Remember that 2-0 loss to Ottawa on Friday? How about that 3-2 shootout loss to Buffalo on Wrestlemania night that featured no goals by New Jersey at even strength? Go back a bit further, do you recall that 1-0 loss to Boston where a puck bouncing off a skate decided the game? Well, add another game to the collection of Great ES Performances, No ES Goals by the 2013 New Jersey Devils.
Tonight featured the Devils absolutely crushing the Toronto Maple Leafs in many aspects. Shots? The Devils were up 9-3 after one, 16-5 after two, and finished the game at 31-13. Possession? The Devils finished at even strength with a shots through differential of +21 featuring a 22-10 shot differential in 5-on-5 non-empty net play. Throw in blocks and the attempt differential grows to +31. Neutral zone play and defense? Nearly all New Jersey considering the Leafs needed over fifty minutes to get to ten shots on Martin Brodeur in tonight's game. Crashing the net? You bet. James Reimer had plenty of white jerseys around him and had to either hold onto pucks among chaos or push pucks out wide. Scoring chances? By the count of Cam Charron of Leafs Nation, he's got 16 for NJ to Toronto's 7. Still decidedly in New Jersey's favor tonight.
And they lost 2-0 with an empty net goal. Watch this game if you want to see how puck luck can either kill or reward a team. Toronto had very few shots, much less chances on net. Their one goal against Martin Brodeur was just on the edge of that zone. Marek Zidlicky took an unnecessary penalty in the neutral zone, grabbing Matt Frattin's arm. It wasn't much of a hold. It didn't need to be much of a hold. It was called. James van Reimsdyk won the faceoff, it goes back to Dion Phaneuf, he tosses it to Cody Franson, he goes back to Phaneuf, and he found Phil Kessel above the right circle. With the Devils penalty killers in their formation, Mark Fayne was caught in a no man's land. He was too far from Kessel but stuck in the lane. Kessel fires a hard shot through Fayne's legs and it beats Brodeur. That's not a soft goal unless you believe Brodeur can see through his own defenders. That's not even poor penalty killing as it came right off a faceoff. If anything, I fault Zidlicky for it.
But the real fault lies with whatever keeps the Devils from scoring. If you honestly believe the Devils didn't work enough or make things difficult for Reimer, than I honestly believe you didn't watch this game. The game highlights show it all. Reimer makes a snow angel and it somehow stays out. Steve Sullivan gets fed for perfect one-timer on the far post during the Devils' first power play and he hits it twice to send it wide. Every line seemingly had multiple times of crashing the net because the Leafs were more than content to have the Devils drive their way to the net. Literally by Stephen Gionta in one case. Even Travis Zajac of all Devils powered his way through for a chance to be denied by Reimer. I'm sure I'm missing a couple because there were so many moments where a goal could come but did not.
The cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of futility was the Devils' last power play. It was, believe it or not, an effective power play. They got five shots on net and they were good ones. They were also painful to watch. Adam Henrique got one in close, got his own rebound, curled but couldn't get it over Reimer. Sullivan fed Patrik Elias for a point-blank one-timer in the slot that I don't know how Reimer stopped. Andy Greene actually beat Reimer. At that moment, it was 0-0 and one goal could have made all the difference, and Reimer didn't get to the puck. The post did. For many of the last prior nine games without a win, the Devils put in the work, put in the effort, and put up attempts, shots, and chances. And yet they did not go in.
If you're not a believer in how puck luck has been undercutting the Devils in this game, much less this season, then I don't know if you're ever going to get it or if you're even trying.
One penalty. One shot. One goal. That's all it took tonight and it's all it takes when you can't score goals regularly. The Devils are now winless in ten chiefly because of it. If others suggest something else, then
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: Pension Plan Puppets doesn't have anything at the moment so let's go elsewhere. Cam Charron called it an absurd win by the Leafs in his recap at Leafs Nation. Absurd. That's a very good word to describe games like this in their current winless streak.
The Game Highlights: NHL.com has a lot of Reimer and Brodeur in their highlight video. And the one goal that decided tonight:
The Bitter Section: Congratulations, Toronto. You won another game despite getting steamrolled in other regards.
