Fail. It's an overused verb on the Internet. It's entirely appropriate to describe the total performance of the New Jersey Devils at the MTS Center tonight. They lost to the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 and it was an ugly loss.
Actually, the goals allowed were the least ugly part of it. Evander Kane scored off a fluke bounce in the second period. He beat Adam Larsson wide - not the first time he did that tonight, by the by - and threw a puck towards the crease. The puck bounced up off Cory Schneider's stick, bounced off Andy Greene's body, and dropped into the net. The other two goals were purely insurance goals. Kane added an empty netter late to make it 2-0. Shortly after the faceoff, Andrew Ladd put one in to make it 3-0 with about 36 seconds left to play. On most nights, Kane's first would be chalked up to just bad luck and we move on because usually teams score goals in hockey games. Tonight, it was all that the Jets needed.
The Devils performance at both ends of the rink was abysmal. There has been and will continue to be plenty of griping about the defense. Thanks to Cory Schneider, this wasn't the blowout it should have been. Devils defenders struggled mightily at times to quell the Jets' attack. I don't think there was a defenseman not named Greene that didn't have a terrible giveaway in their own end. Seeing Peter Harrold and Adam Larsson try and get the puck out was harsh at times. No one completely left a Jet open in space but they got beat by speed through the neutral zone - Greene included - and they were just sieves. The Jets finished the game with 35 shots on net, increasing period by period from 8 to 12 to 15. Does Mark Fayne need to be in the lineup? You bet he does. Can he alone fix this? Not a chance. The sad thing is that these six guys were here last year so I don't know how they look like they're all over the place at times. Credit to Winnipeg swarming for half of the game for making that happen.
Yet, if you want to get to the heart of tonight's loss, then you need to look to the offense. Specifically, the lack there of. The Devils were in a one-shot game until the final minute. You know how many shots on net they ended up with? 25. The Jets, who had the lead, put up 35. The Devils put up 54 total shooting attempts with 44 in 5-on-5 play. The Jets, who - again - had the lead, put up 55 total shooting attempts with 37 in 5-on-5 play. Yeah, the defense could be better but even if they were, they'd still lose because of the crummy offensive performance tonight. Like the Calgary game, the Devils got blocked out many times that undercut the attack; but even those aside, the Devils didn't have to make Al Montoya do too much. The Devils had more passes either miss or get chipped away that served to not only stop Devils' attacks but allow the Jets to get forward with space. The box score shows a number of Devils with shots on net, but among them the only really threatening one was an Patrik Elias shot one-on-one with Montoya in the second period. Symbolic of the night, he rushed the shot and Montoya made the stop with little concern. The defense got overmatched due in part of the forwards being unable to keep pucks in Winnipeg's end, get them on net, and/or even keep them on their own sticks. The Jets didn't always execute well but they tried to make the most. As a result Winnipeg out-attempted them overall, which made the one-goal lead look larger than it really was on the board. The offense was, in a word, pathetic.
Peter DeBoer needs to have a little sit down with Dave Barr and explain to him that the power play is not the penalty kill. Most teams would want to receive five power plays including a two-man advantage for a minute. Not the Devils. Oh, no. That 8:48 of power play time yielded only five shots on net and six against. The Jets had more offensive opportunities that threatened to score than the Devils. The 1-3-1 formation their first unit has been trying to get into has not yielded much of anything. Travis Zajac has proven in these six games that he's not a point man. The second unit is there in name only. It's not all coaching. The players themselves executed so poorly, ranging from trying to make passes out in traffic that yielded only turnovers to settling for shots from distance in a 5-on-3 with one of the three directly right in front of it. The power play was an especially low point in a game full of them.
Seriously, the only complete positives from tonight's game was Schneider - I don't care about the Ladd goal - and the penalty kill, which was a perfect 3-for-3. The team has no wins so far and put forth their most lackluster effort yet. The fans are angry with fingers pointing at various targets from Peter DeBoer to Peter Harrold to Bryce Salvador to Lou to whatever. I don't know if any of that is truly at fault nor whether things would be better without them. But I do know there's plenty of reason to be upset. Given the lack of results and the miserable game tonight by the Devils, all I can say is that there better be some constructive changes in the next three days if only to get that win. Whatever's been done hasn't been working. Tonight better have been the rock bottom game for this team.
