Hockey, like life, is not fair at times. The New Jersey Devils did everything one would want to do on the road against a strong team like the Boston Bruins. They didn't start off slowly save for four icings within the first three minutes. They pressed the issue and forced their goaltender, Tuukka Rask, to work early and often. They stayed disciplined as David Clarkson took the only minor penalty of the night for the Devils. They limited the damage by the Bruins as much as they could as only David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic regularly gave the Devils problems. They maximized their opportunities against struggling players, particularly their fourth line. They out-attempted the Bruins 64-46. Those attempts were more on net than they were on Monday night against the Islanders. They out-shot the Bruins 40-26 overall and in the first (17-6) and third (12-7) periods. Just by my eyes, I wouldn't be surprised if Jerry counted more chances for New Jersey than for Boston. They even won more faceoffs than the Bruins, 28-23. They did just about everything right or at least better than their opponents.
Except score. The Bruins won 1-0. And it wasn't off a great play or anything like that. They didn't score when Krejci had a free opportunity among chaos late in the game. They didn't score when Lucic hammered a one-timer trailing into the slot in the first period. They didn't score when Jaromir Jagr was on Martin Brodeur's doorstep on Boston's lone power play of the night. No, they scored when Marchand's pass missed Jagr's stick but went right off his skate and through Brodeur's legs. I am not making that up. The only goal of the game went off Jagr's skate and in. Jagr wasn't looking for that, Marchand certainly didn't intend it, and everyone was surprised. Obviously, the home team was happy and the away team was sad, but surprised all around. A literal goal out of nowhere.
The Devils did not score one goal. Believe it or not, this is the first time this season they've been shutout though the scoring slump has been a common refrain throughout the season. Dainius Zubrus had a glorious chance in the second period and hit the crossbar. David Clarkson had a backhander beat Rask but only hit the post. The Devils forced a lot of shots from a lot of different places but every loose puck, every rebound, every second effort just wasn't in the right place at the right time. Rask had a fantastic night but the Devils couldn't buy a goal. And so they lost - because of a fluke bounce off Jagr's skate. Again, hockey, like life, is not fair.
I know you don't want to read about how well the Devils played. I'm a little tired of writing about a lack of good luck. At this point, it's all about results and the Devils didn't get them. That's the infuriating thing about tonight's game. Even if Brodeur had the foresight to keep his stick on the ground or if Jagr's skate wasn't angled the way it was or if Marchand hit Jagr with pass or something else, it might be (emphasis on might) a 0-0 game. But I would've taken a point out of Boston. So would you. And right about now, we'd all much rather have a post-regulation loss. All of those dropped points and poor nights are now catching up to the Devils and so a game like this - a loss despite the effort - really hurts in the standings despite the positive performance. Annoyingly again.
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 will have a Boston-based take on the game at some point.
The Game Highlights: The NHL.com video will feature a lot of Rask. So much Rask. And one bad fluke. When it's up, you'll see it here.
The Few Without Shots & The Many Who Had Them: I'm not familiar with Boston's scorer but I'm going to take the scorer's count for the sake of argument. Only three Devils did not register a shot on goal: Ryan Carter, Bryce Salvador, and Dainius Zubrus - who did smack the crossbar off a great cross-ice pass by Clarkson. Every other Devil got at least one shot on net.
Among the leaders, David Clarkson had 7 (8 including the post) and they all weren't useless shots. He was the only one who finished positive in possession among his regular linemates: Travis Zajac and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Patrik Elias was a big shooter with five shots on net. Stephen Gionta was remarkably efficient with five shots on net in 12:32 of ice time and a higher Fenwick (+9) than Corsi (+8). Steve Bernier and Matt D'Agostini tried to make their marks with three shots each. Everyone else chipped in here and there; even Andrei Loktionov was flinging it with more aggression. And the attempts were mostly going on net! The Devils were just missing two aspects offensively: bounces and/or Rask not playing out of his mind. The Devils didn't get the former, and the latter happened.
Greene Machine: Andy Greene continues to solidify himself as the top defenseman on the team. Want to start him in his own end a lot? He'll get out of it. Need a lot of minutes from a guy? He's your man. Like positive possession? Greene has it and picked up a +9 in Fenwick while playing 22:29 at evens and up against Boston's one really good line more often than the others tonight. Do you require a play that will make you stand up and take notice? Greene gave the world that when he deked Shawn Thornton out of his jock on an individual rush up ice in the third period. Like the Devils' offense, everything was there but the finish - Greene's first shot was denied by a diving defender and Rask denied the second effort.
