Typically, a 1-2 loss is a close loss. It’s a “tough” one. Especially when the game winning goal comes late in regulation. A wide open Patrice Bergeron fired a one-timer from the high slot. It flew past Kyle Quincey, who happened to eclipse Cory Schneider to put the Boston Bruins up a goal with only 1:15 left in regulation. That would count in most circumstances. For most teams on the wrong end of that, it would be a heartbreaker. But the New Jersey Devils are not most teams.
I can agree that it was a heartbreaking goal against. What I can’t agree with was that this was a close game. Sure, the score was. The play on the ice wasn’t. Bergeron’s goal came in a period where the Bruins out-shot the Devils 17-8 in all situations, 14-5 in 5-on-5 situations. The B’s out-attempted the Devs 31-17 in all situations and 23-9 in 5-on-5 situations. Merely watching the game alone would have a viewer notice that the puck was often on Boston’s sticks, the Bruins were often going into New Jersey’s end, and the Devils did very little after scoring their lone goal of the game. None of that points to anything I would call a close game. And that’s just in the third period; the one that decided the game.
Over the whole game, the attempt and shot disparity was still in Boston’s favor, but it wasn’t as pronounced. The third period looked a lot like the first period, only with goals being scored and penalties being called. In that one, Boston appeared to go through the neutral zone with relative ease. The Devils managed to lose a lot of pucks there, with whatever movements forward often resulting in a misfired pass that gave Boston an easy zone exit. The Devils managed to stem the Bruins attack and hit back with much more of their own in the second period. Their breakouts were more successful. Yet, despite out-shooting them 13-6, most were “one and done” attacks. At least there were offensive plays being executed. It was at least progress. Then came the third period where the Devils got bossed around for the better part of twenty minutes.
So while Kyle Palmieri converted a power play with a shot that hit off Brandon Carlo’s skate to beat Tuukka Rask for the first goal, the Bruins didn’t wilt. No, they just went to work and earned themselves a victory. They did it through superior puck control. Certain players took control, namely Torey Krug. He was often keeping plays alive on offense and giving his forwards a chance to go forward. And the Bruins kept piling on the pressure in all three zones. The interesting thing was that the goals scored by Boston had to be excellent to beat Cory Schneider, who was once again on his game tonight. The equalizing goal from the red-hot Brad Marchand was a perfect shot to the far post. Andy Greene played him just fine as he carried the puck into New Jersey’s end; the shot was just that good. Bergeron’s one-timer was taken at the right time and was a great shot in of itself (and it didn’t hurt that he was wide open). It was an excellent play. But they weren’t plays that came out of nowhere or just plays that jumped out in an evenly matched game.
Score aside, this wasn’t a close one. This wasn’t a tough loss for New Jersey. It was a decisive one based on the play on the ice.
The Opposition Opinion: Nolan Cardwell has this ranking post up at Stanley Cup of Chowder. Check back later for a recap.
The Main Takeaway: Through the first two periods - which if the game ended there, I would have said it was a close game - my main thought of this game was that Boston is much different than Anaheim. The Devils looked great against the Ducks due in part of their approach to making exits on defense and how they moved the puck through the neutral zone. Where they relied on chipping and clearing it out and hoping the players in the right places for bounces, the Bruins focused on control. They played the Devils close on defense, they didn’t rush many exits, and they moved the puck with an emphasis (at least it seemed that way to me) on puck control. There weren’t as many dump and chases by the B’s in the home opener. All of that really stood out as the Devils were chasing the game. In other words, Boston is at least better coached than Anaheim if not outright a better team. And that was a problem for New Jersey tonight.
What Didn’t Carry Over from Tuesday: The unit of Pavel Zacha, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Beau Bennett had a rougher night than they did on Tuesday. While that line didn’t register a point against Anaheim, they were able to apply plenty of offensive pressure that kept the game more in New Jersey’s control. Tonight, they were not all that successful against their matchups.
They were even split up by the third. Bennett strangely got moved up to play with Travis Zajac and Taylor Hall, presumably to shake things up. Not only did it not work, Bennett had one of the dumber turnovers of the game when he misfired a pass back into New Jersey’s end after the puck went over the blue line. It led to another Boston attack. And, I could be wrong, was Bergeron his man on the game winning goal? Even if it wasn’t, Bennett did not help the Devils generate any offense for a duo that was otherwise putting in good work in the second period.
