As time ticked off the clock in the third period, the Rock was filled with happy fans cheering, applauding, and, of course, making plenty of woo’s. The New Jersey Devils did not just end their seven game losing streak. The New Jersey Devils did not just beat the Philadelphia Flyers. The New Jersey Devils smashed their streak and the Flyers with a dominant performance in a 4-0 shutout win. The Devils were in control and kept a collectively cooler head than their opponents. Those opponents, the Flyers, lived up to their reputation of getting tough when the going gets tough instead of, you know, trying to get things going or trying to get even. Let’s summarize what turned out to be a great win.
It was clear from the start of the game that this would not be a repeat of the nightmarish game against Nashville. The Devils came out with intensity and, more importantly, a better handle on the puck. They challenged the Flyers and came out ahead. They earned an early power play when Nick Cousins hit Vernon Fiddler, who did play tonight, with a high stick. The Devils cashed in when P.A. Parenteau tipped a shot by Michael Cammalleri that ended up trickling by Steve Mason. Later in the first period, the Devils struck again when Miles Wood crashed the net, Adam Henrique managed to chip the puck towards the turning Wood amid the fracas in front, and Wood slammed the puck home. The Devils were up 2-0 and it was well earned.
Then the game took a Philadelphia-typical bent. Sergey Kalinin got hit high and that led to a melee between Luke Gazdic, Fiddler, Brandon Manning, and Cousins. Minutes later, there was an actual fight - or at least a called one - between Seth Helgeson and Dale Weise that was associated with Fiddler taking a roughing minor and Radko Gudas taking two roughing minors. Shortly after that power play, Damon Severson (!) and Claude Giroux (!!) tussle and they both received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. And just after the final whistle of the first period, Wayne Simmonds threw a cheap shot at Jon Merrill, which eventually led to Cammalleri (!!!) and Cousins fighting. The first period took so long to finish if only because of all of the penalties assessed. The amazing thing is that the Devils came out ahead with Gudas’ extra roughing minor yielding one power play and Simmonds’ stupidity handing the Devils a power play to start the second period. The Flyers wanted to go dumb and the Devils went kind of dumb with them and they paid for it with additional penalty kills.
The Devils didn’t punish the Flyers for those extra penalties. They just clamped down on them hard. In the second period and down multiple scores against a team that lost seven in a row, the Flyers mustered up only seven shots on goal. They only rarely pinned back the Devils, who did an excellent job filling in shooting lanes and making their zone exits count. The Flyers were actually close to scoring, but Cory Schneider cleared a put-back attempt by Michael Raffl right off the goal line. That was Philadelphia’s one glorious chance of the night and #35 denied it. Meanwhile, the Devils kept the Flyers more than honest with attacks of their own. It paid off as Taylor Hall made a great pass to Adam Henrique in the slot and Henrique roofed a wrister past rookie goalie Anthony Stolarz. The only real downer of the period for the Devils was Jon Merrill taking a silly interference penalty near the end of it.
But despite the man advantage, the Flyers were just defeated at the start of the third period. They didn’t even register a shot on net. Schneider faced only three shots on net. Even if that’s really the result of the Devils’ scorer being stingy, the Flyers were just lame on offense. Schneider had to stop and cover more dumped-in pucks than anything with an intent to score. The Devils did not generate a lot on offense themselves, but they were up by three goals. They didn’t have to. The third period was mostly just time spent between a Devils team that was cruising and a Flyers team that just gave up.
Of course, the ugly “making it look mean” undercurrent of the Flyers organization flared up again. After Stolarz held onto a shot from Andy Greene, Simmonds lost his cool and took another shot, this time at Henrique. As an official tried to hold Simmonds back, he visually and verbally expressed his displeasure with the refs, which earned him two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a ten-minute misconduct. All the while, Radko Gudas did something dumb to warrant a ten-minute misconduct penalty too. Henrique didn’t cover himself in glory as he took a shot at Gudas for his own misconduct penalty. Again, the Flyers went stupid and the Devils ended up with a power play. Kyle Palmieri re-directed a shot by Greene to put an exclamation mark on the game. There were attempts at silliness after the end of regulation, but the refs held back the Flyers, who managed to take almost as many penalties (fourteen) as they had shots on net (sixteen). The Devils weren’t angels, but they weren’t as silly, they focused more on trying to win the game, and so they did in a decisive fashion.
The Devils earned this big win. They certainly needed it. Any question as to the status of the Flyers as a rival was clearly answered: they were Second Rate tonight. The losing streak is over. A rival team was humbled. One word can sum it up for the Devils fans at the game and those who followed it all around the world: Woo!
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 Shift Chart | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Game Stats
Thank You: I wrote this yesterday in the hopes of having a better atmosphere for the game and adding more weight to the rivalry. It’s rare for a professional athlete to admit that something inoffensive and fun by the fans just bothers them. As it came from a rival, I couldn’t let that opportunity slip. I know not everyone likes to go ‘woo.’ But there were definitely more of them at the start of the game and as the game went on, there were more and more. I appreciate that the Devils did pick up on this and had more ‘woo’s in their game presentation. Yes, the Devils winning helped a lot; it’s easier to be cheerful when there is something to cheer for. Yes, not everyone did it because they read the post; I think most people did it because, well, it’s fun and others were doing it. But I am very happy with the woos tonight. And I especially hope Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, and David Hakstol were annoyed by it. If not, hey, March 16 isn’t that far away to try again.
Thank you to everyone who tweeted, posted, commented, and/or went to the game and even gave one woo tonight. I assure you, you were heard. It was glorious.
