After the team's loss in Ohio on Tuesday night, I began that recap by explaining which kinds of losses bother me more than the others. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils did lose to the Vancouver Canucks. However, they lost 3-2 by way of a shootout. The actual performance was much better than what it was 48 hours ago. In fact, the Devils were the better team on the ice, especially in the third period. Vancouver really only "showed up" in overtime and even then the Devils had a great chance to break the deadlock. Alas, Roberto Luongo got a piece of everything from the second goal allowed onward. Especially in light of the dreck witnessed in the final frame against Columbus, I'm not at all bothered by tonight's game.
Don't misunderstand me, though. I am not saying that I'm pleased with the fact that the Devils lost. I know full well the team needed start winning games weeks earlier. A win tonight would have been fantastic and well-earned. A point isn't nothing but the Devils need 'W's to avoid facing a steep climb back into the division as the season progresses. They can't keep sitting on one win at this point. That said, tonight's game isn't one to start flipping metaphorical tables and demanding all kinds of rash changes. Look at it this way, if the Devils did have more than one win, then the reaction to this game would be more or less, "Oh well, it happens." That's because that's the kind of game it was at the Rock.
Overall, there's not a lot of complaints about how the Devils played. They ended up out-shooting the Canucks 30-21, which is rather good since the Devils have averaged well under 30 shots per game and the Canucks have been averaging over 30 themselves. In a 2-2 game going into the third, whatever Peter DeBoer said in the locker room must have sparked something because the Devils really kept going right after the Canucks. The result was a 17-7 shot differential in the third, possession was solidly in the hands of the home team, and a lot of Canucks fans expressed relief that Luongo was as good as he was. The penalty kill was perfect and allowed no shots on goal. The power play not only converted once but did so after numerous passes and keeping solid control of the puck. Even the power play shined tonight. (They weren't perfect but I'll take one and a third successful and watchable power plays over the zero they've been providing.) The line changes and defensive changes that DeBoer made largely worked. This is a lot to build on heading into Boston on Saturday.
I could be briefer and state what wasn't so good: Cory Schneider and the shootout. Perhaps the overtime period as well, though the Canucks actually showed up for that stretch which surprised most at the rink. For the former, Schneider made a Hedberg-like gaffe with the puck for one goal allowed and got beaten five-hole on a clean shot from Daniel Sedin. Without those bad goals allowed, the Devils likely win this game. Even Schneider said as such after the game, per this post-game post from Tom Gulitti, and I couldn't agree more. I think those errors can be fixed so I don't think it's time to start demanding Martin Brodeur to come back just yet. As for the other fault, well, the Devils have yet to score a goal in the shootout much less win it. Keep practicing I suppose or try to end games within 65 minutes. If those are my sole complaints then I don't have a whole lot to complain about. As such, I'm not too mad about the Canucks stealing a 'W,' even though I and everyone else who matters would have preferred a Devils win.
The Opposition Opinion: Nucks Misconduct will have a recap up at some point.
The Game Highlights: You'll be thrilled at Andrei Loktionov's sweet pass to Patrik Elias for the game's first goal. You'll be happy at seeing Eric Gelinas' first NHL goal in a regular season game come on the power play. You'll wince as Schneider left a gift for Henrik Sedin that Ryan Kesler finished as well as his five-hole on Daniel Sedin's equalizer. You'll see all that and more in the game's highlights from NHL.com:
Some More Team Thoughts: In addition to out-shooting the Canucks 30-21, the Devils out-attempted the Canucks 47-33 overall. In 5-on-5 play, the Devils out-attempted the Canucks 39-27 and out-shot them 24-17. Again, the Devils were the better team.
The possession blew up in New Jersey's favor in that third period. The first two periods were reminiscent of the Devils' 4-0 win over Our Hated Rivals. Lots of broken plays in the neutral zone and plenty of physical pressure but not much in the way of shots on target. From what I saw, the Devils often overwhelmed the Canucks in the third period, who were just not sharp at moving the puck through the neutral zone, off good breakouts and plays off loose pucks and turnovers. It wasn't so much a forechecking effort as it was a pressing effort that hit home. A few other decisions on offense or a favorable bounce here and there, and Luongo gets beaten for that third goal the Devils were hoping for.
I don't know if the Devils can play this way against anyone. The Canucks shortened their bench pretty early (David Booth remains in the doghouse, Andrew Alberts is...Andrew Alberts, both played less than ten shifts). They've been fatigued from their road trip even with their day off on Wednesday. That made it an easier, and correct, call for DeBoer to have the skaters play as they did. That may not work so well for the next game in Boston. But I have confidence that DeBoer will adjust.
