The Devils were often in their own end today; especially when the Captain was on the ice at even strength. - Bruce Bennett
The New Jersey Devils started off real well but ultimately disappointed in the remaining 45 minutes and in the shootout in a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. This recap goes into what went wrong for the Devils among other observations.
The Rock was filled with fans, the New Jersey Devils got a quick goal, they piled on the shots in the first twenty minutes, and then they just went flat against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators got an equalizer in the third period among a 45-minute stretch where the Devils were largely lackluster at best. The Devils were fortunate to get to overtime and then equally as fortunate to a shootout. Even in the shootout, the Devils were just "there," lacking the energy and intensity seen and cheered by 17,625 in the game's first twenty minutes. Ottawa's Jakub Silfverberg sniped one whereas all three of New Jersey's shooters didn't even make goaltender Ben Bishop move. The Devils lost to Ottawa 2-1 via the shootout and disappointment is the
adjective word that best sums up the Devils' performance.
After a hot start where Steve Bernier forces a turnover and Stephen Gionta banged in the rebound from Bernier's shot, the Devils tore the Senators apart on defense. They had two consecutive power plays where they racked up nine shots. With the exception of two shorthanded opportunities by Ottawa created by Ilya Kovalchuk, it was a very strong effort by the Devils. Those weren't nine easy shots for Bishop. The Devils tacked on eight additional shots in the first, ultimately out-shooting Ottawa 17-8. They dodged a bullet when Daniel Alfredsson missed on a wide-open net on Ottawa's first power play of the day; but for the most part, the Devils were the better team on the ice. They put the Senators to the sword in the neutral zone, their forecheck yielded additional offense, and they kept up the attack even with the lead. It was a good period for New Jersey. And it would be their last for the afternoon.
I don't know how, but in the second period, the ice just tilted towards Martin Brodeur. The Devils either botched passes in the neutral zone, leading to Senators players collecting it and firing it forward for success; or they botched passes in Ottawa's end, resulting in favorable situations for Ottawa to rush up ice with numbers. It plagued every forward from Ilya Kovalchuk all the way down to Andrei Loktionov. Missed passes, passes that bounced off stick blades, passes that went off skates and legs, and all kinds of bounces went awry. It wasn't just a couple of shifts or just a few bad decisions, it lasted for all twenty minutes. Even during a late power play that could have helped New Jersey get their minds right. The Senators weren't as unfortunate and took full advantage. They nearly found their equalizer in the second period but bad luck or Brodeur denied them (e.g. Alfredsson losing the puck in a 2-on-1). The Senators out-shot the Devils 9-4 and it easily could have been more than that.
The Devils' offense did show up in spurts in the third period but they struggled to get any sustained offense. They had a few glorious rebound opportunities that just eluded them. Patrik Elias, among his five shots on seven attempts, had an open net but was denied in the crease by a skate. In between those spurts, it was more of the same for Ottawa. They kept pressing along. They finally struck paydirt after the Devils won a defensive zone faceoff before midway through the period. Marek Zidlicky takes it and chips it around to the right. Bryce Salvador fires it forward along the boards but Loktionov couldn't get it along and so Kyle Turris just fired it low. The puck went to Silfverberg, who forced a shot by the left post that got knocked into the slot. A wide open Alfredsson was there to pounce on it and he did not miss that wide-open net. That was the equalizer and the sentiment at the Rock was "Well, of course they tied it up, the Devils deserve it for their lackadaisical play." Did the Devils respond with any particular form of attack? No. It was more of the same and the Devils managed to salvage overtime before Ottawa got another glorious chance. The only event of note was a big scrum that saw David Clarkson and Chris Neil kicked out of the game and Patrik Elias taking two minors, giving Ottawa a power play going into overtime.
The Devils killed off the power play well enough and managed to do nothing with any possession. No shots on net, just one attempt that missed, and that was it. Ottawa at least got three shots on net. The shootout continued that offensive effort as Kovalchuk didn't cause Bishop to move and missed, Elias fired it right into Bishop, and Bobby Butler missed. It didn't matter who DeBoer sent out, in retrospect, given what little they did in terms of moves, fakes, or feints. Ultimately, Brodeur had a very good game, the fans showed up, and the skaters let both down after a good first period. The Senators were the more active team in the following 45 minutes and they earned their win. There is only one word for that: disappointment.
