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NJ Devils Failed on Special Teams in 4-2 Loss to the Flyers

The New Jersey Devils lost two games in a row for the first time since January 6-8, when they lost to Carolina and Atlanta.  Since then, the Devils have made it a habit to always turn out better after losses.  Tonight, and infuriatingly so, the Devils did not do that after losing to Boston on Sunday.  The Flyers got the job done on special teams to beat the Devils 4-2, ruining this stretch of avoiding consecutive losses.

In even strength play, I felt the Devils and Flyers were even.  Both teams came out to hustle, hit, and play hard.  Martin Brodeur and Martin Biron had to be solid to keep their teams in it.   Both teams were robbed on glorious chances to score in even strength.  Brodeur extended his arm to deny Jeff Carter with a diving poke check.  Travis Zajac broke through the defense to force a one-on-one (and a holding call by Braydon Coburn) and Biron's shoulder denied a goal. However, the big difference in tonight's game was on special teams.

The Flyers were perfect on the power play.  They went three for three and it's not as if Martin Brodeur had a real chance on any of those.  Daniel Briere snuck up from behind the net to be wide open and Kimmo Timonen found him.  Briere had an easy net to shoot at as a result for Philadelphia's first goal in the first period.  An equalizer after Brendan Shanahan's skate deflected a Dainius Zubrus pass into the net.   Later on in the second period Briere caught a flailing Devils' penalty kill to a wide open Mike Knuble at the crease.  Knuble gets the pass and cleanly buries it.  The eventual game winner started off from Kimmo Timonen firing a shot in the dying seconds of their third power play and Jeff Carter deflected it in front for the goal.

Needless to say, some of the Flyers skaters on the ice tonight were Briere, Timonen, and Carter.  The best may have been Simon Gagne, who contributed plenty (1 goal, 2 assists, 7 shots) and got the insurance goal by threading the needle between the post and Brodeur's right pad.  That did not come on a power play, though it was started by a giveaway in the defensive zone.

Three stupid penalties by the Devils (Mike Rupp wins the dumbest award for a stick-hold while on offense).  Three power plays for the Flyers.  Three times Martin Brodeur was hung out to dry.  This is unacceptable.  

The Devils took stupid penalties and their penalty killers got burned by Boston on Sunday.  Last Wednesday in Carolina, the Devils took dumb penalties and conceded crucial power play goals against the Hurricanes.   What should I be more angry at?  The actions that caused the power plays?  The awful coverage by the penalty killers?  Brent Sutter for not adjusting the strategy for killing penalties?  I know.  The fact that this keeps happening in recent road games and nothing seems to be done about it!

I'm not saying the Flyers didn't play well.  They did quite well. They got the job done when they had opportunities.  The Devils could not.   Oh, the power play was only slightly better than the penalty kill.  Jamie Langenbrunner did get a goal in the second period.  That was a success. The Devils came close later on in the period, but Scott Hartnell cleared it off the line at the last second.   But that was it.  So?

The Devils had 8 power plays in this game!  Including a 4 minute power play in the third period! What did the Devils do with most of these power plays?  Shoot the puck wide, shoot the puck into the Flyers' legs and skates (the Flyers' PK units did look good), and generate very little on the power play!  Down by 2 goals, the Devils managed exactly one shot on that 4 minute power play. In other words, the Devils wasted most of these chances!

Overall, while the Devils heavily outshot Philadelphia 34-25, only 10 shots came from the power play.  With 8 of them totaling 18 minutes, you'd expect more.  I expected more, at least.  Patrik Elias was definitely missed tonight!  Brian Rolston, Brian Gionta, and Zach Parise (6!!!!) literally missed the net tonight!  So was the semblence of a smart, aggressive power play strategy!

The Flyers handed chance after chance for the Devils to either get back into the game or to make the game their own.  The Devils largely wasted those chances.  Likewise, what little the Devils gave to the Flyers, the Flyers made sure they'd make New Jersey pay.  Oh, how they made them pay!  Again, since a lot of these issues that contributed to the Devils' loss took place just yesterday, this loss leaves a real bitter taste.  In addition to the fact that it's a rival team and now a team with a more hopeful chance of challenging for the division, of course.  Mustn't forget that.

Travis at Broad Street Hockey will find plenty to praise about the Flyers' performance. As he should, they did well.  The Devils get 3 days off before another back-to-back set of games. Hopefully Colin White and Elias will be healthy by then.  More importantly, I hope the Devils players and the coaching staff can learn from these mistakes and correct their actions on the ice for Friday's game in Chicago.