So close, yet so far for the New Jersey Devils. That's how it is when the goaltenders are hot and the offense just catch that one break for a score. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche accomplished something rare tonight: the double shutout. Both teams were denied over and over in regulation and overtime by the other team's respective goaltender. Martin Brodeur made 28 saves out of 28 shots and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 33 saves out of 33 shots. Both goaltenders were justly rewarded with a shutout, a mark of a perfect performance given the workload provided.
Of course, one had to win and one had to lose. Ilya Kovalchuk became the first player on either side to get a puck past goaltender in the shootout, Zach Parise became the second, and Brodeur didn't allow a goal at all in the shootout. The Devils were credited with the 1-0 victory and two more points in the standings. The Avalanche came away with a point, though given their position in the standings, they really needed two.
Personally, I like the shootout and a night like this is the perfect cause for it. The tension rose in the Rock with every save made as time dwindled down. The Devils kept hammering Giguere and the Colorado defense with attempts, pinning them back for extended shifts. I'll admit to holding my breath, hoping the Avalanche wouldn't get a fluke bounce or catch the Devils in an error late for a heartbreaking loss. As both goaltenders were great, a simple tie would have just left the emotions wanting. Fortunately, this isn't the past NHL and so at the end of 65 minutes, I was relieved that the game would have some kind of a decision. Besides, it's not like we judge results around here; we look at performances.
Win or lose in the shootout, a majority of the credit for why tonight ended with a double shutout goes to Martin Brodeur and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. They both played very well. Both teams had chances to score, and they were denied. Both teams had rushes up ice with shots being turned away with aplomb by both goaltenders. Both teams crashed the net and both goaltenders didn't waver. Both goaltenders got some incredible strokes of luck and out-of-nowhere defensive plays to maintain the untouched scoreline. Seriously, both Colorado and New Jersey should have scored multiple goals tonight. In fact, Jacob Josefson alone could have had multiple goals but it just wasn't happening tonight. A large part of that has to go the goalies. My proverbial hat goes off to you Mr. Brodeur and to you Mr. Giguere.
I will also say that I really enjoyed how both teams approached the game. This was far and away a much better game than the last Devils' double-shutout: March 25, 2011 at Pittsburgh. Colorado definitely showed some fatigue at times and faded badly within the third period; but they pressed on knowing this was an important game and really made Brodeur work. The Devils definitely responded from a poor performance against Philadelphia with improved passing, improved shooting, and improved aggression. The Devils got better as time went on and really hammered the Avs with 15 third period shots and many more attempts. How many more? The Devils finished the game at +15 Fenwick and +19 Corsi. Yeah, the Devils took the game over.
A lot of words will be written and said about how the Devils haven't scored a goal since Sunday, but anyone who actually paid attention to tonight's game would know the difference between a bad offensive performance and a very good offensive performance. Tonight was the latter and the only reasons why the Devils didn't score were the same as the same reasons why the Avs didn't: awesome goaltending and some bad luck on offense. Such was the story of the game and the Devils picked up the extra point when they were finally able to beat Giguere one-on-one.
Derek B over at Mile High Hockey has a short recap of the game. Please continue on after the jump for more of my thoughts about this shootout win, links to stats, and an embedded highlight video.
The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts
The Highlight Video: If you love goaltenders getting stops, then this video from NHL.com is for you:
A Reminder: Both goaltenders were hot tonight. The highlight video does a better job than me explaining it. Just know that both goaltenders made some incredible stops and they earned their shutouts tonight. That all said, the rest of this recap will focus on the skaters.
The Dominant Lines: Since nobody scored in regulation or overtime and only four minutes of this game was played on special teams, shots and attempts showcase who really performed well on the ice. A quick look at the Corsi charts and it's no question that the Devils were the aggressors. While they only out-shot the Avs by 6 at evens - the lone special teams shot on net was on the Avs' PK - the Devils just kept trying out there and put up a +19 in Corsi and +15 in Fenwick. There's little doubt that the third period really sent that soaring as the Devils spent rather long shifts in Colorado's end of the rink. What is an open question was who was really doing the damage.The Devils got a lot of their offense out of two lines: the Josefson line and the Adam Henrique line.
