Three days off, winless in six games, a return trip home to New Jersey, and then on the way up to Ottawa. The New Jersey Devils should have been completely prepared for tonight's game against the Ottawa Senators. They should have been rested with a clear mind on the goal for the evening. Instead, they fall down two goals early and ultimately lose to the Sens 5-2. What happened?
It starts with the man in net, Martin Brodeur. I said in my preview that Schneider has been the better goaltender so far this season. But I also said that Brodeur wasn't bad in Calgary so it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that he could do a decent job. He did not do that tonight. Brodeur was beaten on the very first shot he faced: a shot by Erik Karlsson from distance without a screen. It went off of his right side and in. Brodeur was beaten on the very second shot he faced: a turnaround shot by Bobby Ryan. Brodeur was at the left post but his form was vulnerable and just looked silly when Ryan's sweeping motion propelled the puck into the net. The goals were so poor even Glenn "Chico" Resch immediately said they were soft. And Chico is nothing but a homer for goalies! The third goal allowed in the second period at least caught Brodeur on his left flank; an open Zach Smith just beat him as he slid over. That wasn't so bad. But the fourth goal. That awful fourth goal allowed. The one from Milan Michalek. It was from distance and it should've been seen. Brodeur did not, it got through, and that essentially sealed the game for Ottawa.
Four goals allowed on 22 shots and three of them were clearly stoppable. The first two soft ones gave the Sens a comfortable lead to work with as they - mostly Craig Anderson - absorbed pressure as the Devils tried to find some way back into the game. Funnily enough, the Devils did get back into the game. Travis Zajac finished off a successful 5-on-3 situation to start the third period. It was his first and the team's first goal since the Calgary game. The Devils kept up the attack and the fourth line, which was actually a force of good tonight, pulled the game within one. Stephen Gionta somehow got the puck to Steve Bernier in the slot and the right winger just sniped one high past Anderson. It was 3-2. It was close. Bad penalty by Mattias Tedenby aside, you wouldn't have been foolish to think that the Devils might, just might tie this game. Ottawa has been a shot sieve all season and Anderson was shown to be mortal at points. Then came the third soft goal allowed, the Michalek goal. That killed it.
One could fault DeBoer for not starting the better goaltender. That's not wrong. If we're going to be honest, I don't think the Sens just allow themselves to be heavily out-shot if they didn't get those early scores. There's no guarantee that a Schneider start would have resulted in a Devils win. The Devils certainly put in a good effort, about a hundred times better than the last game in my eyes. But whether or not it's deserved, if you get the start, then you got to make the stops. Brodeur simply did not. He was terrible and deserves plenty of blame for this loss. He was a large reason why the Devils lost (or, more accurately did not win) their seventh game of the season.
The Game Stats: NHL.com Game Summary | NHL.com Event Summary | NHL.com Play by Play Log | NHL.com Shot Summary | NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | Extra Skater Game Stats - now with 5-on-5 matchups!
The Opposition Opinion: Dave Young notes how the Senators played with fire but still won in his recap at Silver Seven.
The Game Highlights: I don't blame you for wincing at 75% of the Sens' goals against Brodeur. The video will be up when it's available.
At Least They Had A Loads Shots: Yes, the Devils were affected by the score for most of the game. They were chasing the game ever since Ottawa scored their first (the second came quickly). But after that crummy game in Winnipeg, I'll still tout the Devils' offensive output. They put 41 shots on net. They took 62 attempts total. The Devils did a much better job getting the puck on frame tonight in addition to putting up a lot of volume. While some of their seven power plays were awful, their second 5-on-4 opportunity was really good and their 5-on-3 that ended the second and carried into the third period was very successful. Ten of their 12 total power play shots on net came from those two opportunities and they got a goal from it. When I saw the the fourths not convert on a Moose-like moment from Anderson in the second period, I thought they were going to get shutout for sure. Instead, the team picked up the shot production even further. I'm happier with that than throwing pucks away without regard or much thought or not even getting their attempts on target - both seen to chagrin on Sunday night.
CBGB Doing Work: This was undoubtedly the best game from Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, and Steve Bernier for a while. They actually won their matchups in terms of possession. They crashed the net. Gionta had two good shooting opportunities. No, he didn't score on them but since he usually doesn't generate much, the fact that he did is a positive. Gionta was fierce with five shots on net out of nine attempts as well as one penalty drawn in just 12:02 of ice time. Carter looked good in his first game back from a minor injury; he kept things simple. Bernier had five shots on net and the one that got through was very well done. Even with score effects and the observation that Ottawa just doesn't do low-event games or stifiling defense, the fourths were a big plus tonight. I don't think they'll keep it up for a whole season and I may agree that some of them should be swapped out for the scratched forwards over the long term. But tonight was quite good.
