Fourteen shots on net. The New Jersey Devils hosted a Philadelphia Flyers team that has averaged over 30 shots allowed per game, filled their pants in a 7-0 loss to Washington the prior night, started Ray Emery who had a sub-90% save percentage coming into the game, and inserted "defensemen" Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill into the lineup. They not only lost 1-0 to this team but registered only fourteen shots on net.
It's actually worse than it looks in that prior sentence, believe it or not. The one goal came in the first period. Meszaros fired a shot from the top of the left circle, it finds it's way through traffic, and gets deflected by Brayden Schenn. The puck goes off the post and just over the line. Not a bad goal. No real breakdown in coverage. No error by Martin Brodeur. Just a bad break, really. That goal came in at 14:29 into the first period. Since that goal, the Devils had four power plays and two intermissions to get their heads right. They were out-shot 15-9 in the following two periods and their power play did next to nothing. Michael Ryder did beat Ray Emery - only to hit the post. In total, the Devils were out-shot 21-14 and out-attempted 34-27 in a one goal game. There's only one word to describe this kind of performance: sad.
Sure, you could use "embarrassing," "pathetic," "excremental," and many other angry and colorful words you and I won't use on this ice for accurate descriptors of this game. But I think sad fits the best because this was one hideous hockey game. Both teams were misfiring passes and shooting themselves in the foot on plays that could have resulted in successful plays. It would be one thing if the Flyers, angry with themselves about the 7-0 beatdown the Caps gave them, played with some fantastic resolve. But they didn't. They squandered all but one of their four full power plays with little action on net. Martin Brodeur was called upon to make a few difficult saves; emphasis on few. They had odd man rushes either denied by Anton Volchenkov of all players or their own inaccurate passes. They were the better team tonight, of course, but let's not pretend they played some great game. They were like the Devils on Tuesday night and the Devils were more like Tampa Bay.
It would be another thing if the Devils dropped a boatload of shots on net and Emery had to play like Dominik Hasek to get the result tonight. I'd be disappointed but at least we could say the Devils did what they could to try and win. They didn't even come close to that; not with 14 shots on net and 27 total attempts on net in a 60 minute effort complete with five power plays. A somewhat halfway-decent offensive effort by the Devils could have gotten the job done tonight. Instead, they wasted what they had, they literally passed up opportunities to shoot, and they have no one to blame but themselves for this loss. The Devils deserved to lose to the Flyers 1-0. That's just sad.
The Opposition Opinion: Kurt R has this recap over at Broad Street Hockey.
The Game Highlights: Yes, there were highlights. The video will be here when available.
Locked Out of the Door: Key players are key players because the team is in big trouble when they're not around. The Devils dearly missed two of them tonight. Travis Zajac did not skate this morning and was held out due to his rolled ankle on Friday. During warmups, Patrik Elias was nowhere to be seen and was announced out with upper body soreness. I can understand holding players out for precautionary reasons, especially since the Devils play again tomorrow night. But I hope their injuries are minor because this team's offense without 19 and 26 was just miserable. Both Elias and Zajac play in all situations and generally drive the play forward. While Zajac hasn't been on the scoresheet all that much and Elias isn't always firing away, the Devils' could have been far less hapless at moving the puck with either player available. Zajac could have won many more faceoffs to help the Devils out as Andrei Loktionov went 0-for-7 and Adam Henrique was called upon to take the majority (he went 14-for-31). Elias could have been the proverbial straw that stirs the drink that the team was missing. Their exclusion does not excuse the rest of the forwards, most of whom are NHL vets, to combine for 14 shots on net and only three in a third period where they were down a goal. I don't want to hear many complaints about either because one thing was made clear tonight: the Devils are significantly worse on the ice without Zajac or Elias.
