Typical Philly-New Jersey Game. - Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The New Jersey Devils pick up three out of four points to finish their home-and-home with the Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-1 shootout loss. This recap goes into what happened in the game, what went well, and what did not for New Jersey among other thoughts.
Four was the goal, but the New Jersey Devils only got three in their home-and-home against the Philadelphia Flyers. In the rematch of Wednesday's game, they lost 2-1 in the shootout. The optimist would say that the Devils came out of a sloppy game with a point and managed to get the puck forward more often than the home team. The pessimist would say that the Devils were fortunate to get a point because they couldn't generate more than one goal again and the Flyers missed all but one glorious chance at an open net due to a puck trickling wide. The realist would say it's a point and the Devils have a game with a hot Montreal team on Saturday so let's not dwell on it.
That second point would have been huge and the Devils had the chances to open the game up. They had five power plays, including a long 5-on-3, and came out of it with eight missed shots, seven blocked shots, six shots on net, one post, and no goals. They got some close chances on rebounds but they couldn't find it home. The Devils owned the first four minutes of overtime and somehow Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky couldn't get it over Ilya Bryzgalov. They had some odd decisions on offense at times, such as constant passing on a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2 instead of a straight up shot, and several misses and blocks at evens. Yet, the only goal came off a deflection by David Clarkson of a Bryce Salvador shot. Ilya Bryzgalov had a great game for the Flyers, but the Devils threw a lot of shots away with 16 misses and 16 blocks to go with their 28 shots on net.
The Flyers had plenty of chances of their own. Their power play looked fierce early on. They had four opportunities and came real close to scoring. Johan Hedberg had to keep his head up because the Flyers got a few free looks around the net. But the Devils' penalty kill really clamped down later on. The Flyers were able to get several rushes on the counter attack after stopping the Devils in their own end with guys in deep. One of those rushes did hit home. Matt Read found Simon Gagne wide open on the right side with a pass. As Gagne cuts into the middle, both Andy Greene and Adam Larsson crash into Hedberg. This meant Gagne had an easy pass to Maxime Talbot, who put in the lay-up. They were rather close with misses and chances gone begging due to bouncing pucks; including one ridiculous sequence that caught Hedberg out of his net (the only time tonight) and bodies in flux. It's because of events like that, I can't say that the Devils were unlucky tonight because the Flyers really should've scored to make it 2-1 on one of those and they didn't.
I will say it was a sloppy game. It was exciting and nerve-wracking, but there were a lot of broken plays in this one. Especially in the third period, when the Devils were up 5-2 in shots with about eleven minutes left in the period and regulation ended 5-3 in favor of New Jersey in shots. The puck may have been loose at both ends but they aren't shots if no one got to them and did something there.
The shootout itself was deflating. Hedberg, who had a good game tonight all things considered, got burned through his legs twice by Matt Read and Claude Giroux. Ilya Kovalchuk scored off the posts and in; but Clarkson got denied on a shot and Elias pulled the shot wide. I know Elias wanted to go far post, but as often was the case with the Devils' offense tonight, he missed. One point earned, so it goes.
The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Faceoff Comparison | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | The Time on Ice Corsi & Fenwick Charts
The Opposition Opinion: The Flyers won a game so Broad Street Hockey is happy that their team moved up a bit in the standings.
The Game Highlights: There were highlights in this game, I suppose. Here's the video from NHL.com:
Clarksnapped: David Clarkson may have been lucky to swing his stick the way he did and when he did to re-direct Salvador's shot in the second period. He needed some. The last time Clarkson scored was a deflection on an Adam Larsson shot on February 15. Yes, it's been a calender month since his last goal. Clarkson broke his 14-game goalless streak tonight and as far as positives to take out of this one, this is it. And if he didn't get that one, it would have been a shame because he was a terror for the Flyers in the first two periods. He put up seven shots on net in the first two periods, including his goal. He was a shot machine in the first forty minutes. The third period was a downer from him as he got no shots on net and his big moment was passing on a 2-on-1 for some reason - a pass that got blocked. He picked up his eighth shot in overtime. But overall, there was no doubt that he had a strong night. He finished +7 in Fenwick to lead Devils skaters, he had eight shots out of ten attempts, and he had the lone goal for New Jersey in regulation. Hopefully it is the end of his slump.
Power Play Frustration: The Devils out-shot the Flyers 21-13 at even strength and finished at +10 in both Fenwick and Corsi. They were up 8-6 in missed shots and tied in blocks with nine each. This meant a lot of those misses and blocks we saw came on the power play. Ergo, it was a frustration to watch. They had a late one at the end of regulation that could have won them the game. The long 5-on-3 should have been a time to set up something down low, but instead they stuck to the perimeter and blasted shots away. The other opportunities didn't yield much at all. If you see a shootout loss as a lost point, then you probably see the power play failure as a cause as to how it happened.