The Not As Bitter Section: But seriously, a few Leafs did have some good games. James Reimer stood on his head. If he wasn't as good as he was, the Devils could possibly have scored their first goal since last Wednesday and maybe even end the streak.
As for the skaters, Phil Kessel and James van Reimsdyk each put four shots on net. Two players combined for over 50% of Toronto's offense. That one line was the only group somewhere close to effective and Kessel got the all important single goal needed to beat New Jersey these days. Dion Phaneuf was without his usual partner Carl Gunnarson but did quite fine with 24:56 of total ice time, two shots out of seven attempts, and 16:07 of even strength where he actually was one of the few Leafs who finished positive in Fenwick.
Incidentally, those of you who are good at math will note that those three players combined for ten shots tonight. The other Leafs with a shot on net: Mark Fraser, Frazer McLaren, and Jay McClement's empty net goal. That was it.
The Dumbest Leaf: Ryan O'Byrne wasn't the very worst in terms of possession tonight, but he came mighty close to his defensive partner, John-Michael Liles. But he added three really dumb penalties to really set him aside as the worst Toronto player on the ice tonight. His third penalty nearly cost Toronto with a delay of game call after he threw a puck over the glass after stopping a dump-in. His second penalty came after his first ended when he chopped down on David Clarkson's stick and broke it in half. The Devils didn't come close to making him pay on that. But his first was a doozy. Stephen Gionta was caught in an offside position in Toronto's zone on a forecheck. While Ryan Carter held possession behind the blueline, O'Byrne hit him. Because it's important to A) prevent a player from touching up and B) prevent Stephen Gionta from getting back onside. Between that shots through differential of -12 (Corsi was at -17), and his I'm not even sure why he played 15:18 of even strength ice time.
The Quietest Leaf: Nazem Kadri shrugged off a check by Marek Zidlicky in the neutral zone early in the game, pushed ahead, and got taken down by Zidlicky from behind to draw a penalty. That was the extent of what Kadri did tonight.
You Want Silver Linings? Here: I really liked how Henrik Tallinder played. for a guy who was relegated to third pairing minutes when he was active at all in the lineup, he did quite well in his 20:21 of ice time. Adam Larsson looked very good in his 17:51 and even attempted some shots on net. Andy Greene played like a boss in his 25:37 of ice time which included. He came the closest to scoring but alas hit the post. Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, and Patrik Elias haven't always been aggressive enough to shoot but they were making a point tonight with four shots on net each. And again, they weren't weak ones, they each came close to scoring. The line of Henrique, David Clarkson, and Dainius Zubrus did really well at evens tonight. CBGB looked good, especially Ryan Carter with his three shots out of seven attempts. And the fourth Devils power play was really good - the other three were poor. Liked the PK on all but the last one, obviously.
You Want a Point of Improvement? Well: The Devils certainly didn't lack for shots with 31 but they could have had far more when you consider the scorer credited them for 22 misses and 19 attempts blocked. I don't know whether Toronto's scorer is, shall we say, generous with counting attempts. But it does suggest that a little more accuracy by New Jersey could help. Again, this is not to say the Devils didn't register a lot of shots or a significant number of shots from advantageous locations. They definitely did both; Reimer had to earn his A+ tonight. But it's something to consider for potential improvement in future games.
Hockey Isn't Fair: Peter DeBoer's gameplan is executed as well as anyone can hope and doesn't win in his tenth effort. Randy Carlyle is going to go the playoffs and look like a genius despite his team struggling to get shots of any kind against a struggling team, playing Mark Fraser on a penalty kill, and his fear of the word "concussion." Don't read the prior with your teeth-clenched or in a bitter tone. For full intended effect, read this with a sigh and you'll understand where I'm coming from.
That's my take on tonight's game. The Devils will play again on Thursday. Will they even score a goal? Who knows. Leave your thoughts and frustrations about another loss despite a sensational (absurd?) performance in the comments. Thank you to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and on Twitter through @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.