Who Did They Beat in Possession: Was something up with Zdeno Chara? The Bruins were outshot 8-15 when he was on the ice; no other Bruin can claim to get outshot more than him except for Rask. I know he played 22:24 at evens but goodness, the Devils weren't put off by the big man at all. Patrik Elias, among others, made him and Dougie Hamilton work mostly in their own end tonight. Maybe Julien should have kept Chara with Johnny Boychuk, who wasn't all that good but not nearly that bad tonight? The line of Dan Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton got ripped apart in possession. Each were outshot by 8 to 10 shots and they produced very little. Good on the Devils to lay waste to the fourth line and out-do their third line. Unfortunately, Rask decided tonight would be the night to bailout
If Only He Could Score: I'm struggling to really fault Martin Brodeur tonight. It's not like the Bruins' 26 shots on net were weak. He made several stops and got really lucky with his toe (or Henrik Tallinder's leg) on Lucic late in the third period. Alas, the one goal against didn't look good but I'm finding it difficult to say it was soft. It was a fluke. An unexpected play. Other than that, he didn't have too many errors. He nearly got caught out of his net once in the second, but he not only recovered in time but he stopped a Brad Marchand blast and got the rebound away from the traffic in front. Say what you want, but the Devils didn't lose this one because Brodeur was bad. L's are going to be the most likely result if you can't score.
Credit the B's: Rask had a fantastic night. That's an obvious statement, I know. He did get a shutout with 40 saves after all. The Boston blueline should collectively buy him all the steak he wants for like a week after what he did tonight. He had to be inch-perfect and hope the rebounds wouldn't drop or drop cleanly to a Devil.
There were a few stretches where Boston looked to have some control of the game and when that happened, it was usually due to the work Krejci, Lucic, and Horton. They were the only Boston forwards to finish not only positive but at least +4 in both Fenwick and Corsi. That's a pretty big feat given the Bruins were at -13 Fenwick and -16 Corsi as a team tonight. They had eight of Boston's 26 shots on net and amazingly didn't score in the third period. That line was a fierce one to deal with. Greene came out well against them but the captain suffered.
Jaromir Jagr impressively put up three shots on net at evens, got a fourth from his goal-off-his-skate, and Boston's lone power play shot. That's pretty good for a debut. It's impressive because he managed to finish -8 in Fenwick, -9 in Corsi, which is a little worse than his linemates of Marchand and Tyler Seguin. Well, he clearly wasn't brought to Boston for defense. Making matters worse was that Bryce Salvador saw that unit more than the Krejci line and still fell behind in the possession game. And yet, Mark Fayne crushed them. It's like the Devils defenders are different in quality. I guess credit Jagr for an incredibly lucky bounce and getting shots on net, mostly against the captain but not really against the other Devils.
Repeating the Same Point: I'd love to sit here and type up this and that about finishing or what the team needs to do to score. Moving in close could help, but that's not going to be a panacea. Gabe Desjardens had the inconvenient truth back in the May 2010 and we know it now: Shooting percentage is driven by transient ability. We know this better as luck. And while that will even out in the long run, that long run could very well not include this month of games. All you can do is what you can control and tonight the Devils did a very good job of that. I was expecting the B's to cruise to a win tonight. Instead, the home fans had to hold their breath a little bit and hope the Devils wouldn't get that one glorious chance or fortunate bounce like Jagr got. That didn't happen. It hasn't happened in several other games this season. We all saw the lack of it in full effect tonight. The small victory is that if all the team is missing is luck, then the Devils are a stronger team than we all thought given the quality of the opponent.
But that small victory is meaningless. The Devils need points. They have 11 games left to get enough of them to get into the playoffs. Forget seeding, they just need to get in. And so they need them this weekend and for weeks to come. For that, the team needs goals. And knowing what we know and what we witnessed tonight, we're once again frustrated. I don't even know what to say anymore.
TL;DR: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh. And then: Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
What do you have to say about a game like this? We all want the Devils to score. So what of it? Can the Devils keep up this level of performance for a crucial back-to-back set this weekend? Would it lead to a goal, much less a win? Seriously, the Devils lost off a bounce off a skate, what do you even say to that? Are you more infuriatingly frustrated or just defeated after this game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's loss in the comments. Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and on Twitter through @InLouWeTrust. Thanks for reading.