Tonight, the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0. It wasn't always a pretty game but beating on a rival that looked increasingly hapless as time went on is always a beautiful thing to see. Plus, it's very nice to not look at the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline for the second time this season. If the Devils want to get their season back on track, then they need wins like this one. But all of that compares to something that happened that I believe no one honestly and seriously predicted before this game.
Cam Janssen scored a goal in a hockey game.
Yes. The very same Cam Janssen who has scored a whopping three goals and eight assists in the 312 games he played prior tonight scored a goal tonight. The very same Cam Janssen who has put up 95 shots on net in those 312 games scored a goal tonight. The very same Cam Janssen who has provided so little positive and so much negative play while on the ice for incredibly limited amounts of ice time with the New Jersey Devils, Albany River Rats, Lowell Devils, Albany Devils, and St. Louis scored a goal tonight. The very same Cam Janssen that I and many other Devils have lamented his existence in the organization due to the fact he is simply not good at the things that a hockey player should do to legitimately help his team out for years scored a goal. Cam Janssen scored a goal. I keep typing this and I still am somewhat dumbfounded by it.
I have a feeling I'm going to have to break this goal down for Saturday just to capture how it all happened as there was plenty of action prior. So I'll focus on the final moments. The goal itself was a re-direction. Adam Larsson lined up a shot on net - he did not have one on net all night, this was going to be it - and Janssen got his stick on the ice. He had it such that the stick was angled toward the net but not too sharply or flat such that the puck would go astray. It changed the direction, made the puck wobble, and altered the speed of the shot. As Ray Emery, who shut out the Devils easily less than a week ago, slid across, the puck got through. The re-direction was fortunate. The opportunity created deserves a closer look, but that was intentional. Either way, it still counts. Janssen was elated. I was glad - hey, a goal! - and stunned. My reaction was simple: "Cam Janssen scored?" Yes. Cam Janssen scored.
The goal turned a 1-0 Devils lead in the third period to a much more comfortable 2-0 lead. The Flyers weren't playing well prior but they were just awful after the score. Their attacking shifts became sparse. Their passes through the neutral zone and heading into New Jersey became more and more off target. They went offsides and threw pucks away to the crowd's lament. The Devils, to their credit, played looser and kept the Flyers more than honest. The Devils even out-shot them throughout the game while holding a lead, finishing 25-22 They could have been more aggressive at putting pucks on net, but they had many more good shifts of possession and puck control than the Flyers had in actually doing something threatening to score. Janssen didn't just score a goal. He scored a goal that helped demoralize a Flyers squad that was already down in the dumps. I'm sure Claude Giroux loves hearing how even Cam Janssen scored a goal before he did right about now.
Janssen doing something good in a game is rare enough; scoring a goal almost never happens from him. So it is remarkably rare that Cam Janssen scored a goal that had meaning. It's almost enough to make one look outside if you saw a comet or a ginger cow or a something else one almost never expects to see. The deciding goal still managed to be the first one. It was a similar type of goal: Adam Henrique deflecting a shot by Eric Gelinas early in the game. The third goal was a icing on the cake: Jaromir Jagr sweeping up a lazy giveaway by Andrej Meszaroes and putting home an empty netter with 1.3 seconds left and Meszaroes' stick wrapped around his waist. The second goal turned what could have been a nail-biter into one of the more comfortable shutouts of Martin Brodeur's career. So of course it gets this many words this early and he gets his name put in the headline for a positive thing. Cam Janssen scored a goal. Perhaps this is all you may need to know and/or remember from this game. If not, don't worry, I have much more to say.
The Opposition Opinion: Travis Hughes wrote before the game he had no expectations. The Flyers then went on to score no goals. As of this writing, there isn't a recap but when it's up, I suspect there will be no happiness.
The Game Highlights: The game wasn't loaded with a ton of sweet plays, but it was far more entertaining than the last Devils-Flyers game. Also: it has video evidence of Cam Janssen scoring a goal.
The Bad Things First: I think it's best to go over the negatives from tonight's performance first. The Devils did win 3-0 and there's a lot of deserved praise. So I might complain ahead of it.
