For the first time in nearly two weeks, the New Jersey Devils scored four goals in a game. However, they allowed five to their opponents, the Boston Bruins. The Devils got rolled over in the first period with an early goal against and two shorthanded goals. The misery continued in the second period with a power play goal against; but the second half of the period showed some life by the Devils. A comeback looked more and more possible when the Devils got a quick one. But Boston answered back and only a late consolation goal made the score look more flattering than it would suggest. The final score was 5-4 but it ultimately doesn't matter except that it was a regulation loss and the Devils earned nothing from the game.
In a way, I would almost prefer that the game stayed at 0-4 like it was early in the second period or got worse. This way I could clearly state the obvious: the Devils stunk up the Rock and threw their playoff hopes off a cliff with an anvil attached. But the Devils at least made the game, well, a game. There were positives among this loss and it's not the usual points I've been reiterating for weeks.
The big one was that the Devils scored four goals at all. Sadly, it wasn't enough but for a team that had scored a whopping 12 goals in their last seven games, four goals in one game is a point of praise. Patrik Elias snapped his seven-game goalless streak with a deflection off a Steve Sullivan shot. Travis Zajac stole a puck from Milan Lucic, powered his way through the zone, and finished the rush for a shorthanded goal that broke his nine-game goalless streak. Andy Greene put a well-placed shot in from above the circle. Matt D`Agostini got his first goal as a Devil with a tap-in right at the crease and on Anton Khudobin's flank. Additionally, Khudobin has been a very good goaltender this season. He didn't really let up any terrible goals unlike Mathieu Garon in the last Devils game where New Jersey got four goals. That makes the whole "scoring four goals" thing better. The other important positive was that the Devils even bothered to fight back at all since they clearly didn't in the first period - especially on their power plays. The optimist scrounging for some silver lining can hope that perhaps this
That said, there really shouldn't be any excuse for how the first thirty minutes went tonight. The Devils were clearly the inferior team on the ice. The early goal against was a combination of faults by the defensemen Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov with little help down low as goalscorer Gregory Campbell got inside position on Travis Zajac right in front of the net. Their power play degenerated to a joke whether it was passing up shooting lanes, refusing to shoot, and making soft passes or shots by the blueline that turned into offense by the Boston penalty killers. The latter turned into not just one, but two shorthanded goals against and a penalty shot given. While the Devils' power play wasn't so leaky in the later periods, they remained unsuccessful and largely ineffectual. It was to a point where I did a Daniel Bryan everytime the ref blew his whistle against Boston. Outside of said man advantages, the Bruins had built up such a comfortable lead that they didn't really need to drive the play forward. But even with the Devils taking the obvious router of attempting a few more shots, the Bruins kept them largely in check except for parts of the third period. The skaters as a whole for the first half of tonight's game were so poor, I wasn't even mad when Martin Brodeur let in the power play goal he should've corralled for a freeze. I'm not saying he was great tonight, he certainly wasn't, but goodness gracious, he was not getting any help early on.
Of all events, the game winning goal turned out to be a point-blank one-timer at the crease by Tyler Seguin. A rather difficult shot to stop unless Brodeur was supposed to know it was coming. The whole play was created because Mark Fayne was clearly gassed and lost a race to an iced puck to Daniel Paille. In one motion, Paille threw it in front to Seguin, Seguin gets contact on it, and it's in. 3-4 became 3-5 and the mountain rose up again. Brodeur can't be faulted on that one. Fayne was gassed because the defense was already short two men and so he got beat. That would be the difference maker. D'Agostini's goal came with 37 seconds left in the game and there would be no last-second attack; so it turned out to be just for consolation.
All told, the Devils needed a win and ended up with nothing. The winless streak continues to eight games. Had the Devils lost by a big margin as it appeared it would be by halfway through the game, then it would be easy to describe, easy to be unhappy about, easy to be angry at, and easy to just move on. But, no, the Devils showed some pride. However, that may be all they can play for as the season dwindles down.
The Game 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 Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts
The Opposition Opinion: Stanley Cup of Chowder may or may not have something about this game. Visit them anyway?
The Game Highlights: Well, there sure were some highlights from NHL.com. You should check them out. Wince at the five goals against. Smile a little at the four goals for.
