No, the New Jersey Devils have not turned the corner. If anything, tonight's performance against the Boston Bruins was a cold dose of reality. The reality that the Devils are a bad hockey team. The reality that when they play a good possession team like Boston and concede the puck as much as they have, then they will just rolled on the ice. The reality that, yes, Philadelphia and Buffalo are really bad teams. The Devils lost 0-3 to Boston and it should have been far worse were it not for the efforts of Cory Schneider - once again, the only Devil to have played an excellent game.
New Jersey got out-shot 14-43. Yes, they got tripled in shots. The counts by period were 3-18, 4-11, and 7-14. The last shot was an empty netter by Milan Lucic that sealed the game. Only the score was somewhat close in this competition as the Bruins went up 0-2 and couldn't get a third goal despite putting in the work and the Devils giving them chances. Schneider faced 42 shots and stopped a lot that would've been goals on most goalies. He was rewarded by 18 skaters helping him as little as possible with loads of turnovers in every zone. It was so bad, I was surprised Seth Helgeson didn't come out for the third period with a glove imprint on his face. Not that would've been right, but I would've understood.
Everyone should give the Bruins credit. A bad team is a bad team, but good teams make bad teams pay for their errors. They were impeccable off the puck. Boston players were in the right spots in the neutral zone and they backchecked very well. They kept coming at the Devils in waves, and while the Devils made it easier for that to happen with chipping and losing pucks left and right, the Bruins took full advantage. When Lucic converted a power play goal in the third and Carl Soderberg took a Mark Fraser turnover to the center and scored, my reaction was the same: it was going to happen. The home team exerted their dominance and kept it up for three periods. The only part of their performance that wasn't good was their lame power plays in the beginning; but redemption came with Lucic's PPG. They were awesome as much as the Devils were awful. Again, Schneider was the main reason this wasn't the blowout it should've been.
As I said in the preview, I think the Bruins will play out of whatever funk they think they're in. A performance like this one will absolutely help. What of the Devils? Clearly, they have been out of their depth when they have to play against legitimately good teams. Yeah, there were some moments where the Devils almost got that elusive goal. Jon Merrill missed a great chance on the only power play and Scott Gomez hit a post, but at no point did anyone watching this game think that the Devils were going to find their way back into this one short of a miracle. The performance was that pathetic.
I would love to say that the co-coaches should run these guys through a bag skate for such a game, but with another game tomorrow against a legitimately good team - better than Boston, that may be punishment enough.
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: You can rank the Bruins here at Stanley Cup of Chowder. Sarah Connors' recap will be up later. She can simply write "loldevils" and that would be sufficient. I'm tempted to do it myself (I won't, I respect you all too much).
The Game Highlights: It's pretty much a highlight reel of Schneider and the Bruins bossing the Devils around. Here's the video from NHL.com:
The Opposition Goalie: His name is Niklas Svedberg. He's Boston's back up and since he got a shutout, he is now the latest example of Devils Always Making Backups Look Good. I find that notion to be dubious. But it's easy for any goalie to shut out the Devils considering he faced a whopping 14 shots on net out of only thirty attempts to deal with. So when the Devils got the seemingly rare chance to shoot the puck, they didn't even get it on net. Svedberg was not only fine but he got to be well rested in the process. Another bonus from an excellent performance by Boston and an excremental one by the Devils.
Where I Reach for Silver Linings: If you force me to name any Devils skaters that weren't super-bad tonight, then I would have to name Andy Greene and Adam Larsson. They were the least bad of a defense that got ripped to shreds on the ice. It's not so much that Larsson has the glorious Confidence(tm) and Greene has the glorious...something else. They both held their positions, they didn't treat the puck like a grenade, and they didn't get pinned back nearly as much as the other skaters. Good for the concept of a Greene-Larsson first pairing, but I can't even say they were all that good since they were part of a performance that conceded 43 shots on net.
The Answer is Yes: The question, "Who was worse tonight, Mark Fraser or Seth Helgeson?" Both were abysmal in their own end. Constant turnovers, terrible passes within and out of the zone, and continuing to chase plays instead of trying to make plays. Their positioning was suspect and the Bruins just picked on both over and over. Tonight clearly showed that both men are only on this team due to injuries to more qualified defensemen. (Yes, I'm including Eric Gelinas in that statement.) Peter Harrold would've been worlds better than both tonight, I am expecting he's in the lineup tomorrow on general principle. I'd pick Fraser - Soderberg says thanks for the goal - though I'm fine with the future Bryce Salvador if only because he played a mere eleven minutes at evens and got out-shot 0-17 somehow.
Oh, Jon Merrill and Marek Zidlicky were definitely not good either, but Fraser and Helgeson stunk so bad I think I can smell their performance here in central New Jersey.
Failure at Every Line: Surprising to no one, but a 14-shot performance means that no forward played well. So let's briefly talk about most of them. While Jaromir Jagr led the team with four shots, he wasn't strong on the puck and coughed it up a lot. Scott Gomez didn't play a smart game and his back pass in the neutral zone surprised Jagr, led to Jagr's holding call on Chris Kelly, which led to Lucic's goal. Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias were near invisible. I got further sick of a fourth line of Tim Sestito, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jordin Tootoo flailing about in their own end of the rink. Michael Ryder's sole contributions were hooking Dougie Hamilton just over a minute into the game, getting fouled by Daniel Paille for the team's lone power play on his lone weak shot on net of the night, and making me wish I saw Rockin' Mel Slurrup instead. Dainius Zubrus was just poor in general. As a unit, they were bad. Individually, they were bad.
Shaking My Head at #9: Martin Havlat was one of the more infuriating forwards on the ice. Everything he did seemingly gone wrong. He helped very little on defense. He was poor at receiving passes. He was poor at making passes. There were times he was so weak on the puck, I wondered if one of the Mites on Ice would have protected it better. Havlat was terrible on the wing with Ryder and Zubrus to start, and he continued to being terrible when those lines switched. His performance was such that I was missing Steve Bernier. I don't think I'm alone in that regard.
I Repeat, Schneider was the Only Good Devil Tonight: I really want to know if he was spitting the hottest of fires in either intermission. He certainly earned the right, not that it did any good.
How Can This Be Fixed?: I'd start with passing the puck and being able to control it coming out of their end. The Bruins were almost exactly where they needed to pressure the puck carrier in the neutral zone for most of the game - assuming they even got it that far. As difficult as they made it, the Devils did damage to themselves by throwing passes not even close to on target, making bad reads, and chipping it away when they really need to keep it on their sticks. Those lost pucks went right back the other way, as evidenced by the shot count. Philly and Buffalo didn't do that successfully and that was a reason those games were better ones. That's how I saw it. Too bad, the Isles are up next and could be an even more difficult opponent than the B's.
These Bruins Stood Out: Soderberg didn't just get a goal, but he had five other shots and two of them were robbed by Schneider as the Devils floated about on 'D.' Torey Krug was seemingly pushing every play forward. Zdeno Chara was a monster from the back to screening Schneider on Lucic's power play goal. Boston's fourth line looked very effective. Patrice Bergeron was the man. David Pastrnak looked like he could become the man in some time. I could keep going on, but these were the Bruins that stuck out to me as they kept mauling the Devils over and over on the attack.
Condolences: As an aside, condolences to the Parise family for the death of J.P. Parise. He perished from lung cancer at the age of 73.
Your Take: The Devils simply sucked tonight and the Bruins should've beaten them by more than three goals. But their win was very well deserved anyway. What was your reaction to the game? Please leave your answer and other thoughts about tonight's terrible game by the Devils in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who endured this one in the comments of the Gamethread and on Twitter through @InLouWeTrust in the comments.