Tonight's game was not broadcasted locally. There was no television coverage. The only radio coverage was local to the visitors. The first half of the game didn't make a strong case demanding a broadcast. We know the Second Rate Rivals are bad and boring, but the Devils' own sloppiness on the puck for most of the first forty minutes did not endear themselves either. The second half featured more exciting plays and ultimately a game that legitimately went into 3-on-3 overtime and ended in a shootout. The New Jersey Devils took the final preseason game from the Philadelphia Flyers. Jacob Josefson scored the lone goal at all in the shootout, 3-2.
Josefson would end up playing a crucial role in what led to the game requiring extra time at all. He tapped in a tight feed from Adam Henrique past Steve Mason to tie up the game with over three minutes left to play. It was a spirited third period that saw the Devils tie it up on a power play thanks to Jiri Tlusty pounding in a rebound, concede the lead to Jakub Voracek on a power play about a minute or so later, and plenty of action. Fortunately, most of the action was by the Devils as they out-shot the Flyers 11-7 and out-attempted them 19-8. The Devils kept up the pace in overtime. Alas, Josefson could not finish a 2-on-0 with John Moore; Adam Larsson was denied on a lovely backhander; and the Devils had to kill off the last 59 seconds due to a tripping call on Sergey Kalinin. Still, the Devils demonstrated that they could break down the Flyers' neutral zone formation and often did so through the wings.
It was a far sight better than the first two periods. The first was better for the Devils. They were able to out-shoot the Flyers, 7-3. They were able to keep the Flyers at bay for a while and really hold their time in New Jersey's end to a minimum. The Devils were guilty of missing on some good chances and their puck movement betrayed them; but Philadelphia was worse. They were also guilty of some poor discipline as they began the game with Adam Larsson drawing blood on R.J. Umberger on a high stick. Yes, a double-minor eight seconds into the game. They ended the period with a too many men on the ice call, which carried over into the second period. Both were killed; the four-minute minor was especially impressive as the Devils allowed no shots on net and nearly scored shorthanded. Alas, Andy Greene picked the right side but missed the net.
The second period was more of a slog for the Devils. The power play to start it wasn't a success, but Flyers were able to generate some shots and, more importantly, some time in New Jersey's end. The Devils skaters were all over the place on the puck, so there were more than a few turnovers and poor decisions that only helped the Flyers attack. The Devils would eventually get some flurries going, but that would be late and after a lot of struggling at moving the puck up ice. It would also be after a rather bad shorthanded goal. David Schlemko lost the puck at the blue line, he chased down the Flyer (I want to say it was Ryan White), and Damon Severson just tagged along. The puck came to the point for what I thought was Claude Giroux but was apparently Evgeny Medvedev, who fired a harmless shot from the point. It hit off White (and maybe Schlemko) and just dropped into the net past an unknowing Cory Schneider. The Devils took that bad break off a bad play by wasting the rest of that power play and getting pinned back. The Devils finished the period strong, but ultimately that was Philly's frame.
In that sense, the Devils would come back in this game in a fashion similar to Wednesday's game. While the Flyers had an answer for the first goal by Tlusty and extra time was needed to decide it, the Devils essentially just came out on the ice in the third and did more than them to make up the deficit. More passes. More shots. More attempts. More control. The Flyers kept trying to set up in the neutral zone to try to get stops at the red line. The many passes in their own end among Devils started to serve it's purpose: change the point of attack and find holes in their neutral zone coverage. It worked very well along the wings, allowing the Devils to carry the puck into their end. Creating and taking strong shots at Mason; the Devils were able to do this as the Flyers just really stopped attacking much between goals. If there's one positive to take out of tonight's performance, it's that response in the third period. The puck control was better, the passing was better, and the tactics allowed for it to happen.
The result is now meaningless as preseason is officially over. With Patrik Elias going on injured reserve, the Devils have three cuts to make by the middle of next week. I would think the decisions will be made tomorrow, but just because Ray Shero is now in charge doesn't mean he won't use the time that he has now. Still, I think some Devils made some strong cases to stay in New Jersey and others made showed off they're ready for real hockey to begin next Friday.
The Opposition Opinion: From Kurt R at Broad Street Hockey:
The game was on TV nowhere, and we won't do you all the disservice of trying to give an full-blown recap of this game from the radio broadcast.
That's understandable from his end. How can one give an opinion on a game one did not see? Fortunately for you, dear reader of All About the Jersey, I was at the game and so I can tell you all about it. If I miss something, just ask me in the comments and I'll tell you what I know.
Who Looked Good Among NHL Devils?: Josefson scored the equalizer and the lone shootout goal. His shootout goal can accurately be described as "sick," "nasty," and "sick-nasty." The equalizer was just as much a function of Adam Henrique gloving down a bouncing puck into the zone, going in deep, and firing a tight pass across the crease. While Mason couldn't have stopped the puck by the time Josefson hit it - one touch and it was in - he probably wished he denied the pass. Josefson played over nineteen minutes and over four minutes on the power play tonight. While the power play stunk, it's clear that John Hynes thinks Josefson can handle big minutes. With Elias out, Josefson could be the one to fill in that vacant spot on the top-six. I think he's earned that over this preseason and tonight's game only helped that thinking. Among other forwards, Zajac wasn't as impressive, but he was solid. I liked what I saw out of Jiri Tlusty, too.
Greene and Larsson were, well, Greene and Larsson. (Greene also drew two calls tonight, which is a bonus for him.) However, I was just as impressed with the play of John Moore and Jon Merrill. Both guys were solid and my only complaint about either was that they tended to pass it around in their own end when they got control instead of necessarily going forward. In fact, several times Devils forwards did this instead of taking, passing, or dumping it out of their own end. It wasn't until the third period did I realize why they were doing this and it ended up working rather well. One of them eventually led to the equalizer. I'd like think because these two did well, that's why Greene and/or Larsson didn't have to play over 25 minutes of tonight's game. I'd also like to think the coaching staff may think this could be a legitimate pairing after this game. We'll see on that soon enough.
Of course, Cory Schneider was very good. He had to make some bailout saves, like one on Chris Vande Velde early in the third and the two-on-one in overtime. For the most part, he was supported well, he didn't have to get ridiculous for any significant stretches of time, he stopped all three shots in the shootout, and he didn't lose the puck while playing it. He missed Merrill badly in the first period, but Sam Gagner ultimately did nothing with it.
Who Looked Good Among Not-Yet-NHL Devils?: Sergey Kalinin made the best case out of anyone on the bubble tonight. He exploited the wing as he drove to the net, and drove hard, at least four times tonight. Each of them was like seeing him do a Rick Nash impersonation. It nearly worked and, more amazingly, he was able to do it multiple times. Kalinin led the Devils in shots on net tonight with five. That's very good work from the winger, definitely more noticeable than his other games. The only blemish on his performance was a tripping call in overtime. But the fact that he was even on the ice in 3-on-3 overtime spoke to how he earned those minutes.
The other guys on the bubble had good games. Lee Stempniak was quite good for seventeen minutes, playing in all situations - even overtime. The only thing that didn't go so well for him was his shootout attempt. Reid Boucher put in another good night's work with three shots and keeping up with the play. Even Stefan Matteau had a decent effort with one shot on net, two attempts, probably one or two shots that weren't counted, and no penalties. He looked like a NHL fourth liner alongside fourth liners Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Gionta. If he played like this all preseason, I think more would be pleased about how he'll likely stay on the roster.
Who Didn't Look Good Among the NHL Devils?: Damon Severson had moments of greatness in a mostly good game against Philly on Wednesday. Tonight, he really didn't have too many of them and he got into trouble on some shifts. I don't think he was a good fit with his partner. At the same time, he wasn't making killer passes or providing much offense with only one little shot on net in the second period. More of his attempts were just denied by a Flyer skater. He wasn't horrible, but he was the worst among NHL roster Devils from what I saw tonight. He'll bounce back; we know he's rather good.
I wasn't a huge fan of Mike Cammalleri's game. Yes, he ended up with three shots on net, but he could have had more. His role on the team should be to fire away when he has a shooting lane, but he didn't do that tonight. He didn't really command much of a presence despite his auspicious number. Whereas the power play was more of a waste than not tonight, Cammalleri didn't help that much in getting it going. I did like how he did get an entry by trailing up ice along the wing and then hit with a pass to carry it in, but that was one moment out of a whole lot of nothing else from #13. Hopefully, this was just some rust as, good or bad, he'll be expected to be a leader on offense and not much of a passenger.
Who Didn't Look Good Among the Non-NHL Devils?: While I think he's a lock to make the roster as a seventh defenseman, David Schlemko had a rough night. He got better as the game went on Wendesday. Tonight, he was just about the same. He struggled controlling the puck, especially on the power play. Seeing Schlemko on the power play was akin to seeing Eric Gelinas (who was scratched tonight) on the penalty kill. I know it's preseason but it's still a poor idea that teaches us something we already know: they don't belong there. Defensively, he was a bit slower than the other Devils to make decisions and sometimes was caught out of place. While I know it's only his second preseason game, this was an opportunity to make a late case for being more than a #7 defenseman on this team. That opportunity was left behind.