Suspend Train Service: Anton Volchenkov's second most significant event tonight was whiffing on a bouncing puck, losing his target on defense, coming to aid Bryce Salvador when he didn't need it, and looking sad when Campbell scored off a rebound from a Jaromir Jagr shot. Anton Volchenkov's most significant event was his dirty elbow to the head of Brad Marchand along the sideboards in the second period. Volchenkov got a major penalty and a game misconduct for the foul and he completely deserved it. Marchand's night was done from the hit as he was helped off the ice. Even if Marchand wasn't injured, it was a reckless and senseless play by A-Train and he should be subjected to additional discipline.
Suspend the Power Play: Seven opportunities including one long five-on-three, four power plays in the first period including said two man advantage, and only four shots in the first period and eight total on the power play. Steve Sullivan was incredibly ineffectual at the point, refusing to shoot when the B's penalty killers were practically daring him to do so. Sullivan made a bad backhand pass that Rich Peverley picked off and went on a two-on-one with Paille. Brodeur stopped Paille's shot but Paille put in his own rebound for the first SHG. I know he's still new to the team but Sullivan has played on a lot of power plays for a long time. I don't think he learned to be super-tentative and pass up good shots for low-percentage, high-risk, high-reward passes in Phoenix or elsewhere.
Marek Zidlicky was just inconsistent with his puck movement from the point and out. His slap shots were Rolstonian in their effectiveness and he very nearly made the second shorthanded goal when he fouled Johnny Boychuk from behind on a breakaway after the 5-on-3 was wasted. Fortunately for #2, Brodeur stopped Boychuk. Nevertheless, the one defenseman who's supposed to make the unit go was stuck in first gear and helped contribute to tonight's power play futility.
Patrik Elias hit a post on the 5-on-3 and missed not one, not two, but at least three open nets on other opportunities. Like Sullivan and Zidlicky, Elias preferred to pass which was sad to watch because A) he was in good positions to shoot and B) he has a good shot. He was in a position to have the power play do something constructive tonight. Instead, it was destructive and Elias left me wanting more from him.
The rest? What about them? The second unit looked fantastic as they puck-watched the Boston PK set up in New Jersey's end before Andrew Ference took a shot from the point and Campbell deflected it in as he was screening Broduer in the lane. The only player among the rest that I can remember was Andrei Loktionov as he hit the crossbar with a crazy backhander in the slot. Shame that was the extent of beating Khudobin on the power play after Elias hit a post in a 5-on-3 situation.
I'd love to say the team should dump Matt Shaw right now. I'd love to say that the team sorely misses Ilya Kovalchuk playing the point for two minutes; and they clearly do. But the main problem tonight in my opinion was the on-ice decision making. There wasn't a lot of selfisheness when they could have used some. There wasn't any sense of "give me the puck, I'm taking it in" from any player. It was telling that after the first three power plays by New Jersey, it's Stephen Gionta of all players who just drives it in close to remind the Rock what a SOG by a Devil could be. It would be one thing if Khudobin played out of his mind and that's why the Devils went 0-for-8. Instead, the Devils spent 12:28 generating eight shots on goal, two strikes of the iron, and two goals against. It's not enough that the Devils didn't take full advantage but it helped them to tonight's demise. Barf.
Salvador Got Hurt: Salvador looked like a chump trying to body up Jagr prior his set-up of Campbell's first goal. But he was having the standard Salvador performance. Not much possession going forward (he was the only Devil to finish negative in Fenwick differential tonight at -3), filling in space, and trying to make a simple play with more success than we may care to admit. However, he was taken out by injury. During Boston's first power play of the night, which they converted on, Salvador blocked a hard shot by Chara with his right wrist. Salvador was noticeably in pain and he didn't return after. Given where he got hit, it could help explain how Chara scored the power play goal the way he did. Salvador probably couldn't reach in as he normally would to block out Chara's stick or try and trap the puck against Brodeur.
As Tom Gulitti reported after the game at Fire & Ice, Salvador's wrist will be re-evaluated on Thursday. We'll know the extent of the injury soon enough.
