Talk about a taken point. Cory Schneider was absolutely brilliant tonight in Boston as the New Jersey Devils lost in a shootout to the Boston Bruins for a 1-2 final score. Both goaltenders played very well tonight. Jonas Gustavsson certainly put on a display despite conceding rebound after rebound. But Schneider was simply on another level tonight. The Bruins enjoyed the better run of play in the first period, the third period, and especially in overtime. The score was 1-1 in those latter two time periods, meaning every release of the puck just added to the tension. Schneider came up with everything even when Boston should have finished the game.
Truth be told, it's not as if the Devils just leaned on #35 to get as far as they did. Only for stretches of the game and for the entire overtime period. Shots were even at 28-28 at the end of regulation. The flow of the game went a bit differently. The Bruins did well to start the game, the Devils responded with many attempts after their goal, even more in the second period and just after an equalizer, but the Bruins battled back in the end of the second to tilt the ice and tilted it more in the third. Whereas the Devils at least had some good shifts in the third, overtime was Boston, Boston, and more Boston with two exceptions. The Bruins started OT with a power play, which certainly didn't help the Devils but after conceding three shots, they conceded six more and even more astounding ones. It's easy to say that Travis Zajac should have finished the shorthanded 2-on-1 or that Mike Cammalleri should have stashed in a bouncing puck. But Schneider just getting in front of everything means the Devils skaters could and should have done better to repel the constant stream of Bruins attacks. As with many games in his time in New Jersey, Schneider was superb but the skaters were less than superb.
Also, as with many games in his time in New Jersey, Schneider can be amazing but he can't score goals. While the Devils did equalize Boston's lone goal in regulation, they did not equalize the lone goal in the shootout. With Jacob Josefson leaving the game early due to injury, the Devils didn't have their shootout ace. Lee Stempniak was stopped, Kyle Palmieri missed, and Cammalleri hit the post. The possibility of stealing the second point was there, but only Ryan Spooner scored at all - and that's all the B's needed. In general, I would've liked it if the Devils hit back more and stronger in the third period or kept up the pressure in the second instead of succumbing to Boston near the end of the middle frame. Or just not getting steamrolled at evens in OT. The deciding goal could have been in regulation (or overtime) instead of hoping for one via a shootout.
That all said, Schneider was clearly excellent tonight. While I lament the lack of a second goal by the Devils, I will say they did play a better game than last night against Anaheim. Whereas that one was littered with events caused by the Devils shooting themselves in the skate, the Devils rebounded from a lackluster first period and at least made more sensible moves going against Boston. As chippy as the game got, the team only took the one penalty at the end of the third period - an iffy one against John Moore. The Devils survived and nearly ended it in OT on that PK, for what it's worth. The power play, well, that still stunk; but the Devils' puck movement and decisions were much better. If this kind of performance happened on Saturday night, maybe they'd have more than one point out of this back-to-back set. That said, after how the third period and OT went, I ain't even mad about the one. Schneider playing out of his mind can do that to some fans.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Stanley Cup of Chowder for an opposition-provided opinion on this game.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here is a video of highlights from tonight's game:
Passing Matters: It may seem obvious, but a team that's not in sync at moving the puck simply has trouble succeeding. The Devils may have out-shot the Bruins in the first period, 8-4, but most of the shots weren't that threatening. The puck movement in that period was just bad, especially on two power play situations that yielded one shot for and one shot against. The second period was much, much better right away. It led to the Devils' goal in regulation: a pass from Lee Stempniak re-directed past Gustavsson by Andy Greene. The Devils had several opportunities in the second that weren't there in other periods if only because they were more effective at getting the puck up ice and around Boston's end of the rink. Keep that in mind for future games if the Devils excel or not; I would gather that's the cause.
Defensive Involvement: The defensemen for both teams were very active on offense. This may not be much of a surprise for the Bruins as they have Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. What would be a surprise is that those two combined for ten of Boston's 39 shots on net tonight. Add in Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, and Collin Miller and that's eighteen out of 39 for Boston. Mind you, those are shots on net, that doesn't include the many, many blocks and misses tonight. The Devils' blueline was also not anonymous going forward. In addition to Greene's goal, all six defensemen got at least one through to Gustavsson. All six combined for thirteen of the Devils' thirty shots on net tonight. In some ways, it speaks to how both teams kept the other from getting too many opportunities in choice areas. It also speaks to how comfortable the blueliners were at getting involved on offense. It caught the Devils out a few more times than Boston for odd man rushes, but they eventually came out of it fine - due in part to Schneider.
