End of the year celebrations are ongoing or will occur later tonight. People want to end the year with a bang and the New Jersey Devils were no different. To use a phrase nobody cool uses, the Devils set the dumpster on fire this afternoon against the Washington Capitals. Amid a month-and-a-half run of mostly awful hockey, the Devils took it to new lows. The Caps mopped the floor with them as they won the game by a final score of 6-2. Six goals allowed is a season-high for the Devils in 2016-17. And such a mark came with the kind of performance that deserved to give up six goals. Here’s a quick summary of what the game featured:
- Lack of defensive coverage. Despite it being an even strength situation, nobody covered Brent Connolly so he scored less than three minutes into the game off a sweet feed by Andre Burakovsky.
- Lack of awareness. Amid the many failures at moving the puck and picking up opposing players, the low points came in the middle of the second period. T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin scored off rebounds of sorts where no Devil skater even saw them. Oshie came in off the rush and nobody in red saw him except for Keith Kinkaid - by that time, it was too late. Ovechkin, you know, the all-world, goal scoring machine, was ignored by Jon Merrill. One shot off the endboards and Ovechkin had Kinkaid beaten dead to rights on his right flank while Merrill looked ineffective.
- Lack of response. Most teams that are down one or two goals would try to attack more and be more aggressive. That’s not how the Devils play, man. That’s not their system. You know how many shots they had in a period where they gave up an early goal? Five. And the Caps made them suffer further with a late goal in the first period; a killer deflection by Jay Beagle. Did the Devils come out hard in the second period? Nope! Even when they were down 1-5 late in the second period, the Devils were still settling for long shots from the points instead of trying to generate more advantageous shots. Yes, the defensemen (and occasionally, a forward) are open above the circles. They’ve been open for a reason. Defenses will happily let that shot attempt happen and the Caps were no different.
- Lack of coherence. Incoherent would be the best word to describe the New Jersey Devils’ power play today. The boxscore shows they had nine power plays. A bunch of them only lasted for a few seconds as referees Marc Joanette and Justin St. Pierre evened up quite a few calls. Even so, the Devils had 12:17 of power play ice time. They registered seven shots on net, most of them coming in one (1) functioning power play in the first period. More often than not, players were forcing passes to Devils that weren’t open or in the spot the puck was going to. Players were calling for shots that didn’t happen even when they did get the puck. Again, skaters that could shoot were in positions where they couldn’t shoot the puck, such as being on or below the goal line. The only positive of the power play in this afternoon was that they only conceded three shorthanded shots and no goals. That’s a positive only because they couldn’t claim that on Thursday night against the same team. The man advantages were rarely advantages because the units were just not on the same page.
- Lack of care. I know it’s not appropriate to call a team soft or heartless or whatnot, but after so many losses where the Devils just get bodied in most or all aspects of the game, how can I not call their commitment in question? Just look at the highlight video of the Caps’ sixth and final goal. Three Caps are going into the zone and there are three Devils there with a fourth joining them. Yet, Justin Williams is wide enough to go around the pack and get a good angle to slide a centering pass past Andy Greene. At least Greene was trying. At the same time, Marcus Johansson just blew by Miles Wood (who was awful among many Devils today) to get to the top of the crease and one-time that pass home. Yes, one of the fastest Devils on the team, if not the fastest, was beaten. And the other Devils just acted like it was a goal allowed in practice. I know the game was done and dusted at that point, but it was a costly example amid a myriad of examples of players not connecting on passes, settling for longer, less-riskier shots, and just dumping pucks away instead of keeping possession to try for a better zone entry or exit. I can understand how their mindset may have been altered from the beginning of the game. But if they were able to “get their fight level up” (and they did), then they should be able to get their compete level to actually be measurable. They didn’t and so the Caps mopped the floor with them while hanging six goals out of twenty six shots on Keith Kinkaid.
The biggest indictment I can give for this loss is a bit more personal: I left this game early. I almost never leave games early. As it was 1-5 at the second intermission and given how long the first two periods, I did not think it was worth waiting an additional hour . After years of leaving the handful of games (any sport) as a kid to “beat the traffic,” I’ve resolved to want to stay for games as much as I can. But not today. It was not worth it. I apologize to you, the reader, that I do not have much to say about the third period. As it turned out, I really didn’t miss much other than a rare scoreboard contribution by Beau Bennett (a deflection) and another goal allowed (the aforementioned goal by Johansson). I was also not alone in leaving early and I do not blame any Devils fan for doing so. These kinds of performances are just not worth it.
What can I say that isn’t negative? The Devils did not get shutout. Kyle Palmieri took a Capitals turnover and turned into a score. Then there was the Bennett deflection. Given how lame the Devils were on the power play and at even strength when it came to challenging Philipp Grubauer, I think that is positive. But that’s a small silver lining amid the dark cloud of terrible hockey that has hung over the Devils for the past seven or so weeks. 2016 ended with a dumpster fire of a performance by the Devils. Happy New Year’s! May things get better on the ice real soon.
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
The Opposition Opinion: Becca H recapped the game at Japers’ Rink.
I Hope John Moore will be OK: 3:10 into the first period, Tom Wilson hit John Moore from behind into the boards in New Jersey’s end. Moore was angled as he was hit, he went face first into the glass, fell, and remained there. The Devils’ trainer immediately jumped on the ice with medical personnel and a stretcher shortly thereafter. Moore was able to move his limbs, but he was taken out on the stretcher and sent to a hospital. The good news is that Andrew Gross tweeted after the game that John Hynes stated that Moore was released from the hospital. There has yet to be further word to the extent of Moore’s injury. It was a scary moment as most of the Rock was quiet as Moore lied lifelessly on the ice and as he was being attended by the staff. Hopefully, Moore will be OK in short order.
As with many of these kinds of plays, there’s much to say about the event. It’s mind-boggling that both refs did not think this was worth a penalty - especially given how many fouls they did call today. I was stunned that the hit was replayed on the videoboard at the Rock, which made the fans vocally angry as play resumed. I am not at all surprised that it came from Tom Wilson, a player who has been known for “riding the edge.” I am equally not at all surprised that the presence of a tough guy - Luke Gazdic - did absolutely nothing to prevent such a hit from happening. (Someone tell Ken Daneyko that. Also, someone ask John Hynes was Pavel Zacha scratched for Gazdic again.) Gazdic did eventually fight Wilson, although it was much later in the game - in the second period - and likely the result of something else. It did not bring Moore back and the Devils certainly didn’t receive any “spark” from it. I hope that the NHL will take a look at the hit, but I have little faith they’ll do anything about it. Check out the headline photo at Puck Daddy and you’ll clearly see Wilson pasting Moore in the numbers. But like Wyshynski wrote in that post, that he isn’t confident of any further punishment speaks to my lack of faith in the NHL. That’s all I have to say about that except to a repeat of the most important thing: I hope John Moore will be OK.
Poor Keith Kinkaid: He did the best he could. But he was beaten by open man cutting to the net, two rebounds, two deflections, and a one-timer in his grill. I suppose one could be picky and say that he created the rebound that Oshie put home, but that’s small potatoes compared to the other issues. The skaters let him down today and he wasn’t able to be superhuman like he was on Thursday. I feel bad for Kinkaid; his numbers took a swift kick to the proverbial face because some players just faltered on so many plays.
Your Take: The Devils suffered another big, bad loss to close out their home-and-home with the Caps and the calendar year 2016. I wish I had more to say beyond that the Capitals were great and the Devils were scrubs. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Please leave your thoughts on this loss in the comments as well as your hopes for the team in the coming new year.
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