Every team has a bad night. Yet, it would be an understatement to call the performance by the New Jersey Devils against the Montreal Canadiens just “bad.” The New Jersey Devils were second-rate in Montreal tonight. The second and third periods saw Montreal just do whatever they wanted, extend their lead, and just enjoy controlling the game. The Devils lost 2-5 and they were awful in most aspects of the game of hockey tonight in this loss.
The first period was different. It was a long, nearly hour-long first period that ended up almost even. Nathan Beaulieu had a shot through traffic that hit Cory Schneider’s shoulder and dropped into the net. The referees reviewed the goal for a high-stick and John Hynes challenged it for a goaltender interference as it appeared Artturi Lehkonen impeded with Schneider’s glove on the shot. That goal stood. Later, P.A. Parenteau fired an angled shot that Carey Price stopped, the puck hit off Adam Henrique, and the puck went past Price as Henrique and Lehkonen went into Price. The referees reviewed the goal for a kick and Michel Therrien challenged it for goaltender interference. That goal stood. Montreal would go up a goal due to a fluke. A 2-on-1 rush led by Torrey Mitchell led to a save by Schneider. The rebound hit a backchecking Nick Lappin in the shin; which propelled the puck past Schneider. A fluke goal against. Then late in the first period, the Price Incident happened. Somehow, Price was not assessed a match penalty as per Rule 51.3. Referee Garrett Rank, who was behind the net and right by the punching Price, clearly missed that one. I have more on that in this post and I’ll leave it at that.
But as the second and third periods played out, it would not have mattered if Price was still in the game or not. Montreal just steamrolled the Devils. In the second period: They out-attempted the Devils 24-10 in 5-on-5 play, out-shot the Devils 14-6 in all situations, out-chanced the Devils 8-3 at evens, and out-scored the Devils 1-0. Lehkonen was able to get the puck out of bodies in front to slide it past Schneider’s left pad for that goal. The Devils’ response? It was quiet. Quiet on the power play. Definitely at evens where the Canadiens looked like they were on a power play on multiple 5-on-5 shifts. As for the third period. More of the same. Max Pacioretty received a gift of a puck in front of Schneider thanks to a terrible pass from the boards by Miles Wood that missed Vernon Fiddler. Schneider, after making many tough saves, let in a soft shot through his legs to make it 1-4. While Taylor Hall finished a lovely pass by Adam Henrique for a power play goal, the Canadiens just bodied the Devils. Montreal out-attempted New Jersey 30-14 at even strength, out-shot them 24-7 in all situations, out-chanced them 12-3, and out-scored them 2-1. Torrey Mitchell cleanly and without any defense wrapped it around the left post and through Schneider’s skates to make it a three-goal lead. It looked like little went right for the Devils on the ice and, indeed by the numbers, very little did.
You name it and it was the opposite of good. Defense? Horrible since the Devils allowed 49 shots on net including 24 in the third. Offense? Laughable as the Devils put up a mere 21 shots on net in 44 attempts. No goalie is fearing that. Goaltending? While Schneider had a lot of work and a lot of difficulty, he let in two bad goals out of five. He wasn’t good enough tonight; just as the skaters weren’t good enough. Passing? Abysmal. The Canadiens gobbled up seemingly every missed pass and hit back twice as hard whenever they could. Puck control? Atrocious. The Canadiens took full advantage of those mishandled pucks as well. The only aspect of this game that went right for New Jersey were special teams, which were a net positive as the Canadiens didn’t score a PPG and the Devils did. Oh, and that the Devils weren’t shut out or lost by ten goals. I suppose those would count as well. Other than that, it was like the Devils were jobbers. The game was about as interesting as a standardized test in a language you don’t know.
