For the first time since April 10, the New Jersey Devils scored a goal in a NHL regular season game. For the first time since March 30, the New Jersey Devils had a lead in a NHL regular season game. For the first time since March 23, the night Ilya Kovalchuk got injured and Martin Brodeur earned his 666th win, the New Jersey Devils won a game. It took ten long games of frustration, anger, sadness, errors bounces for the Devils not turning into goals, errors and bounces turning into goals against, and playoff dreams falling away to get there. It may not mean much in the bigger picture. But it was a wonderful 3-0 win over the Second Rate Rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers that featured several great performances by the visitors.
Martin Brodeur is an obvious standout. After all, he shut out a Flyers team that rang up 11 goals in their last two games. A group of forwards that looked dangerous on paper. A crew that was all about making it look mean while pushing for odd man rushes and one-timers. Brodeur not only got all of the shots, but he undercut the Flyers' attempts at dumping and forechecking with several good plays with the puck. His only real error came early in the second period when he just put too much power in a clearance from behind the net. But it ended up as no big deal because Matt Read's quick shot was stopped by an even quicker Brodeur. Brodeur's shutout is his 121st of his career, the win is his 667th, and he was as good as you could want a goaltender to be.
A more unlikely unit followed as stand out players. Three players, four letters: CBGB. With Time on Ice down, I can't tell you who on Philadelphia saw the most of Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, and Stephen Gionta. Whoever it was, they had problems all night long. Gionta was hustling from start to finish. He drew two calls, he forced an shorthanded chance that was rewarded by Jakub Voracek with a giveaway right to him in the slot (he hit the post), and set up the Devils' first goal of the game. Steve Bernier was a man who had three shots including getting robbed by Ilya Bryzgalov's leg on a tic-tac-toe play late in the game. He imposed his will and created the confusion that led to the Devils' first goal of the game. The main man was Ryan Carter. He scored the first Devils goal in over a week. He nearly scored off a diving shot later in the second period only to hit the post. He only played 13:44 but he made the most of it both at evens and on the PK. I believe after the whistle, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier tried to start something with him - Typical Philadelphia - which made me laugh because the Flyers couldn't do anything about CBGB in the actual game.
Additionally, the Devils got further help from their depth players. Jacob Josefson was inserted into the line up for Andrei Loktionov and he made his mark on the game. While he only played 11:31, Josefson didn't make too many heinous errors. OK, he had an awful giveaway in the third in 4-on-4 - as an aside, Peter DeBoer thinks well enough of the young man to play him in a 4-on-4 situation in a 1-0 game in the third - but he more than made up for it. He inserted himself in between two Flyers to win a puck in the neutral zone from behind, got it out into space as he was about to be destroyed by a third Flyer, and it was in a perfect spot for Matt D`Agostini. D'Agostini turned up the jets, went in all alone, and found Bryzgalov's five hole to make it 2-0. It was one heck of a play by a player who's not yet a regular in the lineup, and a lovely finish by someone who's still not yet set on the roster. The goal was huge in that the Devils faithful - and the team - could breathe a little easier as time wore down.
And with a lead, it was easier to see the Devils playing well. They didn't let up on the attack. After scoring, the Devils went on to finish the second period up 14-7 in shots and then ended the third period with two more scores and leading 11-7 in shots. The Devils didn't just sit on a 1-0 or 2-0 lead. It could have been far worse for Philly tonight if it wasn't for Bryzgalov. But all the same, the Devils got something else they didn't have in a long while: an empty net goal by Adam Henrique. The Flyers fans were unhappy, the Devils didn't get dumb like the Orange & Black tried to goad after the whistle, the Devils went 4-0-1 over a rival team, and the winless streak is over with a strong 3-0 win. If you're not smiling from that, then, well, try a little harder.
