The New Jersey Devils managed to win their first game in overtime this evening. They've played beyond regulation several times already this season, but each instance has always went to the shootout. Tonight, there was no need for one as Adam Henrique scored on his second breakaway of the night. The pivot got sprung in the neutral zone from a pass by Zach Parise and he sped ahead on the Winnipeg Jets' flank (namely, Brett Festerling). He made one move on Ondrej Pavelec, fired low, and the fans at the Rock erupted in cheers. An almost storybook-like ending for the New Jersey Devils' win over the Winnipeg Jets, 3-2.
However, the truth is more jarring than the narrative. The Devils really shouldn't have gone into overtime at all. They had a two goal lead heading into the third period and they squandered it. No, this was not the fault of Martin Brodeur. No, this was not the fault of a single player or line. It was the fault of the whole team. With a lead, the New Jersey attack resembled their offense first period - few and far between advances. The Jets won pucks in the neutral zone thanks in part to the Devils making errant pass after errant pass. The Jets, behind in the game, managed to pin back the Devils on several shifts. The Jets clawed their way back into the game on the strength of two extended offensive possessions.
The first goal was a Mark Flood shot that found it's way in through traffic; and the second goal came off a non-called hook that led to a takeaway that Jim Slater buried past Mark Fraser and Brodeur. But the Jets got those opportunities because they kept working at it; the Devils' true failure on both goals was being unable to get possession back and clear the puck. In the bigger picture, since the New Jersey offense was so inconsistent; the Jets kept having opportunities to attack the Devils. It was a bad period by the team on both fronts and they paid the price.
Thankfully, Adam Henrique got a one-on-one with the goaltender in overtime and made sure the Devils didn't botch the game. It'd be great for the Devils to win one in regulation against an in-conference opponent; and they could have done it tonight if it wasn't for that poor third period. Regardless, getting points is always the priority and they got both of them.
I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump. For the opposition's perspective, please check out this recap by TJCAPS at Arctic Ice Hockey.The Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts
The Highlights: Do you want to see an awful non-call? Do you want to see Mark Fraser act as a screen? Do you want to see a two-on-one finished with authority? Do you want to see not one, but two sweet breakaway goals? If you've said "yes" to any of these questions, then please watch this highlight video from NHL.com:
Adam Henrique Scored Two Breakaway Goals: Short analysis: You can't spell Henrique without 'EEEEEEE!'
Longer analysis: Henrique definitely has some wheels and Parise knew it tonight. The Jets defense was battered a bit, so it was a good risk to take to try and spring a guy into a space when possible. The first was a little dicey at first glance, what with some traffic in between Parise and Henrique. Thankfully, Parise avoided Dustin Byfuglien's stick-sweep and Henrique got enough on the puck to control it and blaze past Kenndal McArdle. The second breakway was the result of a much better read. Adam Larsson played a puck into Parise in the neutral zone, who saw Henrique out wide and behind Brett Festerling. Henrique received it perfectly and just charged past. Henrique really made the first one work, while the second one was higher quality play in my view. His quick decision making while going in was crucial in beating Pavelec on both.
Devils fans are likely very happy with Henrique now and with two breakaway goals, and why not? They weren't just great goals, they were important goals.
Not All That Glitters is Gold: Unfortunately, I'm struggling to find reason to think Henrique played a good game overall. He looked fine on the penalty kill, so there's that. However, he wasn't very good on offense; his two breakaways (and goals) were the only two shots he had on net. Henrique wasn't very good at the dot, as he went 5-for-15 on faceoffs this evening. Most of all, he was forced to play a lot of defense. Since he played 18:46 on a line that's intended to be offensive, that's not very good.