By my eyesight, I thought the third line had the best night of them all. Jacob Josefson, David Clarkson, and Alexei Ponikarovsky just ate up their match-ups almost no matter who it was. Joe Sacco mixed it up and more often than not, they weren't succeeding. Clarkson and Ponikarovsky each had five shots on net, Josefson only had one but had three glorious opportunities denied for one reason or another, and the threesome just killed it along the boards and the forecheck. They had a shift late in the third period where the play resembled a Devils power play for a minute - and it nearly converted. In terms of Corsi, Clarkson was a +7, Josefson was a +11, and Ponikarovsky was a +15. By any standard, that's a great night.
Yet, I have to favor the Henrique line. Henrique, Zach Parise, and Ilya Kovalchuk saw a lot of Colorado's top defensive pairing of Jan Hejda and Ryan O'Byrne as well as their top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, and Steve Downie. The Henrique line just ate this situation up like Dagwood eating a dagwood. Kovalchuk led the team in SOG and attempts with six and eleven, respectively. Parise put up 5 shots of his own, while Henrique was more in a distributing role with only one shot - and a very good one as Giguere had to blindly block it with his left pad. Their Corsi and Fenwick numbers were outrageous. Henrique was a +16, Parise was a +11, and Kovalchuk was a +18. Moreover, their respective Fenwick numbers were similarly high whereas the third liners got a boost in their Corsi from blocks. That is crazy.
With a tougher match-up, more shots generated, and more attempts made, I have to say the first line was the best of the bunch. The third line was certainly awesome. It goes without saying that on another night, one of these lines would have scored with the way they played tonight.
The Not So Awesome Line: , the Elias line wasn't awesome. Patrik Elias somehow ended up a -7 in Corsi and a -9 in Fenwick whereas his linemates, Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora, weren't nearly so bad. Elias also somehow fell down when his legs crossed as he received a pass that could have resulted in a goal-scoring one-timer. This line got matched against Jamie McGinn, Paul Stastny, and David Jones and that unit definitely put rubber on Brodeur. Jones had six shots on net (including one robbed by Brodeur during a 3-on-1 rush), McGinn had four, and Stastny just set up guys all over the place. In contrast, the Elias line combined for four total shots. Ugh.
Somehow, the Stastny line also ended up negative in Corsi and it wasn't close (McGinn, Stastny: -10, Jones: -7). I presume it's because Sacco put them up against the Josefson line or Henrique line at times and it just didn't work all that well. Still, while the hot-scoring McGinn and the tenacious Jones didn't score, they definitely made their marks - particularly when Elias was on the ice. It wasn't one of #26's best nights. Fortunately, the other two offensive lines more than picked up the slack.
The Turnaround, Rookie Defensemen Edition: Adam Larsson has struggled on defense in recent games. He may have came back from his injury too early. It's possible he hit "a rookie wall" late this season. Perhaps it was just a bad run of games. Whatever it is, the streak of struggles are over for him. Larsson was very solid in his own end and played 20:55 tonight. He saw plenty of Landeskog, O'Reilly, and Downie at evens and didn't falter too much, which is impressive by itself. He got gassed a few times on long shifts, but that was more or less a function of how the play was going as opposed to Larsson doing something wrong. Larsson was more poised and more effective in getting puck out and going forward. His +12 in Corsi and Fenwick was second to Anton Volchenkov and the only thing Larsson didn't do tonight was get a shot on net. He had two attempts blocked. If he plays like this more often, then he'll have many more opportunities to get shots. Nevertheless, Larsson had a very good game - his first in quite some time.
The Turnaround, Faceoff Edition: The Devils had a very good night on faceoffs against Colorado. With only 43 total faceoffs, this game moved very quickly. Whenever there was a stoppage, the Devils won most of them: 24-for-43, to be precise. Josefson was excellent by going 4-for-5; Elias and Henrique each won eight faceoffs and over 50% of their draws; and the only sub-50% faceoff taker was Clarkson, who went 1-for-4. OK, a team's faceoff winning percentage of 56% isn't anything to parade. However, it's a big step forward from the many other games where the Devils would get dominated at the dot.
Poor Josefson: Seriously, this guy was snakebit when it came to having the puck in a dangerous situation. He was denied on an empty net wraparound in the second period, later denied on that same shift off a loose puck in the crease by Mark Olver, and he had the puck a few times in the third in the slot but just couldn't get a shot off. Josefson did a lot right tonight, he had a great game, yet that first goal of the season just continues to elude him. As with the rest of the team, if he performs as well as he did in terms of getting the puck forward, keeping it on offense, and making something happen, then the goals will come.
