Rivalry games are expected to have at least just a little bit more energy than other games. At least a little bit more emotion. At least a little bit more tension. And when one wins a game against a rival, it has to feel at least a little bit better to get one over a team that, frankly, you just don't like. The top rival of the New Jersey Devils are the New York Rangers. You wouldn't know it tonight given how the Rangers just wrecked the Devils. The final score pretty much tells the tale: a 1-6 loss. It's bad when the sole positive for the Devils was that they did not get shut out.
While the score says it all, I will provide some other comparisons for the sake of imagery. This game was akin to a team in preseason taking on a team preparing for the postseason. It was the hockey equivalent of a pro wrestler taking on a jobber to make them look good. It was a game of one team that has been able to execute passes and move the puck effectively going up against the Devils. It was another night where it was proven that hockey is like life in that it is not fair. The latter isn't to say that the Devils deserved better; just that there were some bounces that went against the Devils that hastened the beat down that took place at MSG.
Believe it or not, the Devils played well for the first few minutes or so. They were crashing the net, they were taking advantage of the Rangers defense turning over the puck, and they were forcing Henrik Lundqvist to put in work. All of a sudden, the Rangers would score. Mats Zuccarello picked up a puck to continue a rush up ice, he saw Rick Nash in front, and fired a shot-pass that went off Rick Nash (I thought it was Jon Merrill initially) and past Cory Schneider. Minutes later, the Devils win a defensive zone faceoff but Chris Kreider took it away from Damon Severson. He passed it back to Keith Yandle, who fired a shot past traffic to make it 0-2. Shortly after that, the Devils turn the puck over on offense, leading to Tanner Glass getting around Merrill in the neutral zone. As Severson went over to Glass, Merrill tried to pick up Dominic Moore - who was already of him. Glass fed Moore right in front and it's 0-3. Schneider was pulled and the Devils couldn't buy a goal past Lundqvist. Hope was nearly dead from that point onward.
In the second period, the Rangers pressed as much as the Devils to get the next goal. For the Devils, their best chance was Patrik Elias getting robbed by Lundqvist on the right side and Dainius Zubrus having his rebound attempt blocked away in the slot. Kinkaid needed the post and made fifteen other stops to try to keep the game within three goals. Of course, this all fell apart by the end of the period. During a Devils power play, Rick Nash got the puck on the sideboards and had a street-wide passing lane to Derek Stepan in the middle of the ice. He hit Stepan with a pass, and Stepan finished the shorthanded breakaway with a low shot past Kinkaid to make it 0-4. Any faint hopes of a Devils comeback were snuffed out with that shorty.
It got worse in the third period, if you can believe it. Moore high-sticked Jacob Josefson during that power play so the Devils got a 5-on-3 for almost a minute. The Devils did very little with it and it ended early. Eric Gelinas missed the puck off a Devils faceoff win and Stepan torched him. Gelinas fouled Stepan, drawing a call, but Stepan was able to charge ahead and nearly put in a second shorthanded goal with a wraparound. During the period of four-on-four hockey, Derick Brassard made it 0-5 with a sharp angle shot that re-directed off Adam Larsson and fooled Kinkaid at the left post. The Devils tried to get something on the board, but the Rangers never fully stopped attacking. Their reward was a sixth goal. Ryan McDonagh unloaded a shot and Moore tipped it in to make it 0-6. If you're wincing after reading all of that, then you know how I felt while writing all that up.
It wasn't until late in the game where the Devils finally got one past Henrik Lundqvist. After a missed shot by Mark Fraser, a long shot on target by Eric Gelinas, and Jacob Josefson getting robbed by a block, the goal came when Tuomo Ruutu unleashed a wrist shot that Josefson re-directed towards the net, although the scorer credited Ruutu with the goal. It beat Lundqvist low anyway. At that point, I was just glad there was a goal because the Devils were on their way to eating a shut out loss to their most hated rival.
The sad thing was that the Devils actually got 36 shots on net and quite a few quality chances. It looked like Travis Zajac (5 shots!), Patrik Elias (3 shots!), Mike Cammalleri (6 shots!), and so forth kept firing it in Lundqvist's jersey because Lundqvist was quick enough to get in front of every single shot. His reflexes were on point and his awareness was very good. Could the Devils have put more traffic in front of him? Sure. Could the Devils have been blocked out more by their traffic? Knowing the Devils this season, they could've. Regardless, the Rangers' goaltender played as well as he could and the results - 35 saves on 36 shots - speak for themselves.
As for the Devils, when the bounces go against and the opposition is able to push the play forward, then it usually spells bad times. Instead of a few goals against, there were six. I wouldn't fault Schneider on the three that got past him. I think it would be harsh to fault Kinkaid on the three against either. Your mileage may vary. The skaters let him down, particularly parts of the defense. Merrill was horrid. Severson wasn't much better. Gelinas had his moments of highly questionable decisions. Mark Fraser was, well, Mark Fraser. The designated checking line of Adam Henrique, Elias, and Zubrus didn't win their match-up, which was impressive given how score effects drove the Devils to out-attempt the Rangers. Plays that broke down and led to the Rangers pushing forward with pace and space often led to the Rangers' best chances and three of their six goals. That's on how the offense - or the power play - was set-up. They picked their spots, and they took advantage. Their second period only yielded one goal, but they were at their best from a control standpoint. It could've been worse.
Overall, it was still rather bad. It's true that the Devils have nothing to play for. But these are the games that one hopes that the team can get up and play at least a little more inspired, a little smarter, and a little more in time to beat a rival. I don't doubt that the Devils wanted to beat the Rangers. It's not about want or desire or whatever you call it. Once again, we all got a cruel reminder that the Devils are just a bad team that lacks talent, execution, solid coaching, and so many other things that the Rangers and other good, playoff-bound teams have. And that sucks.
So does the fact that the Devils get to do this all again on Tuesday at the Rock for the final home game of the season.
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 War on Ice Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Bryan Winters recapped the game at Blueshirt Banter and he was absolutely right in it.
The Game "Highlights:" From NHL.com, here's the brutal evidence that this game happened:
Your Take: I don't see a need to further dwell on this game. I normally throw a lot of additional observations and so forth. But this game was so disappointing that I don't think it requires anything further from me. What I wrote before the stats says it all, in my view. So I'll leave it to you. What did you make of the Devils' performance? Is there any reasonable chance they won't get wrecked on Tuesday? Was there any Devil who you could say had a good night? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter. Thanks to Brian for taking care of the preview of this game. Thank you for reading.