Speaking of...: Did Jakub Voracek play tonight? He’s on the scoresheet and he apparently had 23 shifts tonight. But I don’t remember the Ten Million Dollar Flyer doing anything of value tonight. How about that. Maybe a reporter can ask him if he heard the woo’s or something; just to confirm he really was in Newark.
A Goalie Change: You may have noted in the summary portion of this recap that I mentioned Steve Mason and Anthony Stolarz. Mason started the game, but Stolarz replaced him in the second period. Giving up two goals on eight shots did not help Mason’s cause to see the game through. However, it may have been injury related. During the many stoppages of the first period, Mason was constantly moving and stretching in net. I figured he was just trying to stay loose, but it may have been something else since he was replaced in the second period. I figured Stolarz was going to start since Mason and Flyers won in a shootout last night. Maybe someone should ask Hakstol about that?
Anyway, Henrique handed Stolarz his first even strength goal allowed in the NHL and Palmieri beat him late with a PPG. Good job by the Devils for beating both netminders.
The Season Debut of Helgeson: I was not a fan of Seth Helgeson being called up. I will admit, he did well tonight. Helgeson replaced Kyle Quincey and played a safe game. He did use his fists, which I suspect was a reason why he was called up as opposed to someone better like Yohann Auvitu. But Helgeson did not take any major risks, he did not get torched, and he didn’t take any fouls to prevent any plays by the Flyers. I wouldn’t want him to be a regular, but I will say that Helgeson had a good night.
Perfect Schneider: Cory Schneider did not face a lot of rubber tonight. But goalies do not really control how many shots they face, they just have to stop what they do face. Schneider stopped all sixteen shots (I think in another arena, that number would be a little higher). He had routine saves, solid glove saves, good saves in traffic, and a dramatic clearance off the line from a Raffl attempt at a put-back. The result is his first shutout win since January 16, 2016 in Arizona. Between Sunday in Manhattan and tonight’s shutout, I think Schneider is starting coming out of a slump - Tuesday’s nightmare aside.
What a Defense: After night after night of loads of shots and attempts allowed, it was refreshing to see the Devils with only sixteen shots allowed and thirty-five attempts allowed. John Moore wasn’t a sieve. Ben Lovejoy did not cough up pucks to the team’s detriment. Andy Greene and Damon Severson were very good. Jon Merrill was even good. The forwards helped out a lot, whether it was applying the right amount of pressure, backchecking to knock a puck away with a stickcheck, or making the zone exit not only leave the Devils’ zone but often to a Devil. It helped that the Flyers just checked out of the game after a while, but the Devils put in a very good performance in their own end of the rink. They earned the shutout as much as the goalie.
Mighty Hall & Other Forwards: In addition to Schneider and the team’s defensive effort, Taylor Hall had a much better night than he was on Tuesday. While he was shotless, Hall was effective at keeping attacks going, making good zone entries, and distributing the puck. His pass to Henrique for a goal in the second period was just the latest reason why he’s a cut above most of the Devils forwards. He helped drive the play forward, which made the Flyers’ chances of a comeback bleaker at worst and gave the Devils an opportunity at best. My only criticism is that I wanted him to shoot. Hall should be shooting more. I think he will get his chance soon enough.
There were a number of other forwards who stood out to me from watching this game. Henrique was offensively active with four shots on net in addition to a goal. Cammalleri was also active with four shots on net, including creating the power play goal for Parenteau. I wish he didn’t fight Cousins, but that happened and so here we are. Zajac didn’t do a whole lot in terms of firing the puck, but I really liked a lot of the defensive work he put in. And, strange as this may read, Luke Gazdic’s presence didn’t offend me. He wasn’t an anchor on the run of play and he did more than just have a requisite fight (or roughing minor) with Cousins. With only twenty-two shots on net, the Devils weren’t offensive machines. But with four goals and playing well for the most part, a lot of them did their jobs tonight.
Consider This: If you’re a Flyers fan, then I’m sorry. Also, you should be sorry at how the Flyers handled themselves. This game could have been far different than what happened if they kept their cool. Not that long ago, the Devils had built up a two-goal lead against St. Louis. Did the Blues start getting nasty, throwing shots, and starting tons of scrums? No. They adjusted their game plan, they worked to have their best offensive players have the puck on their stick, and kept going at the Devils bit by bit. Maybe it took less time than expected, but the Blues battled back in the game of hockey and managed to not only tie it up, but easily dispatch the Devils by a 5-2 final score. The Flyers could have done that. But, instead, they got mad, they lost control, and their top forwards - Voracek, Konecny, Giroux, Simmonds (their leading goal scorer - were largely invisible when it came to doing things that could lead to scoring goals. With that in mind, thank the Flyers’ garbage actions as they contributed to the Devils’ big win tonight.
Two Last Thoughts: Devin will take care of previewing tomorrow’s game, but I want to bring up tomorrow’s opponent, the superior NHL team in Pennsylvania. The Penguins lost 7-1 to Columbus. Expect a mad Pittsburgh team, except that instead of expressing that madness with violence, the Pens will try to do it by playing the game of hockey. As great as the Devils win, banking on the other team to lose their cool and seemingly their game plan isn’t likely to happen on most nights. I appreciate the harder effort the Devils certainly displayed, but the X’s and the O’s will need to be addressed too if only to prevent the Penguins from making an example of New Jersey.
Your Take: The Devils finally broke their seven-game losing streak! With a 4-0 win! Who was the best Devil in your eyes tonight? Which one of the four goals scored was your favorite? What can the Devils learn from this game for their next one in Pittsburgh? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
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