The Opposition Opinion: Derek Gagnon has this quick recap over at Arctic Ice Hockey.
The Game Highlights: Well, there were highlights for the Jets. Video comes from NHL.com:
Pressured: During the game, Chico noted how the Jets were pressuring the Devils due to their lack of confidence in the game. I'm not going to doubt that the Devils weren't confident tonight. They played like a sullen teenager who recently discovered emo or whatever sad-sack music the kids are listening to these days. But from what I saw tonight, the Jets were constantly up on the Devils' skaters on defense was because of their puck control. Their lack of it. The Devils attempted to force pass after pass. The presence of a Jet defender - not necessarily a defenseman, their forwards were backchecking - either forced a bad decision or got a stick on the puck to knock it away. There were even occasions where a Devil straight up lost the puck. The Devils struggled to get decent shots on Montoya largely in part of these issues. One would think that a largely veteran group would know how to handle teams pressing so much given that it's probably happened to them many times before. You could have fooled me tonight.
Your Kids Report: Adam Larsson had an up-and-down game where his low points were very noticeable. Kane's fast but he made Larsson look like Volchenkov on the first goal against. His idea of firing pucks into traffic is also one he should discard very quickly. Andrei Loktionov was inserted into the lineup and the hope for him would be that he would facilitate some offense among the bottom six. With no shots on net out of four attempts and being often seen plowed into the boards, he wasn't a positive factor. Henrique played 19:53 tonight, most of it without much of an effect, and had no shots on net. Your youth in action.
Snark aside, if Stephen Gionta continues to get less than seven minutes of ice time like he did tonight (6:28 and that's including PK work), then why not just throw Jacob Josefson in there? He can also do little of note too and get called for a totally phantom tripping call.
Seriously, That Tripping Call on Gionta was a Lie: Mark Scheifele fell down on his own a few feet behind Gionta and the refs tagged Gionta for tripping. I've heard of home ice getting calls (I don't think it's true) but that was ridiculous! It was an astonishingly bad call by Dennis LaRue and Eric Furlatt. Fortunately, the Jets didn't do much with that power play. Back to my grief of recapping this game.
Damien Bummer: It was easy to dig on Damien Brunner early on in this season. Tonight was his worst night yet. He registered no shots on goal, his only two attempts were blocked, and he took an offensive zone penalty. Not all games are going to be good ones but the Devils really needed all the offensive help they could get. They could have used a quick and brave man wearing #12 to make something happen. That didn't happen.
The Second Best Kane in the League is Still Really, Really Good: Credit is due to the Jets and it begins with Evander Kane. He was a beast out there. For 20:45, he was everywhere causing problems. He put eight shots on net out of twelve attempts. He made Larsson and Greene look like cones on separate occasions. He didn't so much drive the play forward as much as he commanded it. Yes, his goals were a fortunate bounce and an empty netter but the Jets do not beat on the Devils as badly as they did in shots without him. Winnipeg fans, your star wears #9 and the Devils had little answer for him.
Jets Defenders Excelling: With all due respect to Dustin Byfuglien, one expects him to play rather well and he did. He played like Dennis Wideman did on Friday against New Jersey only without the goals. I must say I heard and saw a lot of Jacob Trouba out there. I'm sure some Devils fans will be wondering why the Jets have this young defenseman play so much (26+ minutes). The answer is that he was simply on fire. He didn't get beat much. He threw hard, clean hits that were effective. He skated smoothly and quickly; I don't think he got caught on a pinch. He had three shots on net out of five attempts and just gave the Devils so many problems in his own end. I thought he had a marvelous night, though I wish he hadn't.
Why I'm Not Calling Out Zajac: Honestly, Zajac wasn't that bad and my unhappiness with the performance is really team-wide from Elias all the way down to Gionta. That said, I will say he skated like he was in mud at times and he really should have been better on the puck.
Schneider Deserved Better: So did any Devils fan watching this one. It was a no or one-goal game for 59 minutes. Somehow, the Devils made it seem like an insurmountable lead.
Your Take: Well, what happens now? Please leave your answer and your reaction to this loss in the comments. For the latter, surely it'll be negative and if not, why aren't you? This game was pitiful. Hopefully this recap wasn't. Thank you for reading.