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: Kurt R. at Broad Street Hockey just wants the season to end. He didn't think the game was exciting. Hm. This game featured plenty of end-to-end action, several odd man rushes by the Flyers including an memorable 3-on-1
wasted read by Matt Read, plenty of that Brotherly Love Philadelphia is known for, and saw two goals that could lead the organization to tie themselves to the S.S. Steve Mason to sail to the Promised Land. How is any of that unexciting? Of course, my favorite team doesn't regularly get out-possessed so they look pretty good when they do score.
The Game Highlights: Yes! Highlights! From NHL.com, see Brodeur do work, Carter break the drought, and D'Agostini add insurance.
A Summation of Shots: I don't have splits for 5-on-5 for attempts. But here's what I can tell you from the league's official stat pages. First, the Devils out-shot the Flyers 24-19 in 5-on-5 play without the Henrique ENG and post-shots from Carter and Andy Greene. That's what you want to see in general; it's even more impressive with a lead and considering it was 5-9 in favor of the Flyers after the first period. Second, the Devils racked up 61 attempts across all situations which might include posts. That depends on whether the Flyers' scorer counts post-shots at misses. Just over half of all attempts went on Bryzgalov, but the Devils overcame an early case of the blocks as they were able to get more shooting lanes in space as time went on. Third, the Flyers put up 42 attempts. Like the Devils, a little over half were actual shots on net. Unlike the Devils, this is proof that the Flyers didn't play to the score. Unless the scorer hates the home team, it appears to me by the numbers that the Devils had the puck more often and put in a better effort than the Flyers.
And what do you know? The Corsi differential (difference in team attempts at 5-on-5 play) for the Devils was a +13, Fenwick differential (that's Corsi without blocks) for the Devils was +10, and all of the Flyers skaters were negative in Corsi. After a not-so-hot first period, the Devils went on to be the better team. On the road. Against a rival. Oh, how fun!
He Didn't Score But Looked Good: I really liked what Patrik Elias was doing. He had one bad turnover at his own blueline that could have ended in disaster but Read brain-farted in a 3-on-1 rush. Other than that, Elias was pushing forward, making offense work at evens with Steve Sullivan and Travis Zajac, driving possession (+4 Fenwick, +7 Corsi), and was aggressive at times on offense with three shots on net in six attempts of his own. He looked like a man who was up for this one.
He Did Score But I Wasn't a Fan: Adam Henrique just looked off. Passes to him would go astray. Pucks he was carrying would go awry. He was mostly playing with Clarkson and Zubrus so when you consider Clarkson was mostly a passenger in the bigger picture tonight, #14 not looking so good stood out a little more. I didn't like how he had a beef with Simmonds to end the second period even though it resulted in matching minor penalties. I will say this; he did get one point-blank one-timer right at the crease that could have been a goal. I'm sure he'll feel good about getting the empty netter, but he could have been better going forward tonight.
He Didn't Even Get a Shot on Net and Also Didn't Look Good: David Clarkson played in this game. Yep. Could've fooled me, too. He was one of two Devils to finish negative in possession tonight. Unlike the other Devil, he didn't really have reason to finish so low, especially since he saw Luke Schenn (often pinned back tonight by others) and Oliver Lauridsen the most among Flyers defensemen. It should've been a night where he would throw up a lot of attempts, crash the net, and a be a positive pain for Philly. Instead, he was just there on the ice not really causing anyone pain.
So, So, So Close: Before you sit there and say, "Well, two goals. The scoring slump is over!", let me remind you of some of the big chances that went begging. Early in the game, Alexei Ponikarovsky fished out a rebound and lifted it over a fallen Bryzgalov only for it to go through the crease instead of in the net. Dainius Zubrus had a big one-timer right in front of Bryzgalov denied. Carter dove into the slot and hit the puck past Bryzgalov, off the post, and just caught under the goalie's pad to prevent a bounce back in the net. Voracek set up Gionta all alone in the slot for a shorthanded chance that hit the post. Bryzgalov made at least three saves on long shots through traffic I don't think he saw. Carter sprung Bernier right into the slot but couldn't get a clean shot away late in the second. Not long before he got pulled in the third, the CBGB line set up a rush that ended with Bernier getting robbed by a pad on the right post.