The Opposition Opinion: The fellows at Silver Seven are pleased as punch that A) their team scored a goal and B) their team won a game. As they should.
The Game Highlights: I suppose there were highlights in this game. Check out this video from NHL.com to see what they were:
The Corsi Charts: As an apology for being so late with this recap, here are the Corsi charts for the game. Remember that this is for even strength situations, and I did include overtime. The Devils fell behind Ottawa 34-38 in total shooting attempts. They were better in the first at 10-8 (again, their power plays did a lot of good work), but they were behind 8-14 (most of those 8 were misses and blocks), and snuck ahead 15-13 in the third. Overtime was 1-3 in favor of the visitors; the three being shots and the one being a miss.
Surprise, surprise, Ottawa's top line carried the day. Daniel Alfredsson, Kyle Turris, and Jakob Silfverberg got the equalizer and gave the Devils' defense a lot of problems today. I'll give you three guesses as to which one saw them the most and suffered. In other quick findings, Patrick Wiercioch rode with the Turris line to success. Sergei Gonchar played over 21 minutes at evens and came out ahead. That's proof of a good day from the veteran. I'm not sure how Chris Neil came out so well, which just adds to his factor of annoyance. Lastly, I'm lamenting the Devils not doing more against the weakened depth of the Senators. They didn't get burned much outside of the first but they didn't do much either.
Bryce Salvador saw a lot of 11-7-33 and lost big. He did save a goal at one point so it wasn't all bad but whether he was with Marek Zidlicky or Anton Volchenkov, the Senators were usually in New Jersey's end when #24 was out there. Other than that, it should no surprise that Kovalchuk came out bad in possession since he had a bad game. Adam Henrique fell negative even though his usual linemates came out well because he also had a bad game. It surprises me that Stephen Gionta came out so low but he was shifted around after what happened to Ryan Carter and that helped him suffer in possession.
The Carter Injury: With less than five minutes in the second period, Carter got crunched along the sideboards by Neil and Dave Dziurzynski. He went right down to the ice and play stopped. The Devils trainer checked him out and while Carter skated off the ice on his own, he did not return. It is suspected that he had suffered some kind of head injury. After the game, Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice that Carter insists he's OK and that he's not suffering any dizziness. I'm glad the Devils kept him out of the game regardless. There's no need to risk a serious injury. I hope that Carter is right and the doctors clear him soon.
It wouldn't surprise me if we saw Jacob Josefson (who scored a goal in a 5-3 loss to Syracuse today) back with New Jersey sooner rather than later regardless of his injury. With his absence combined with Krys Barch not playing more than 4:37, Peter DeBoer had to switch up the forwards considerably. Given how punchless their offense was in the second period, it wasn't a bad idea to try some new things. Therefore, we saw Travis Zajac back with Elias and Clarkson, Henrique with Butler and Kovalchuk, and Ponikarovsky with Gionta and Bernier among other adjustments. None of these units really clicked.
The Debut of Loktionov: As far as first games go, Andrei Loktionov could have done better. He didn't do much on the ice that was noticeable. He ended up just at -1 in Corsi differential so he wasn't a liability in terms of possession. Loktionov did take a lazy hooking penalty, he went 4-for-11 on faceoffs, he had no shots or attempts on net of any kind, and he got beat along the boards that resulted in Ottawa's only goal in regulation. OK, that last point may be a bit harsh but it certainly doesn't look good for someone looking to impress. Will he get another look? Probably. Does he need to do better to keep getting them? Absolutely.
The Scolding of Clarkson: All game long, Clarkson was notably jacking his jaw and yapping on the ice instead of using
By the by, Clarkson, when you have a shooting lane, shoot! That's what you do! What were you doing passing on that lone opportunity you had in the second?
The Two-Thirds Praise for the Power Play: Nine shots on net! And they were good shots too! Ben Bishop really had to stretch on most of them and the Devils took them from all over the place. The only complaint one can have about the two first period power plays was that Kovalchuk gave the Senators two scoring chances. But the Devils escaped and still managed to get set up in Ottawa's end and make good plays. It was the best they could do without scoring.
The third power play, though, was wasted. Just like most of the offense in that second period and for stretches of the third.
