Don't let the score fool you. It could have been a lot worse for the New Jersey Devils tonight. The Flyers hit the post at least 3 times on open shots. The Flyers had several offensive opportunities from two-on-ones both from rushing into the zone on a counter-attack and make-shift two-on-ones because a Devil took himself out of the play. Not to mention the Devils handed Philadelphia four power plays. If Philadelphia had some better luck and if Martin Brodeur wasn't as solid as he was, the Flyers could have blown this game wide open.
Alas, the Flyers didn't need to do so. They converted on two of their four power plays. The fine play of their goaltenders, Ilya Bryzgalov in the first half of the game and Sergei Bobrovsky in the second half, kept the Devils out of it. While the Devils out-shot the Flyers 31-27 in the game and were out-shooting them for much of the game when it was tied. It wasn't that the Devils had no attack, the goalies did their job as well as they could. Philly also had their blocking skates on, stuffing at least 16 of the Devils' shots. A broken play yielded their one goal.
It's understandable that fans are concerned about the Devils now. While the games don't ultimately matter, the team's 1-3 and they seemed to play worse as tonight's game went on. Whereas they looked good in the first, the turnovers and bad decisions propagated during the second and third periods. Clearly, some players didn't play their best tonight; but as time went on, even the players that seemed to be having good games had some poor moments. That, I think, is more disconcerting than the fact that the Devils lost tonight what with the preseason coming to a close.
But, again, it's preseason. These games really don't matter. If there's a time to have an unideal night, then it's now. If there's a time to review what went wrong and try and fix it, it's now. Unfortunately, the Devils won't get much of a chance to reflect on tonight's performance as they'll host the Islanders tomorrow night. Still, let's go through tonight's game in a little more detail after the jump.
The Highlight Video: Yes, there is a highlight video of tonight's game from NHL.com. You will see plenty of saves by all three goaltenders; indicative of their strong play. Also, as indicated by the scoreline, you'll see a few goals.
Discipline, Men. Discipline: One of the hallmarks of the New Jersey Devils is that they don't take a lot of penalties over the course of a season. They also don't draw too many either. However, this doesn't mean they don't have games where they take a few too many dumb ones. Tonight was one of them.
As mentioned prior to the jump, the Devils gifted Philly four power plays. The first two were extra roughing minors tacked onto a fighting major; the first was for Stephane Veilleux and the second for Brad Mills. Usually, the ref does this if they feel the penalized person was too rough (namely, they started the fight first) leading to the fight. They're not good penalties to take and the fights, as usual, were pointless. (Aside: I know what Mills said after the game per this post by Tom Gulitti. It was still a dumb move and the ref let him know about it. Watch as Mills doesn't learn from it.) Mills' roughing minor became important as the Flyers scored on the resulting power play.
The other two were interference calls. Mills got caught being a little too late in a body check at the blueline right in front of the ref early in the third period. Zach Parise, of all Devils, got the other past halfway through the third. He was skating across the slot and bumped Sergei Bobrovsky. Parise didn't run the goalie, but he could have avoided him. The ref is going to call that contact most of the time, and he certainly did. The Flyers then scored on that power play, which ultimately won the game.
Had the Devils taken the hint about the refs looking for any pre-fight fighting or remembered that you can't hit goalies, perhaps this game goes on differently. I'm confident the Devils will do better in the future. Parise's not going to rack up the PIMs and I doubt Mills or Veilleux are on the team past Saturday anyway.
Tallinder's Whiff: The first goal for Philadelphia was scored by Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds may not be getting any awards for tolerance or humanitarianism, but he did play quite well tonight. He swooped into the slot and banged home a rebound to tie the game in the second period for Philly. It never would have happened if it wasn't for Tallinder, though. Well, to be honest, it never would have happened if it wasn't Mills needing to fight Zac Rinaldo for some reason so he goaded him with his fists.
