Fun, fun, fun, fun, and fun. Those are the five words I would have to use to describe tonight's victorious effort by the New Jersey Devils over the Nashville Predators. The Devils scored early and kept on scoring throughout the evening. The Predators struggled to keep the puck moving going forward, the Devils were superior at getting stops and responding, and their shots dropped in. The official boxscore had only 23 shots taken by the Devils but I'm sure Carter Hutton and the Predators' defense felt like it was so much more than that. This game nearly had it all right from a Devils perspective.
You wanted goals? You got five of them. All from different Devils on varying plays. Jaromir Jagr scored from above the left circle off a keep-in. Cam Janssen scored off a rebound created by Ryan Carter driving the net. Marek Zidlicky converted a power play just seconds into it with a bomb from the right circle. Travis Zajac, who has been playing some awesome hockey as of late, finished off a feed from Jagr on a 3-on-2 rush. Mattias Tedenby, who has only shown good and bad flashes, picked up a loose puck from Andrei Loktionov and went goal line to the net to put the puck home short-side. No fan can complain about this type of production.
You wanted defense? You got that. While the Devils scorer undercounted shots - Nashville probably had 17 or 18, the Devils players just kept Nashville at bay all game long. Officially, they had only 15 shots on net out of 22 attempts on net. The Predators had six full-length power plays and still didn't come close to 20 shots on net in a game. Their power play only got five shots on net out of eight attempts. Nashville was pretty lackluster at moving the puck but a man in red was usually in position to make a play or get the puck away when they did. On the few occasions where the Predators did set up a good look on net, Martin Brodeur was prepared. He made some point-blank stops on Viktor Stalberg, Patric Hornqvist, and Craig Smith - who missed a gimmie in the second period. The Devils' defense was all good and then some tonight.
You wanted possession? Well, the Devils out-attempted the Predators 28-14 at evens and 36-22 total. You wanted power play success? The Devils put up more shots on their four power plays than Nashville's six and scored a goal (and came close to another one). You wanted a team that didn't assume a win? The Devils' most offensive period in the second with twelve shots on net. While they didn't bomb away on Hutton nearly as much in the third, they saw opportunities and got two more goals. I'd say Peter DeBoer and the team did a bang up job tonight.
The only negative I have about tonight's game was the lack of discipline. The Devils took six penalties tonight and most were avoidable. I never saw a player get two minutes for getting some snow on the goalie, but Tedenby got two for that. That's the only call I really disagreed with. Damien Brunner got two calls in the offensive zone, including a hooking call as he over-zealously fought for a puck. Ryan Carter got two separate minors while trying to fight for pucks. Zidlicky added a slashing call of his own. The Devils' penalty kill did a great job against a Nashville power play that seemed lost at times, but they're not going to get away with taking that many calls without some damage being done. Nashville came really close during that fifth power play, on another night maybe they score there and the game's not so different. But the good news is that these sorts of fouls can be cut back on; it's a fixable issue.
Other than that, this game can be called many things. A rout. A blowout. A dominant victory. A straight-up beat down. A whole lot of fun. All of that is true and all Devils fans should be pleased about the big win.
The Opposition Opinion: Dirk Hoag laments another shutout loss for his favorite team in his recap at On the Forecheck.
The Game Highlights: So many wonderful highlights from this game. Relive them all with this video from NHL.com:
Again - The Devils Dominated: Look at the Fenwick (shots attempted minus blocks) graph from Extra Skater. The Predators came close to the Devils only once and then never again throughout the night. The Devils owned this game even with six power plays given to them.
Congratulations to Marty: Shutout #123 and it comes from another night with fewer than twenty shots on net. Of course, it's not his job to face more shots, just to stop them. Dare I suggest he's hot right now? Can we get a heat check on him? Probably in the back-to-back at the end of this week?
Congratulations to Jagr: Jaromir Jagr's first period goal was his 1,700th career point. He's the first European player to hit that mark and only the eighth player ever to do so. It was a great looking shot - one Hutton possibly should have had - and it got the game off on the right foot. The goal also stood as the winning goal, which puts him at a total of 120. One more will tie him for the all-time lead with Gordie Howe. Jagr was his usual amazing self tonight. He may not be fast but he's so strong and smooth on the puck. Every time he curled around with it, I thought he was going to make something happen. His playmaking skills earned him his 1,701st point for a man who really needed a goal. How can you not enjoy #68 right now? I don't think you can unless you're playing against him.
