Tonight, the New Jersey Devils lost to the Winnipeg Jets by a 2-3 final score. The Devils faced a two-goal deficit twice. They ultimately erased one of them, but not the second one. A near-perfect shot by Patrick Laine was the difference maker. The rookie sensation just gained the zone and fired a sick-nasty wrist shot to the top right corner just inside of the goal frame. It was similar to the goal Anthony Mantha scored last Friday in the third period. Yeah, you can point a finger at a defenseman on the play but there’s not a whole lot of anything one can do about a shot like that. It ultimately held up as the game winner. I can understand thinking that you just take the ‘L’ and move on. Especially since that since that was the difference maker.
That said, this game left me wanting. Tonight was a good example of perception. As per Natural Stat Trick, in 5-on-5 play, the Devils out-attempted the Jets 45-37 although the Devils were out-shot 16-20. In all situations, the Devils out-attempted the Jets 60-57 and were out-shot 25-29. OK, being out shot by four is not good but it is not terrible. However, the game did not seem that close from what I watched. It seemed that the Jets were getting more open shots, more dangerous shots, and more posts. As it turned out, the more dangerous shots and posts were true. The Jets did hit iron more than the Devils. The Jets also out-chanced the Devils 29-19 in all situations and 23-12 in 5-on-5 play. That means the Jets were putting up more unblocked attempts in the slot, at the crease, and from the inner halves of the circles. That points to how the Jets looked better even though the attempt differential favored New Jersey.
It also did not help that the Devils basically did themselves few favors at points of this game. With five penalties, the Devils dared the Winnipeg power play to succeed. Especially in the second period with four penalties by the Devils including two quick ones that gave the Jets a 1:41 of a 5-on-3 situation. The Devils killed all of the calls, but it definitely disrupted their attack. The Devils did receive four power plays - and proceeded to not really make the most of it. The Devils even drew a penalty shot and did not even register a shot on net. Worst of all were the first two goals allowed. Mark Schiefele and Blake Wheeler scored from essentially the same spot on the ice on the same play. A shot was made, Cory Schneider made the save, and no one picked up the eventual goal scorer or beat said scorer to the rebound. The Jets nearly struck again on similar plays as the Devils’ defensive issues really showed up again. That yielded more chances that could have really buried the Devils if it was not for Schneider or the goalframe.
That all said, the Devils did make a game of it. Despite losing the puck on a penalty shot and missing five very good looks at the net, Miles Wood scored a goal. He chased down a dump-in by Adam Henrique, fired a low, sharp-angled shot, and it beat Connor Hellebuyck. Wood was flying all night long and was easily New Jersey’s most dangerous skater. The Devils put themselves back within one when Damon Severson stripped Schiefele of the puck in the neutral zone, carried the puck into the zone, fired a slapshot to force a rebound, and Nick Lappin piled in that rebound. The Devils then had twelve minutes to get that third goal. The Jets nearly made it 4-2 but Schneider kept it close (John Moore, among others, should be thanking him). You cannot say they didn’t make a game of it. But the offensive surges of the last three games weren’t going to last and so it didn’t happen.
The Devils are now winless in their last three games with two more tough road games ahead. The difference maker was a fantastic shot by a young forward who’s going to be doing that a lot in his career. To avoid extending this winless run, the Devils need to help themselves and find ways to avoid getting into a hole both in terms of dangerous shots and on the scoreboard. Comebacks aren’t always going to be completed and so the Jets burned them tonight.
The Flying Wood: Miles Wood was impressive for the Devils very early on if only because he was hustling. I do not mean hustling in that you see someone just skate with the puck a lot. Or someone just pumping their legs a lot. No, Wood was just motoring in just about everything that he did. This was not Wood’s first NHL game, but he definitely wanted to impress the coaches. He had to have done that. Right when he got behind three Jets for a breakaway on Hellebuyck in the first period alone was impressive. That Wood kept breaking away from Jets players and charging at pucks showed that it was not just a fluke play. The only times he wasn’t fast was during his penalty shot attempt and in being caught watching Schiefele put in the first goal of the game. The former is unfortunate (has he taken a penalty shot before in college or in the AHL?) and the latter, well, that sort of thing can be taught. All the same, I was very happy he scored a goal because he definitely put in the work tonight. At a minimum, Wood has guaranteed himself minutes on Thursday and call-ups and games in the future. My only question from this performance: Can he be this swift every night?