The Shots, Seriously: The Devils ended up out-shooting the Flyers 31-23. Yes, these Devils without Kyle Palmieri firing away, out-shot the Flyers by that much. In the third period, there was a gap of over ten minutes between Flyers shots, which speaks to how the Devils attacked in stretches and the Flyers just didn't. There were similar, shorter gaps in the first period. The overall shot count speaks to how the Devils were eventually able to break through Philadelphia's neutral zone tactics. Win some turnovers and get some good bounces, and before you know it, Mason has a lot of work on his hands. He did quite well, but it appears Philadelphia will have defensive problems - again.
Special Teams: The power play was just a mess and if there's one aspect that I'd like to see the Devils really focus on ahead of next Friday's game, then it's that. The breakouts were a bit more varied, but in the few times the Devils got set-up, they stayed fixed in a 1-3-1. No movement. Not much shifting. I know a formation implies players to be in certain areas, but it's more than just watching two guys pass the puck. Or skating back to defend because the point man got beat or lost the puck.
Who Looked Good on the Flyers?: Hey, I might as well do BSH a solid and let them know who did and did not do well for their squad. Mason was the best Flyer on the ice. He saw a lot of rubber, had to deal with plenty of in-close and angled chances, and he got whatever he could. There's no shame in how he was beaten, both in regulation and in the shootout. Voracek and Giroux were good as usual. Voracek scored a PPG, torched Adam Larsson for a breakaway I thought he missed on but Schneider got a piece of, and attacked quite well with Giroux. His only big miscue was high-sticking Greene mid-way through the third, but the Devils didn't punish him for it. Giroux put up four shots, helped Voracek get three, and was involved in both goals. Wayne Simmonds had an odd game. He got five shots to lead the team, but he wasn't particularly dominating or imposing. He didn't throw his weight around much, he didn't get used down low or in front of the crease on power plays, he took a holding call early on that could've been bad (but wasn't), and he just wasn't really making an impact on several shifts as he was forced to defend quite a bit. His offense came in bursts, which is not totally bad, but the Flyers needed more from him.
Who Didn't Look Good for the Flyers?: At least he had the bursts. Outside of those three forwards, the Flyers got very little from the rest of the team. White's deflection on the shorthanded goal was his only shot on net. Matt Read and Brayden Schenn were anonymous. R.J. Umberger's big impact on the game was getting hit high by a stick eight seconds into the game. Vincent Lecavalier did nothing but try to start something with Severson and Gionta on separate occasions - nothing happened. I had to look up to see that Scott Laughton played tonight. If that wasn't bad, consider the defense. Radko Gudas might have been called "GO" given how many times the Devils passed him. Michael Del Zotto looked like the player the Rangers wanted to be rid of. Brandon Manning kept up Flyers tradition by beefing with someone after a whistle and taking a penalty for it among his otherwise lackluster defending. Mark Streit was the Flyers' best defender and he has the ignominious distinction of taking the one penalty the Devils did score on. Given how the Flyers just dragged through most of Wednesday's game, they ended up not doing a whole lot better save for the second period. If I'm Dave Hakstol, then I'm not a happy man going into the regular season.
Scratch: Pavel Zacha was the lone scratch at forward for the Devils tonight. I think it may be a tell he's going back to juniors, but we'll see.
Next to Lastly: Tonight was the night fans started figuring out the goal song. Sing along with the "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey" in the Gaslight Anthem's Howl and then yell "You suck" in between. The crowd was light at the Rock but we figured it out after Tlusty's goal. I know some won't like that but I do. Some derision is needed if you give up a goal to these Devils - especially if you're a Second Rate Rival. Hee hee hee.
Lastly: Tyler Kennedy becomes the first of the last set of cuts. From the Devils' public relations Twitter account:
#NJDevils have released forward Tyler Kennedy from his PTO.— NHLDevilsPR (@NHLDevilsPR) October 3, 2015
I'll have more on this when the other cuts are made, likely this weekend.
Your Take: The next bit of news are the cuts. The Devils have less than a week to make them. Who do you think stays or goes? What else would you like to know about tonight's game? Surprised Kennedy was already cut? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the win in the comments. Thank you for following along in the Gamethread and on Twitter with @AATJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.