Two goal losses, like any losses come in many forms. There's the one-goal game that becomes a two-goal loss due to an empty net goal. There's the two-goal loss that is the result of a partial attempt of a comeback. There's the two-goal loss where a lead is blown and an insurance is tacked on. There's the two-goal loss where the losing team actually played at least a decent game but two bounces did them in. So on and so forth. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils suffered one of the more embarassing two-goal losses to the Boston Bruins. The Bruins simply dominated them. The score actually was flattering to the Devils.
As I witnessed the B's do whatever they wanted against the Devils for the better part of sixty minutes, something strange came to mind. A sort of deja vu. Between facepalms over yet another botched zone exit and groans about yet another dump-and-chase effort lost, I noticed how Boston was set up. Defensemen were shifting and moving with purpose. Forwards were dropping in to help while others positioned themselves to break out quickly. There was pressure in the neutral zone and a quick turnover by the Devils often led to numbers going the other way. If no rushing opportunity presented itself, the Bruins got the puck in deep and applied pressure. They made a point of it to have the puck on their stick as much as possible. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this exactly what the Devils want to achieve when they play? The famous notion of "Devils hockey?" Maybe it's a lack of sleep or my own lack of knowledge of tactics, but I can't help but feel the Bruins out-Deviled the Devils.
Since I'm unsure about that, let's use a pithy word to describe how Boston played: bossy. They were bossy. They asserted themselves early and often. The Devils were unable to answer back much. They out-shot the Devils 15-5 in the first period and again in the second period 8-6. The third period did yield more shots from the Devils, but that was while they were losing by at least two. It wasn't a high-event game, but the Bruins were nearly even in overall attempts (44-45), led in even strength attempts (37-32), and out-shot the Devils overall 31-24. The Bruins could have made it far worse but they let off a bit after going up 4-1. By the way, a losing team should be trying to make more attempts as their losing. The Devils really didn't do that except in spurts in the third period. Boston played to their strengths, made the Devils suffer their errors, and controlled the game despite a not-so-dominating-looking final score. It's good to be bossy.
For a team that says they want to make the postseason and understands how important these games are, the actions from that very same team are rather different. It's true that Boston is a great team, arguably the best the East. I said as such in the game preview. In another situation and in another time of the season, we would chalk this up as a bad game by the Devils and a very good game by the Bruins. In reality, the proverbial grave was dug a little deeper by the Black & Gold. It's not six feet deep, but it's getting closer by the day. The math may say the Devils aren't done. Given what I and over 16,000 at the Rock sat through tonight, it's increasingly difficult to feel otherwise.
The Opposition Opinion: Sarah Connors is very happy in her recap at Stanley Cup of Chowder. As she should since her favorite team deservedly won their tenth game in a row. Even with some help from the opposition.
The Game Highlights: Here are the highlights from NHL.com, if you want to see them for some reason:
Four Allowed, Two Bad, and Mr. JUST WINS Didn't: Allow me to summarize how Martin Brodeur played tonight's game. started this game and had to make several important and impressive-looking saves in the first period. Then he left his stick off the ice to allow a very stoppable shot by Patrice Bergeron. Brodeur was beaten by Brad Marchand on his flank in a shorthanded rush no thanks to Damien Brunner picking up Bergeron while backchecking despite Andy Greene keeping in front of him and Eric Gelinas unable to get back in time to stop Marchand. A minute later, David Krejci makes an absolutely brilliant long pass to Jarome Iginla. It was like Patrik Elias' lob to Adam Henrique for a shorty against Columbus. Iginla is clear through to Brodeur since Bryce Salvador wasn't - and didn't - going to get him. Iginla takes a low shot, Brodeur tries to hold it but he failed and it trickled in. Brodeur made some other nice looking glove saves. However, in the third, Loui Eriksson gets a puck behind Gelinas and away from Michael Ryder that is picked up by Carl Soderberg. Chris Kelly comes in from the right side as Jon Merrill goes after Soderberg. Pass, one-timer, 4-1 score. Brodeur made a few more, got pulled for an attacker, and that was it.
It is true that Brodeur made many great saves. It is true that he was crucial for keeping it only 0-1 after the first period. It is also true he gave up two terrible goals out of four. As it turned out that the Devils scored two on Chad Johnson, that is a sad fact. This is Martin Brodeur at the age of 41. This is not good.
A Long List of Complaints About Various Skaters: I could give each of them a small section but I'd rather just write them all down separately under this common header:
I want to congratulate Michael Ryder for continuing to do just as little as possible to maintain a roster spot over the last two months. The Bruins enjoyed playing against him at evens. He had a hand in the fourth goal against happening and accidentally ran into Brodeur after the goal, which added insult to fallacy. Ryder had only one shot on net, had several pucks go off his stick and right to Bruins' sticks either by a turnover or just a bad first touch. As much as some fans crow about Tim Sestito getting minutes on the fourth line instead of Jacob Josefson, the twelfth forward choice isn't nearly as damaging as most of Ryder's performances since, say, late January.