A Roster Mistake: In this game post by Andrew Gross at Fire & Ice, John Hynes had a game-time decision for his defensemen. The decision was Jon Merrill in for Yohann Auvitu. This was not a good decision. While Merrill looked real good from an attempts (16-6) and shot differential (8-4) standpoint in 5-on-5 play, he hurt in other ways. He took two penalties in the second period: he hooked Schiefele after losing the puck behind the net and he tripped Kyle Connor away from the play. He provided one mere shot on net and it was about as threatening to a goalie as if he shot a pillow. Merrill gave Laine space to shoot, which would be fine for most players but he paid for that. Most of all, Merrill played a whopping 13:05 with next to no time on special teams. He was literally just as used as a guy. Auvitu would have at least been usable on the power play and would have been a far sight better than John Moore on it. And he could have fired some actual shots that may concern Winnipeg. I don’t really want to see Merrill in for Auvitu unless he’s hurt. He did not add much despite a great Corsi.
The Mighty Fourths: Nick Lappin put the Devils within a goal tonight. That’s great. What’s also great that the line he played with had a great night in the run of play. Vernon Fiddler, Sergey Kalinin, and Lappin all had their working skates on and they made the Jets work. Even late in the game, they pinned the Jets back - so much so that perhaps John Hynes should have pulled Schneider during that run. This fourth line continues to be positive for the Devils in the run of play, Kalinin drew a call on a shorthanded breakaway, and, again, provided a goal. That’s good stuff.
Cooled Off: Michael Cammalleri was limited to one shot on net, four blocked shots, and one miss. His scoring streak ended tonight at three games, totaling four goals and four assists. In 5-on-5, he didn’t do a whole lot with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. The Zajac line drew the returning Bryan Little, Drew Stafford, and Blake Wheeler and they did not do well in that match up. They did not fare much better in lesser minutes against a young line of Nikolaj Ehlers, Schiefele, and Laine. On the power play, Cammalleri was open for that one-timer. When he would get the puck, the shot was not always on target. Such as it is with one-timers; although, I think he should have received the puck more.
Speaking of cold, while Adam Henrique earned a primary assist on a dump-in (would this be “noise?”), he and Kyle Palmieri remain unimpressive to state the least. CJ will have more on that tomorrow.
So Dumb: You know how some players get praised for the intelligence, their decision making, and/or their “hockey IQ?” I am becoming increasingly convinced John Moore would get the opposite of that praise. Everyone makes mistakes, but Moore reliably makes a few real head-scratching plays. One example: throwing a puck in the front of the crease in the third period right to Dustin Byfuglien - Schneider denied him point-blank. A second example: leading a power play breakout late in the second period and he makes a back pass that thankfully eludes the Jet behind him and unfortunately eluded Pavel Zacha to further help the Jets kill that power play. A third example: receiving the puck at the center point, looking over to an open Cammalleri waiting for the one timer, and then firing a wrister - because anytime you can pass up a shot for the hottest player on the team to take an easily-saved long shot, you got to do it. I’m continually annoyed by some of Moore’s decisions and because they do not result in goals against, the coaches are likely going to do nothing about it. Argh.
Schneider is Fine & Lucky: Schneider was beaten on his flank twice on loose pucks and a perfect shot by Laine. He made plenty of difficult stops on the other Jets. He was a big reason why the Devils killed all five shorthanded situations tonight. He was also lucky tonight. The goal frame helped him four times, including twice during that two-man disadvantage in the second period. He also benefited from Byfuglien missing an empty net on a sharp angled shot in the first period. He got some breaks tonight. He just needed more help tonight. I am not concerned with his play.
The Jets’ Future is Bright: Little returning was big, but my preview turned out to be prescient to a point. The Jets’ top players produced. Wheeler and Byfuglien were powerhouses. Schiefele scored again and put up six shots on net (!!), Laine scored his first goal in sometime, and Ehlers was about two inches from scoring one for himself (on that power play). With a bunch of home games coming up for them and players getting healthy, do not be surprised if they start rising up the standings.
One Last Thought: That 6-on-5 situation for the Devils was just ugly. Schneider was pulled as the fourth line lost the puck and then the zone. The Devils re-grouped, dumped the puck in, and the Jets iced the puck. They took a timeout, drew up a play, won the faceoff, and then the play blew dead because Zajac passed the puck with his hand. The draw comes out of the zone with 49 seconds left. The Devils go back to their own end, make a defensive zone pass, and with about 30 seconds left, completely misfire on a pass into the zone. The Jets recovered and basically played keep away in their own end before exiting their zone. While the Devils won the puck back in the neutral zone, it was too little, too late. It was a lame effort with the extra skater and the complete opposite of what Pittsburgh did with their extra skater situation on Saturday.
Your Take: The Devils close out November with a loss and a winless streak of three games. What was your reaction to this loss? What did you make of Wood’s performance? Did anyone else on the Devils impress you tonight? What should the Devils learn from this game before their next game in Chicago? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments.
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