Tonight's hockey game can be explained with a metaphor. Well, most can. This is what I'm going with for this one between the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. Think of a balloon filled with air. Now think of someone letting the air out from the end of the balloon. The sputtering noise that's similar to flatulence would be the result. That's the audio and visual representation of this game.
Dylan Larkin scored on a breakaway in the first period and the Devils' offense just went out as the Red Wings choked out the game. In one sentence, that's the game. That's the quick and dirty summation of tonight's 0-1 loss to Detroit. Petr Mrazek stopped all twenty-two shots. He did well and he did face many more shooting attempts than shots that were on target. Yet, his best stop was, what, on Bobby Farnham in close in the second period? His rebounds conceded were not punished. Most of all, the Devils put twelve on him in the first period and wouldn't even match that total in the following two periods - even when down by one goal. The quantity and accuracy (22 shots out of 48 attempts. 5 for 17 in the second!) was lacking from the New Jersey Devils.
Plenty of credit should go to the Red Wings. They put out an aggressive forecheck early on and tightly checked the Devils throughout the night. Rarely did the Devils have the puck going into the zone or deep in Detroit's end without a man in white nearby. The points were open but the Devils didn't use them as effectively as Detroit or other teams have done. It's not as if every time the puck is at the point, it has to go to the defenseman or it has to go towards - not necessarily on target - the goal. Still, the Red Wings bodied up the Devils enough times to force the Devils to take an extra pass back for breakouts or to delay before making a move. Their game plan hinged on one bounce not going the Devils' way, and it worked out.
The Devils did put in a good effort tonight. And other than a few costly turnovers that turned into nothing because Cory Schneider bailed out the team (namely Damon Severson), the Devils didn't get torched by Detroit outside of the one goal. The main issue is that effort isn't a substitute for smart play. The dump-and-chase was not nearly as successful as it was against Dallas. They kept doing it anyway. Passing out of the zone was an adventure at times due to Detroit's aggressive forecheck, which meant the Devils kept throwing up hopes and dreams, trying to turn them into reality with little success. When Detroit made a mistake or took a penalty, the Devils didn't make them suffer and that ended up costing them tonight. While the Devils didn't play a stupid game like they did in the 1-2 loss to Anaheim or just get worked over such as in several games from last month, this wasn't an ideal way to play the game either.
Yes, they worked hard. So what? Everyone on Detroit worked hard, too. They had the advantage of a goal, a good goalie, and a game plan that frustrated a Devils team for only ten shots on net in forty minutes after a more free-wheeling, up-tempo first period that gave plenty of fans hope that New Jersey would score one. That didn't happen. Ultimately, while the Devils have played worse games in recent weeks, this was a disappointing loss and a deserved shutout against. Insert your version of the sputtering noise that comes out of a balloon here.
The Opposition Opinion: KyleWiiM has this recap about Mrazek's shutout win at Winging it in Motown. He and the team earned it. Good job to Detroit.
The Game Highlights: If you're a Detroit fan, then I'm sure you'll enjoy these from NHL.com:
Another Summation of the Night: Dylan Larkin, by Corsi, got hammered with a -8. He was present for eight shooting attempts for and sixteen against. Yet, boil that down to shots on net and it's only 5-6 against him. Oh, and he scored a beautiful breakaway goal that held up as the only one tonight. As such, I left the arena thinking "Wow, he's really good." He really is, -8 CF-CA differential aside. The Devils could and should have done better against Larkin, Riley Sheahan, and Brad Richards. Instead, the line ends up looking good with a goal and not much damage on the shot count. I cannot say the Devils did not have their opportunities against them, they did not take them fully.
Aside: For what it's worth, I thought Pavel Datsyuk and his line had a very fine game and Henrik Zetterberg was active off the puck. While neither contributed many shots or any points, they both made life difficult for New Jersey.
Speaking of Wasting Opportunities: Oh, the power play. The referees were light on their whistles tonight as only three penalties were called. Shortly after Detroit hit the post, Tomas Tatar was sent off for goaltender interference. The Devils did nothing. Past the halfway mark in the third period, Jiri Tlusty got called for roughing. The Devils killed the penalty well and Justin Abdelkader responded with a kneeing penalty on Tlusty. The Devils, down one goal, with time ticking off in the third period, did nothing on that power play. No shots on goal. Maybe an attempt. I know the second unit is a bunch of bodies put together, but the first unit had some attacking players on it. Yet, the zone entries were miserable and the decision making was just bad. Detroit's penalty killers were smart to pressure the points and won a clearance nearly every time they did so. Tonight, the Devils wasted two more power plays when they could have tied up the game or at least get Petr Mrazek to sweat a little bit. They did neither. Something's got to change tactically.