Let's Aim a Little More and Fire a Little Lower: Ilya Kovalchuk had the puck a lot as usual, but it didn't result in a lot of good things. In terms of shooting, he was off. He only two shots on net, one in the third period and one on the power play in the first period. The rest of his attempts included three attempts blocked and six missed shots. Most of those misses came on that 5-on-3 where he just kept winding up for hard, high slapshot one-timers that only found the glass. Defensively, he made a couple of important interventions. But, overall, he was on the wrong side of possession at -4 in both Corsi and Fenwick differental. Kovalchuk was one of the few Devils who were negative in Corsi and Fenwick. He didn't have such a good night and I was legitimately surprised he scored in the shootout. If only his accuracy was better tonight, then maybe this game doesn't get to a shootout.
There Must Be a Suspension: Tonight, some of the penalties the refs called on both teams were a bit weak. I didn't think Zac Rinaldo really boarded Larsson. I didn't think Anton Volchenkov interfered with Scott Hartnell as the ratty-haired forward literally crashed into the net. But one call that had to be made came on an absolutely reckless hit by Brayden Schenn. After the Flyers dumped it in, Peter Harrold helped fish the puck away from Wayne Simmonds. Just after Harrold turned, Schenn flew in, jumped, led with his forearms, and wrecked Harrold. Keep in mind, there's less than two minutes to play, it's 1-1, and it's Peter Harrold. There was no need to throw that kind of hit. Harrold wasn't hurt - and thankfully, he just saw Schenn's frame fly at him - but it was still a very dangerous hit by a player who already had been suspended once for a high hit this season. I hope Brendan Shanahan makes the right decision and suspends Schenn.
By the way, it's garbage like that hit that continues Philadelphia's reputation. But I didn't need to tell you that.
Welcome Back: Luke Schenn didn't make any illegal plays tonight. He didn't play on Wednesday due to illness. Tonight, he was asked to defend a lot as he finished -9 in Fenwick and -8 in Corsi. Not that the Flyers' defense was particularly great, but the only defender who came close to those negative numbers was Andrej Meszaros. And if we learned anything from Wednesday, it's that Meszaros isn't good. I'm sure Luke Schenn will get back into form eventually.
Injury: Andrei Loktionov left during the first period and did not return. The broadcast stated that he would not with an undisclosed injury. After the game, Peter DeBoer only said he tweaked something when talking to the press, which was aired on MSG+. Not that Loktionov was the straw that stirred the drink, but he would have provided some additional punch up on offense. Hopefully, for the sake of the Devils offensive depth, it's not a serious injury and he can return to action quickly.
The injury forced some on-the-fly changes among the lines, mostly for Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kovalchuk. It appeared Stephen Gionta and Travis Zajac split the duties, and then later, Adam Henrique. The combination with Henrique nearly yielded a goal but Henrique, of course, pulled a shot wide tonight after a great feed from Kovalchuk on a two-on-one. Further changes were made when Gionta missed the last few minutes of the second period. Tom Gulitti reported after the game that it was his lower back tightening up. Since he returned, I don't think he'll be missing the next game. But do keep an eye out for what the team will do to fill in for Loktionov against Montreal.
Defensive Effort: I must say, Andy Greene and Adam Larsson didn't have a bad game overall. They actually finished pretty positive in Corsi and Fenwick. But that's not what most will remember. They had an awful moment when they kept dropping back on a 3-on-2 and ran into each other and Moose. It just made it easy for the Flyers to score. That will stick out. So it goes. From then on, the defensive effort was mostly pretty good. There were errors at times, sure, but they cleaned up quite a few rebounds, they didn't get totally caught by surprise much after Briere did so in the first period. They did get picked on a bit during the last minute or so in OT, but they weren't filled with mishaps. Peter Harrold was a bit loose with the puck but he recovered fine enough. Larsson made some good stops late.
Flyer Thoughts: Wayne Simmonds, Schenn, and Read were great together on Wednesday and were one of the few bright spots of their game on Wednesday. Tonight, they didn't do much together and lost the possession battle. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux were a bit better in possession and combined for seven shots. Briere showed up for this game with four shots on net as well. Overall, they only got 22 shots so I'm sure the coaches want to see further improvement. Given that Peter Laviolette may be on the hot seat, I think they'll just appreciate the win in the meantime.
Keep on Moving: The Devils get a tough night tomorrow against Montreal and then Our Hated Rivals return to the Rock on Tuesday. We'll see where they stand before we declare a slump ending. It's easy to see one goal scored out of 28 shots, see Steve Bernier get denied in front, see good shooting chances go wide, see Elias and Zidlicky unable to bang in a loose puck in front in overtime, and other plays and conclude their shooting luck is still bad. I don't think the Devils played so bad overall based on the possession game and forcing Bryzgalov to stand tall. But two tougher tests lie ahead and that should determine what the Devils will need to do to gear up for a playoff run.
That's my take on tonight's shootout loss. What's your take? Was this game sloppier as time went on in your eyes? If not, how do you feel about the game? Who do you think was the best Devil on the ice tonight? Who was the best Flyer in your opinion? Are you pleased with a point? Or do you think they were fortunate to get one? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. Thanks to everyone who followed along in the gamethread and on Twitter with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.