Here we are again, two days after watching the New Jersey Devils take a tough defeat against the St. Louis Blues. Despite a late, valiant effort, we again watched the Devils fall by a one goal deficit. This time, however, the final score was not 1-0, but was rather 4-3. For someone who did not watch the hockey game, he or she may believe this to be a high scoring affair that was back and forth the entire night. He or she would most certainly be mistaken. For the overwhelmingly large majority of the game, it seemed like New Jersey would suffer another shutout loss at the hands of rookie goaltender Jake Allen. He was absolutely superb for most of the night, stopping anything and everything coming his way.
Interestingly enough, that would not happen. With 3 minutes and 25 seconds to go in regulation, already down 3-0, the Devils decided to finally show up on the score sheet. Michael Ryder blasted a wrister past Allen to get his team on the scoreboard, down 3-1. At the time, Ken Daneyko noted that the goal was particularly important for the Devils, as it would give them a little boost of confidence heading into Detroit. Little did he know that the scoring had just begun. The Devils would score twice more in the remainder of the game, a lucky turnaround slapper by Marek Zidlicky and an open-net gimme for Ryder's second of the night, set up by an amazing pass from Jaromir Jagr.
Alas, that would not be enough to win, because Damien Brunner took a penalty almost immediately after Ryder's first goal of the night. And knowing the Devils' penalty kill, it would not sustain the pressure. Backes would get the game winner with 2:32 left on the game clock.
It was a valiant effort late in what was an otherwise offensively-deficient game for New Jersey. Yes this team can hold their heads high that they got goals late and made it an actual contest. But in reality, this team was punished for their mistakes from the first period onward, and the final score is not really all that indicative of how the game went. Yes the Devils played well for stretches of this game, especially in the first period when it looked like they were the better team on the ice. But when your coach is taking out your starting goaltender down 3 goals early in the third period when said goalie was not truly at fault for any of the goals that went in...that is very telling indeed.
The Opposition Opinion: For Blues' coverage, check out St. Louis Game Time.
The Game Highlights: If you only want to see Devils goals, check out the second half of the video.
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Take the Open Shot: As I have already harped on, the Devils were held scoreless until very late in the game. They had plenty of chances, however, but put none of them home. There were points where I regretted writing what I did for the preview. In that preview, I wrote how I wanted the team to string some passes together. Well tonight, they seemed to regularly go for the extra pass instead of taking the shot. There were a few 2 on 1's where the Devil went for a tough pass through the defender instead of taking the open shot on net. Both Steve Bernier and Damien Brunner were guilty of this. Instead of taking the shot and seeing what happened, the pass went awry and nothing positive came of the rush. The passing did need to be cleaned up for tonight's game, and I felt that it was better at times, but please, take a shot when you have a clear lane!
A Depleted Lineup: Tonight, the Devils were really left without key players. As already noted in the preview, the team would be without Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat. They were not making the trip due to previous injuries. Well earlier today, we found out the Adam Henrique hurt himself getting over the boards and would be unavailable to play. That was a severe blow. Then, during the first period, Ryane Clowe left the game due to injury and would not return. This really hurt the offense as the Devils had to rely on only 11 forwards, one of whom was emergency call-up Mike Sislo. I understand that no team can make excuses, especially with injuries, but the forwarding corps was extremely limited tonight due to injuries to major forwards on this roster.
Again, No Excuses: Yes there were injuries, but there can be no excuses with regards to winning and losing. Good teams find ways to win, regardless of injuries. Other players step up and score goals and keep their team in games. Coaches adjust rosters to maximize available talent. I am taking nothing away from what Peter DeBoer did tonight, as I felt that he did a great job of shifting lines and doing what he could to help produce offense. But again...we should not blame this loss on injuries. Yes they hurt this team big time, but good teams find ways to get points and the Devils did not get a point tonight.
As for NJ's Goalies: I mentioned this earlier, but I do not believe that the goals against Cory Schneider tonight were really his fault. The first goal was a ridiculous play by Vladimir Tarasenko in the dying seconds of the first period. Yes Cory went down early and perhaps should've stayed on his feet longer, but hindsight is 20-20 there. Tarasenko made a heck of a play. The second goal was a breakaway where the defense was caught making a change. And on the third goal he stood no chance; Damon Severson simply got muscled out of position. He was taken out, perhaps to give Keith Kinkaid some experience (perhaps so that Schneider would be rested to start tomorrow!?), but I do not believe him being pulled was a referendum on his performance.
Keith Kinkaid did just fine in his relief appearance, at least from my eyes. Yes he gave up the game winning goal, but he made some nice stops and kept his team at least close. I really do hope that he gets a start at some point in the near future.
Getting Handled: The top pairing of Andy Greene and Damon Severson were not positive possession players this evening. Overall, both were -7 in Corsi differential in all situations, and were nearly as bad as that at even strength. They play regular minutes against the opponent's top competition, but are generally expected to handle them fairly well. Tonight, they were not able to do as well as hoped again David Backes' top line. For the Devils to do well, they cannot be regularly pinned down in their own end.
The Momentum Killer: The first goal the Blues scored was an absolute killer. New Jersey was clearly the better team in the first period, with a better run of play. They started off the game quite well, and kept the pressure on for most of the period. Yes they gave up some opportunities, but they were getting more opportunities than giving them up. Then comes the end of the period. Elias gives up the puck in an ugly fashion on the boards, the puck eventually gets out to the slot, and Tarasenko goes to work. The Devils need to be safer with the puck at that point in time, if at all possible. They have momentum before that goal, and things felt good. After that goal, everyone had to wonder if the Devils would ever score a goal and get back into the game. It was a back breaker, and it showed. The Devils were clearly a worse team in the second period. I am not sure if that goal had anything to do with it, and I am sure that the team would never admit that it did. But it really felt like it burst the bubble on the entire night.
Speaking of Tarasenko: All I have to say is wow...
How About Jake Allen Too: It would be wrong of me to also not praise Jake Allen. Yes he let up three goals late and almost got the Devils back into it. But for 55 minutes he looked really good again. Ken Hitchcock was really smart starting him again, despite having Brian Elliott rested. Allen could be real good in this league for a long time if he keeps it up.
Ahh, the Penalty Kill: Two more power play goals let up by the Devils. This penalty kill is really destroying this team's chances. Their lack of efficiency has been discussed at length already on this website, and I feel like a broken record bringing it up again, but it needs mention. If this team remains as the 2nd worst penalty killing unit in the league for the rest of the season, they will not make the playoffs. That I can be sure of. Something needs to change, and needs to change soon.
On the Positive Side of Things: I thought Michael Ryder played a quality game. Two goals for him were really great to see. He also had 5 shots on net overall. He was a negative possession player for the evening, but on a night where he nets two goals, I can live with that. That kind of production from him is awesome to see. I hope he can stay hot.
Jaromir Jagr was also a beast. He was +11 in Corsi differential in all situations, and set up Ryder with a ridiculous cross-ice pass for the Devils' third goal. I still get amazed watching him maneuver around defenders with the puck. He is a wizard on the ice, and it is a privilege to watch him play on a nightly basis.
I also really liked what I saw out of Tuomo Ruutu tonight as well. He seemed to be around the puck whenever he was on the ice, and he was making good things happen. He had a +7 Corsi differential on the night, along with 4 shots, which was good for second on the team. Considering the difficulty he was having at the start of the season, this was awesome to see.
One More Negative: Patrik Elias was a -8 in Corsi differential tonight, but that does not tell the whole tale of it. As I mentioned above, he was the one who gave away the puck in the defensive zone initially which led to Tarasenko's goal. He also gave away the puck at other times on the ice, and did not have a good game at all, at least from my perspective. I hope he can find the net sometime soon and get his season back on track.
A Tough Schedule: The Devils are right back at it tomorrow, this time in Detroit against a quality Red Wings squad. Then they have another back-to-back to start next week, first in Boston then at home for Minnesota. This is a tough stretch of games. Somehow, they need to find some points, and find them fast.
Your Thoughts: What did you take away from tonight's game? Are there other positives to mention about the Devils, or should be only be discussing the negative things? Who impressed you tonight for either team, and who disappointed you? How do you feel about New Jersey's upcoming schedule? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.