The Devils finally got some good news today- Travis Zajac would return from injury tonight and hopefully provide a spark. And it was coupled with bad news- Anton Volchenkov was a game time decision and didn't play because of a lower body injury. While not having Volchenkov around hurt the team, it wasn't the sole cause of the loss. Rather than blame one of the team's best defensemen for being hurt, I'd rather point out the Devils complete inability to capitalize on their opportunities. The Devils racked up 13 missed shots at even strength- and that's not even counting 5v4. Heck, the Devils managed to get 30 shots on goal. The only problem was that none of them were going in. Couple in some horrendous play by the defense and this game wasn't exactly the greatest game to watch.
Trav is Back, Tell a Friend
One of the few positives tonight was the play of Travis Zajac. He might not have recorded a shot on goal in the 13:31 he played, but along with Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky, those three were a force on the ice. Zajac finished +11 in Fenwick (+14 in Corsi) and had an assist on Kovy's goal. He won 10 out of 16 draws tonight- which was a welcome sign for a team that's struggling with faceoffs. He also had a pair of nice passes, one on the powerplay in the first period setting up Zach Parise for a good chance, and setting up Kovy beside a wide open net in the 3rd. All in all, Zajac's return to the lineup was a good thing.
The Defense Didn't Show Up
While Fenwick and Corsi are good indicators of how well a player has played, for tonight's game it's kind of different. The Defense wasn't very good all night. The only Devils defenseman not to be on for a goal against on the ice was Andy Greene. Adam Larsson had a couple of bad turnovers, but finished +12 in Corsi. Matt Taormina proved that he can't play defense and did very little to stop Jordan Staal on the first goal. Marek Zidlicky got beat by Sidney Crosby twice tonight, one of them being for a goal. Mark Fayne had a horrendous game- he did not do a very good job of containing Evgeni Malkin and was a huge factor in the Pens 3rd goal. Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene had decent games despite their situations. Obviously the loss of Volchenkov hurt the team because they couldn't really stop the Penguins two scoring lines.
Marty Did Show Up
With the exception of his gaffe on the first goal, Marty was one of the better Devils- he made several big stops. None of the other three goals he let in were softies- Staal's goal came off a deflection, Dupuis goal came after a brutal blunder by Fayne and the last one involved him going one on one with the best hockey player in the world. Really, the Devils need to play better in front of Marty. It's that simple.
Perhaps what I think is the biggest reason the Devils lost- Missed opportunities. The first powerplay was the only good power play the Devils had. The rest of them were frustrating to watch. No shots, no good chances... NOTHING. At even strength, they were a bit better- and when I mean bit, I mean very slightly better. Ilya Kovalchuk missing an empty net was the one that stood out the most- mainly because it was oh so close to going in. That could've been a game changer. To make matters worse, the Devils weren't playing dumb- they didn't take a lot of penalties themselves. Two of the four penalties the Devils took were in the last minute of play- Petr Sykora's high stick on Zybnek Michalek and Marty's throwaway "delay of game" penalty.
Hey, Our 4th Line Doesn't Suck!
The 4th line of Steve Bernier-Jacob Josefson-Ryan Carter was excellent tonight. They were able to generate several good chances against the Pens bottom 6- and outplayed them significantly. Hopefully these three stay together for the rest of the season.
- The Devils were able to play physically tonight. Andy Greene threw a big, clean check on Sidney Crosby in the 3rd. Dainius Zubrus stood up to Kris Letang and got the better of him when Letang tried to hit him. Who needs Boulton.
- The juggled lines didn't really boost the offense that much. As usual, Kovalchuk and Parise lead the way with shots on goal with 8 and 4 respectively. The losers of the line lottery- Petr Sykora, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson. Those three were woefully inefffective- Clarkson only got 1 shot on goal, Henrique didn't register one at all and the trio were at the bottom of the barrel in possession.
- I think Matt Taormina should be sent down to Albany. The Devils don't really need a defenseman with his skillset right now- especially with Zidlicky in the lineup. That caused a lot of matchup problems, because Larsson's pairing became significantly weaker with Taormina beside him. I'd much rather see Alex Urbom in his place- he's big, physical and a much better defender. Considering the Devils replaced a shutdown defenseman with a defensive liability tonight, having Urbom around would mean that they'd have someone better defensively to play 3rd pairing minutes.
- Speaking of defensemen getting hurt, good thing Bryce Salvador is okay. Hopefully he's fine after taking a redirection to his face.
- The Penguins are good at hockey. It's not like the Devils got beat up by the Hurricanes, Wild or Blue Jackets. It could be worse.
To sum up the night- the Devils need to be better at both ends of the ice (that's what she said!). The effort offensively was better, as in they managed to get a lot of pucks on net. However, 2 goals on 34 shots isn't going to cut it, especially if the defense is going to herp-a-derp all over the ice like they did tonight. With that being said, what do you think the Devils should improve on? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.