When it rains, it pours. Such is the feeling and sometimes the reality of a team that lost four straight games.
The New Jersey Devils did not play well for the better part of two periods against the Boston Bruins. The Devils did quite well to start the game. They were able to do something we haven't seen enough of: making passes going forward. They got a few early rushes. Mike Cammalleri flung a pass to the slot that dropped for Travis Zajac, who proceeded to beat Tuukka Rask early. It was crisp hockey. It was better than what we've seen recently. Then it all fell apart.
The first period ended with the Devils behind in shots 5-11,
ahead behind in attempts 7-22, and down 1-2. The first period equalizer came from, what else, a power play goal scored by Boston. Reilly Smith shanked a one-timer, but Carl Soderberg chipped the puck up and past Cory Schneider. The PK actually looked solid prior to that rush. The Bruins kept attacking. Schneider held them off and notably bailed out Bryce Salvador. He could not bail out Eric Gelinas, though. Late in the first, Adam Larsson slung a hard D-to-D pass to Gelinas. Gelinas couldn't hold onto the puck and it bounced up to Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron took the gift and accepted it for a score. Whatever good feeling built up early felt like forever ago. Amid the two goals, we witnessed turnovers, bad passes, and even some bad breaks - like Stephen Gionta's stick breaking from a lead pass that would have given him a breakaway.
The second period continued the poor play. Down a goal, the B's were able to keep pressing forward thanks to the turnovers. Then all of a sudden, the Devils cleaned up their act a bit more. Surprising no one, the decrease in turnovers led to more attacking shifts from the Devils. Eventually, they got a breakthrough. Zajac wheeled around the net to protect the puck and passed it down to Jaromir Jagr. Jagr curled into the left circle and fired a low wrister to the far post to make it 2-2. And the Devils didn't relent. They weren't constantly rushing up, but they weren't getting dominated anymore. Then it fell apart in a worse way.
Salvador attempted a shot on net. This wasn't a problem. It got blocked and the puck went ahead into the neutral zone. That could have been a problem, as Seth Griffith dashed towards it. But Zidlicky and Salvador were able to recover. They appeared to bottle him up. Griffith was swarmed. Yet, some how, some way, he was able to press ahead and get a shot off. Not just any shot, but a fancy, between-the-legs shot. And Schneider was ill-prepared for it. Griffith scored no thanks to Zidlicky & Salvador being able to stop one man and no thanks to Schneider giving up a very stoppable goal. Minutes later, Salvador saw a pass go through his skates which went right to Bergeron. Bergeron sees an uncovered Smith streaking into the slot (looking at you, Jagr): pass, shot, score. It's 2-4 and no one who supports New Jersey is happy.
One of the few positives from tonight was the play of the third period. Score effects took over as the Devils out-shot the Bruins 14-3. They were able to effectively make passes, they won battles for pucks, and they at least put in the effort. The unit of Cammalleri, Zajac, and Jagr really knocked on the door to score. Alas, Rask was able to get every one of those stops. Another extra skater situation that threatened but didn't yield any goals passed and so the Devils lost. If the team could play like they did in the third period, then they'd be better off. The problem is that I think that was driven by the Bruins being up two goals and more content to sit back.
More importantly, the team lost four straight and they now have more regulation losses than wins. Positives and silver linings don't show up in the standings and everyone's patience is being tried. A lot of what happened tonight happened on other nights in this still-young season. Schneider is doing what he can, but he's still giving up soft goals more often than is desired. The penalty kill has been abhorrent. The young defensemen aren't reliable outside of Damon Severson; and the veteran pairing of Salvador and Zidlicky have been a detriment. The skaters go through long stretches where they can't even execute the basics like making passes without pressure and not turning the puck over. Everyone's got their favorite targets to blame and I can't say everyone's all that wrong. The sun will come up tomorrow for all of us; but for the Devils, who knows when the rain will end.
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 Devils Time on Ice Report | The Natural Stat Trick Corsi Charts
The Opposition Opinion: Here's a quick reaction from Sarah Connor about the Bruins' fifth-straight win at Stanley Cup of Chowder.
The Game Highlights: There's one highlight in this game that will be replayed quite a bit. It went against New Jersey, though. The video is from NHL.com:
The Return of Cammalleri: Mike Cammalleri's return was incredibly welcomed. Two assists, three shots on net out of four attempts, plenty of control that led to Zajac and Jagr doing well, and one shot off the post. The Zajac line was beaten badly in terms of possession, but they provided the goals and led the many attacks of the third period. Tonight at least showed how much better Zajac and Jagr can be when Cammalleri flying alongside of them in place of Dainius Zubrus or Ryane Clowe. May he remain as healthy as possible.
