These aren't the Edmonton Oilers of old. They actually played defense. They didn't commit miserable turnovers or make completely bizarre decisions behind their red line. They buzzed on offense. They looked like they wanted to control the neutral zone - and they ultimately did. Before this game, the word on the street was that they believed they were better than their record. The New Jersey Devils became evidence of their belief. The Devils struggled with the Oilers to start, got into some kind of groove, and then completely lost the plot to Edmonton in the third period. The Devils lost to the Oilers by their largest margin of defeat so far this season, 1-5.
These are a little more like the Devils of last season. Last year, the Devils went into Western Canada on a road trip and didn't look nearly as good as they did before the trip. Things just tailspinned out of control shortly thereafter. For all of the talk of fast, attacking, and supportive, the Devils demonstrated a lack of a discipline, shots, and control. The Oilers played better than them in general, they dominated them in the third period, and the scoreline reflects that well. I will agree that two consecutive losses don't make the 2015-16 Devils like the 2014-15 Devils. Of course, last season's squad beat Edmonton on that trip.
Let's start with some positives. The Devils didn't get shutout. Kyle Palmieri scored on the team's first power play with a picture-perfect shot. The Devils played fairly well after that PPG and during their other second period power plays. While they didn't convert on a 53-second 5-on-3 or the power plays bookending it, they were at least shooting the puck. That's different from 5-on-3s earlier this season. Their penalty kill didn't get overrun. If anything, they had a very solid night in limiting Edmonton's chances given they had six situations to kill. The Oilers did get one conversion, but that wasn't so much of the fault of a bad PK or anything. Other than all that, Adam Larsson left the game with a nasty cut after a hit by Benoit Pouliot. There was no call, Larsson left the rink, but he did return to the game and played. That the news wasn't that he would be out injured is a positive. That's all I really have after this game.
That's a lie. I have a lot of negatives to highlight.
First and foremost, the Devils had to kill six penalties. While some may argue Stephen Gionta got hosed on his cross-check on Darnell Nurse as the defenseman was slipping (I don't given Gionta thrusted his stick out like a cross-check into the man's numbers right in front of the ref), most of the calls were just based on dumb plays. Kyle Palmieri hooking the hands of Nail Yakupov with two defensemen in front of Yakupov was dumb. Mike Cammalleri slashing Eric Gryba's stick out of his hand as the Devils kept the puck on offense after their string of power plays in the second was dumb. Jacob Josefson hooking an Oiler behind the play was dumb. Bobby Farnham using his "energy" shortly after the Devils conceded a power play goal that led to a penalty was dumb. Even though the Devils' PK didn't let Edmonton skate all over the place, having to spend over ten minutes in regulation down a man isn't a way for success. Especially for a team that was down on the scoreboard throughout the game.
Second, the goals allowed were just bad on the team. Larsson got torched by Leon Draisaitl and by a killer pass from Taylor Hall for the game's first goal. Three Devils - Lee Stempniak, why?! - went into the corner as the Oilers began an attack. The puck got out to an uncovered Teddy Purcell just away from the corner; instead of shooting it, he smartly saw Oscar Klefbom drive to the slot. Pass, shot, no chance for Keith Kinkaid. That's the second one. The third one was the PPGA. Kinkaid impressively robbed Jordan Eberle to his right. But Kinkaid couldn't collect the puck, it squirted out, and the jamming Eberle just pounded it in. No Devil was able to get to him and do anything at all to him or to help Kinkaid there. Later on, David Schlemko passed the puck to Cammalleri to start a breakout. Cammalleri immediately coughed the puck up to David Letestu. Letestu took a stride or two and put a shot off Kinkaid's glove into the net. Kinkaid should have had that one, though Cammalleri never should have given it away where he had it. Lastly, John Hynes decided for some reason that six skaters were better than five. In a period where the Devils had one shot on net in seventeen minutes, it did not work. Draisaitl won a puck on defense, made a great pass to spring Hall, and Hall scored the easy ENG. Read though all of this descriptions. There's a torching, one created by guys getting out of position, a case where the goalie was in a bad spot and got no help, a case where there was terrible giveaway, and then a spot where a risk blew up in the Devils' face. That's a gamut of ways to give up goals. That speaks to the team's poor effort.
Third, there was the offense. The Devils started off slow as they spent most of the first period without the puck. The second period was much better. The power plays helped. But even after those power plays, the Devils were able to keep Edmonton back for sometime. They made up the shot difference and they had a decent 16 shots on net after forty minutes. They created some good chances - Jacob Josefson not finishing one, again - but you wouldn't have known it from that third period. Two penalties to kill hurts the effort but only, what, three shots on net in the final frame? Down a few goals, up against a relatively low save percentage team, but once again for the second night in a row, the Devils could not generate a decent attack. They had four shots on net. Anders Nilsson saw a nice bump in his save percentage, thanks in part to the Devils only giving him twenty shots to deal with. He made the stops, but that's a really low number for a team that concedes more than that on a regular basis. Their one power play in the third period summed up everything that a bad power play looks like for this team. Their dump and chase deserved to be thrown away. Their passes coming out of their own end just missed the mark, which only emboldened an Oilers team that controlled the game. This was terrible in the third for a second straight game and not good enough overall for the second straight game.