Also: the Flyers were missing their top scorer Vincent Lecavalier and the recently-acquired Steve Downie. They also shortened their forwards to ten as they gave Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill only four shifts. Not that a 21-shot, 34-attempt performance is by any means good, but their effort was worlds better than the Devils tonight with two important players injured and essentially ten regular forwards. Evidence that a team can and should do what they can even when injuries affect the roster. In a game, you really just have to be better than your opponent. They were even though Craig Berube probably winced at every two-on-one and three-on-one left begging.
Inglorious Youth: Without Zajac and Elias, Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby played in their place. Tedenby was near-invisible except for a few moments. Josefson did some nice work on the PK but did very little overall. Lack of energy overall, though they just followed the lead of their more experienced teammates. They had their opportunity to make the case for more playing time. Instead, they proved otherwise. Tedenby's simply not a NHL forward. Josefson isn't even better than Stephen Gionta right now. Just as I don't want to hear about Elias or Zajac not being important, I don't want to hear about how youth is always the way forward. The Devils need results; that means they need players to play well - age doesn't matter.
Penalty Kills on Fire: Or more accurately, power plays on ice. The Devils got three shots on net across five power plays. The Flyers got five shots on net across five power plays (one was in the final thirty seconds) and neatly all of them came in their last full power play in the third period. The Flyers couldn't find a seam to shoot at and the Devils couldn't get set-up more often than not. Both teams were very good at clearing the puck and giving their goalies situations where they don't have to bailout their skaters.
One Good Devil Skater: By my eye, Jaromir Jagr was one of the few Devils to not look dreadful on offense. He carried the puck in several times (what a concept!), he maintained control of the puck in pressure, and he tried to make plays to help his teammates get into a position to succeed. Among them, he set up Ryder for his post-hitting shot. Of course, even he had an opportunity left begging. He sent a loose puck lateral across the crease instead of in the net in the second period. But at least he was trying to make things happen. That was far better than dumping-and-hoping. That was not as eye-rolling as when Marek Zidlicky tried to take matters into his own hands on offense. I'll respect that kind of effort as opposed to just floating out there, hoping for an opportunity to come to shoot. Something I saw plenty of from Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner.
Marty Did His Job: The goal allowed was a re-direction right in front and it bounced off a post and just inside the net. He stopped everything else and in that third period, that was important as he gave the Devils a chance to still be in this game. This was his second straight no-soft-goals allowed game. This was his second straight only-beaten-once game. Brodeur did his job. While the defense overall was rather tight - with some heads up plays by Anton Volchenkov of all players - he had to make some important stops to keep the game in reach. The rest of the team played like they were down seven. Let's be real. He's 41 and we know from the past few seasons that he's not going to always be good in net. So when he does play well, like he did tonight, it's imperative that the rest of the team take advantage. It's another way why this performance tonight was so saddening.
No Rest Now After Plenty of It: Making this performance even worse in perspective is the fact that the Devils were off for the last three days. That's three days of preparation. That's three days of getting the team's mind right along with the gameplan. Yet, they came out and were absolutely lackluster for sixty minutes. Not even challenging Emery all that often despite a Flyers' defense that has been ripped apart regularly this season. Now they need to go on the road and get a result - something they haven't done well at last month - tomorrow. The Devils just made things harder on themselves with the egg they laid on the ice tonight and, again, they have no one else to blame for it.
A Symbolic Play of the Night: Volchenkov correctly pinched into the high slot for a shot on net. He misses the net and tumbles after colliding with the legs of a diving Flyer. Philly rushes up for a 2-on-1, Volchenkov tries to catch up (and nearly does), Brodeur stops Scott Hartnell, and Volchenkov rams into the net almost face first. Bad offense by the Devils, slightly better from the Flyers, and no finish either way.
One Last Dig: Paul Holmgren, you're welcome.
Your Take: The performance sucked, the game was very sloppy by both sides, and the Devils deserved to get shutout because they didn't put in anything close to a below-average offensive effort. What do you think of all of this? It's clear what they have to work on in the future. Can the Devils actually bounce back from this game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and who followed @InLouWeTrust along on Twitter. Thank you for reading.