Anyway. Brodeur stopped a shot by Claude Giroux and, thanks to physics, the puck rebounded into the slot. No big deal, #7 was right there to clear it out. Tallinder swung with his stick and he missed it. A second later, Simmonds has it and he slides it past Brodeur's left side. There's not much a goalie can do about it, and I wouldn't even call it a failure on the PK. It was just an "oops" by one defender that the cost the Devils.
Tonight was not one of Tallinder's better nights. I like how he did in the first period alongside Mark Fayne. Yet, as the night wore on, he got beaten one-on-one a few times - most notably by Jaromir Jagr; he was behind the play on others; and he seemed to be chasing guys more than being in a proper position. I'm confident he'll rebound, but the big man just struggled on several of his shifts tonight.
Tryouts to Be Out Soon: All three try-out players on the roster played tonight. Steve Bernier didn't do too much. He wasn't particularly bad, which I suppose is a positive in of itself. He didn't really contribute all that much either outside of a scrum that led to the Devils' lone goal of the evening and a couple of shots on net. I did notice some brief PK time from him, where upon he stayed poised. Unless Peter DeBoer sees something in him that I haven't, I'm not confident in his chances in making the team.
Petr Sykora rolled with Zach Parise and Patrik Elias tonight. That line wasn't too bad, but Parise and Elias really drove the bus on that line. Sykora was just along for the ride. I didn't think much of his defense, something the Devils forwards had to do a lot of for stretches in this game; and he seemed to be a bit slower than most of the other skaters. I think he'll get another game, but if this was his chance to show he deserves a contract, then I don't think he really took full advantage.
Anton Stralman's tryout may be coming to an end and I'm quickly accepting that fate. I liked him in the first period at the point. However, he got exposed in his own end. At first, I thought his low light was his attempted hit he threw (and missed) that left Bryce Salvador all alone to deal with two Flyers - requiring a ten-bell save from Brodeur. I know Stralman doesn't have eyes in the back of his head, but he's smart enough to know he's in trouble if he didn't get that hit home, which he didn't. Then he was caught in the slot with his stick not on the ice as Jaromir Jagr scored the game winning power play goal on Brodeur's left flank. Granted, Claude Giroux threaded a pass perfectly to Jagr; but Stralman showed no interest in doing anything about the pass. I can forgive him for not knowing Jagr's not there, but he can't be puck watching on the PK. Again, not a PK issue - but an "oops." I know these are two plays, but they were symbolic of his defensive woes. The offense he's sort of bringing to the table isn't going to make up for that, in my view. I think he's done in NJ, but I've been wrong before.
I May Be Wrong About Larsson: I've argued that Adam Larsson should go back to his club team in Sweden where he can develop for a year as one of their top defensemen. That's not happening. I've also argued that if he does stay in North America, he should remain in Albany if only not to burn his ELC and let him develop at his own pace. That's in doubt right now. I'm starting to think that he could be on this team to at least start the season. He wasn't fantastic, but he held his own against some tough Flyer forwards and he was quite poised on the point both at even strength and on the power play. I still don't want that ELC to be burned, so I'll still argue otherwise; but Larsson's play has been acceptable to say the least.
The Best Devils Skater Tonight: I want to say it's Andy Greene. He looked like he did last season. Hustling on plays, getting into position, and making defensive stops when possible. I felt the Greene-Larsson pairing, while they got a lot of work, didn't get blown up tonight. Yet, true to what I said earlier, even he had some off moments. For example, he came in on a pinch in the third period and fired a puck to the net. It ricocheted out and placed it perfectly for a Flyers two-on-one counter-attack. Oops. But it's not as if Greene did anything wrong per se, he just took a risk and it didn't work out. Thankfully, the post bailed out the Devils.
The Best Devil Tonight: Martin Brodeur. OK, the Devils can give an honorable mention to the firm of Post, Post & Crossbar as well as pucks fortunately bouncing off Matt Read's stick. Yet, Brodeur was on his game tonight. He made several "How did he keep that out of the net" saves. His glove hand was strong, and his lateral movement was swift. He had no chance on the two goals allowed, and they could have been prevented either by better discipline from the players or the defender near him doing something better (Tallinder's whiff) or anything (Stralman standing). Brodeur is 39 and this game showed me that he'll be quite fine.