My point is that while it's great that the Devils scored two goals, plenty of uncontrollable matters prevented further goals. It happens. I'd love to say that the scoring would actually exist and be more consistent in next five games, but that remains to be seen.
Boss Greene: Greene was the only other Devil to not finish positive in possession tonight, at least in terms of Corsi differential. But unlike Clarkson, Greene was very active in his own end. His most common forward match-ups at even strength included Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux, Read, and Voracek. Not exactly an easy crew to deal with. That he came out just below zero -1 Corsi is pretty good. He was making plenty of good decisions at both ends in his 23:40 of ice time, including 18:45 at evens. Greene came close to scoring but he hit a post from distance, too. He also nearly got a dumb penalty with a boarding on Scott Hartnell that the refs didn't catch. It should've been called, for what it's worth. Nevertheless, the last few weeks have been rather good for #6 and I'd like to think that most fans recognize him as one of the team's top defenders, if not the best.
Speaking of the D: Adam Larsson rolled mostly with Greene tonight and had another good game. I was heartened to see Henrik Tallinder get over 20 minutes. He looked more like the 20+ man we saw in the last two seasons tonight. Hopefully he'll continue to get that once Anton Volchenkov is off his suspension and if Bryce Salvador gets healthy. I especially liked his hustle play to deny Voracek a rush to the net early in the game among his other moves. I liked how Peter Harrold played. For a #6/#7, he went above and beyond his role. Three shots out of six attempts, denying Read's 3-on-1 when Read realized he had to do something with it, actually knocking off Simmonds with a check, and coming out ahead in possession. Mark Fayne was fantastic in possession (+7 Fenwick, +10 Corsi) even though all four of his attempts hit Flyers and he only played 15:54 at evens. Not even Marek Zidlicky was that bad, though he took an unnecessary minor penalty for cross-checking.
CBGB'd: Per the head to head match-up chart, the CBGB line saw plenty of different Flyers. They saw Brandon Manning and Kurtis Foster the most on D, followed by Eric Gustafsson. Playing more than just a few minutes against Foster can help make any forward line look good. As for forwards, they saw quite a bit of the Couturier line as well as Gagne, Voracek, and Giroux. My reaction to that: Ha ha ha ha ha.
Nearly Two Goals from 93: Jakub Voracek did put a puck in the net tonight. He had to kick it with his skate so it was immediately waved-off and confirmed upon return. He also threw a blind pass back into the slot that Gionta nearly turned into a SHG. Instead, he hit the post. I was so ready to give him a primary assist on it too.
Special Teams, Same as the First Verse: The Flyers have been really good on the power play this season. Therefore, it was very good that the Devils held them to only two power plays, four shots on said power plays, and generating the best scoring chance on both when Gionta got a shot on Bryzgalov and then a post within seconds of each other. The Devils are 3-for-their-last-40 opportunities on their power play. While they got five shots through, there were as many, if not more, clearances and decisions to dump it in. To be fair, the three power plays by the Devils had good sections in it. Just not a really great power play over the whole time.
Saturday, as Promised: There will be a goal breakdown of the drought-breaking blast by Carter.
Tonight's Attending Media, Who Works for the Home Team: According to the Game Summary, Anthony San Filippo selected the three stars. He works for the Flyers' website as an in-house reporter. I don't really mind except he named Bryzgalov the third star of the game. I don't get that. Sure, he prevented the game from being a blow out. He showed up to do his best unlike some Flyers (cough Gagne cough). Why not Gionta or Bernier or even D'Agostini just on the fact his most meaningful action of the game was a goal?
A Final Point: It feels so good to write about a win for a change.
What did you think of the Devils performance tonight? Aren't you glad that the team finally scored - let me count here - one (ha ha ha), two (ha ha ha), three (ha ha ha) goals? What did you think of the defensive performance? How about Brodeur; what did you think of his shutout? How come the Flyers had so much trouble with CBGB of all lines? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the game in the comments. Thank you to those who followed along in the gamethread and with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.