The Silver Lining of the Penalty Kill: The Devils killed both of Ottawa's power plays and didn't allow a shot on net. Officially, they didn't. Alfredsson had a clear look at the net off a rebound off the end boards but he put it into the outside of the net. That doesn't count. Nevertheless, after allowing a power play goal in each of their last five games, the Devils snapped that streak. That's an actual positive to take away from the game.
The Imbalance in Shots: Kovalchuk had five shots on net, four of them came in the first period. Clarkson had four shots, three of them came in the first and all of them on those two power plays. Alexei Ponikarovsky actually had four shots, three of them came in the third. Patrik Elias was the only Devil to have at least one shot on net in all three periods - notice how I didn't mention overtime. Travis Zajac had two shots on net, both came in the first period on their power plays. Steve Bernier only had two shots on net, the first led to Gionta's goal and the third came in the third period. Stephen Gionta's goal was his only shot and it came within the first two minutes. Butler only had one shot on net in the third. There's a lot of gaps in when they came and in those gaps, the Senators attacked. And for guys like Kovalchuk and Clarkson, if they're not getting attempts or shots on net regularly, then that makes it much easier for the opposition. And it was today. Also, notice that the Devils had more than eight forwards. Four didn't even get a shot on net: Henrique (more proof of how bad he was today), Carter, Loktionov, and Barch.
The Plea for Fayne: Mark Fayne needs to be in this lineup. Marek Zidlicky looked unsure today and got beat more than a few times. I know that fans state that he actually brings some offense to the blueline; the problem is that we're not seeing a whole lot of defense being brought to the table. Bryce Salvador was repeatedly pinned back and has been all season except when he's alongside Fayne. Then, and only then, does he have a chance to out ahead in possession. I don't know about you, but it's clear to me what the swap could be. Should DeBoer absolutely need Zidlicky in the lineup, well, Anton Volchenkov made some bizarre decisions today and one bad idea to pinch nearly blew the Devils up only for fate to deny Alfredsson control o the puck on a 2-on-1. Given that he only plays about 14 minutes at even strength, I'm sure he can sit for a game or two. Or, hey, Henrik Tallinder can be put back on the bench. This is the second straight game where the Devils allowed over 30 shots against and the second straight game where they don't have their best defensive defenseman active. Mark Fayne needs to be in this lineup.
The Lament of Passes: Seriously, guys, stick to stick. Not stick to boards three feet behind the player. Not stick to skates. Not stick to other team's stick. Not stick to space resulting in an unnecessary icing. Not stick to bodypart. If you want to know how Ottawa won the neutral zone battle and out-did the Devils at even strength shooting opportunities, then look no further than the Devils' passing into, within, and out of the neutral zone after the second period. It was horrid, much to the visitors' benefit.
The Praise for Goalies: Ben Bishop came into a tough situation in the first period, coughed up a juicy rebound that burned him, and he was stellar everywhere else. He denied all that the Devils threw it at him and didn't even have to move in the shootout. He had a very good game in relief of Craig Anderson. If nothing else, Sens fans should feel good that their goaltending situation is solid as a rock.
Martin Brodeur was the only Devil who played remotely all day long. I actually do feel bad for him. He made a number of tough stops, he weathered the storm assisted by a lackluster effort by his teammates, and he comes out a shootout loser for it. Brodeur did his best and got the First Star of the Game by Today's Attending Media; but his teammates wasted his performance. Even after that second period, they could have pushed forward more but it wasn't enough in the third.
The Praise for the Senators: Their top guys are injured, they remain slumping on the power play, and they didn't show any signs of breaking down. After coming out of the first period down 1-0, it was clear to me that they would steel their resolve and fight to make a game of it. They did just that and their myriad of 3-on-2s and massive amount of neutral zone stoppages were the evidence. The Senators may fall apart from their injuries but today showed that it wasn't going to happen right away. The Turris line had a good game and got a great play for their equalizer, Weircioch came out of the press box and put up five shots on net and was very positive in possession, and they took the "W" when available. Well done to them. They showed much more on the ice than the Devils today.
The Last Point: The Rock really was full of fans today. More people got President's Day off than I would have though. Too bad the Devils didn't fully reward the sellout.
That's my admittedly pessimistic take on today's game. What's yours? Do you think it's just a bad game and they'll shake it off, or is it a sign of worse things to come? Which Devil not named Brodeur stood out in your eyes? What about today's performance disappointed you the most? What do you think they need to work on before Thursday's game against Washington? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about today's game in the comments. Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and on Twitter with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.