Let me take a step back for a moment. The Devils were at -4 in Corsi by the end of tonight's game, which makes sense since the Jets did have to come from behind and get more aggressive on offense to make it a game (which they did). Henrique stood out at -9 in Corsi. That's pretty awful, even on a team that was collectively -4 in even strength shooting attempts. Only his linemate David Clarkson was worse than Henrique at -12. That tells me that combination didn't work since Zach Parise curiously was only a -3. Making this worse is that no forward on the Jets stood out in Corsi in a similar fashion; so it's not like Henrique got picked apart on a particular match-up in lines. The defensive pairing of Mark Flood and Dustin Byfuglien did at +7 and +8, respectively. Not coincidentally, Clarkson and Henrique saw them more often than anyone else on Winnipeg tonight; which tells me that Henrique (and Clarkson) struggled with those two. I'm not sure why Peter DeBoer kept that going in retrospect.
I'm not dissing Henrique here; I'm very happy that Henrique scored on his two breakaways. I'm just saying that he didn't have a really good game as he really just had two glorious moments this evening.
The Offense Missed Ilya Kovalchuk Tonight: The Devils looked sluggish in just getting their offense going in the this game because of their puck movement into and through the neutral zone. Passes were off the mark or just strayed from their target. The Devils didn't get the benefit of some bounces; but there were stretches of time where the game was just in the Devils' half of the ice. Were Winnipeg sharper in their own attack and a little luckier, they could have made this a long night.
Basically, I felt the Devils really missed Ilya Kovalchuk's presence. Say what you want about his tendency to charge into the neutral zone only to stop above one of the circles and attempt a pass; but that would have been welcomed tonight. His speed and puck handling skills are at least respected by opponents. Tonight, the Jets had no worries about being aggressive in the neutral zone and tracking Devils; and it helped them out. While he wouldn't have necessarily changed the nature of the game, Kovalchuk could have opened up some space and helped the Devils along at least. This could have been quite useful in the third period.
David Clarkson probably would have had a better game because of it too. In Philadelphia, he was the shot machine on his line with Ryan Carter and Nick Palmieri. Tonight, he didn't mesh well with Parise or Henrique, he only managed to get two shots on net, and took a really lazy tripping penalty. I think he's better suited on a line when he can be the center of attention on offense.
The Inconsistency of Youth: Still, I would have rather had Clarkson up with Henrique and Parise instead of Mattias Tedenby. I am aware of his quickness and stickhandling skills, but the guy is just too inconsistent. Tonight was a perfect example of why. He would make a good pass and then follow it up later with a poor one, like a straight up giveaway. Tedenby forced more shots into Jets (2) than he had on net (1). I can't say much about his work in his own end because he was nondescript. He's still a young, developing player so inconsistency is the norm. But by no means does he deserve top six minutes at this juncture.
Speaking of young Swedish hockey players who play for New Jersey, defenseman Adam Larsson had a good game. He did make a few dumb errors, like attempting to clear the puck in the middle of the ice between two Jets. However, he showed a little more physicality tonight and made quite a few nice stops in his own end. The good outweighed the bad from the defender, Larsson played 24 minutes and even a little (33 seconds) PK time. I'll look forward to see if he starts to slowly get some time on the penalty kill. He only finished -1 in Corsi which is not bad considering the team was -4.
I Loved the Elias Line: Expect to see that more and more often as they keep having good games. The Devils' best line tonight was the line of Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, and Petr Sykora. Elias scored the game's first goal in a play that began with one of his few faceoff wins (he went 5-for-20 tonight) and led to him finishing a two-on-one with Zubrus. It was a great goal. However, the main attacker on that line was Sykora with 6 shots on net. He kept getting into spaces to shoot, Elias and Zubrus found them, and so made Pavelec work to stop almost every one of them. On a night where the Devils only mustered 23 shots in regulation, Sykora's 6 was huge. Also: this line was the only one on the Devils where all three forwards finished positive in Corsi. That's further evidence of their effectiveness tonight.
The Non-Call: The refs' non-call of Blake Wheeler's hook on Anton Volchenkov was garbage.
That said, the Devils were pinned back in their own end on the play that led to Jim Slater's goal, which was closer to the real root cause for what happened. The Jets reacted faster to a puck that went sailing high into the air and after the hook on Volchenkov. Mark Fraser couldn't do much and it seemed that Brodeur was out to dry. Yes, the refs should have tagged Wheeler for hooking; but I didn't like how the Devils played on that shift.