What Did Carry Over from Tuesday: If you didn’t like the Ben Lovejoy and John Moore pairing, then you probably didn’t like them tonight. They got to play a lot of defense and witness plenty of shots against. They were present for very few shots by New Jersey, due in part to their lack of contribution to moving the puck forward. Moore also committed another dumb penalty in the third period. After losing a puck in the neutral zone, he went to go hold David Backes. In addition to drawing the referee’s attention, he didn’t really do much more than slow up Backes, who shrugged off the hold. The Devils did kill it, but the 2-12 union continues to un-impress.
Give Me a Positive: I’ll give you a four.
One: Cory Schneider was great. Not that Tuukka Rask and Schneider had to make a lot of amazing saves tonight, both were well involved in the first two periods. Boston took it up a notch in the third and Schneider was doing his best to keep the game close on the scoreboard. He did that. It took a near-perfectly placed shot and a one-timer he didn’t see to beat him. Once again, #35 excelled at a level the guys in front of him could not have matched.
Two: Taylor Hall continues to impress in flashes. He had five shots and ten attempts to lead the Devils. He showed he can make space in spots, most notably when he chipped a puck to himself for a zone exit on a penalty kill. He used his speed to recover the puck, get around a defender, and take a shot at Rask. It was nice. Unfortunately, he followed that by slashing John-Michael Liles’ stick out of his hands, which was called and gave the Bruins a short two man advantage and another penalty for NJ to kill. But the play prior to the penalty showed what he could do. The Devils should work on improving their breakouts if only to give #9 more opportunities to do his thing.
Three: Pavel Zacha seemingly knows how to play defense. That’s important for his future. He may not have been driving a lot of play for New Jersey, but that he was able to backcheck and pick players up is heartening.
Four: The Devils took no penalties in the first period. Given how well the Bruins were playing in the first period, that’s pretty impressive. They couldn’t stay clean, but one clean period is a start.
Hey Shouldn’t Hall Have Scored?: Hall had a gimmie in front of the net in the third period. Greene smartly jumped up on a rush and drew a call that Palmieri would eventually convert. But during the delayed call, the puck squirted out to the middle where Hall had an empty net. Rask was caught out. Yet, the puck went wide. Did Hall make the greatest miss of all time? Not so fast. Zdeno Chara, who had a good game over all, lunged and stick-checked Hall from behind to send that puck away. It was a crucial interception for Boston. At least Palmieri scored on the ensuing power play so it wasn’t as if the Devils lost their lone chance to score. Then again, it’s been over eight periods since the Devils scored an even strength goal. That would have broken that.
Speaking of the PPG: I will give Damon Severson credit for keeping the puck onside right on the blue paint. He not only kept the play alive but he sent the puck across to a wide open Palmieri. He had all kinds of time to shoot and when he did, the shot fortunately hit off Carlo’s skate to fool Rask. It would be the highlight of his night.
I will also say that Severson has been frustrating in some regards. Some shifts, he’ll look just fine next to Greene. He’ll smartly take a puck around the net to relieve pressure or make a good read against Boston. Other shifts, he’ll be the one to have a shot or a pass blocked to kill an attack, miss on a pass out of the zone, or make a bad decision like passing the puck right in front of Schneider. I think he can be good, he just needs to get his head right. I think if he can follow the Larsson plan - stop worrying so much and focus on making good plays instead of perfect plays - then he can be fine alongside Greene. At least I think he’s preferable over, say, Lovejoy.
One Final Thought: The Devils really need to cut back on long, shallow diagonal lateral passes. It hasn’t been successful for their breakouts. It wasn’t successful after gaining the Bruins’ zone - which happened quite a bit with the Henrique line. They can be successful if the lane is there and if the receiver doesn’t have an opponent in front of them. I’d like to think that shorter passes would not only be easier to make, but also help their breakouts in general, which needs something different to help the Devils generate more offense and ease their defensive load. It would at least be a different look.
Your Take: The Devils lost 1-2 in a game that was really close on the scoreboard in my view. But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take on this loss? Who did you notice that played well for the Devils other than Schneider? What hurt the Devils in their performance in your view? What can the Devils do differently to put out a better performance on Saturday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.
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