Him? Really?: Jiri Tlusty had himself a night. He registered six shots on net out of eight attempts. Tlusty was moved up to play with Zajac and Palmieri and it definitely worked out for him. Especially in the second period, Tlusty was everywhere he wanted to be and kept making efforts to attack. For a guy who hasn't been so productive this season, that's encouraging to see even if it ended up with no points. Those efforts will eventually lead to points. I wonder if it was to a fault, though? Zajac - who played better than Saturday night - only got the one shot in overtime and Palmieri didn't get anything through to Gustavsson. You'd like to see more from them. All the same, Tlusty was a standout in a good way.
He was also a standout in a painful way. In the second period, Tlusty took a high hit well after he passed a puck by Maxime Talbot. Somehow, all four officials missed it but they did blow the play dead to allow Tlusty to get up. Apparently, they missed the call. Hopefully, the Department of Player Safety takes a closer look at that contact and calls up Mr. Talbot.
Injuries: Jacob Josefson left the game early tonight. In the second period, he looked hurt after blocking a slapshot at the end of a really, really long shift. He hobbled to the bench, went to the locker room, and did not return. He took one shift in the third period and then went right back to the back for additional treatment. That would be it from him. Also, in the third period, Sergey Kalinin collided with Torey Krug in an attempt to pick up the Bruin on defense. It appeared his knee got struck, he slid into the boards, and had to be helped to the locker room. While he returned to the bench, he didn't see much (or any?) action. As the Devils just got fully healthy, this is a blow to the team's bottom six. I think it also fed into Boston controlling the game more and more as time went on. Kalinin and Josefson were doing OK tonight and going down to ten forwards means more fatigue for whoever's left. Especially in a 1-1 game in the third period where some bottom six forwards would normally be on the bench. The Devils could easily swap in Stefan Matteau and Patrik Elias to fill in the gaps if both are going to be out for a few games. I still think it hurt them tonight, even if only a little bit.
Also Improved: I admit it wouldn't take much for the Devils to have played better than they did last night or on Thursday night. However, I would say tonight featured better performances from the Devils' top players. Adam Henrique wasn't entirely invisible and his line did more than just a handful of shots. I would have liked more, but I appreciated the improved effort. Andy Greene and Adam Larsson were both far better. They cut down on the turnovers, they weren't frustrated by the Bruins' forecheck, and they handled their business well on defense. As a partial result of that, the Devils didn't look completely lost in their own end save for the first period until Loui Eriksson scored.
Chippy: This game didn't just feature a no-call on Tlusty getting hit high. It also featured Palmieri and Landon Ferraro fighting after Ferraro boarded Stephen Gionta and neither got a fighting major. Just two coinciding minor penalties each. And, you will not believe it, but Brad Marchand was in full on "trying to start a thing" mode after most whistles. The refs let them all play though as they only assessed three special teams situations.
Top Men: Not only did Boston's top defensemen feature tonight, so did their best forwards. Patrice Bergeron put up six shots out of ten attempts. Marchand had three shots out of five attempts. Ferraro joined those two and he got three shots out of five attempts as well. All could've broken the deadlock. Schneider said no to them. Eriksson got free in the slot for his goal. He played well as did David Krejci and Matt Beleskey, who thankfully missed on at least three glorious scoring opportunities. It's a cliche but typically a team needs their best players to play well to succeed. Boston got that tonight. It's partially a credit to Schneider and the Devils that they held the game in check given that the B's best weren't lacking. Call it a small moral victory.
One Last Thought: I'm not mad about this shootout loss. If you want to talk about a lost opportunity, look at that Saturday loss. Imagine this effort against Anaheim. I really do think they would have got something out of that one to make this a better weekend than what it was. Alas.
Your Take: Schneider was great, but the Devils couldn't take the second point from Boston. What did you make of the performance? Was it better than Saturday's performance beyond how well Schneider played? Who impressed and/or disappointed you on the Devils? What lesson(s) should the Devils take from this game before their next game on Tuesday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the shootout loss in the comments.
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