The One Call: The refs were correct in tagging Evander Kane for a hook during a scramble in the Jets' slot. It was also the first full power play for the Devils this evening. The Devils' power play went right to work at the end of the game and at the beginning of overtime, and put up 4 shots on net and made a few other attempts. Throw in the abbreviated power play in the second period; and the Devils' PP put up 5 shots on net in 2:53. While they didn't score (and how sweet it would have been if they did in the third), it's superior to the Jets' power play that only put up 2 shots on net in 4:48.
A General Comment on the Defense: While I didn't like how the Devils struggled to get forward and how they had shifts where it seemed that getting a stop on defense would take forever, I can't complain about the defensive effort from the big picture. The PK was solid as ever (no goals, only 2 shots against) and the Devils did only allow 23 shots on net. That's considered to be good and I can't really complain.
A Rustless Brodeur: Martin Brodeur looked much better tonight, thanks in part to a defensive effort that didn't leave guys in white constantly open on his flank. On his own, he moved in the crease better and he wasn't really struggling to make saves. I felt he got hung out to dry on the Slater goal; and if he saw Mark Flood's shot (and I don't think so considering Mark Fraser's position on the ice), then it had to have been at the last possible moment. I wouldn't fault either goal on #30 alone. In any case, I think getting a game under his belt and some practice really helped him out and I think it showed tonight. I think he'll be fine going forward; though, I do dread the eventual "Is he done?" articles when he doesn't have a good night or isn't heroic or whatever.
So What's Johnny Oduya Doing Other Than Not Winning?: He saw the Ryan Carter, Tedenby, and Palmieri unit the most and suffered a bit. On a night where his team had to fight back, he wasn't really a part of it as he finished -5 in Corsi. That's not really good. I suppose there is a difference between playing with Paul Martin and not playing with him in Atlanta/Winnipeg.
Faceoffed: I mentioned it in two separate spots in this recap, but I might as well emphasize it here: the Devils got rocked on faceoffs. The most successful Devil on draws was Brad Mills and he only went 1-for-2. That's pretty sad. So is the fact that three Jets - Bryan Little, Alexander Burmistrov, and Jim Slater - racked up 70%+ faceoff winning percentages tonight. It didn't necessarily lead to much in terms of shots or possession; but it was amazing how the Jets kept winning all of these draws.
Big Buff Mistakes: On the one hand, Dustin Byfuglien had a good night. He was a +7 in Corsi, put up 3 shots on net, attempted 5 in all, and picked up 2 assists in 25:01 of work. That's not at all a bad line of results. On the other hand, the replay video shows Big Buff going after Parise in the neutral zone twice and failing as Parise passed it to Henrique each time to start a breakaway. Byfuglien took risks there and lost badly. Plus, he nearly scored on his own goaltender amid a scramble down low. What an odd night from Winnipeg's #33.
Cam Janssen Watch: 5:27 played, 1 shot on net, 1 missed shot on net, and no dirty stuff. I'm not sure how to feel about that.
Nords: If you've heard a whole bunch of noise four minutes into each period, then you've heard the Nordiques Nation. A few hundred Quebec Nordique fans visited the Rock this evening and that's apparently their "thing." It is to honor that it's been 16 years since their team moved to Colorado. Like at the season ending game in 2010-11, they were rather passionate and that added a bit to the atmosphere at the Rock. It was a bit odd to see and hear a group of people clad in Quebec blue chanting "Let's go Devils," but it's appreciated all the same. Anyway, they're going to some other games this season, one per month. I don't know their full schedule, but I believe they'll be hitting up Boston and Detroit among the other four teams.
Those are my thoughts on tonight's game. What are yours? Did you think the Devils missed Ilya Kovalchuk tonight? What would you have done differently in the third period to get more offense going? Do two breakaway goals make up for a whole game of being mostly passive? Are you surprised as I was that despite all of what the Devils did wrong, Winnipeg only got 23 shots on net? Please leave your answers and other thoughs on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you to everyone in the Gamethread for reading and commenting during the game, thanks to everyone who followed @InLouWeTrust during the game; and thank you for reading this recap.