It's great that the Devils went out early to attack and out-shot the Flyers tonight, 25-22. However, they could have had more and possibly more goals. There were several occasions where legitimate opportunities to score were passed up. The most notable one came from Henrique. After blocking a shot out, he had a clear path to the net. Instead of going forward and having a go at Emery, he held up, looked back, and forced a pass that would have went to Stephen Gionta but was instead blocked out easily by a defender. There were some others, such as the Devils' second power play and Travis Zajac trying to find Damien Brunner for a lay-up instead of putting a close shot on net. Emery was leaving plenty of rebounds, but the Devils were often elsewhere for them. I think the Devils could have reached 30 if they accepted some more good opportunities instead of looking for great ones.
The power play itself wasn't too bad but there were your usual problems with zone entries. For example, Marek Zidlicky apparently loves to be offside or hold up so someone else just does it when he's in control. When the team got set-up, there wasn't that push to get shots through seams. The power play was better tonight than it was in Minnesota and the last Philly game, that's for certain. But there's still plenty of work to be done.
Lastly, I wasn't exactly thrilled with the unit of Mattias Tedenby, Michael Ryder, and Adam Henrique. Each had some very good moments. I liked Ryder's liveliness on offense late in the game. I was pleasantly surprised to see Tedenby create a single one-on-one with Emery, nearly made another, and threw a good check on defense to stop a first period attack. Henrique did a lot of work, especially in his own end to account for both. But as a unit, they weren't so consistently good. Tedenby faded as the game went on, Ryder faded in and out, and Henrique can do only so much.
The fact that I put some praise in some of this indicates how pleased I am with this performance.
Welcome Back, Travis: I was really happy to see Travis Zajac back and he had a great game. Three shots on net, plenty of tough work, and just over twenty minutes of ice time in all situations. He could have had a bit more on offense, but I was really happy with his play in his own end. His play of the night, in my opinion, was jumping on a loose puck late in the game to deny a Flyer (Vincent Lecavalier?) a chance in the slot, knocking it into the corner where the was space, hustling to get to it first, and firing a hard, long clearance off the glass. He did that in nearly one fluid motion and that was at a frantic 6-on-5 moment after Zajac played a lot. It's that sort of play that makes him important and his defensive work stood out great on a night where the team's defense made it look easy for Brodeur. The team does miss Patrik Elias but Zajac's return was very welcomed, indeed.
Welcome Back Anton & Peter: Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold also returned to the lineup. Volchenkov had a very solid game. The Devils' penalty kill was excellent tonight with only two shots allowed in three opportunities. A-Train played the most on it to lead the effort. He even had a shooting attempt on net while shorthanded. That's right, Volchenkov got in the offensive zone and made an attempt while shorthanded. That's how good the PK was and how he was feeling tonight.
Peter Harrold had a rougher go with it, but that's due in part with the fact he straight up replaced Mark Fayne tonight. Harrold played alongside Andy Greene and as a result, he got to play a lot against Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Jakub Voracek. There were some shifts where #10 wasn't in the right position and I got concerned the Flyers would pick that up. But his errors didn't lead to big problems tonight. He did have some very good plays where he got pucks away from forwards and helped it get forward. I agree he's really a third pairing depth defenseman, so he was out of his depth playing with Greene. I would've rather have seen Fayne instead. But I will say that he wasn't so bad that it hurt the team. After all, the team did allow only 22 shots on net to a Philly team that one would think would be pushing for anything at this point. He also drew a call; rather he got pounded by Scott Hartnell away from the play. I would say he was decent enough. By the by, pairing Harrold and Greene allowed Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas to stay together.
Control: The Devils' best line by my eye was the threesome of Dainius Zubrus, Andrei Loktionov, and Jaromir Jagr. While the three didn't score a goal, they did a lot of great work. They led the team line-by-line with ten total attempts and five shots on net. Loktionov played like he should: willing to take some chances and put pucks on net. Jagr played like he has been, just impressive at holding onto the puck, pivoting, hitting his teammates with tender passes. Zubrus really stood out with his stickhandling. He was just smooth and rarely lost the puck (he had one error during a PK that could have led to a 3-on-2 except the Flyers blew it) in the offensive zone. Even on shifts where the line didn't get a good shot on net, they managed to get the puck in deep and maintain possession for a good amount of time. This was especially helpful in the third. It frustrated the Flyers as they had to stay back, it took time off the clock, and it made the home fans even more restless. I would have loved it they created a goal, especially near the end of the second period where they had a few good looks in a row. They earned it. But I'm sure they're just as pleased to contribute to a winning effort.