Big Goal for Important Center: DeBoer made the curious decision to move Zajac up with Jagr and Dainius Zubrus tonight. I thought since Loktionov, Jagr, and Zubrus were so good and Zajac and Brunner were performing well that he'd keep them separate. I presume DeBoer wanted to "get Zajac going" on the scoresheet, so he put him with the team's top scorer. From a possession standpoint, it worked quite well. Shea Weber and Seth Jones had their hands full of that trio in 5-on-5 play. It worked in the third period when he finished that 3-on-2 rush. It wasn't just a pretty sweet score that dug Nashville's grave in deeper. It was something Zajac needed. He's been doing everything but produce points, especially in recent games. Now he's got a goal to build on. I'd switch him back for the next game but DeBoer's change did work. (Aside: It even worked for a unit of Loktionov, Tedenby, and Steve Bernier as they crushed it in possession against the Kevin Klein and Roman Josi pairing.)
Fun Facts About Cam: Devils fans at the Rock love them some Cam Janssen as he got a big cheer and a chant when he scored his second goal of the season. Also: Cam Janssen scored a second goal in a regular season. Of course, Carter did the majority of the work on the goal and Janssen just followed up for the tap in but a goal's a goal. He's now back ahead of Claude Giroux in goals scored this season. I defer to user acasser from the gamethread for some perspective about Janssen's second goal:
Basically, we're now living in a world where Janssen has scored two goals. You might as well talk to that attractive person, apply for that job, learn that new skill, and do something you've always wanted to. If Cam can score two goals, then you can do a lot too.
(Aside: Janssen came close to a really unnecessary boarding call against Mattias Ekholm in the first period as he charged right at him seconds after he passed the puck. Janssen missed him entirely, so he just looked foolish instead. Other than that, another not bad night from the "enforcer" with his 6:11 played across ten shifts.)
Two Impressive on the PK: Jacob Josefson was thrust into this game as Stephen Gionta was out due to his right ankle being sore. Josefson was pretty good on the fourth line, which was low-event while positive. Where he shined was on the penalty kill. He played 4:24 and made several nice plays to get the puck out of danger. The fact that the coaches were willing to give him that much PK time is a testament to what they think of him.
In the same vein, Anton Volchenkov had a monster night on the PK. He was out there for 8:03 of the Devils' twelve minutes of killing and he exerted his presence often for success. The Devils defense as a whole was quite good. How can they not be, they only allowed 15 (maybe really 17 or 18) shots total. But A-Train was a large reason why the Nashville power play struggled to get anything going despite all of the time to do so.
Other Bits of Random Praise: Andy Greene continues to be the stand out defenseman the league doesn't know much about. Peter Harrold continues to make the most of his ice time. Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas remain an effective pairing. Andrei Loktionov had a solid night with a primary assist, going 5-for-6 on faceoffs, and getting some PK time and a little PP time to go with his usual duties. Marek Zidlicky's biggest problems were overskating the puck on offense a few times. Adam Henrique performed much better than I think the numbers showed; had the puck not bounce away from Michael Ryder so much, said numbers would be better.
Seth & Shea Did A Lot of Defending: In 5-on-5 play, they were on the ice for only one shooting attempt by their team. They faced 14 attempts, ten of which were shots and two of those ten were in the net. While each made some good plays, for the most part they were chasing the attack. By my eye, the Devils made Weber and Jones look absolutely ordinary. That's a feat in of itself.
Did You Know: David Legwand was in this game? I know. I was surprised to see that too because I barely noticed him out there.
The Big Question: The Devils went up a shaky goaltender - Hutton flubbed his first shot against - and poured on the goals. The Devils' paltry shooting percentage certainly got a boost tonight with four 5-on-5 goals out of sixteen shots. That's great. That's even grand. The big question will be, was this a one-time deal or the start of some better puck luck/more scoring? As we hope for the latter, let's not forget the former is a possibility as well. I just hope the Devils, as a team, realize they're not going to score on 25% of their shots at evens and continue to work on generating more shots and attempts in future games. If they can do that, then who knows, maybe they'll have more offensive outbursts like this one.
Your Take: As you mull that question over, I want your take on this game. Was this not one of the funnest games the Devils have played in this season? Which one of the five goals was your favorite? Who do you think was the best Devil on the ice was tonight? What part of tonight's performance wasn't so good and you'd like to see improved before their next game? How are you feeling now that we're living in a world where we saw two Janssen goals scored in three games? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's big win in the comments. Thanks to all those who commented in the Gamethread and followed along on Twitter. Thank you for reading.