On Tuesday, I wrote an extensive post discussing what I think the New Jersey Devils' coaching staff can and can't control. With the team playing as poorly as it has been, there has been increased pressure for the coaching staff, namely John MacLean, to be fired. In retrospect, I'm kicking myself for not putting in bold letters that it was not a defense of MacLean and his staff. Rather, a post trying to figure out what a coaching staff can control about a team, and from there determining whether the coaching staff should be replaced to truly make that team better.
In tonight's 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the Gamethread, right after Kris Versteeg scored Toronto's third goal of the game, all attention turned to who could replace MacLean. They weren't serious suggestions (I hope). The point is that with the visitors down by two goals in the third period with less than 10 minutes to go, the New Jersey Devils faithful knew full well it was going to be another loss and patience is nearly non-existent with MacLean.
And I can't say I blame them. So much of this loss consisted of what Devils fans have been seeing all season long. I count the ways after the jump. For a more jubilant take on the game, please go to Pension Plan Puppets, a blog for a team that has actually put two wins together this season.
Once again, the Devils struggled to move the puck smoothly and consistently to attack.
Once again, the Devils waste plenty of big saves by Martin Brodeur.
Once again, there was a defensive gaffe that led to a goal against, as Colin White was caught standing on a big rebound, watching it go back to Mikhail Grabovski, who hammered it home.
Once again, there was an even worse defensive gaffe led to a goal against as Olivier Magnan-Grenier totally lost his side of the ice leaving Phil Kessel - Toronto's leading goal scorer - wide open to score one of the easier goals of his career. That area of the ice was all Magnan's, he had zero reason to turn his back on it. Nazem Kadri is a talented player, but even Brett Lebda would have found Kessel with that pass.
Once again, the Devils power play was anything but save for a few flashes. Forget that they didn't score, it seemed that on all three of them, the Devils would do basically nothing productive until a minute has passed, put up a token shot, and then be done with it.
Once again, the Devils did get one good break on offense as Dainius Zubrus re-directed an Alexander Vasyunov pass to the crease for the team's only goal. Unfortunately, that would be all.
Once again, the Devils dominate the 5-on-5 Corsi chart at Time on Ice because they spent a majority of the game from behind (making them more aggressive) and they flung a lot of pucks towards the net but not necessarily on net. Jonas Gustavsson saw 25 shots on net at 5-on-5, 12 that missed the net entirely, and 18 blocked. The NHL event summary is a bit different (27 SOG, for starters), but the point is that the Devils weren't efficient.
Once again, some Devils showed up to play and their efforts were noted in the event summary. Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Mattias Tedenby each attempted many shots and got at least 4 on Gustavsson. Plus, Kovalchuk set up the lone goal as well. I'd also say Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene had fine games on defense. At the same time, others didn't do so well. Travis Zajac wasn't great on draws (6 for 13) and didn't look so good with Brian Rolston (who took the penalty that led to Grabovski's goal, made some bizarre decisions with the puck on offense) and David Clarkson. Magnan was lost at times - which cost the Devils dearly.
Once again, a lack of discipline cost the Devils in a way tonight. Matthew Corrente, otherwise having a decent game, hit Grabovski from behind into the boards instead of playing the puck. It was a very easy boarding penalty to call, it was a very stupid thing for Corrente to do, and it was a fortunate thing that Grabovski wasn't hurt. That power play led to Kris Versteeg's wicked one-timer. Truthfully, there wasn't anything done wrong on the goal: Kadri made a great diagonal pass, Versteeg hit it perfectly past a sliding-as-fast-as-possible Johan Hedberg. The whole thing doesn't happen though, if Corrente thought "puck first" like a player on a team that was down by 1 instead of "body first." As a result, it essentially iced the game.
Once again, there is another injury to be concerned with. Brodeur got hit a bunch of times, notably by Mike Brown as his skate inadvertantly hit Brodeur's right arm on the follow through of a shot (that required another sprawling stop from the legendary goaltender) and caused him to sit out the third period. In terms of the injury, Tom Gulitti tweeted that John MacLean confirmed that the right elbow was re-aggravated and that Brodeur will go back to NJ get it looked at.
Since the Devils didn't get another goal, the loss is officially credited to Brodeur per the game summary and his numbers suffer despite what he's done on the ice. Insult to injury, in a way.
Once again, Devils fans are left saying, "At least the Devils didn't get shut out."
This warrants a separate post, but once again, I'm dumbstruck by this team as a whole. It's one thing to have bad puck luck. But there are multiple other issues that this coaching staff - that's MacLean and Larry Robinson and Adam Oates and Chris Terreri (OK, he may not be a problem) and Scott Stevens and all of the special assignment coaches - either haven't addressed, haven't addressed properly, or don't think are actual issues. I fully accept that there's so much I don't know behind the scenes and the situation as a whole. I accept that the players have to take some responsiblity. Per Gulitti's Twitter feed, the players did have a players only meeting after this game - and it's apparently not the first one they had this season. I leave it to you to wonder whether that alone will make some positive changes.
However, with each loss, with more that remains the same in those losses, and with the team's future for this season getting more and more in doubt by the day, it becomes increasingly clear that this coaching staff can't be defended.
Once again, the fans are understandably unhappy. They want some action taken, something to point to and say, "OK, the Devils are doing what they can to get back to winning games." That's not happening, and if it takes firing MacLean to do that, then I'm not going to argue otherwise.
Most of all, I want to thank you, the reader and the commenter, for not jumping off of a proverbial bridge, for contributing your thoughts, and spending your time reading In Lou We Trust and this recap that you've probably read in some way or form once before. Thank you.
Please leave your thoughts about tonight's game in the comments. I ask that you focus on the game and not who should be hired as a head coach or complain that MacLean hasn't been fired yet. Let's talk about that tomorrow. Lastly, here are the highlights from NHL.com: