Scores are like objects in mirrors. Sometimes, they appear to be much closer than they actually are. Such was tonight's hockey game between the New Jersey Devils and the Dallas Stars. The final score was a 3-4 loss. The actual run of play was more decisive in favor of the opponent. As it has been in this past week, the last month, and most of this season.
There were some areas that went slightly better than the last three weeks. The Devils were only out-shot 31-36. That means the team actually put up 31 shots against a team that gives up about that many on average. The Devils were out-attempted, but only by 65-74 instead of the massive differences seen on Monday and Tuesday. They got a goal after pulling the goalie so at least there was some hope. But these silver linings do not cover the massive grey clouds that have covered the 2014-15 campaign for the Devils.
Again, the Devils got burned on defense for goals. Again, the Devils spent more time getting pinned back or not. Again, the neutral zone was often one-way forward for Dallas as they hit the Devils on counter-attacks. Again, the Devils conceded dangerous passes and they paid the price. Again, Cory Schneider got beaten for multiple goals and was pulled "to get something going." Again, their goals came against the run of play. Again, much of this game was chore to watch because the Devils - despite getting more shots and attempts than they have in their last three games - didn't generate the threatening chances that would lead one to think a comeback was remotely possible. This is written for tonight and most of it can be (and has been) written for tonight.
These are the doldrums and honestly, I don't know what's next. Peter DeBoer isn't long for this team. Neither are some of these players. What shoe drops first, I don't know. It's to the point where the losses just don't garner a reaction as so many fans are convinced that this team just isn't any good. And the reality is that they aren't. What's worse? Being unhappy with another loss or not even being bothered by it? I don't know.
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 Log | The Natural Stat Trick Corsi Charts
The Opposition Opinion: Please visit Defending Big D for an opposition opinion.
The Game Highlights: There were some highlights, mostly for the other team.
Let's Go Over These Goals: The first goal against was a 3-on-2, helped out by Jaromir Jagr trying to make a stop in the neutral zone and not succeeding. The three were two-thirds of Dallas' top line with Erik Cole. Specifically Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin. Seguin was in the middle and hammered a shot past Eric Gelinas - who drifted back on the rush - and Cory Schneider.
The second goal against was created by Spezza and inadvertently by Jon Merrill. Spezza got hit with a great pass by Seguin past Peter Harrold and Merrill. Spezza's one timer was stopped but he carried the rebound around for a wraparound. Schneider stopped that but the loose puck went off Merrill's skate. Merrill didn't do much else so Spezza just potted that loose puck in. This goal was about two-and-a-half minutes from the first one so it was fairly quick two goal deficit.
The Devils would tie it up and but Dallas would go back to regain a two goals lead in the second period. After a dump in (or an icing uncalled?), Ales Hemsky and Antoine Roussel did a little cycle. This got the attention of all five Devils on the ice. So when Roussel got the puck coming into the middle, he passed it to a wide-open Trevor Daley in the left circle. Daley hammered a one-timer that beat Schneider short side. It was the sort of goal against that I'm anticipating to be featured by Justin Bourne in a Systems Analyst post.
The fourth concession would come about two minutes later. The Devils got the puck deep and tried to get something in close on Kari Lehtonen. They did not get it and the Stars recovered. Because the Devils were trying to get in deep, all three forwards were behind four Stars. Three Stars kept going forward. Damon Severson took the initial puck carrier, Colton Sceviour; Andy Greene took the Star who gained the zone, Vernon Fiddler; and no one had the third man coming in wide: Shawn Horcoff. Fiddler got a great pass off to Horcoff and he one-timed it through Schneider's legs right in front of the crease. Jaromir Jagr was trying to get back but there was too much ice to catch up. Nevertheless, the counter-attack struck big.
Read through those four paragraphs and you'll note the following: an attempt in the neutral zone leading to a bad situation made worse by a defender skating backwards in the goalie's view, a defenseman not able to clean up a play, skaters forgetting it's 5-on-5 and a man was left wide open, and a counter-attack. My conclusions are two-fold: 1) it's not just one player or unit that's the problem and 2) is that I feel bad for Cory Schneider getting pulled because these certainly weren't his fault.
But The Three Scored: Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas can at least feel good for scoring goals. Merrill converted a power play due to a great cross-ice pass by Adam Henrique. He delayed after receiving the puck, but it allowed him to get the shot on target. Gelinas' goal got a lot of reaction as to how he should have never been scratched or some such. It was a wrister from the blueline that sailed past three Dallas players, possibly hitting off one of them, and getting past Lehtonen. It wasn't The Truth, it was just good luck. The goals were good in that the Devils got two goals and they tied up the game. A stronger effort overall could have yielded a better result. But then they got burned for two later in the period and that went up in smoke.
The third goal was Scott Gomez's first as a Devil this season. It was a rebound effort off a Henrique and Jaromir Jagr attempt. Basically, he won in traffic and good for him. It made the last 1:07 of the game more interesting. Alas, the Devils out-shooting the Stars 11-3 in the period looks nice on the scoresheet but on the ice, there wasn't much threatening beforehand. It was to a point where I didn't understand the decision to pull Keith Kinkaid, but at least there was that.
So the Devils had one good play that was finished and two good occurrences. There can be more good plays and more fortunate occurrences should the Devils keep attacking against their opponents. The 31 shots on net is a step forward. But there's many more to go in order to get results. Like not getting out-shot 7-13 or 13-20 in the two periods before not really attempting a comeback.
Surprising to Me: Michael Ryder hit a post and had five shots on net. I remember the post. I cannot tell you when those five shots were on net. Severson looked more like a rookie defenseman tonight with respect to his positioning. Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier got pinned. Sadly, the Devils suffered another injury. Mike Cammalleri only played 12 shifts and 6:57; per Tom Gulitti on Twitter, it's a "lower body injury."
Unsurprising to Me: Jaromir Jagr led in attempts with eight, though he only got three on net and one bad word on the broadcast. Jon Merrill and Marek Zidlicky each had four shots on net while Severson had two on six attempts. So the defense certainly had their contributions on offense, firing away more often than not. At least their attempts mostly got through. Jacob Josefson's line looked OK. Outside of the third, the defense had some dubious moments across all six players.
As for the Stars, Seguin had seven shots on net. Hemsky had five shots on net. They were the common shooters on their respective lines and they were on the scoresheet on their way to a win tonight. That's expected for Seguin. Hemsky hasn't been as productive this season, but he was a standout against the team he was a standout against in these team's last meeting.
Fun Fact: The Devils have went 6-for-12 on recent power plays. The good news is that they have converted power plays recently. The bad news is that they have only drawn twelve power plays recently. Given that the Devils have had trouble moving the puck effectively and controlling it to get to dangerous areas, there's little reason for opponents to foul them. Call it another sign of varying value as to why this is not a good time to follow the Devils.
Your Take: Well, the score was made closer than it deserved. At least they didn't get steamrolled is a sentence I can say in summary, which is sad in of itself. The Devils lost another game. What happens now? I don't know. Feel free to give me answers beyond "FIRE THE COACH/TEAM/ETC. !!!1111" and other thoughts about this game in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented and followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter tonight. Thank you for reading.