Forwards Not Looking Ahead: I can't really say the offense was truly poor. They did out-shoot the Flyers throughout the game and they did put a considerable amount of rubber on Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky. Ilya Kovalchuk had (at least) 5 good locations to shoot and the goalies came up big on each of them. Zach Parise buzzed around the net as usual and put up 4 shots on net. The team's second power play was good from a possession standpoint, though it didn't convert. Stephane Veilleux got a garbage goal and drew both power plays.
Yet, I can't even fully praise the forwards. Kovalchuk had some nasty turnovers and he could have done a little better in the one-on-ones with the goalie. Parise's buzzing became too few and far between as the night rolled on. The first power play wasn't good save for the one shot they did generate; a one-timer from Nick Palmieri - and his only notable move of the night. The Flyers matched up well against the Devils' top 6 tonight and forced them back quite a bit. The bottom six was nondescript; "energy" aside. While Parise and Elias did what they could; the trio of Kovalchuk, Palmieri, and Jacob Josefson just got picked on from the second period onward. If anything, their play is driving my disappointment from the forwards.
I'm sure most will be looking at Kovalchuk with a critical eye because of the turnovers and that the goalie stopped him twice on wide-open shots. That's fine. I want to talk about the other two. Josefson and Palmieri were mostly invisible tonight. That's not good given that one still has to make his case that he can take a center role with such possibility and the other is fighting for a right wing role. Since they could very well be in the Devils' top six to start the season, their nondescript performance in both ends of the rink tonight was not comforting at all. While this is preseason, other teams will catch wind of this unit and try to exploit that match-up over and over. Hopefully, Josefson and Palmieri will up their defensive game as well as their offensive game in the future - they'll pretty much have to.
Post-Game Sunshine Pumping: According to Tom Gulitti, Peter DeBoer is focusing on positives. I can see where's he coming from about the David Steckel line (he had a better game than he did last Friday); and I do agree with him about Brodeur and the first period. I don't get how he can say they played a good defensive game outside of the fact that the Flyers didn't blow the Devils way.
Sharpness For A Limited Time: What struck me the most was how well the Devils were distributing the puck in the first period. The Devils enjoyed extended stays in the Flyers' end of the rink, they fought hard for pucks, and they made on-point passes to each other. It strikes me especially in contrast to the second and third periods. Then, the Devils missed the mark a few times, made a few too many bad reads, and just looked sloppy even as they still competed for pucks. I'd love to see the Devils be sharper for more than 20 minutes. Could I tell you how exactly to do that? Unfortunately, not. Let's hope the Devils have an answer tomorrow and/or Saturday night.
Game Respects Game (Grumble): As much as I hate to praise a rival, but the Flyers did play a good game of hockey tonight. Jaormir Jagr looked good tonight, as did Simmonds, Giroux, and Briere. Scott Hartnell looked out of sync, but it was his preseason debut and he skated hard anyway. Once he's in form, he'll be a handful. Chris Pronger didn't throw any elbows and looked solid in his own end, though he did take a roughing call from Veilleux. The Flyers defenders and backchecking forwards showed a better effort in their own end after the first period and bravely blocked all kinds of shots from New Jersey. On top of all that, their goalies played well. It was a solid 40 minutes from Philadelphia and likely a sign of how future games will go against them. That said, let's hope they fall flat on their faces on October 1 and 8.
That's my take on tonight's preseason game. Now I want to hear from you. Did you think the Devils were fortunate to have this be only 2-1? What, if anything, did you notice the Devils were doing particularly well or poor as a team? Do you think any of the tryouts improved their stock to make the team? Do you think anyone did anything tonight to warrant a promotion or demotion? Who do you think the best Devil not named Brodeur was tonight? Please leave your answers and other relevant reactions to tonight's game in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented and read the Gamethread; and thank you for reading this recap.