Thank You, Fayne: Milan Hejduk was seemingly right on the doorstep when Brodeur got a piece of an Erik Johnson shot. The puck was right there on Brodeur's right flank. All he had to do was just tap it forward. Thankfully, Mark Fayne stickchecked the veteran winger and force him away from the play. In retrospect, it was the defensive play of the night for New Jersey. Seriously, Colorado really should have scored there.
Power Plays Can't Come to the Game This Evening, Please Try Again Later: The power play wasn't very good for either team. The Devils got no shots on net and allowed a shorthanded shot. The Avs got nothing on their power play and almost allowed a shorthanded shot on net though they ultimately repelled the Devils' PK units. The refs let the players play beyond the first period, so there weren't any second chances for either team to work with a man advantage. I will say Parise's hook on Ryan Wilson seemed dubious from a distance, but I'm not going to harp on it since it ultimately didn't matter.
Dollar Hot Dogs Ran Out: I'm only noting this because a lot of people willingly bought dollar hot dogs at the Rock.
Wherein a Fourth Liner Reminds Me of Something Old: In the third period, Ryan Carter came as close to scoring as anyone else when he jumped to grab a puck in the air, threw it on the ground, and swiped at it to Giguere's right. Giguere's pad stopped it and I got a flashback to 1994 when Valeri Zelepukin snagged a puck right in front of the net, put it down, and took a shot only to be stopped by Dominik Hasek who stopped nearly everything until 2 AM when Buffalo scored. It was a change of pace from the 2003 flashbacks I got from seeing Giguere and Brodeur in a goaltending duel tonight.
What's That Worth: Kovalchuk's shootout goal held up as his seventh shootout-winning goal of the season. I wonder how much additional value is provided when someone goes 10-for-12 in shootouts this season and has 7 deciding goals. Sure, shootout wins are also the result of the goaltender making the stop and the other shooters for preserving or adding to the lead. Still, I wonder how much 7 extra points is worth.
By the Way, That Avs Team Was Playing Pretty Well: They're now 6-3-1 in their last ten games and are holding onto eighth in the Western Conference by a thread. They're in a win-now-and-as-much-as-possible mode and the Devils did a good job not getting fazed by their desperation. Sure, the Avs got a point tonight but since they're in the West so that doesn't really affect the Devils. The Devils stuck to their gameplan and eventually got success against a team that has been playing well and has had to have been playing well. That's pretty good, I think.
One Last Set of Thoughts: This game proved that a hockey game isn't made exciting when there's a lot of scoring, but when there are a lot of opportunities to score. Tension builds when both teams get chances to make a permanent mark on the game, and that is both harrowing and exciting. It can be difficult because you're hoping as a fan that nothing goes awry, nothing stupid happens, nothing . At the same time, you know as a fan that it's not only possible that the Devils will get a goal or take the lead; but they're definitely coming close over and over. Whether you're watching or listening to the game, the concerns and the hopes mix together. It's a feeling that is both desired and not desired because of the ups and downs involved. And there ups and downs as both the Avs and Devils traded off surges. The Devils really started taking over in the third period but even then shots were 15-7. The Avs weren't kept completely quiet even though there were stretches of time where they were; and they responded with more pressure in OT anyway. That this happened after two periods where the Avs were up 19-17 in shots and the score was still 0-0 just multiplied the tension I felt and surely the tension that most spectators felt this evening.
Because the Devils won tonight, this all feels great. Wins are great in general, of course. Witnessing Martin Brodeur pick up his 118th shutout of all time was great, too. Those are results, the performances always control how the game is felt. Brodeur and Giguere robbed their opposing teams of scoring, but they didn't rob this game of it's entertainment value. It's all about tension and this game was full of it. Maybe one day, the game's pundits and members of the league will realize that instead of just looking at goal scoring rates.
That's my take on tonight's game, now I want to know yours. How entertained were you by tonight's game? Who do you think deserved to score more? How amazed were you when Brodeur and/or Giguere made the saves that they did? Which save by either goaltender stood out in your mind? Can you believe only two minor penalties were called in this game? Besides scoring, what do you think the Devils need to improve from tonight's game in preparation for their next game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who read and followed along in the Gamethread as well as at @InLouWeTrust on Twitter. Thank you all for reading.