The New Jersey Devils played great on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils played like garbage against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers won 3-0 as the Devils became more and more listless, foolish, and ineffective as time went on. It was an easy shutout for Ilya Bryzgalov, an easy game for the Philadelphia Flyers, and an easy time for the Flyers faithful. All thanks to the New Jersey Devils.
Well, not entirely. One Devil certainly showed up to play a good game of hockey. His name of Martin Brodeur. You may have heard of him, he's pretty good. Brodeur was a stalwart against the flurry of Philadelphia shooting attempts throughout the game. He was strong down low, he kept good control of the puck, and he made very few if any mistakes. Brodeur was only beaten twice, both on loose pucks in the crease. The first came in the second period puck got loose after it came off the back boards and off Brodeur's body and Sean Couturier just put it in. The second came in the third period when Jakub Voracek put in a short rebound amid traffic in front. That's it. Not much Brodeur could have done on either and given how the Flyers put up 21 shots on net in the second and third periods, Brodeur essentially prevented a blowout.
One can make a case that the third line had a good game, but I'm hesitant because the skaters as a whole were just poor. Defensive stops had to be desperate at times and clearances were spotty as the Flyers were able to keep possession going. The forwards were forced wide and just didn't make a lot of attempts. It was as if the Devils were playing with a big lead instead of being down one or two goals. Ilya Bryzgalov could have read a book in the third period as the Devils put up an embarrassingly low three shots on net and two of them came after the game was put out of doubt. The power play was terrible as the Devils squandered all of their power plays except for the first one. The discipline was spotty and, oh, of course, the PK was strong as usual but who really cares about the PK when you put up 17 shots on net in a game where the Devils were losing for 28+ minutes of the whole game.
I do have to credit the Flyers. They definitely learned their lessons the hard way from Sunday's game. The Devils forecheck wasn't effective. The third line worked well along the boards but the Flyers defense kept them from doing too much with it. Kimmo Timonen returned to the lineup and that definitely helped out up and down the lineup. Voracek also returned and was certainly effective among a Flyers attack that pounded New Jersey with attempts. The Devils finished regulation at -14 Corsi and -17 Fenwick. Throw in the 29-17 shot differential and it's quite clear that the Flyers were the superior team tonight.
I will admit that since this was a game against a hated rival, the loss stings a bit more. But what makes it hurt was that the performance was just terrible. It would have been one thing if Bryzgalov was peppered with shots and the score played out the same. At least we can say the Devils put up a respectable effort. We didn't even get that. hey lost possession, they misfired passes, and whatever little Bryzgalov saw was swallowed up as if it was going into a black hole in this humongous universe. A bad game all around outside of the goaltender by New Jersey.
In his recap at Broad Street Hockey, Travis Hughes confuses Bryzgalov as He-Man or some such. I have a more, unhappier thoughts on this game after this jump.
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 Game Highlights: There weren't many Devils highlights except for Brodeur making big stops. But here's the game highlights video anyway:
Crushed in Possession: While it's not called out in the Corsi charts from Time on Ice, I did note the period by period breakdown in Corsi for the Devils. It was -6 after the first period where the Devils out-shot the Flyers 8-6. It was -9 after a second period where the Devils were out-shot 13-6. It was -14 after the game after a third period where the Devils were out-shot 9-3. Getting less than 20 shots on net is poor and getting out-attempted by that much consistently further supports the reality that the Flyers just outclassed the Devils tonight.
Fans and talking heads will talk about a lack of "jump" or "energy," and I'm not going to disagree that the Devils didn't have it after the first period. The proof is in the attempts. The Flyers had them and the Devils didn't. It helped, of course,
I'm Not Blaming Adam Oates for This: How can I? The Devils' passing was abysmal. That allowed the Flyers' PK players picking them off easily for clearances and rushes up ice to kill the clock. I've been hard on Oates, but he's not out on the ice making bad passes. The Devils got 5 power plays lasting 8:38 and got only 5 shots on net, with a few of them on their first power play. The most frustrating power play was a double minor in the the third period. Nicklas Grossmann high sticked Adam Henrique and drew blood. Down 2-0 with a little over 10 minutes, it was an opportunity to get back into the game. It took the Devils about 3:40 into the power play to get a shot on goal. Every time they would get into the Flyers' zone, it took somehwere between one to three passes before a Flyer picked off the puck for a clearance. The puck movement was absolutely horrible. An offense can't function properly like that and the power play certainly can't no matter what Oates drew up.
So Close Adam Larsson: Adam Larsson didn't get a lot of minutes with 14:26 played, but he wasn't terrible. He actually made a few good defensive plays early on in the game. Unfortunately, that's not what people will remember. They'll remember him lightly shoving Voracek at the top of the crease instead of playing the puck or just taking out Voracek. Either may have prevented the second goal scored on Brodeur.