Sorry, Marty: 5 goals against on 18 shots against. I know full well a day, a week, a month, or a year, someone will see this stat and conclude that Brodeur had an awful night. The reality was that only one of the five goals against should've been stopped and Brodeur nearly did. After Brodeur denied David Krejci right in front of the crease, he tried to collect the puck with his stick. As he was doing that, Chara drove in, poked at his stick, and the puck slid into the net. In the goal video, you may hear a whistle. One could argue that the ref should have whistled the play dead faster; but that's really on Brodeur. If he's going to try and keep it, then he's got to make it happen and not just assume a whistle would come. Instead, it was the blotch on what was otherwise a strong night from the Devils' PK with no other shots allowed and scoring a shorthanded goal during the major on Volchenkov.
That said, it was one goal out of five. When it happened, I wasn't even mad since it was then 0-4 and I figured what's the point. Well, if it wasn't for D'Agostini, then it would have been the game winning goal. Anyway, the other four goals can't really be pinned on Brodeur. He got no help on an open Campbell putting in a rebound for the first goal. Sullivan created a two-on-one shorthanded rush where Paille took the shot and put in his own rebound on Brodeur's flank. Campbell scored a second shorthanded goal off a deflection that Brodeur didn't see. Seguin scored the final goal literally right on Brodeur's doorstep. I know it went five-hole but there's no way a goalie is fast enough to make that stop given where it came from - it was a point-blank shot. Brodeur's numbers suffered in a big way tonight. I'm sure he'd rather have the W than a healthier looking save percentage. But when I say that Brodeur wasn't the main problem tonight, this is what I mean. Sure, I would have loved it if he made one or two errors, or if he held onto the puck before Chara stashed it in; but the Devils' abjectly terrible play at the time didn't give Broduer help that, say, Boston was giving to Khudobin.
So I Do Understand: I know the Devils only allowed 18 shots but several of those shots were the result of big erros by the defense. While holding Boston (or any team) to only 18 is great at it's surface, it's a big difference between 18 shots against that were mostly seen or 18 shots against including a few odd man rushes, a few rebounds, and other shots from dangerous locations. Salvador and Volchenkov looked dumb on the first goal against, the PP units didn't really get back to help on the two shorthanded ones against, Salvador got hurt prior to the Chara goal and so couldn't do much, and Fayne was gassed and couldn't get to an iced puck against a fresher Paille. These sorts of events had more to do with the goals against than Brodeur himself and continues to drive the notion that the defense has been bad this season even though they've been so great at limiting shots against.
Among the four who finished the game, Zidlicky was a real eye-sore. He really lost quite a few pucks with bad passes and such. Thanks to eight minutes of power play time, he ended up with seven attempts at shots with only two getting on net. I thought he got blocked out more than twice but that could be me not remembering correctly. Still, #2 wasn't consistently poised with the puck most of the time and it helped undercut the offense, at least a little bit.
Shots in Somewhat Shorter Supply: I'm not going to harp on possession numbers so much tonight since the Devils were down by a big deficit rather early. Plus, a few minutes less than a third of the game was on special teams. So, yeah, the Devils were ahead in attempts both in terms of shots through without blocks (a.k.a. Fenwick) and with blocks (a.k.a. Corsi). Two words: score effects.
That said, this game was in stark difference from last Thursday in just shots alone. The Devils only out-shot the Bruins 28-18. No Boston player had more than two shots each. The most a single Devil had was three, a mark achieved by Loktionov and Greene. Not even the shot machine David Clarkson got more than two nor Patrik Elias as he tallied four misses ahead of his two shots. In a way, it goes back to what was missing on the power play: a notion from a player who's just thinking "Whatever happens, I'm going to take this hard to the net" was missing. So was the notion of just bombing shots on net. Given that the Devils were down three to four goals for most of the second period, they could have tried to get more than six on Khudobin - even if two went in the net.
So, Is This It?: Plenty can happen, but the Devils need to start winning right away and nearly the whole way through. They need the goals to keep coming while the defensive effort - the power play alone not giving up opportunities would be a big help, Boston had five shorthanded shots including their two goals - sharpens up. They need to not take a metaphorical dump on the ice for a period like they did in the first period. They need performances like they've had in several of the other games in this winless streak plus scoring like tonight. And they need to do it for most, if not all, of the eight remaining games of the season.
Personally, I wouldn't get my hopes up.
That's my take on tonight's game. For what it's worth, it's not the same recap you've been reading for most of the last two months so there's that. I'm sure there's plenty I missed and plenty to discuss regardless. Please bring all that up and other thoughts in the comments. Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and on @InLouWeTrust. Thanks for reading.