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New Jersey Devils Prevail in Opening Night Goalfest Against Philadelphia Flyers, 6-4

The New Jersey Devils win their first game of the season by vanquishing the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 in their rink. This recap goes over the offensive performance that saw two goals each from three lines, the porous defense, goalies, and more.

Get used to this scene, Flyers fans.  (This was the aftermath of Zubrus' goal.)
Get used to this scene, Flyers fans. (This was the aftermath of Zubrus' goal.)
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

First night.  First game. First rivalry game. First offsides of the game. First icing of the game.  First post shot (a long shot by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) conceded.  First shot of the season; a long, nonthreatening shot by Bryce Salvador. First goal of the first period and the season; a sick-nasty Michael Ryder wrister I will break down in the near future.  First power play of the season. First power play wiped out by an unnecessary penalty.  First period being out-shot. First period to start well. First second period goal. First deflection goal off a defender; an Adam Henrique shot re-directed off Luke Schenn's skate.  First deflection goal by a Devil which was also Mike Cammalleri's first goal as a Devil; a lethal deflection off a harmless Jaromir Jagr shot. First milestone achieved by Jagr this season: passing Steve Yzerman in career points.  First three-goal lead.

First breakdown.  First bad penalty of the period.  First try-and-survive penalty-kill. First power play goal against on the following penalty kill; a strong shot by Claude Giroux. First even strength goal conceded as Wayne Simmonds got around a diving Jon Merrill with a toe drag.  First penalty in dying seconds of a period.  First goal given up that required checking the clock. First opponent who scored two goals against the Devils (Simmonds).  First three-goal lead given up.

First goal of the third period. First goal off the Steve Mason's flank; a beautiful play that ended with Patrik Elias putting it home.  First goal given up immediately in response. First 2-on-1 allowed due to a skater - Bryce Salvador - getting caught in the neutral zone. First goal allowed in an odd-man rush.  First individual effort for a Devils goal.  First goal that the opposing goaltender wish he had back; a shortside blast of said individual effort by Dainius Zubrus.  First power play shot. First successful penalty kill after getting blown up for two PPGAs in the prior period.  First breakaway created: Marty Havlat springing Elias. First breakaway ending with a shot wide.  First clamping down situation. First empty net goal.  First Devil to get two assists in a game: Marek Zidlicky.   First Devil to get two goals in a game: Cammalleri.  First night.  First win.  First road win. First win more than three goals scored. First win without being behind on the scoreboard.  First win over the Second Rate Rivals.

It was a night of firsts for the 2014-15 season.

The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Corsi Charts

The Opposition Opinion: Charlie O'Connor has this recap up at Broad Street Hockey. There were plenty of goals scored so he wasn't bored.  Maybe one day, he'll learn that games are exciting outside of sirens being turned on and music being played.

The Game Highlights: Ten total goals, featuring Cammalleri's first, Jagr now chasing Marcel Dionne in all-time points, and Zubrus' game winner. You know you want it so I'll put up the video from when available.

Six Even Strength Goals: Five against Steve Mason, one empty netter, and I'm really pleased. The Devils only scored them against the Rangers in preseason, but they showed the hockey world that they can indeed do it against a New York team.   More importantly, they needed to score a lot as a result of the game and they accomplished that.  One of the common concerns with the Devils, not just this season or last season but for a lot of seasons in recent memory, has been scoring.  The Devils are certainly not going to score six every night, but this is evidence that it is indeed possible from this team.  Being able to get a big lead and not completely sag if that lead is erased is valuable.  Being able to do that outside of the power play, which wasn't very good except for the last one, is valuable.

The Devils got their goals from each of the three main lines.  Michael Ryder and Adam Henrique scored early.  Mike Cammalleri got on the board with two goals and put a whopping seven shots on net.  The line of Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr, and him can now go a bit beyond "dating."  In terms of possession, the unit of Zubrus, Havlat, and Elias was the best all night long at even strength.  They came up big in the third period with two goals and a breakaway created in part to catching the Flyers on a change.  This is the Devils' offense at an ideal: multiple lines contributing in spite of how well they were (Elias line) or were not (Henrique line) in possession.  With better accuracy - the Devils got blocked and missed the net quite a bit - the Devils easily could have had more than 26 shots.  Still, I am very pleased with the offense given the production.

