming it all on DeBoer. It's just that the second period was just a straight-up bad period. The lone highlight of the second was Parise's shorthanded goal; and it's not like that sparked the Devils to suddenly play better. I'm sure DeBoer's words after the first were necessary; but if anything, I would think what he said after the second period would be more relevant to sparking the comeback. Keep that in mind before you buy a narrative.
I...Don't Hate the Power Play Tonight?: The Devils' first power play was bad. That they gave up a near-last-second SHGA is heartbreaking. Yet, I can't complain too loudly about the other power plays. The Senators became unraveled in terms of discipline, handing the Devils four power plays in the third. I would say the Devils did OK on these. Despite not scoring, they got into the zone with easy and had the puck for extended possessions. Given that the Devils were up 4-3 during three of these four power play situations, eating time in Ottawa's end wasn't bad. The Devils had every reason to be patient. It also opened up opportunities to shoot, so the Devils actually got 7 shots on net on their power play this evening - all in the third period. That's not bad considering how terrible the PP units have been at just getting a few shots on net.
Of course, most of you just saw "power play" and immediately thought, "shorthanded goal against - AGAIN." Fair enough; but I do stress that this was not like the other 7 SHGAs this season as explained in the summary. I still think it was one of the team's better nights with the man advantage.
Tedenby: Tedenby scored his first goal of the season off his chest; a fluke. What wasn't a fluke was that he had 3 actual shots on net. He could have had one or two more, but it's a step forward given that he struggles to get one on some nights. Tedenby finished a +5 in Corsi, which is impressive since he did see the Spezza line for some time. I'm saying it: Tedenby had a good night. Now the young winger has to build on this by getting more shots. Then, the points may come.
That Reminds Me: You want to talk about a bad break, here's one: Karlsson tripping Elias near the end of regulation. In retrospect, I wish Elias lofted the puck ahead and got the empty net goal to seal the win. Karlsson's foul was rewarded with an equalizer. Argh.
I Did Not Know This: During overtime, the Senators got two men out of the box within ten seconds of each other. Play continued, but with five guys on the ice for both Ottawa and New Jersey. The crowd was confused, as was I, and started yelling all manners of "FIVE GUYS." While we were thinking the refs were idiots (you know, like usual), the reality is that when players finish serving a penalty in overtime that was carried over from regulation, the team can have five on the ice. This is to protect the team getting the skater out of the box from a cheap too many men on the ice call. Thanks to user nyynygnjd for pointing this out in the Gamethread. In this post-game post, Gulitti found the actual rule that explained the situation: Rule 84.3. With that, I can say I learned something brand new tonight.
Given how up-and-down the game went, I suppose this was the weird situation this game needed to be more memorable.
Shootout Strong: Kovalchuk's attempt was the only one that went awry. I liked the moves Parise, Elias, and Henrique made on Auld. I didn't like Hedberg getting beat five-hole by Spezza and especially Alfredsson, since it just squeaked through him. But the Moose clamped up on David Runblad's shot; and so the Devils got the win. The team's 6-1 in shootouts this season.
Those are my thoughts on the game, now it's your turn. What are your feelings about this game? Are you pleased they got the win? Are you displeased that the team didn't do so well and/or blew the lead? Or are you feeling somewhere in the middle or something else entirely? Who did you like on the Devils tonight? Who didn't you like? What do you want to see on Saturday against Montreal? Thanks for following along in the Gamethread. I apologize for not commenting much or Tweeting much tonight as my mobile battery ran out sooner than expected. Still, I thank everyone who followed along and I thank you for reading this long recap of an at least somewhat strange win.