Gelinas Back but Now Hurt: Eric Gelinas played more like he did when he was initially called up tonight. He showed off his sweet shot three times, not including the one that led to an early goal by way of Henrique. He was given short shifts again but held out well defensively alongside Adam Larsson. He even got some PK time to go with some power play time. Gelinas was having a good game.
That only makes how the night ended so unfortunate. Jakub Voracek was sprung for a long pass into the zone but Larsson and Gelinas got back to recover. Gelinas correctly stayed in the middle as Larsson went over to Voracek. The Flyer fed Scott Hartnell for a quick shot that Gelinas blocked. However, he did it point blank with his left foot and immediately went down on his knees on the ice. He hobbled his way to the bench, which was bad to see not only because he was in pain but also because the Devils couldn't clear the zone at the same time, and did not return. Tom Gulitti reported after the game at Fire & Ice that while his left foot wasn't broken, he left the arena on crutches. I feel so bad for him because he had a good night, he was continuing to make his case to stay in NJ, and now that he's likely joining the group of injured Devils, all he can do now is watch. I hope his recovery is swift.
Number 122: Martin Brodeur earned the 122th regular season shutout of his career. This one didn't require Brodeur to do a lot of amazing things, though he did notably deny Giroux in the first period and Wayne Simmonds on his right in the third period. Credit a lot of work to the Devils for backchecking to deny the Flyers, even when they got caught on offense or out of position in the neutral zone for an odd-man rush. Credit the Devils' defense for getting in the way.
But credit the Flyers the most for playing just a terrible game. You can sum up their offensive effort, and perhaps the season, when Sean Couturier got a free look from about fifteen feet from the net early in the game. It was an opportunity to pick a corner or get the puck into traffic off a rebound. Instead, he sailed the puck high and wide and everyone in orange and black in the stands groaned.
Brodeur certainly did his job as well as he could have. He did stop all of the shots, after all. He even had a sweet clearance during the Flyers' first power play (and you thought New Jersey's was bad, the Flyers' PP stunk it up). But given the stretches of time where the Flyers did nothing with the puck, it was one of the easier ones among the 122 he has had or even among the 12 he has against the Flyers alone.
Second Rate: The Devils were simply not second rate tonight. They out-shot the Flyers, got out-attempted in 5-on-5 play by only 30-34 (that's low but keeping it close with a lead is good), and had the better of chances in their 3-0 lead. That's very good since they very much looked that way in the last two games. They get to play a Toronto team that has been all about hot goaltending and hot shooting this season so at least we can look to this as the successful part of their back-to-back so far. Not that the Devils can boast too loudly about this season, but it's always good to see the Second Rate Rivals to live up to the name I keep giving them tonight. After all, they are the team that Cam Janssen scored on tonight.
Final Point: Cam Janssen scored a goal. He played seven shifts for 3:57. He took no penalties. He had an excellent night given his usual performances in the past. He was not named a star of this game, but it could have been justified tonight. This is how weird this all is. Every dog has his day, so to speak, and Janssen had his tonight. Like it. Enjoy it. Be bewildered by it still. But let's not pretend this is the beginning of a Cam Janssen Renaissance or that he should be the team's twelfth forward or kept on the roster instead of a NHL player. That said, tonight Cam Janssen scored a goal and I can't be down on that.
Your Take: The Devils got a win, won comfortably by a 3-0 score, and did it against a rival who was booed off the ice after the second and third periods. I say the Devils did very well. What about you? Who on the Devils impressed you the most? Which Devil did you think was lacking the most? What part of the team's performance did you enjoy watching? Can they build on this for tomorrow? Most of all: How did you react when Janssen scored (keep it clean, as always)? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thanks to those who commented in the Gamethread and followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter. Thank you for reading