For all the grief he's been getting from fans about making changes within the lineup as well as the roster, I don't think anyone should give him any tonight. The Devils played a good game overall. Both special teams looked good. The defense had Fayne, Larsson, and Gelinas active and the blueline held up well. The forward lines made Luongo keep Vancouver in the game. The team faltered because Schneider made two crucial errors and the shootout, which aren't areas that a coach can effect.
Elias Is Important: Patrik Elias returned to the lineup tonight and he was sensational. He carried pucks into the zone, he set guys up from the corners and side boards, and he took plenty of initiative with four shots on net. His goal was academic; the feed from Loktionov was excellent. But credit the team's all-time leading scorer for getting open on that play while drawing attention on others, which allowed Loktionov to get in motion. He was down right invisible on Tuesday but he was a factor on the ice in between Elias and Jagr. Jagr has been playing well in these past two weeks, but he looked even fresher with #26 helping him along the way. It was great to see him out there tonight and I hope he has many more nights like this one in the future. He probably will because Elias is fantastic.
The Return of Brunner: Yes, Damien Brunner showed up tonight. The one that appeared in the first few games of the season firing shots and taking all kinds of attempts. He put three on Luongo and attempted three others, which all missed. He got moved to a line with Travis Zajac and Rostislav Olesz and that really helped him out. Zajac and Olesz drove most of the play as Brunner took advantage of opportunities created. After missing some time due to soreness and a poor game in Columbus, he bounced back. I want to see more of this #12 than the one we saw last week.
For what it's worth, Michael Ryder slipped a bit on the third unit with Adam Henrique and Dainius Zubrus, but they weren't invisible either. Part of that is on the Canucks for not really stemming the Devils' attack. Part of that is that they did what they could. Honestly, the only line that really suffered was the fourths but they didn't get torched too badly and one can expect only so much from them. Even they - specifically Stephen Gionta - drew two calls, so they weren't entirely useless.
An Awesome Rookie Performance: Eric Gelinas made his season debut tonight and he couldn't have had a better night even if he dreamed it. OK, maybe he could in a dream. They can be imaginative. But this is real life, so let's focus on that. Gelinas put three shots on net. He stepped up from the point when needed to keep pucks in play and moved them around calmly. He tended to slow up a little bit heading into the boards on defense, but he often made the right play in the board battle to get the puck away. Gelinas was quite good in the situations he was put into. Now, he was protected by way of zone starts (lots of offensive ones) and Adam Larsson, who had a solid game in his own right, did have to intervene to help him out a few times. But DeBoer was giving him shifts in overtime, which he would not have given him if there were any concerns about how he was playing. All that and he scored a power play goal with a great wrist shot. See that Devils defensemen, you can fire wristers from distance. He played 16:27, scored a goal among a few shots, and did well in the situations he was put into on defense. I have only one question for Gelinas: How well will he do on Saturday in Boston? If anyone deserved a second look, then it's him.
I Did Not Miss Harrold: Sorry, Peter Harrold, but Larsson and Gelinas was quite good on the third paring. Andy Greene and Mark Fayne did quite well in their own right. The pairing of Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov were picked on the most, but neither of them are coming out of the lineup any time soon. Honestly, I wouldn't change the D unless Bryce Salvador is able to perform. And if he was, I'd take out A-Train.
Twenty-Five Minute Men: The Sedin twins and Kesler each played a total over over 25 minutes of ice time. They were the best Canucks not named Luongo, not coincidentally. I made a point of it in my preview that John Tortorella has been leaning on his top forwards so much because they've played so well. I saw it, even though they probably wished they weren't going back on D so much despite producing two goals. For what it's worth, while the CBGB line saw plenty of them, so did the Henrique line. Perhaps this is also why the Elias and Zajac lines crushed it on there. Hmm.
Hint to Lesser Players: Jaw-jacking Jaromir Jagr just makes you look foolish. Especially if you're Zach Kassian.
Your Totally Legitimate Fan-Voted Goal Song Tonight: "Righteous Smoke" by Monster Truck. The entire arena's reaction was similar to the online reaction: "Who? What? Who? Boooooooo..." It wasn't a good song and I'd be shocked if there are Devils fans that actually picked that song. I expect the third entry to be something truly obscure that will be presented as fan-voted. If only there was a classic track that the majority has preferred for years that's easy to follow.
Your Take: So you've read my recap on the game. Now it's your turn. Do you think the Devils were the better team tonight? Would you agree with Schneider that had he played better, the Devils would have won? Who impressed you the most? Who would you put on defense for the next game? What do you think the Devils should do going into Boston based on what you've seen tonight? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thank you to all who commented in the gamethread and tweeted to @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.