On Sunday, the New Jersey Devils got dominated by the New York Islanders, 0-4. A day after the game, Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice that Devils head coach John Hynes graded that game as a "F minus," which is apparently the lowest grade in Hynes' marking range. Tuesday's night win at Buffalo was a much better night for all involved. Tonight, the Devils got dominated again by the Florida Panthers. There would be no goals against the run of play to keep the score in New Jersey's favor. Florida scored four in a row before the Devils had a meek answer and then Florida potted one of the easier empty net goals they'll have this season. The Devils got creamed in most aspects of the game. They lost 1-5. Despite not being shutout, I would have to think this was another F-minus in the books.
How could it not be? The Devils got out-shot 16-26 and out-attempted 26-33! This was very much the Devils' game turned around against them - low-event hockey, controlling the neutral zone - with even more pain dealt out. The Panthers pinched New Jersey into oblivion early on and then sat back in the neutral zone to break up the Devils' own attempts to attack, which succeeded wildly given New Jersey's ineptness at moving and controlling the puck tonight. Cory Schneider didn't cover himself in glory with four goals allowed but his job isn't to thwart the opposition's offensive movement, try to make life difficult in the neutral zone, and generate offensive chances for goals. If he was bad, then the eighteen guys in front of him were even worse.
Speaking of, what's worse about this Devils-Panthers game is that this game defied expectations that would come with score effects. What would be expected? Let's turn to another game to find out. Tonight, the Canadiens got shut out by the Kings. When the Kings went up 2-0 already against the run of play, the Canadiens turned on the aggression even more and threw everything and the kitchen sink at the goalie. Look at Natural Stat Trick and look at its game flow graph for evidence. Anything to get back into this game. That's expected. When the Panthers went up 2-0 in the first period and 3-0 early in the second, the Devils still managed to be limited to six shots apiece in the first period, out-shot 7-14 in the second period, and out-shot 3-6 in the third period. That's right, a big lead with plenty of time left in the game and the Devils put up a mere ten shots on net. Pathetic!
And, no, the Devils did not make Al Montoya look like a Vezina candidate. They barely tested the man amid their fifteen out of sixteen shots on net. Until the consolation power play goal in the third, the Devils' best chances were a gloriously open shot for Tyler Kennedy that he skied over the net and Sergey Kalinin whiffing on a one-timer attempt sent from Mike Cammalleri. Neither were shots on net as far as I can tell. The one that beat Montoya was a shot by Kyle Palmieri that hit off Kalinin's pants and beat the goalie. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a fluke. Especially since the other two power plays tonight were wastes of time for all involved. For some bizarre reason, Hynes thought to pull Schneider in the hopes that four-minutes plus of 6-on-5 hockey would make up a three-goal deifict. He didn't realize the Devils were generating next to nothing on offense in the third and the Panthers were fully in control. Again, the neutral zone play for Logan Shaw made it one of the easiest ENG he'll score. Schneider went back into his net and Montoya got to do not much of anything to close out the blowout win for Florida.
Credit must be given to the Panthers. They were excellent. They put on the pressure at the blueline to keep attacks alive early on. They didn't give up on the attack when they went up three goals. Their bottom six forwards had great games. Aaron Ekblad and Brian Campbell had great games. Jaromir Jagr managed to fall down on his own during a power play, protect the puck, get up, fall down, get up again, and carry the puck into the zone. His pass to set up Dmitry Kulikov's first of the season was fantastic as was Florida's shift for that goal, but that moment just made it clear that things would go right for Florida. Just like Corban Knight's shot being blocked and dropping right to Brandon Pirri to make it 3-0 early in the second. Just like Reilly Smith jamming in a rebound through Schneider to make it 4-0 early in the first. Just like that absolutely gorgeous neutral zone cycle by Pirri and Vincent Trocheck that sprung Jussi Jokinen between the defense for a top-shelf power play goal in the first period for the game's first goal. Frankly, I don't think anyone Florida had a bad game.
In contrast, the Devils were absolutely pitiful. Pretty much all of them from Mike Cammalleri to Tyler Kennedy to Patrik Elias to Kyle Palmieri to Adam Larsson to Jon Merrill to Jordin Tootoo. I'll give Tuomo Ruutu a pass as it was his first game in months. Anyway, I'm not going to tell you that this was just a bad night for the Devils. It's a 1-5 loss, of course it was a bad night. But keep in mind that the Devils played pretty much the same team eleven days ago. They won that game, but the Panthers outplayed them in two of those three periods. The Devils had tape, they had recent experience against the team, they had a little time to prepare and make adjustments to avoid what happened in that game. They had two intermissions to figure out further changes to how they would play. This did not happen. The Panthers put out a similar game plan, got goals early on, and were content to just assist the Devils' demise. John Hynes, his staff, and the players tried to do the same things and ended up with not much of anything to show for it. The Panthers absolutely dominated them in each period tonight; now five out of six for the month.
Considering some of the other games in the past few weeks, I get the sense that teams have figured out the Devils. Focus on gaining the zone on their left side (thanks to Ryan Stimson's awesome post at Hockey Graphs, this has been an issue for at least 21 games now); clog the neutral zone to prevent them from making long passes to break out; pressure them shortly after entries to disrupt the attack. Should they get in, force them to the perimeter, keep up the pressure and have a teammate nearby for a quick outlet for an easier exit opportunity to begin your own attack. Easy. The Panthers made it look easy tonight, they made it look easy despite the score two Sundays ago, and other teams (e.g. Islanders, Philly, Colorado) are figuring it out. The Devils will need to make some changes to how they approach the game,
So I will agree the work ethic was abysmal and a lot of things just didn't go right. But the players' execution was terrible, the game plan was blown up with no effort of reconstruction, and the Devils got wrecked. That long attacking shift by Florida that yielded their second goal tonight wasn't a bad match-up; it was New Jersey's top forward line and top defensive pairing getting outshined by the Panthers. I cannot stress enough that this game was miserable by New Jersey and incredibly terrible to watch. In retrospect, I should've left this game early like most of the crowd to catch an earlier train and have this recap up earlier. I don't know what it says about me that I stayed, but whatever. Again, everyone on the Devils pretty much stunk worse than a skunk with a bout of diarrhea tonight. Considering all of that, a 1-5 result and a grade of F minus or G or whatever letter below failing is absolutely deserved.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Litter Box Cats for what should be a very positive recap. If it's not, then let me know and I'll write one for them. If this game was a FPS game, then the Panthers owned, pwned, and qwned the Devils tonight. If this game was a fighting game, then the Panthers bodied the Devils. If this was a double album reviewed by The Needle Drop (Johnthony Fischtano?), then the Panthers would get a medium to strong 9 and the Devils would get a light to medium 1. If this game was a movie, the Devils would be on screen and the Panthers would be represented by a man and his two robot pals to riff on it relentlessly. You get the idea.
The Game Highlights: Sigh. From NHL.com, here it is. Watch it to see how the Panthers shredded the Devils:
But The Faceoffs...the Devils W-: No. Faceoffs don't matter much in the bigger picture. They ultimately didn't matter in this game.
Surprising to Me: Per HockeyStats, the Devils managed to have seven scoring chances with one credited to an unknown player. Florida had fifteen and scored three of their goals. Could've fooled me tonight.
Your Take: You know, I've made my distaste with this game clear. What's your take for this abysmal game? Who was the worst on the Devils in your opinion? Who was the best on the Panthers in your opinion? What should the Devils change to play anything closer to decent this weekend? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this awful loss in the comments.
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