There's going to be much to be said about how the Devils now have lost consecutive games for the first time since mid-October. That's true. However, it's worse than that. The Devils just came up super-mega-hyper lame in third periods with workable albeit non-ideal scorelines to start those periods. The offensive effort wasn't anywhere near it would be against two teams that haven't been solid in their own ends, be it at the blueline or in the crease. The Devils got forced back more often than not and were subject to their own errors for goals against. Discipline, whether it's in terms of penalties or puck control, has been lacking. The Devils didn't lose coin flips or close contests. The winning team was clearly the superior team on the ice. If some of those impressive wins mean people should be on notice about the Devils being better than expected, then what do two losses in a row to two teams with horrible records mean?
I don't know how you want to answer that question. All the same, the Devils got decked by the Oilers tonight and they shot themselves in the foot in the process. This 1-5 loss was fully deserved.
The NHL.com Stats?: For whatever reason, the Gamecenter at NHL.com didn't work and so there have been no links to stats up. This also means advanced stats sites like Natural Stat Trick and HockeyStats.ca have nothing. So if you ever wanted a recap without too many numbers, then here you are.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Zach Laing's recap at The Copper & Blue for a short, positive recap.
The NHL.com Highlights: These work. Watch this if you want to see a beautiful goal by Palmieri and then a whole bunch of moments where Edmonton looks like stars:
Worst Third Period So Far This Season: Three goals allowed, a completely terrible power play, lackluster-is-too-kind offense, and Edmonton just sealing the game. Sure, the Devils lost a game to Columbus primarily based on the third period. And that loss in D.C. was driven by the third period. This was one was just as bad on the scoreboard as it was to witness. This was harder to watch than those as the Oilers just dominated the final frame.
So, So Bad: Mike Cammalleri wasn't just having a bad game before his ghastly turnover to Letestu. He was just off the mark in several regards. His shots weren't so strong; he didn't take so many; and his decision making was just bad. The penalty he took and that turnover were his low-points, for sure. This may not have been a big surprise. He wasn't at Thursday's practice as he was sick. It's possible that affected him. Still, he was very poor tonight. Stempniak and Adam Henrique weren't much better.
What Changes?: After two losses, one of the immediate questions to come up are what changes should be made. The Devils' scratches are Stefan Matteau and Eric Gelinas. Defensively, I don't know if anyone was truly awful enough to warrant a scratch. I don't think Matteau will really help the bottom-six. His best argument for playing is that Brian O'Neill, Stephen Gionta, and Bobby Farnham just aren't good. That's not technically an argument in favor of Matteau. Gelinas seems like a more logical change. His shot could've helped on the power play. His defensive issues may not have stood out as the team's efforts were just not good enough. Who comes out for him, though? Jon Merrill was awful in Calgary but he wasn't a disaster tonight. No one on defense really played well tonight, but is that enough for someone to be swapped out? We'll see.
Surely, Cory Schneider will get Sunday's game. I'd like to think that was the plan from the start. Kinkaid really should not be blamed for the first two goals and the third one was the result of jamming and not getting help. That said, he hasn't shown the patient fundamentally sound game he has last season. That fourth goal was a pretty bad one. Although Cammalleri never should have given up that puck, that shot went off his glove and in. If he caught part of it, then he could have got all of it. Still, Kinkaid hasn't covered himself in glory and so he'll go back to the bench for the next few games. I still think he re-appears in one of the Montreal games.
That Wasn't Bad, THIS Was Bad: It's a common lament that an opportunity was missed when a 5-on-3 doesn't convert. I don't think the Devils played tonight's so badly. Again, they took multiple shots on it. They were on the perimeter, but that's how most 5-on-3s go. The three are sitting in a triangle in the slot. They're not moving. Make it happen. The Devils tried, but the initial blast or rebounds didn't make it so. The curious thing about it was that John Hynes put out five forwards for it. It didn't bite them, though it led to some odd lines once the game briefly went back to even strength hockey.
That wasn't a bad power play moment. The third period power play for New Jersey certainly was. It was a combination of everything done wrong for the Devils. Dump-ins. Missing passes on breakouts. Losing pucks in the neutral zone. Gaining the zone and then losing the puck due to a pass or shooting attempt striking an Oiler. Spending 90% of the power play not actually utilizing that man advantage. I think there was even an offside. Throw in an icing or a SHGA and it would've been among the worst so far this season.
Full Credit to the Opposition: They took care of business, they put the Devils to the sword, and they won big. They fully earned this one and how they did it should make the fans feel good. They actually had defensive plays and a presence in the neutral zone. Nilsson wasn't a sieve. He wasn't challenged as much as he should have, but when the only shot that beats the goalie is the one Palmieri had, then the goalie did well. Their bottom six contributed more than New Jersey's.
Of course, the stars of the night were the Hall line. Purcell, Hall, and Draisaitl either created or directly scored all four goals at even strength, including the empty netter. Draisaitl's shooting remains hot and his passes were very dangerous, Hall remains a top scorer in the league, Purcell justified his presence, and they just made life difficult for the Devils. Very good line and they were all very good tonight. Eberle was a standout even before his goal; he was displaying his speed down the wing, giving defenders like Damon Severson some real difficulty. I think he's coming into form more and more, and that will make the Oilers more challenging of an opponent. Their record may be in the wrong end of the standings, but I believe they are better than their record indicates. They are no doormats. Of course, seeing your favorite team lose to them 1-5 with one of the worst third periods in recent memory helps that belief.
Your Take: Well, that game was awful. What did you think of it? Without just writing "Everything," what's one thing the Devils must improve before they play Vancouver on Sunday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.
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