This game was clearly a blowout on the ice. Montreal played a great sixty minutes. The Devils got rocked and no answers for the Canadiens. They were, for lack of a better word, beaten up tonight. With St. Louis tomorrow and Our Hated Rivals on Sunday night, I fear it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
The Opposition Opinion: NamikoH called this game a “total smackdown” at Habs Eyes on the Prize. I can’t disagree. I do disagree with the praise for Price pummelling a defenseless Kyle Palmieri. Namiko cites a tweet by Marc Dumont, who’s like me at Habs Eyes on the Prize except he’s not me because he can’t be me (duh), were he thinks Price was being run. Perhaps Marc Dumont should get mad at Jeff Petry instead.
This Game Sucked: Seriously. The Devils got pounded. They have further reason to be annoyed with referees this week - first with what happened against Vancouver and tonight with Price skating by with just two roughing minors for punching a defenseless player; they got straight up beaten throughout most of tonight’s game; the Devils continue to defy many in the analytics community by not playing to the score; and they get to play right away tomorrow so there’s little time to learn anything from this one. I’m not sure what else there is to recap.
Well, There’s This: Looking for silver linings beyond “They didn’t get shutout” and “that pass by Henrique was good” and “Hall scored a goal and shot the puck a bit more” is difficult. I’m grasping at straws here but the pairing of Andy Greene and Damon Severson managed to be the best of a really crummy defensive effort. Somehow, in 5-on-5 play, Greene managed to be perfectly even in Corsi (19-19) and in shots (11-11). Severson was just below even in Corsi (18-19) and was out-shot only 10-13 when he was on the ice. Given that the Canadiens out-attempted the Devils by over 30 and out-shot them 45-18 in 5-on-5 play, I’d say that worth noting. Greene-Severson received about equal amounts of Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov, Tomas Plekanec, Andrew Shaw, Lehkonen, and Phillip Danault and did not get destroyed. Compare that to John Moore and Kyle Quincey, who were just dominated by everybody in addition to witnessing three goals against (yes, Moore, that PDO is falling). That Greene-Severson pairing can at least claim that they did the best they could, although I’m loathe to praise a defensive pairing on a night where the Devils nearly conceded 50 shots on net. Like I said, it’s a silver lining. It’s not a lot of praise. I’m stretching.
Kyle Palmieri ended up even in Corsi too at 15-15, but he was out-shot 3-12 in 5-on-5 play. That was the kind of night the Devils were having as just about everyone other than 6-28 was 40% or below in SF%.
Simply Brilliant: It may be difficult for players to standout when seemingly everything is going right for the squad. I would highlight Mitchell, Paul Byron, and Brendan Gallagher. Not only were they all super-positive in terms of attempt-differential (Corsi For% over 70% for all three), but those three were not present for a single shot against in 5-on-5. Seriously. Mitchell, Byron, and Gallagher had 13, 11, and 12 shots for with none against. That’s incredibly impressive even amid a rout. Mitchell scored two goals, so he would be the standout among those three.
And plenty of credit should go to Lehkonen, Danault, and Shaw. They were present for the first and third goals for Montreal. The third one, the one by Lehkonen, really put the game out of reach as the play on the ice was so tilted against the Devils. Danault was credited for the goal off Beaulieu’s shot, so that’s a plus for him. And those three were also dominant in terms of possession. In a way, this was a killer. I expected Pacioretty (he scored - off a gift by Wood), Radulov, and Plekanec to make it a difficult night. They did in a way, but the real damage was done by the six other players mentioned in this section. With Galchenyuk and Desharnais out, the hope is that they can carry more of the offensive workload. They absolutely did tonight. They were brilliant in light of the very dim Devils display.
One Last Thought: The Devils Toy Drive is tomorrow! Bring new, unwrapped toys if you’re going to the Rock tomorrow! Two of them at a $10+ value will get you a voucher for free tickets while such vouchers are available! Help some kids! Bring toys!
Your Take: This game sucked. The Devils lost in a terrible performance. What did you think of it? Should the Devils make any changes to the roster? Or should this just be thrown away as a bad game and hope for something better somehow against St. Louis? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed along on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.