708: Jaromir Jagr scored his 708th goal of his regular season career, tying Mike Gartner for sixth all time. Jagr should've picked up Smith before he scored, but Jagr scored a goal of his own and led the Devils with six shots and eight attempts. Jagr was very close to making it a one-goal game in the third, but he was denied by Rask several times. I would say he was the best Devil tonight. If only he got that second goal to pass Gartner, if only to make a comeback effort more possible.
24-2, SMH: The SMH stands for Shaking My Head. It's shorthand for disappointment. Their play on the third and fourth goals were terrible. Prior to that, they were just trying to survive as they were pinned back quite a bit. So did Andy Greene and Damon Severson, but they made up for that in the third. Zidlicky contributed little on offense, which begs the question: what good does he bring then? Salvador, well, let's just say I'm expecting a lot of booing if/when he's named tomorrow night. Bad games for both and in the center.
Are Your Kids Growing?: Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas came out on the right side of possession. Normally, that's something praise worthy. Yet, they also faced weak competition; usually against Boston's bottom six. One would hope they'd win those match-ups. Even then, they committed some costly errors. Larsson took a penalty after a 4-on-4 situation because he couldn't keep up with Marchand (and because Marchand successfully sold it), which led to the PPGA. Zidlicky was seen on that PK because Larsson was in the box. Gelinas mishandled a routine pass that gave Bergeron a glorious opportunity and the Bruins a late 1-2 lead in the first. In the third, Gelinas was paired with Zidlicky as they tried to find some offense. Of course, this was the game where Gelinas would get only one shot on net and Zidlicky would not even get one while Larsson got three.
I know Zidlicky-Salvador isn't a good pairing. I think most know this. I don't think anyone is arguing otherwise. But tonight, I'm getting to the point of frustration with these two defensemen. Are they really improving? Gelinas continues to make dubious decisions on the ice. More than just the turnover, but little things like firing a dump-in even with space to skate ahead into the blueline or s with Zidlicky, if he's not firing shots then what's his main asset? Larsson is younger but has played more than Gelinas. (And Merrill.) Yet, he's still not that good of a skater, he still takes too many hits, and he plays with tunnel-vision on defense. I thought by letting the kids play, they would grow. Where is the growth? Don't either of them know that when Jon Merrill returns, one of them is sitting? And arguments could be made for either? Could they be better on another night? Sure. But those nights - and I do mean it as a plural - have to come soon. Otherwise, it's going to continue to hold the team back. Even if they learn from their errors, the errors - like tonight - contributes to not winning. And just like Salvador's & Zidlicky's errors, I don't think there's time for not winning.
Speaking of Holding Back: Beyond the Zajac line, I don't have a lot to praise from the other units. Again, many were positive in possession but that was driven by a third period where the Devils controlled play. There would be a couple of good shifts out of Jacob Josefson but was largely not a factor. Damien Brunner played like he should sit for Martin Havlat. Tuomo Ruutu got a shot away from the bottom six but I don't think he did enough to justify playing above them. Michael Ryder did OK. The slump continues for Patrik Elias. Again, the lot did better in the third but in the first two periods, their contributions were few.
Need to Do Better: I would only fault Schneider on the third (and big highlight) goal by Boston. That one he should've stopped. He was hung out to dry on the second, the first was a sudden change in the shot, and the fourth was a one-timer from the slot. Yet, Schneider has been conceding a lot of goals and with a few bad ones mixed in, it's not unreasonable to think he should be better. That said, the awful penalty kill is undercutting him and the skaters aren't doing any favors - just like tonight. Be it making big turnovers that lead to glorious scoring chances for the opposition or unable to get a breakout to keep the B's at bay. I would not fault Schneider for the current state of the team, but again, I would not fully disagree that he could be better. I would not mind Keith Kinkaid getting a start either.
The Bruins Dive & They're Good: Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith each took an embellishment call. In your face, Bruins, you now have a reputation. At least, I think you do.
But seriously, like Detroit on Friday, they flexed their muscles for the first half of the game. Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton were steady and solid. Patrice Bergeron was a stud. Smith and Marchand were threats along with Bergeron. Torey Krug returned to the lineup and put in a decent's night work. Carl Soderberg led his unit well. The curious thing about Boston was that everyone got at least ten minutes and only defensemen played more than twenty. Boston was able to use everyone. While some have been pinned back quite a bit (e.g. Milan Lucic), it wasn't a big issue. Especially with Rask playing so well in the final third in the game.
Your Take: The Devils lost four in a row. What is the answer? I don't know. We'll have to see if the coaching staff, the players, and the executives have one tomorrow. They'll play Minnesota. What's your take on this game? Please leave your answer and other thoughts about tonight's game in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who followed along in the Gamethread and followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter. Thank you for reading.