Bossing Around: The Devils were pinned back often in this game against the Flyers, but I did like how Marek Zidlicky played in his own end. He didn't get pushed around, he initiated contact to make stops, and he was even poised with the puck even when the fourth line was out there. It's not much, but it's something I noticed.
Typical Flyers: The Flyers certainly had their share of Flyer-moments. Sean Couturier followed up his goal with a blatant spear to Kovalchuk's gut. That the spear wasn't called by the ref was ridiculous. Scott Hartnell sold a little Alexei Ponikarovsky hit like he was hit in the head with a chair and barreled into Brodeur twice because he couldn't beat him legitimately. I don't mind the physical play, but those fouls stick out as perfect examples of the Flyers just being Flyers.
That Was Dumb, That's What's Up: Of course, the Devils continued the confoundness by doing dirty themselves. Eric Boulton further proved his uselessness by beefing with Claude Giroux after the second time he "fell" into Brodeur, which wiped out what would have been a late power play in the third period. I have no idea where he thought that was a good idea. He also got two minors at the end of the game for whacking Andreas Lilja for no real reason. Ilya Kovalchuk was understandably upset about the spear, but slashing Couturier in the back of his leg while he was stepping onto the bench was an inappropriate response and a deserved minor penalty. Adam Larsson took a silly interference penalty by taking down Hartnell away from the play while Bryce Salvador blocked out Jaromir Jagr. The Devils took a needless too many men on the ice penalty with 3:18 left in the game. Yes, I just listed five separate penalties. While the Devils' PK was perfect tonight, the Devils didn't need to use them so much. Not that the Devils would have attacked at evens in lieu of the penalties, but killing an unnecessary penalty hurt the team at least a little bit tonight.
The Empty Net Goal Section: Many Devils fans were baffled and angry that Peter DeBoer pulled the goaltender in a 4-on-4 situation with about five minutes left to play. The Flyers stopped the Devils on defense, moved the puck up ice, and Danny Briere snapped his goal scoring drought with an empty net goal. The game was essentially sealed at 3-0.
Personally, I didn't mind the decision to pull Brodeur early. The Devils were getting beaten at 5-on-5, they sucked on the power play, and they weren't so hot in a 4-on-4 situation earlier in the game. The Devils were doing next to nothing on offense. They officially had one shot on net at that point, and it was near the end of the four minute power play that they squandered. I know the Devils pulled off two goals in 14 seconds against the Islanders on Saturday, but that was a game where they pinned the Isles back and put up over 30 shots on net. There was little reason to believe that we would see a repeat of that against a Flyers defense that was playing well and Bryzgalov riding a shutout. A comeback was totally not at all likely. With that in mind, DeBoer took a risk to get an extra skater on the ice. I can understand that.
Yes, it didn't work, but all it meant was that the Devils put up a terrible performance in a 3-0 loss instead of a 2-0 loss. The ENG was the topping on the cake of failure, not the actual substance. I'm not going to get mad because DeBoer wasn't risk averse. If one wants to get mad and/or criticize DeBoer, I suggest starting with the lack of adjustments during and after the second period. Seriously, man, where were they and why weren't they changed later on?
I'm Stretching for Solace: The Henrique line sucked, the Elias line sucked, and the Josefson line sucked the least among the three Devils forward lines that consist of three NHL players. Ponikarovsky, Clarkson, and Josefson all somehow finished positive in Corsi and Clarkson somehow got 3 SOGs at evens. The impressive thing is that they saw the Giroux line the most out of their match-ups at evens. The unimpressive thing is that they did most of this in the first period, which wasn't that bad for the Devils. They faded to the bleakness of the other forward lines in time as all three players got no shots on net beyond the first period.
Forget Solace, Here's Some More Sobering Facts: The Devils only had 10 different players register a shot on Bryzgalov and most of them were simple shots for him. In contrast, only Brayden Schenn and Maxime Talbot didn't get a shot on net for the Flyers. Yes, even Zac Rinaldo got two shots on net and he even whiffed on a wraparound in the second period. That's how bad the Devils were on offense and how loose they were on defense. Only 17 shots from 10 Devils just wasn't going to get it done. The Flyers just teed off on the Devils to a point where upon Zac Rinaldo contributed to the offense. Ugh.
One Last Thought: It's tempting to get down on this game, but the Devils did just finish a six-game intra-divisional run where they went 4-2. The two losses were bad shutout losses, but they put up 14 goals in the four wins so it's not like the offense went on vacation. All the same, the Devils can't dwell on the recent success or tonight's failure. The Devils got a game on Thursday, a game on Saturday, and then a back-to-back on the following Monday and Tuesday. It's still the stretch run, and there's no time to sit in the past. Only to learn the lessons of what just happened and to utilize them in the future for better performances. Hopefully, it's just one bad game after four straight wins in a row.
That's my take on tonight's 3-0 loss. What do you think about the game? Will it just be one bad game? What do the Devils need to do better going forward? Aren't you glad the Devils won't play Bryzgalov between now and the first week of April? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's loss in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented in the gamethread and followed along on Twitter @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.