The odds for the New Jersey Devils making the playoffs in 2013 this morning were incredibly small. As of 5:55 PM EDT, they are now nothing. The loss mathematically eliminates the Devils from playoff contention. If that wasn't painful enough, it was at the hands of the New York Rangers, Our Hated Rivals. The Rangers took a big step closer to securing the eighth seed and secured some bragging rights for the summer. Making the loss sting further was that it wasn't even close. The Devils got trounced by the Rangers 1-4.
As the score would indicate, the game was rather decisive. The Rangers got on the board early. Within the first minute, Henrik Tallinder tried to pin Derek Stepan against the end boards and Marek Zidlicky came behind the net to help some how. Stepan got the puck away while being hit to the goal line. As Martin Brodeur turned to the left post, expecting play to continue, Ryan Callahan had an easy tap-in for a score. The Devils responded with, well, nothing much positive. They did gift two power plays. The first came from a double minor given to Ryan Carter for roughing (Darroll Powe only got one minor) and Matt D`Agostini ending a Devils power play early with a stick-hold on Dan Girardi after the latter rocked the former.. The Devils didn't get their first shot on net until seven minutes in. The Devils killed those penalties, but the Rangers got a fortunate break. As the Devils were pinned back, defenseman Ryan McDonagh fired a shot into traffic in the slot, Stepan got a piece of it, and the puck went past Brodeur, off the left post, and into the net. The Devils responded with more non-positive plays with a tripping call on Carter and Peter DeBoer getting tagged for an abuse for officials call which gave the Rangers more power play time. The Devils did kill it off, but they ended the first period down 6-7 in shots, 10-16 in attempts, and -3 in Corsi. For a team down by two, that's not good.
There would be a New Jersey performance blooming early in the second period. For the first half of it, the Devils played to the score and pinned the Rangers back a few times. Henrik Lundqvist bailed out his team to maintain the score. The Rangers would settle things down and then take a further lead. Anton Volchenkov gave away a puck right to Brad Richards and as Richards tossed it to Taylor Pyatt in the high slot, Volchenkov moved in front of Brodeur. Pyatt fired a great shot that I don't know if Brodeur even saw clearly to make it a 0-3. Sure, the Devils made the shot count look better and started getting higher in possession but that's not all that meaningful due to score effects. The Rangers not only got a goal to extend their lead but put up ten shots, mostly in the second half of the period. If nothing else, it confirmed that the Devils were in a deep, deep hole.
The Devils did themselves no favors in trying to get out of it. Ryan Callahan got a minor penalty for tripping and the Devils, as usual, struggled to get into the Rangers' end to get set up for their power play. During said power play, Patrik Elias mouthed off to a referee. Whatever he said must have been bad because the ref gave him a minor penalty for it. During the abbreviated power play, Richards got open in space, found Callahan down low, and while Brodeur dove forward with a poke-check, he only got a piece of Callahan's shot. The puck lofted up and over the goalie and into the net to make it 0-4. It was garbage time from that point on. The Devils would get a consolation goal. Just before Powe clobbered Peter Harrold, the defenseman got the puck up to Ilya Kovalchuk, and he fired a great pass across the zone to Andrei Loktionov. Loktionov sniped a shot to ruin Lundqvist's shutout, one of the few bright spots for the day. Alas, the Devils kept giving up odd-man rushes, they pulled the goalie early and got nothing out of it though they didn't give up an empty netter, and with 17 seconds left DeBoer got a game misconduct.
I saw a Devils team that was frustrated, unhappy, and angry. However, instead of turning their emotions into constructive, productive, and positive play, they just let it out. As understandable as you may find it to be, it hurt the Devils today. It led to penalties, Elias' mouthing off led to a GA, and it didn't lead to much against the Rangers. What also hurt the Devils was that the Rangers just played a better game of hockey. Yes, the Devils ended up far ahead in possession but the Rangers led in the game the whole way. The Devils really only looked like they have been for most of the last few weeks for the first eight minutes of the second period. The rest was mostly Rangers hockey. Their defensemen jumped up at the right times to make plays. Their forwards kept pressing and were rewarded. They won plenty of loose pucks. Nothing I saw today made me think the Devils deserved better than this scoreline. I haven't had to write that in a while. I wish it wouldn't be at the hands of this team. I'd rather have getting licked and/or knocked out of the playoffs by Montreal or Pittsburgh, but it is what it is.
And that's sad. If we're honest with ourselves, the playoffs were not likely going to happen this season for the Devils. You would just hope that wouldn't be made official by Our Hated Rivals. I didn't want to see it. I certainly didn't feel good hearing "Season's Over" from the normally docile MSG crowd on the NBC broadcast. But they're not wrong. It's true. The last three games are now only for pride for us Devils fans (Boston and Winnipeg will keep an eye on two of the next three Devils games).
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Faceoff Comparison | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | The Time on Ice Corsi & Fenwick Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts
The Opposition Opinion: The people at Blueshirt Banter are understandably happy. A recap isn't up yet, but I think it's a safe assumption.
The Game Highlights: There is a highlight video of this game at NHL.com. I'm going to guess you're not all that interested in it. I know I'm not.
More to Come Later: I haven't decided if I have more to say, like how poor Volchenkov's error was and how bad Patrik Elias played today. I'm going to eat something and then think about it. If I will, then I'll update this post. So in the meantime, please feel free to discuss this loss in the comments. And so I have more to say.