I also would like to welcome Eric Gelinas back to the lineup and demonstrating why he wasn't in it during the Florida road trip. Gelinas did lead the team with six shots on net tonight. However, most of those six shots didn't come from The Truth. Five of them came in the third period when the game was pretty much out of reach given how both teams were playing. I certainly agree with the idea of shooting to score, but long range blasts aren't nearly as desirable as shots from the slot or closer range. I did like his one-touch pass up to Travis Zajac for his third period consolation goal and the team's second. Of course, the biggest problem with Gelinas was playing the "defense" part of the position. He got beaten several times, once for a goal, and was picked on in terms of possession. As great as his slap shot, his clearing attempts can be really weak. As much as he may be able to make an outlet pass, his reads weren't good from his own end either at moving the puck or deciding when and where to step up in coverage. His slashing penalty that negated a Devils' power play was especially bad given he was beaten badly on the play and his foul didn't prevent anything. As much as he could be an effective offensive defenseman, he showed tonight that he's not that player right now - and the best time to develop players certainly isn't in "must-win" regular season games. It didn't help that Jon Merrill didn't have a strong game either but Gelinas' errors were from his own decisions.
Speaking of disappointments, hello, Mr. Patrik Elias. This one hurts because I enjoy Elias' play and he's usually one of the more reliable Devils out there. Not tonight, and perhaps not as much as of late. Amazingly, out of all of the Devils, he got the worst of it in 5-on-5 play. He was on the ice for four attempts and 15 against. He was present for one shot by his own team and eleven against. This isn't to say he was responsible but he's usually a strong possession player. Tonight, Boston made him and his unit - most common linemates: Damien Brunner and Adam Henrique - suffer. I will say I really liked Elias' 5-on-3 conversion early in the second period. He made it 1-1 and briefly gave me hope that the Devils may get something out of the game. Alas, that was pretty much it in terms of positive contributions other than drawing a hook from Dougie Hamilton that may have saved a goal.
In terms of a more reliable disappointment, Bryce Salvador really fell apart tonight. He looked dumb on Iginla's goal, even though I don't think he could have caught him even if he wanted to. He also looked stupid for when Bergeron was able to get behind his side on defense for the first goal against. In general, he was slow, he wasn't effective at trying to win pucks, and he looked lost. Joining his failures were Marek Zidlicky. The Devils got Bad Zidlicky tonight as it seemed like every other decision he made went wrong. He attempted five shots and none went on net. I fear to see what his passing numbers looked like from this one because he was just all over the place in terms of effectiveness. Some nights, his gambles will pay off and you're glad he's on the team. Other nights, like this one, they won't and you wonder who can take his minutes in 2014-15.
Damien Brunner does not belong on the point of a power play unit. Simple as. He also did little else of value outside of that. The same can be said for Dainius Zubrus, except no coach is putting him in a bad spot on special teams. And Tuomo Ruutu, though he only got a taste of the PK. While I'm on the shorter subject of Devils wingers who didn't do hot, I was not a fan of Ryane Clowe fighting Milan Lucic. If he wanted to "spark" the team, then he could have tried to do better on defense and/or offense to not get out-shot 4-8 and out-attempted 8-11 in 5-on-5 play. It sure would be favorable to avoid another potential concussion, but that's just me.
What About the All Important 12th Forward Spot: I wasn't offended by Tim Sestito. If only because his job was to run around and throw hits and he did exactly that, even though I think that's not worth much. Whatever. I'll say I don't think the team missed Jacob Josefson nearly as much as they missed passes, clearances, opportunities to shoot, avoiding turnovers, and so forth. Yes, Josefson may be good at making passes but
What If: There were a few moments where the Devils nearly broke through with a goal. Jagr had a wraparound that beat Johnson but couldn't curl it in. Jagr also blasted a shot off the post in the second period. The first shift of the third period nearly made it 3-2, which would have been mighty interesting. Alas, the Bruins could ask the same question on two-on-ones, breakaways, some of those flashy glove saves. It doesn't appear to me that the "What If" question would yield a better result.
Any Bruins Criticisms: They seemed out of sorts on the Zajac goal, Dougie Hamilton took a dumb charging penalty in a game where the refs allowed a lot to go (his hook on Elias, I think, was defendable), Gregory Campbell took a dumb delay of game call to make it a 3-on-5 for NJ, and their top pairing and the Krejci line got pinned back. Though, it's a testament to Zdeno Chara and Hamilton that they got beaten in attempts but kept shot differential around even. They took care of business in the end.
Your Take: The Devils lost another important game, albeit to a hot and excellent Boston team. What do you think about all of this? What happens now? Please leave your answers and other comments about this loss in the comments. Thanks to those who followed along in the Gamethread and followed the very sparse tweets with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.