I Miss Mike Cammalleri: I think the entire New Jersey Devils roster did tonight. The Devils really could have used his shot, his vision, and the fact that a lot of offense runs through him. While Kyle Palmieri had five shots on net, he did not really come close to scoring. Adam Larsson and John Moore listened to the many exhortations of "SHOOOOOOT!" from the crowd whenever they had the puck at the point and attempted seven shots each. Only five out of fourteen got to Mrazek and the Devils had even fewer shooting attempts after those shots were taken. The fourth line had an energetic night with a handful of strong shifts, featuring one in the second where it looked to me that Farnham was seriously close to tying the game up. So there were some notable players on offense, but it wasn't enough. The lack of #13 loomed large on the ice.
Adding to that sentiment is that this was a bad game for Lee Stempniak, Tyler Kennedy, and Adam Henrique. Whereas most of the Devils attempted more than they faced, these three did not. They could have but pucks were just getting lost when #20 was involved. A pass behind, a touch off his blade, making the wrong decision, you name it, Stempniak was just not himself. I suspect he really misses Cammalleri more than I do at the moment. Kennedy added very little and Henrique looked lost to make matters worse for the unit. While bad nights will happen, with the Devils short one of their top producers, everyone's got to pull together. So when a line suffers, it really sticks out. Especially in a one-shot game like this one.
A Thought on Farnham: Tonight reminded me why Bobby Farnham has endeared himself so well to the fans. He skates hard and fast, even though it's not always wise or economical. He jumps (occasionally in a literal sense) into action to try and do something. He's willing to fire the puck when he has a good look as opposed to overthinking the play and passing it away. Basically, he's a guy who looks like he's working really hard - because he is - and he tries things. I think most sports fans will respect someone who lacks skill but makes great efforts, especially more than the opposite. Farnham is still not someone you want to play significant minutes, go up against very good players, be one of your best attackers, and do other things like play defense. Yet, tonight - again, he and his line had a good night - showed me why he's become a fan favorite in such a short while.
Bobbleheads: Tonight's giveaway was a Cory Schneider bobblehead to the first 10,000 fans in attendance. While Schneider was solid as he could be in the net, the ones with their heads all over the place tonight were defensemen Jon Merrill and Damon Severson. Merrill was the better of the two on defense, but his reads for passes were poor ones more often than not. Since he's attempting passes through the neutral zone, a missed pass either becomes an easy recovery for Detroit, a lost opportunity to attack, and/or an icing call. Still, he was far less adventurous than Severson. Severson's giveaway to Joakim Andersson was abysmal and somehow Schneider denied Andersson on what should've been a layup for Detroit. Severson added nothing to a power play that needed anything to get going, too. On top of that, he was the last one caught with Larkin behind him for the lone goal of the game. It was an excellent pass by Brad Richards that caught Severson out in no man's land in the middle of the neutral zone. Still, this would be a night to forget for #7 and #28.
Two Last Thoughts - Part One: I counted the scoring chances that are available at HockeyStats.ca. Keep in mind that scoring chances are recorded for missed shots. The Devils only out-chanced the Red Wings 11-10. This in a one-shot game for about fifty minutes in regulation. Again, that's simply not good enough. Especially since eight of those eleven actually got to Mrazek.
Two Last Thoughts - Part Two: About the headline photo, that is also symbolic of night. In the one time Palmieri was near the net and was stretching out Mrazek for a glorious goal scoring opportunity, he lost the puck trying to go to his backhand near the left end of the crease. That'll happen and it didn't help the Devils at all. That picture was taken during the third period, too. Just to add to the aggravation.
Your Take: The Devils disappointed in a 0-1 loss to Detroit. You know what I think of it, now I want to know what you think of it. What did you make of New Jersey's performance? What do you think they should have done differently to get more shots on - and possibly in - the net tonight? What's wrong with the power play? Who was the best Devil skater tonight in your opinion? What should the Devils takeaway from this game before their next one in Montreal on Wednesday?
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