Correction: According to Tom Gulitti on Twitter, Peter DeBoer revealed after the game that he didn't cause the abuse of officials call from the bench. It was because a player said something. I assumed it was him because he was noticeably unhappy after Ilya Kovalchuk apparently getting tripped up without any call. DeBoer did admit fault on his misconduct per this tweet.
When a Decision Blows Up in Your Face: DeBoer made two changes to his lineup today. One was Andrei Loktionov being put in the lineup for Jacob Josefson. Loktionov was somewhat active with three shots today, one that led to a point-blank pad-save by Lundqvist in the second period and one that did beat Lundqvist for a goal. Not a bad switch. The other was Anton Volchenkov coming in for Mark Fayne. Before the game, I figured the logic was that a physical game could have a lot of penalties and so a more physical defender who specializes on the PK would be a decent fit. Rather than taking Peter Harrold out, since he provides a little offense, Fayne was the fall guy. That move did not turn out so well.
While Volchenkov was actually a part of the offense at points with three shots on net out of six attempts, he also picked up an uncredited secondary assist. He made a turnover almost as bad as his one to Chris Kunitz back in February. He just flung a puck towards Brad Richards, who easily took it. Making matters worse is that Volchenkov immediately decided to move in front of the crease to try and block the shot. That only screened Brodeur. As it has been with a lot of defensemen this season, a lot of good or even merely average work can be wiped away with one horrible error. Even his otherwise good work on the penalty kill had a blotch on it when he was caught in a no man's land on Callahan's goal. The error on the goal really lies with Stephen Gionta being overly aggressive such that Richards was so open and Brodeur going for a poke when he should've stayed up. but Volchenkov did himself no favors. It's moments like those that lead fans to wonder if he can get the Redden Special.
Invisible Kovalchuk: No shots on net from Ilya Kovalchuk. I'm serious. He had only one attempt and he missed on it. He did have a sweet pass to Loktionov for a goal. But that was really it in terms of offensive contribution. He was largely just "there" today. I don't want to be so critical since he's two games back from injury. If we made a list of all of the things that went wrong, then he wouldn't be near the top of the list. But it must be said, he didn't make much of an impact today.
Was It Worth It: Patrik Elias had a very productive Saturday with two goals while rolling with David Clarkson and Travis Zajac (he actually had a decent game, he even went 13-for-16 on faceoffs) as they gave Florida a lot of problems. Today, he was just poor. He only got one shot on net, he passed up at least two good looks at the net, and he wasn't very good in possession even with score effects. I know he may have helped Clarkson get some of those six shots, but Elias really wasn't making things happen. Combined with the team's performance, he got visibly more and more frustrated. And he didn't use it constructively. That likely led to him mouthing off at a referee during a Devils power play. Yes, during a power play. Callahan got his second goal off the penalty so I still wonder whether Elias thinks whatever he said was worth it. It made a poor performance even worse.
Two Power Plays for 2:07: The Devils had two power plays today and they took penalties on both of them to end them early. Not that the power play was all that great otherwise, but it's hard to get something going when the situation is cut short.
CBGB Wasn't Open: The CBGB line looked very good against Philly and Florida. Today, they combined for two shots on net, Steve Bernier skied a one-timer in front of a gaping net in the second period, and Ryan Carter took three minor penalties for two power plays by the Rangers. Needless to say, they didn't really have the same effect on the game today than they did in the last two. They were largely ineffective today. They're only a fourth line but it would have helped if they broke something off.
Dropping .3%: Tomorrow's post is a quick one about Martin Brodeur's save percentage splits this season and through most of his career. Going into today's game, Brodeur's even strength save percentage was at 92.1%. Afterwards, it fell to 91.8% Brodeur looked silly on the first one but that was due to a lack of communication. Had Marek Zidlicky stayed in the slot like he was supposed to instead of not-really-helping Henrik Tallinder, maybe he could've told Brodeur to not move laterally. Brodeur's decision to dive for a poke prior to Callahan's second goal wasn't good. If it he got more of the puck, then hey, maybe he denies him and looks good. But the risk wasn't rewarded - and his low PK save percentage took another hit. The other two even strength goals against weren't his fault; Stepan scored off a re-direction among traffic and Pyatt scored thanks in part to Volchenkov. But the numbers suffer regardless of reason.
Did You Know: Chris Kreider and Adam Henrique played in today's game? They sure did!
The Line of Trouble: The unit of Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan gave the Devils the most trouble today. Not only did they create two of the three goals against at even strength, but the trio combined for seven shots at even strength and Stepan ended up positive in possession despite being on a team with a big lead. They skated hard, drove in hard, and really put in a strong effort. Adam Larsson and Andy Greene saw plenty of Stepan and it didn't often go so well. Furthering the notion that that line was strong today, today's attending media gave the first and third stars of the game to Callahan and Stepan, respectively. Well, they'll be Pittsburgh's problem in short order.
The Game in One Moment: In the first period, Alexei Ponikarovsky attempted to skate into the Rangers zone with the puck. He promptly fell forward all on his own as he crossed the blueline. It summed up the first period and the Devils' performance overall.
Apologies for the delay in giving you my additional thoughts; I just wanted to get something up first rather than make you wait more for everything. In any case, we'll have a lot of time to discuss all of this. What did you make of today's loss? Please leave your answer and other thoughts about the game in the comments. Thank you for reading.