Let's Talk About a Lead: When you're down three goals, then you should be blowing away the opposition in terms of shots and shooting attempts.  At a minimum, it'll help stop the bleeding of goals.  At a maximum, there's a comeback effort.  The Flyers achieved the maximum.  They began to pull away about halfway through the game, after nearly hitting gold on their second power play of the game.  The Flyers held a shot advantage all game long, ultimately leading 39-26 and 33-23 at evens.  But at that point, the Flyers were taking more dangerous shots and going hard to the net and/or Schneider.  It eventually paid off.

What was brutal about the three goal lead being wiped away was that it was within five minutes.  In a rare shift where the Elias line was held back on defense, Elias hooked Matt Read by getting hand.  Giroux scored shortly thereafter.  The Devils got pinned again, couldn't get the puck out, and Simmonds made Merrill look silly with that toe drag within the final minute.  The last one was simply infuriating in its stupidity. Ryane Clowe trips Mark Streit at the Devils' blueline with seconds left.  Doubling-down on that, Peter DeBoer decides Stephen Gionta should take that faceoff. He unsurprisingly didn't win it against Giroux, puck goes to Lecavalier who throws it on net and Simmonds - dominating Salvador in front - gets the bounce to get it in with less than a second left.   In those five minutes, I count two bad penalties taken, getting pinned back as part of a team fighting from behind and paying for it, and the PK getting wrecked.   Devils fans were unhappy, myself included.   The only silver lining from it was that the Devils had a full 20 minutes to get the lead back.

I will dispute that DeBoer had anything to do with the lead being given up outside of his deployment on the penalty kill, which was just plain bizarre.

24-2? Seriously: Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky have been a common pairing ever since the Devils acquired Zidlicky at even strength.  It's a bad pairing for a defense-specific situation as Zidlicky has been known to get over-aggressive in physical play and unaware in positional play.   Yet, this duo got three minutes of shorthanded ice time. They were scrambling and playing desperate on the Flyers' second power play, where they just kept the puck for nearly two minutes to attack the entire time.  They got caught on both PPGAs.  It was a dubious decision by DeBoer to use them like that.  Especially against a Philadelphia team who has the talent - and showed it tonight - to be ferocious on power plays.  Salvador should be a part of the penalty kill because it's the one area where he's not a total liability.  Zidlicky should not have been, especially over Andy Greene.   DeBoer, to his credit, switched that up for the Devils' final kill tonight by putting Damon Severson with Salvador.   Hopefully, we won't be seeing 24-2 deep in their own end for a shorthanded situation for a while.

The Rookie Debut: Much outrage was had online for Adam Larsson getting scratched so Severson could play.  Severson had a rough go of it from a possession standpoint.  He was on the ice for 15 shooting attempts by the Devils and 24 against.  Andy Greene, his partner, wasn't that much better.  In their defense, they didn't concede too many tough shots.  Severson didn't give up a lot of pucks and the two held themselves well on offense. He looked OK. It helped that, by my eye, Salvador resembled a statue at times.

Tonight, he got 18:59 of ice time with just under three minutes of power play time and a little PK time in the third. He got two shots and nearly his first goal early in the third period.  That doesn't look like the usage for a guy just getting a taste of the NHL.  That he wasn't in over his head means we'll likely see him active on Saturday.   In a perfect world, Salvador would go out immediately for Larsson.  But Salvador is the team's captain and the rookie didn't falter.  So, sorry in advance, Adam & Larsson fans.

Fourth Line Woes: The Henrique line started eating more and more attempts against, presumably in place of the fourth line and because they weren't all that hot after two early goals. In roughly 7-8 minutes of even strength, the unit of Tuomo Ruutu, Jordin Tootoo, and Stephen Gionta drowned.  I'm aware that Corsi values for a game shouldn't be written in stone, but I believe significantly large values represent a player doing well or not well.  That said, Gionta stunk it up.  Some of that may have been residual after penalty kills, but going 3 for/16 against with less than ten minutes of even strength ice time says it all.  That unit played a lot of defense, which only helped the Flyers' eventual comeback from a big deficit.   Tootoo took a penalty he didn't have to (slash to the hand, seriously the refs look for glove contact) and the trio got hit more than giving out "energy."  I know Tuomo Ruutu is much better than this, but I would like to see a different look for Saturday.  Fortunately, Damien Brunner can provide it and Jacob Josefson, well, he'd have to try to be picked on worse than Gionta was tonight.

