The New Jersey Devils lost tonight and it was unfortunately a deserved loss. The loss ends the eight game winning streak as well ends the nine game road winning streak. The score reads 3-2, but the Philadelphia Flyers were the dominant team on the ice. They played with confidence, they played with smarts, and they were superb in clogging the neutral zone and their own slot. Quite frankly, they deserved the win tonight and they got it. NHL.com has their recap up, with links to the boxscore, highlights, and extra stats.
Poor would be would turn out to be the theme of the game for the Devils. Devils fans have a right to be unhappy with their favorite team's opponent - especially against a rival. But they should not have been surprised. Read on after the jump for my thoughts on the game. Check out Broad Street Hockey later for their recap of tonight's game.
First, some highlights from NHL.com. Come see how poor the Devils looked on the goals they gave up:
The Devils were poor with the puck, constantly turning it over and making poor passes throughout the night. The Devils were poor on defense, conceding 35 shots and a seemingly boatload of scoring chance to the Flyers. From what I understand, Mike Mottau and Colin White definitely did not have a good night. As an example, White's poor clearance on the Devils' first penalty kill went right back to the Flyers, who kept it in the zone. Scott Hartnell was able to get the puck and a cross-crease pass bounced off Mike Mottau and beat Brodeur. Perhaps tonight was the first game where the Devils truly missed Paul Martin (and Johnny Oduya). While Martin would have been a big help, we've seen the rest of the defense have had better nights. Tonight clearly wasn't one of them.
While Martin Brodeur made many big saves and kept this from being a Flyers rout by himself, even he had his poor moments. An clearance off the boards was stopped by Arron Asham, who fed it to an open Claude Giroux, who fed it to a wide-open Darrel Powe for the easy shot off Marty's flank. The clearance would be the first mistake, though the defense could have, you know, covered the other Flyer forwards. The second one would be more costly. When the Flyers forecheck kept the puck in deep, the puck came loose from the corner and just before Bryce Salvador played it, Brodeur poke-checked it. Only it went right to James Van Riemsdyk, who just fired it right back. That would be the Flyers' third goal and that one was fully Brodeur's error. Due to a last second consolation goal, it became the game winning goal. But, really, it was just a backbreaker. Since the goal was Marty's fault, it may look like he cost the game; but he really didn't. He made a lot of big saves tonight - he was the reason it's not 5-2 or 6-1 blowout loss.
As did Ray Emery at the other end. Only the Flyers benefited from a Devils' offense that went into hibernation for stretches at a time through the game. The Devils nearly went 12 minutes in the third period without a single shot on net. While down 2-1 and then 3-1. Seriously. This was the direct result of the Devils struggling on their breakout, constantly clearing the puck back to the Flyers, and with getting passes on target into the neutral zone. This was a problem that occurred again and again for the Devils - though they were able to get it together for some parts of the game.
For the most part, the Flyers were consistent in their attack, putting 35 shots on net on 62 total attempts (14 blocked by Devils, 13 misses). When the Devils were able to go forward, the Flyers' defense was literally right in their way. The Devils also had 35 shots on net, but made 73 attempts: they missed the net 12 times, and were blocked 26 times in the game. When you're getting blocked that much in a game, that's just awful. Jamie Langenbrunner had 5 shots on net and was blocked 6 times. Zach Parise, who managed a goal and an assist, had 4 shots on net and was blocked 5 times. David Clarkson led the team in shots tonight with seven and even he was denied by a Flyer 4 times when he was shooting.
All this speaks to poor shot selection. The Flyers let the Devils have the point, let them have the long shot, and the Devils stupidly took it over and over - only for the shot to be stopped or deflected in traffic. Whatever got through was calmly stopped by Emery.
The shot blocks/poor shooting decisions were most notable on the Devils' five power plays. Sure, the Devils finally did get a 5-on-3 power play goal thanks to David Clarkson's shot off a rebound. Yes, the Devils were able to have some good possession on their power plays. But the blocked shots just prevented it from being damaging. The Devils were able to move the puck in the zone only to not get a shot off at all because of the traffic - and when they did, it often was blocked. Those power plays were missed opportunities and I'm really surprised the Devils didn't adjust much for the Flyers' defensive gameplan.
The Flyers were able to clog the middle and successfully all night long. Emery did face 35 shots, but he didn't have to make ridiculous stops on rebounds or forwards behind his own defense multiple times. He was only beaten twice on point blank shots and you can't really fault him for that. At least, I wouldn't.
With poor defense, poor mistakes, poor puck movement, poor decisions to shoot, and not adjusting properly for the opposition's defending, how can you win? You don't. The Flyers only real big error was taking far too many stick-related penalties (two slashing calls, two tripping calls, a hi-sticking call). The scoreline was only kept close due to Brodeur's big saves and Zach Parise's last second put-back in the slot. I suppose Patrik Elias getting his first two points - assists - of the season is a positive. But even then, Devils fans can't be happy with the result nor how bad the Devils looked tonight. I'm certain Jacques Lemaire isn't happy with the performance.
So what now? Well, the sun will rise tomorrow. The eight game winning streak and the nine game road winning streak are both over, thanks to a poor game by the Devils. They do have a great opportunity to rebound on Thursday and Saturday. They'll be on the road in Nashville and Dallas. Good, winning performances there will not only restore their confidence, but send the message that this season's Devils team isn't just a flash in the pan. As far as the Flyers go, the Devils will have four more games to get revenge on them this season. Now is the time for the team to reflect on what went wrong and work on not making those mistakes in the next few games.
Thanks for reading. Thanks to Steve for the GameThread and to all the commenters. Please leave all your thoughts about the game in the comments and let's hope for a better game on Thursday.