The Goal: 60 minutes will get you two points.
Ah, I was proven right tonight. The Florida Panthers played for the whole 60 minutes, the New Jersey Devils did not. There's your summary. Here's a link to the NHL.com recap complete with all your stats. For the Florida take, check out Litter Box Cats where the Panthers fans should be grinning from ear to ear for what they saw tonight. Credit the Panthers, they played far better than what their recent form and team stats indicated. The four game winning streak by the Devils is over, thanks for reading, and good night.
OK, OK, I'll put in more of a complete effort - something the home team did not do. Read on for my further thoughts.
Let's start with the highlights of the game, there's plenty to point out here from this NHL.com embedded video:
- The first goal against came from a pass (of sorts) to the high slot where Jordan Leopold had the time, space, and position to fire a shot home.
- The second and third goals against came from deflections - both by gliding Panthers right in front of Martin Brodeur, first by Michel Frolik and then later by Shawn Mattias. Ultimately, 24 minutes was all it took for the Panthers to score enough to win.
- The Devils' goals included one well placed hard shot courtesy of Brian Rolston on a 3-on-2 and one unfortunate deflection by Keith Ballard that gave Dean McAmmond his first goal and Peter R of Silver Seven a reason to go "Whooooooo." So that's one shot off the rush and one fluke.
- Michel Frolik snuck behind an aggressive Andy Greene (not that you could have faulted him, the Devils were pressing on offense and had the momentum), received a fantastic outlet pass from Nathan Horton, made one move, and finished it off cleanly.
I don't know about you, but I'd say the first three goals against weren't the fault of Martin Brodeur nor do I think they would have been stopped if Yann Danis had been playing. I'm just saying. I'd also say that Florida scored twice on high quality chances (Leopold and Frolik's second goal) and scored the other two off of being at the right place and with the right deflection (Frolik's first and Mattias).
In contrast, the Devils tried to create those chances, but they failed to do so. They had opportunities. They had plenty of odd man rushes. They attempted many passes across ice to get Scott Clemmensen to do what he's awkward at - lateral movement. Thanks to the Florida defenders playing right on the blueline (and doing well at it), Devils attempted shots from the wings - one went in and many went wide. They attempted longer shots through traffic. And for what? Not much. Especially late in the third period, but I'll devote a whole separate paragraph to that mess.
This yielded more shots than the Panthers, but the Devils wasted a lot of these opportunities. Officially, the Devils had 15 blocked shots, 11 misses - I'd say they were blocked by their own players at least 3 or 4 times in the third period alone, but I'm quibbling. My point is that the Devils weren't accurate or efficient with their shooting and as a result, the
But what bothers me - and most of the fans at the Rock, who were quite lively and loud tonight - was that it took a 3 goal deficit before the Devils decided to turn up the intensity. Honestly, the first period wasn't so bad. Despite Florida trying to use a neutral zone trap (don't say otherwise, I saw 5 in the neutral zone on a few breakouts), the Devils got 9 shots on net and had the better run of play. They looked a bit inconsistent on offense, but with some more hustle and just a little more focus, I thought at the time that the Devils could do what they have done many times and equalize with a 1 goal deficit. That I thought that at all meant that the Devils weren't quite all "there," a bit unfocused.
Then they just fell flat on their faces for the first 5 minutes of the second period, which threw the Devils' chances down the proverbial stairs. Seriously, 60 minutes means 60 - there aren't any 5 minute breaks! Bryce Salvador took a justifiable, if a bit soft, hooking call as Rostislav Olesz tried to pounce on a rebound. The Devils PK struggled to do much and Mike Mottau had no issue allowing Michel Frolik to waltz through the slot. Mottau and White both looked on as the Panthers cycled down low and as Mattias went to the net, where he was rewarded with a goal. In general, Mottau and White struggled throughout points in the game; but the Devils in general didn't look like a team that was ready to play. The first period may have felt a little sleepy, but the beginning of the second period looked Florida was just practicing out there. Terrible and the Devils ultimately didn't recover from this.
I don't want to think that the Devils needed a 3 goal deficit to "wake up," but that's what happened. Rolston gave the team a lifeline, the Devils upped their offensive aggression to give Scott Clemmensen some serious work to do, but what shouldn't be ignored was how well Florida was performing. They were calm in their own end in breaking up passes, making passes out of the zone, and getting the puck in deep on offense and put a few on Brodeur. The Panthers ended up outshooting the Devils 13-11 in that period, despite Rolston pulling a lot of momentum back in New Jersey's way with his goal and despite two Devils power plays (which looked OK, but the Devils were shooting better after them, for some reason).
The Panthers then sat back a bit after Frolik's goal. After all, the Devils were down by 2, the defense was pretty solid for Florida, so the Panthers didn't have to be so aggressive on the attack. Here, the defense only made one mistake and that was critical - Andy Greene got caught on the point with Frolik well behind him. Horton's pass to him was perfect and the then 3-2 game quickly became a 4-2 deficit.
The game also became nightmare as the Devils just got worse and worse going forward. If there was a way the Devils could screw up a pass or a shot, they found it in the next 17 minutes or so. Here's an extended sample of what was seen at the Rock: Miscommunications, firing shots directly into a Panther or a Devil, flinging shots wide when the right thing to do was to put it on Clemmensen, passes hitting skates where they should have been on the stick, giveaways on long outlet passes on the breakout, Devil forwards attempting to skate through 2 or 3 Panthers, odd man rushes consistently leading with passes instead of shots so Clemmensen and the Panthers defenders knew how to read them, rebounds and loose pucks caught in between skates, and easy dumps to the corner. Did Florida press hard to attack? No, and they didn't need to with the way the Devils offense was going. The passing and shooting was garbage in the third period, and that's especially bad since both aspects needed improvement for the Devils to truly have a shot at coming back from 2 down.
Who on the Devils looked good? Well, would you believe it would be the fourth line of Rod Pelley, Dean McAmmond, and Ilkka Pikkarainen? Pikkarainen had an assist, 4 shots, and had 2 official hits; Pelley had 2 shots and 3 big official hits and by my estimate 7 actual big hits; and McAmmond got a goal. They were hustling and hitting; they were the most consistent. Brian Rolston somehow managed 6 shots on net and a goal, but somehow only got 14:38 of ice time.
Well, Lemaire wanted the top forwards out there and, well, they didn't have a good night, really. Zach Parise had an excellent scoring chance late in the second, but overall only managed 3 shots in 20:27 (missed 1, blocked twice), while he showed a lot of spirit, it didn't translate to good puck movement. Travis Zajac didn't have a good game - 1 shot, 3 blocked, 2 missed, and 6 for 15 at faceoffs in 19:22 of work. They are both very talented, but they weren't effective tonight. In retrospect, I'd like to think Lemaire would have given more time to Elias and Rolston if only because, hey, they got a goal in the game.
Nevertheless, the Devils simply didn't play a complete game and that was the source of the loss. Their passing was progressively miserable, their shooting was wasteful, and they weren't focused in those first 25 minutes which allowed Florida to dig a big enough hole for the Devils to sit in. The Panthers played a complete game and succeeded to the surprise of no one. Good for them, bad for the team we support.
After a few wins with not-so-great performances (Buffalo excepted), the Devils put out a not-so-great performance and lost. Honestly, I'd rather have the win; but such as it is. While we can dwell on it, the Devils can't as they have Philadelphia coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading and leave your comments and complaints about tonight's game in the comments.