Poor Jagr: He was absolutely robbed by Anderson in the third period. Granted, Bernier went on to make it 3-2 later in the third but not long after Zajac's goal, Jagr fought off Chris Neil picked up a loose puck from an Adam Larsson shot that missed. Anderson was fooled and all he could do was dive back. Somehow, he got his stick down to deny the easy put-back for Jagr. The old man made his mark very clear tonight with eight shots on net by himself. He had quite a few good ones and perhaps on another night, he scores one or two. Alas, Anderson happened.
Tedenby's Debut: The game was loaded with penalties, more for Ottawa than New Jersey. With four power plays for the home team and a total of seven for the visitors, a total of a bit over 18 minutes was spent on special teams. As a result, some of the ice times are skewed. For example, it's how Peter Harrold, who didn't have a good game in my eyes, got more ice time than Adam Larsson, who doesn't get shifts on either special team.
The large amount of special team play explains why Mattias Tedenby only got ten minutes of ice time. It was his first piece of action on the ice in weeks and his first NHL game since January 2013. It's hard to criticize a guy who hasn't played much and then got his shifts interrupted by play. His biggest moment was a very dumb hit from behind on Jared Cowen that was correctly called as boarding. The Devils pulled within one on the scoreboard less than a minute earlier so the penalty really could have hurt. I can appreciate Tedenby wanting to be aggressive on the forecheck but that was going too far. Interestingly, he got a few shifts after that penalty. I don't think DeBoer benching him would have surprised anyone; I guess he really wanted to see what he could do. It helped that the Devils killed that penalty, the only one in the third period, of course. Still, he didn't do a whole lot but I wasn't expecting a whole lot.
Larsson & Zidlicky with Different Partners: Adam Larsson was paired with Salvador at evens and it wasn't too bad. They even drew a penalty each because Ottawa got too aggressive for the ref's liking at times. Marek Zidlicky was paired with Andy Greene and they moved the puck especially well tonight. Extra Skater has each of them in the high 80s in terms of Corsi percentage. Sure, Zidlicky wasn't perfect, but he had some notable and positive defensive moments, such as intervening to deny a scoring opportunity for Chris Neil in the third and stopping Bobby Ryan one-on-one in open-ice. (OK, he lost his stick and no Devil would give him one and he couldn't go and get one as the Sens were attacking but still - he got a stop.) It's a pairing I can live with seeing for another game. Now all Peter DeBoer needs to do is to decide which one of Anton Volcheknov and Peter Harrold should sit for Mark Fayne and then the best six defensemen can be on the ice.
Forwards to Shift?: I wasn't a big fan of Damien Brunner or Andrei Loktionov tonight. They didn't make their marks on the game. Dainius Zubrus didn't mesh well with either. You could have convinced me at times that they weren't in the game. They didn't create much as the trio combined for one shot on net and it was by Brunner. Yes, in a game where the team put up 42, they got one. They were the only Devils to not get the puck on frame.
While Travis Zajac got his first goal of the season, I wasn't a fan of his performance either. He didn't get much going forward and if it wasn't for the goal, I'm not sure what his impact would have been tonight. He's been playing regularly with Michael Ryder, so I suspect he missed Adam Henrique to make that line go forward. That said, he should have the quality to make that happen.
Karlsson: There's no question that the best Senator tonight was Craig Anderson. There's no question that he's been their best player. I mean, he's been facing a ton of rubber in just seven games and he hasn't been lit up at evens. In terms of their best skater, I'd have to give it to Erik Karlsson. He scored the game's first goal, he hit Smith with a killer pass that caught the Devils by surprise, and had a hand in Michalek's insurance goal. Karlsson commanded so much presence that Zubrus left Smith to step up on the defender when he got the puck. He only had two shots on net out of four attempts but when the Sens were going - and with 12 shots in the third period, they did at times - he was involved. Well played from #65, I think.
The Power Play Succeeded Once: Now they just have to do it more often. They still need work on their zone entries in 5-on-4 situations. Once they do get up, then they need to move the puck more quickly. By holding on, they just allow the penalty killers to get set. The Devils' power play doesn't involve a lot of players moving about so holding to wait until someone gets themselves open is just waiting. It's something to consider as they try to actually generate more shots. But two good power plays out of seven with one succeeding is a step forward, at least.
The Situation: So the Devils are winless in seven games, they're the only winless team in the league, the fans are increasingly restless with Peter DeBoer and management, and the next game is against Our Hated Rivals at home with a understandably grumpy crowd that I'd gather is not going to like a goal song. Great. Grand.
At least the goalie "controversy" is resolving itself on the ice.
Your Take: My main point is that bad goaltending sunk a team that played a rather competitive game of hockey. Again, I don't think Schneider starting would have guaranteed two points but it would have made it more likely. In any case, I want to read your take on tonight's game. Who did well? Who, besides Brodeur, did not do well? What could have the Devils done differently, especially on the power play? What did you make of Tedenby's season debut? Do you think future broadcasts should have more audio glitches that cause Steve and Chico to randomly have an echo just for entertainment's sake? Please leave your answers, laments, complaints, and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thanks to all who participated in the gamethread and thank you for reading.