The Devils came into this Saturday matinee as both the best defensive team and the worst offensive team in the NHL so one could assume goals would be at a premium. The play at even strength was fairly neutral throughout most of the contest with special teams proving to be the key factor. The Devils got on the board in the first period, and the Flyers evened it up in the third. A costly Philadelphia penalty in overtime proved to be the difference as the Devils edged the Flyers 2-1. Below is a period-by-period break down of the action.
New Jersey was able to spend much of the opening 5 minutes of play in the attacking zone with some good forechecking. A really strong shift by the third line allowed the fourth line to come on in the offensive zone where Bobby Farnham was able to draw a penalty and give the Devs the man advantage. The Devils got the power play set up immediately and created several chances leading to my guy Joseph Blandisi scoring one of the slickest goals a Devil has scored all year, maybe all century. New Jersey would continue to dictate play most of the first period and ended up out shooting Filthadelphia (see what I did there?) 8-2 in the opening frame. One of those Flyers shots came late in the period off of a very uncharacteristic bad give away by Adam Larsson, who was consequently bailed out by Cory Schneider, and the period ended 1-0 Devils.
The second period opened with the Devils continuing to dictate play, although not outright dominate it. Roughly 5 minutes in Blandisi was called for a ticky-tacky hooking call and the ensuing power play turned things around for the Flyers. Although they did not get anything by Schneider, they managed 6 shots on goal and gained momentum and ended up out-shooting New Jersey 16-7 in the second period, but with nothing to show for it on the score board.
A few minutes into the third period Sergey Kalinin got called for an inadvertent high-stick on Flyers forward Claude Giroux. Although the cameras never showed Giroux bleeding, Kalinin was assessed a double minor for the infraction. Shortly into that the refs called Wayne Simmonds for a very Devils friendly interference penalty on Stephen Gionta, which cut the Flyers power play time in half. After the 2 minutes of 4 on 4 elapsed, the Flyers didn't wait long once back on the man advantage, with Shayne "There is no need for a Y in my first name" Gostisbehere connecting on a one-timer from Giroux. That point put him in the record books for longest point scoring streak for a rookie NHL defenseman at 11 games. Some more back and forth later in the period with neither team able to convert and the game headed into overtime.
The overtime commenced as many of these 3 on 3 events do, with several odd man rushes and scoring chances for each team. Roughly half way into extra time Jakub Voracek was called for a hook and the Devils power play was given another chance to shine. Some nifty passing between John Moore and Kyle Palmieri lead to a nice set up for Adam Henrique, who buried it for a big win over a hated division rival.
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The Offense: The offense continued to struggle to generate goals 5 on 5. It seemed to me that most of the decent scoring chances that were set up today at even strength were squandered by players missing the net with shots. Reid Boucher fired 2 one-timers wide from the slot in the third period on the same shift. I don't think Gionta has ever put a shot on net, and even our sniper Bobby Farnham threw a couple well wide of the mark. But were are 50 something games in now so we know that this is what the offense is. Very reliant on the top two lines, with Blandisi stepping up nicely to fill the void left behind by Cammy.
Speaking of Blandisi, prior to tonight's game he had gone two games in a row without registering point since his second call up. It was great to see him get back on track, as he regularly generates offensive chances. Another guy it was great to see get on the score sheet was Kyle Palmieri. He had gone his last 7 without registering a point. Apparently Hynes wants to keep Kalinin on that line for match up purposes as more of a defensive presence than say a Reid Boucher. While I would like to see Boucher get a chance to play regularly on that line, I'll admit that the coach probably knows what he is doing more than I do.
The Defense: As mentioned by Cangi during the broadcast, the Flyers top line of Simmonds-Giroux-Voracek came into this game as one of the hottest lines in the league, scoring a combined 43 points in the Flyers last 15 games. While Giroux was able to notch an assist on the power play, the Devils did a fantastic job shutting this line down. Hynes was doing his best to keep Larsson and Andy Greene matched up against the trio, but this being a Flyers home game they had last change and there were many times that Damon Severson and John Moore had to shut them down. Overall I thought the defense played very well, as is usually the case when a team only allows one goal against and its on the power play.
David Schlemko has been a very pleasant surprise this year as I find myself noticing him more often for doing impressive things, rather than for making mistakes, which is a great quality in a third paring defenseman. Also, Severson may be the most snake bitten guy in the league. He now has only 1 goal on 75 shots for a shooting percentage of 1.3%. I hope the goals start to come for the kid, because when he plays with confidence he is a difference maker.
The Goalie: The Devils would have the best record in the league if they scored three goals every game. I just made that up, but it could be accurate given that it seems Schneids never lets in more than 2 goals per game. After a restful first period(only 2 shots against), he ended up stopping 31 of 32 shots on route to his 24th win of the year. There isn't much to say about the guy that we all haven't already said. He is to the New Jersey Devils what Bodhi was to the X-Presidents (before he got greedy and went for the vault obviously).
Special Teams: Entering this afternoon's tilt, the Devils were top 8 in the league on both the penalty kill and the power play, and special teams play lead to all 3 of the games goals today. As much as I didn't want to believe it, it seems like Jacob Josefoson is a huge difference maker with the man advantage. Since he returned from injury the power play has been lighting it up. The pk is always going to be pretty good with Schneids in net as he is usually the best penalty killer on the ice.
Other: Claude Giroux is obviously a hell of a player but it seemed like he was going down pretty easily tonight, maybe looking for calls in the third period. There is a dirty joke to be made somewhere in there but I am not going to make it. The Devs got crushed again in the face-off circle, but we all should be pretty used to that by now.
Thanks for reading.