This was a very bad game for the New Jersey Devils. They were thoroughly outclassed by a strong Vancouver team in the finale of their western Canadian road trip. They were hemmed in constantly, failed to break out, committed plenty of turnovers, couldn't sustain pressure, couldn't generate shots, and couldn't make passes. They hung around thanks to a strong effort from a rested Cory Schneider, but the Devils skaters looked like a clearly inferior group for much of this game. It was a bad way to end a road trip and another setback for a team that just doesn't look very confidence-inspiring right now.
The first period was certainly a forgettable one from the start. Right from the opening drop of the puck, the Devils were forced back into their own end by the Canucks skaters. Unable to skate pucks out of their own end or maintain control of the puck, the Devils allowed the first 9 shots and the first 11 attempts of the game. They would finally get a puck to the net on a Seth Helgeson shot from a distance around midway through the period, but the ice would be tilted back shortly after when the Devils were caught on a change and took a penalty on a play they were lucky to not be scored on. That penalty kill was actually pretty strong overall and it ended up with the Devils best chance to that point when Zubrus got a shot and also a swipe at a rebound on an odd-man rush. After the penalty kill, play leveled off, with both teams having some chances, but the Devils were ultimately lucky to escape the first. They would end the period down in shots, 17-6, and attempts, 22-12, but the game remained deadlocked at zero.
The score would not remain that way for long out of the first intermission. About a minute into the second period, the Canucks would apply some pressure on the forecheck deep in the Devils end and Zidlicky would steer a puck around the boards. Bonino got a piece of the puck along the wall and it would find its way out to Kevin Bieksa at the point. Bieksa quickly fired it towards net and Alex Burrows, whom was lost by Marek Zidlicky, would deflect it past Cory Schneider on the door step to open the scoring. A little while after the goal, Seth Helgeson would drop the gloves for the first time in his NHL career against Derek Dorsett trying to get the Devils going. It (shockingly) didn't really have much impact on the Devils, but hey, kid was trying, I guess. Around midway through the second, the Devils would go back on the penalty kill after Jacob Josefson fell victim to the new NHL rule preventing players from playing the puck with their hand on faceoffs. The Devils would be pinned back for just about the entire two minutes as the Canucks bombed away, but they survived thanks to some blocks, some luck, and a still solid Cory Schneider. After killing the penalty off play would even out somewhat again, but the Devils continued to be unable to cleanly escape their zone with any consistency, leading to more Canucks chances. The score would hold into the second intermission, though.
The Devils came out in the third needing a goal with the game still just 1-0 and, to their credit, did play a bit better overall. Pete DeBoer jumbled up all of the lines except for Cammalleri-Zajac-Jagr and it did work to some extent, but the Devils still didn't really have a plethora of chances. Zubrus had a shot close in on Miller off an Elias feed, and Bernier had a glorious opportunity stopped by Ryan Miller off a great centering pass from Cammalleri, but there just weren't enough of those moments for the Devils break through. Then, with about 5 minutes remaining in the game, Marek Zidlicky committed a rough turnover (it definitely wasn't his first, more on that later) at the Vancouver blue line, sending Shawn Matthias on a breakaway. Schneider would stop the shot by Matthias, but Zidlicky would end up knocking in the rebound off his leg coming back on the backcheck. It was 2-0, and that was just about the end of things. The Devils would mount a little bit of pressure with the goaltender pulled at the end, but they remained unable to break through, so the game ended in a 2-0 shutout victory for Vancouver. It was a lackluster performance to cap off a lackluster road trip and the Devils continue to flounder.
I'm not sure why you would want to watch these if you are a Devils fan, but here are the highlights of tonight's game, regardless:
A few other notes on this late game:
One Line Got Crushed: Ultimately, most of the Devils forwards didn't end up too bad in straight up possession, though I didn't think anyone looked particularly good for the most part. One line, however, was absolutely steamrolled by their opponents tonight, and that was the Elias-Henrique-Havlat line. Through two periods, before they were broken up, the line was on for 1 shot attempt for and 14 attempts against for the Devils. They were completely unable to get anything going as a line tonight, getting pinned back constantly. I thought each played a little better after they were broken up in the third, but as a unit they were a disaster tonight.
Cory Tries His Best: Schneider kept the Devils in this game deep into the third period when they probably had no business being there. He was solid all night, controlling rebounds, making tough stops, and weathering the storms periodically going on in front of his net. The two goals he allowed, he really had no chance on, be it the perfect deflection by Burrows or the puck bouncing in off Zidlicky after he made a big breakaway stop. After finally getting some rest this weekend, he looked about as sharp as you could possibly hope.
Speaking of Marek...: This was an absolutely terrible game from Marek Zidlicky. There is absolutely no way around it. You accept that you are going to have some "Bad Marek" moments every once in a while, but you'd prefer that he limit those moments to less than half a dozen in a night. Zidlicky had turnover after turnover tonight and he didn't look particularly crisp going forward on the rare occasion he wasn't handing it to the Canucks. He sprung Vancouver on two odd-man rushes in the last 11 minutes alone, and he was already having a bad game before that happened, considering he lost Burrows in front for the opening goal. I understand it's the cost of admission for his offensive game sometimes, but he was just way to much of a negative tonight. He has to be sharper.
Sedins Held in Check: One thing you expected might be an issue for the Devils tonight was containing the Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Radim Vrabata line. That was actually done fairly well as the Jagr-Zajac-Cammalleri line actually saw a lot of them and mostly neutralized them. The line that really killed the Devils was the second line of Burrows, Nick Bonino, and Chris Higgins. They created the first (and game-winning) goal and had the Devils pinned back all night. The Canucks depth is ultimately what made the Devils look bad tonight.
Wrapping Up: The non-Zidlicky defense didn't look super great tonight either, but no one stuck out in the same way he did. I thought Greene perhaps had an okay game. The fourth line of Bernier-Gionta-Zubrus actually played a half-decent game as well. But the skaters, as a whole, put up a very listless effort tonight with an inability to escape their own zone cleanly and maintain possession through the neutral zone. It was a similar issue that they've had all year. They just aren't able to link together passes with any consistency and, as a result, their ability to possess the puck is suffering. If the team continues to play this way, I don't think it's unfair to think changes may come. We shall see. It's already late, so I'm going to cut it off here, but if you have thoughts on this game, as I'm sure you do, you can share them below in the comments. Hopefully a return home this week will bring better results.