Faceoff Woes: I will admit to not thinking much of faceoffs because in the big picture, it's not that big of a deal. In the scope of a game, it can be.  A faceoff loss led to a super-late second period PPGA.  When the Devils got an offensive zone faceoff, it rarely led to offense - especially early on when the Devils went ten minutes without a shot on net.  The Devils were beaten at the dot throughout the night, finishing 24-32 overall.  Elias was the only one who won more than he lost (8-7), but even he was behind at the end of two periods (4-7).  In situations like the start of a penalty kill, this is concerning.  I wouldn't say it was as big of a problem like the overall defensive play (39 shots against) or discipline (five penalties, all bad ones to take), but it may rear it's ugly head throughout the season.

Picked On: Enough criticism.  Let's praise Nicklas Grossman.  The Flyers' defense was already in trouble ahead of this season with Kimmo Timonen out with blood clots.  Tonight, Brayden Coburn was on crutches when announced at the home opener. This means more minutes for everyone else, which includes Grossman.  He was a feature player in the wrong way.  Losing Elias for the 4-3 goal early in the third.  Going 12-21 in even strength attempts. Two third period penalties for holding.  The latter coming as a result of a 42-year old Jagr torching him one-on-one.  The only thing he didn't get beat on the ice for was a goal, but his effort in his own end put it in doubt.   Good luck going forward with a blueline led by him, Andrew MacDonald, and Michael Del Zotto (OK, he was really good tonight).

The Goalies Weren't That Bad: Normally, a game where both goalies combine for nine goals allowed doesn't reflect well on either goalie.  However, I would caution against pointing at Steve Mason's 20 saves on 25 shots as evidence that he shouldn't have played tonight (he played the night prior in Boston).  He was screened on Ryder's shot.  Henrique's and Cammalleri's goals were off deflections; the former off Luke Schenn's skate and the latter being a deflection by the scorer himself.  Elias was wide open on Mason's flank for his goal.  The only goal Mason should have wished he stopped was the Zubrus shot that beat him shortside.  I didn't think he was particularly bad other from that moment.

Schneider's save percentage for the night was much better due to facing many more shots.  However, I think he had a similar night.  He gave up two goals I wished he did better on.  The first was Simmonds' first goal. The Devils did fail to get the puck off and Jon Merrill sold out to dive for a shot that didn't come way too early. Simmonds' toe drag was appropriate.  It was still a clear shot that beat Schneider low.   The second was that 2-on-1 that Lecavalier scored on.  Yes, Salvador got caught in the neutral zone.  Yes, it was a bad situation.  But Lecavalier led the rush, kept it all the way, and had a clear view of Lecavalier - just as Schneider had a clear view of him.  Schneider got beaten straight up.  Other than that the goals were: Giroux's wrister getting past Zidlicky and Schneider; Simmonds banging it in at the final seconds.  While I think Schneider gave up one more stoppable goal, he made so many other stops - especially up close - that he wasn't really dragging the Devils down.  Basically, goalies will be featured on the wrong end of a lot of goals tonight but they weren't as bad as the score implies.

The Other's Best of the Night: Wayne Simmonds is a beast and a pain to deal with - in a good way.  He had a three-point night, four shots, the best forward in possession (+9 in Corsi) and was a force all night long.  Giroux managed to have seven shots on net, but Simmonds was a more common threat to attack.  While I'm surprised he didn't draw a call, he had the prototypical "guy you hate but wished you had on your team" performance.

Hey: Shout out to the Devils' watch party at The Rock.  I don't know if it was the Devils' doing or everyone just decided to sit in the club seats, the shots of the party aired on TV looked like a big, energetic group.  Well done, you got a show tonight.

Lastly: As is tradition, I will break down Ryder's goal as it was the first goal of the season.  Expect it on either Sunday or Monday.

Your Take: The Devils won their first game of the season and did it on the very first night. Already better than last year.  What did you think of the game?  It wasn't pretty but there were positives and negatives. Who do you think had the best game for each team?  What do you want the Devils to work on before they play Florida on Saturday night? If you were at The Rock for the watch party, how was it? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who followed along in the gamethread and on Twitter with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.