I believe not all losses are created equal. Sure, they may be disappointing all the same. Who wants to lose, much less stand for it? But I can deal with a loss where the other team's goalie got bombarded with shots all over the place but he just stopped everything. I can deal with a loss where the other team got ahead on a fluky play. They may be frustrating but that happens and one just has to deal with it. What really bothers me are the losses where the team doesn't seem to get the basics right. They look second-rate in all three zones. They squander opportunities. They can't even string three passes in a row, much less create a good shot on net. It makes me wonder whether the players, coaches, and even management sees the same thing I do and why it continues throughout a game. A bad period is one thing. A bad sixty-minute effort is another. I can never get comfortable with it, to say the least.
The New Jersey Devils had one of those nights in Columbus. They deservedly lost 4-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It started off 1-0 and then Columbus found ways to equalize, go ahead, and then add an insurance goal to put the game out of reach. As the score increased in favor of the home team, the Devils' decreased Adding insult to negative result, this comes after the team's first and only win of the season. It begs the question. Were the Devils on Saturday a true representation of the team or was it this, the same team that flopped in Columbus, Winnipeg, and Vancouver before hand? I really hope it's not the latter. Otherwise, we're going to see a lot more losses before things get better.
Full credit needs to be given to the Blue Jackets. They played a great game. They didn't get caught out of position often. They didn't give up two-on-ones off a botched pass, a turnover, or a blocked shot. They played up on the Devils and their pressure worked at both ends. They made the Devils pay for their mistakes. Their penalty kill got torched once and only once but otherwise held New Jersey's punchless power play to a mere three shots on net out of four opportunities. Whatever did get through was cleaned up by Sergei Bobrovsky. Even with a solid lead late in the game, they didn't relent and even forced the Devils back to defend. Columbus played a great game. I do not want to disrespect the opposition by not highlighting that. So there it is. Blast your cannon with beaming smiles, Jacket fans.
The hard part about this is that it didn't have to go this way. If only Peter Harrold didn't fire an outlet pass to Andrei Loktionov like he was shooting a puck, then perhaps the puck doesn't go off Loktionov's stick and right to James Wisniewski who rifled a shot that got in (and possibly off Mark Fayne's stick), making it 3-1. If only Mattias Tedenby didn't make a blind clearing attempt that ended with Cam Atkinson firing a hard backhand from the high slot, which made it 2-1. If only Cory Schneider got those last two goals allowed. If only Jaromir Jagr didn't try to give a reverse headlock Jack Johnson, then perhaps there's no power play that ended with Brandon Dubinsky slam a rebound off R.J. Umberger's skate to make it 1-1. If only Dainius Zubrus didn't take a stupid call late in the second by gloving the puck off a faceoff - the same call that caught Dominic Moore on Saturday - then the Devils don't have to start a third down a man. If only the skaters in general could string three passes together. If only more of those 49 attempts on net actually got on net. If only the Devils could even control the puck better with six skaters instead of losing the zone easily and ultimately giving up an ENG to Marian Gaborik. I could go on and on. But it did and the Devils remain winless on the road. The worst part is that they utterly deserved it, building absolutely nothing on top of their best performance on Saturday. This loss was very discomforting.
The Opposition Opinion: It's not up yet, but The Cannon will have something up, probably something positive since their team played a good, solid game.
The Game Highlights: There sure were some highlights. Here they are from NHL.com:
You Know Who Was Missing?: I normally don't believe that one or two different men would have changed the team's fortunes tonight. Most of the team was horrid at moving the puck. However, I would like to think the Devils' own efforts would have been improved with Patrik Elias. He's been sick, he'll be back in practice tomorrow, and he's a difference maker. Tonight, the following forwards had more than one shot on net: Michael Ryder (5), Travis Zajac (3), Rostislav Olesz (3), and Jaromir Jagr (2). (Not coincidentally, these forwards looked better than the rest.) Having Elias involved would have moved someone down a bit but also could have helped them out. From an attempts standpoint, the top two lines did OK but I felt they could have done more, especially in the third period. The third (Loktionov unit) and fourth (CBGB) lines produced very, very little from any standpoint. The power play that put up a whopping three shots on net needed someone to control play and perhaps put a few shots on net. Elias could have even helped on the penalty kill, who got swarmed a few times during Columbus' three man advantages. I'll be happy when Elias is back. Though, I'll be happier when everyone gets on the same page.
By the By: Damien Brunner played tonight, apparently. Could have fooled me. He had one shot on net out of three attempts in 11:13 of ice time, the second fewest amount of ice time on the Devils tonight. I wonder if he's still smarting from his minor injury because he was a total non-factor tonight.
Albany Awaits: Maybe I'm overreacting but that blind clearance by Tedenby that led to Atkinson's goal is the sort of thing that punches a ticket back to the minors. Especially since he brought little to the table. Of course, that may not happen until Clowe's healthy; but I think it's another chance left wanting.
No Captain: One thing I missed during the game was the lack of Bryce Salvador. He made some big blocks on the penalty kill and he wasn't particularly bad when he played. The problem is that he didn't play much. He only played 11:57 total in two periods. He did not take a shift in the third period. I suspect he got hurt since team captains don't get benched unless they're utterly odious out on the ice.
The problem with that was that it meant more minutes for everyone else. Marek Zidlicky and Andy Greene playing well over twenty minutes doesn't raise too much of an eyebrow. Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov getting over eighteen minutes, well, that's out of the ordinary. Volchenkov was actually not bad tonight. Harrold ranged from OK to horrid on the puck. (And in one case on a Devils power play, horrid without it as he took a Clarksonian tumble.) So Salvador being unavailable took it's toll in some way. Yes, Columbus only got 24 shots on net but the on-ice play meant many of those 24 shots were rather threatening. By the way, it's never a good thing that the losing team only barely out-shoots and out-attempts the winning team even with a period to work with.
Could Cory Have Been Better?: I would say he could have. He guessed wrong on the Atikinson goal and even if Wisniewski's shot was deflected, it got through him. If he had part of it, then he could have had all of it. That said, he wasn't getting a lot of help from the guys in front of him. He also made some great stops on the two-on-ones allowed and one robbery of Brandon Dubinsky in front. I wouldn't pin the loss on him. I'm just saying I think he wasn't as sharp as he was in his last two starts.
Dave Barr Needs Something New: Michael Ryder did score a sweet goal in the slot on a power play. But that came after an otherwise pointless and lackluster power play. Somehow, the Blue Jackets forgot about him and Jagr found him. It was an example of great result, poor process. The fact that the other three power plays, especially the last one that could have helped the Devils get back into the game, put up a combined two shots on net is just sobering. The player's execution hasn't been good but it's increasingly clear that whatever Barr's doing isn't working so far.
Your Take: In short, the Devils' performance sucked. Where do the Devils go from here? What changes would you make with respect to the lineup? More importantly, which Devils needed to have a better game than they did? And how impressed were you with the way Columbus maintained form, how they forechecked and how they moved the puck around? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments. Thank you for reading.