After one of the most satisfying wins of the season, the New Jersey Devils got wrecked by the bottom-dwellers of the Metropolitan Division, the Columbus Blue Jackets. You see it in the headline. The Devils lost 1-6.
The performance simply sucked. Special teams featured four power plays yielding nothing, two penalty kills that yielded a PPGA. The offense only looked strong in the second period until Nick Foligno completed his hat trick to make it 1-4. While the Devils only allowed twenty four shots, the defense was miserable with the kinds of situations they allowed and how often their man got lost. Not even the goaltending was stellar. Cory Schneider started the game, conceded three goals, Keith Kinkaid replaced him, and conceded three more goals. I do think most of those goals against wasn't necessarily their fault, but I can't say six goals allowed is exactly worthy of praise. The start was bad. The end was bad. The middle wasn't so bad for a good stretch and then it went south again. This was your typical Bad Night for the Devils.
I'm struggling for positives. I suppose I could say that since the Devils ate this big loss, then by the transitive property, the Rangers really, really suck. It's a nice rationalization. More seriously, I guess if you threaten me, I have to say this was probably the best the fourth line looked in a while? Not that they made an impact on the score, but they didn't get owned. What else? Well, Reid Boucher's goal was nice as it came off a great pass across the slot by Travis Zajac. Boucher at least kept firing away and led the team with five shots tonight. So there's that. That third power play was actually quite good. The only issue with it was that Joonas Korpisalo was just better as evidenced by robbing David Schlemko and Adam Henrique among other shots. Other than that, that's it, maybe?
Did anyone really play poorly? Arguably, this was a terrible game for the pairing of Jon Merrill and Damon Severson. They were present in that they were on the ice for four of the goals against. They weren't present where they were supposed to be on some of those. Merrill getting stripped by Rene Bourque at Columbus' blueline and scoring on a breakaway for the game's sixth goal just put an exclamation point on how bad his night was. Severson wasn't much better in his coverage. John Moore and David Schlemko got pinned quite a bit and suffered damage as well. Nick Foligno's hat trick goal came off Schlemko's skate, which was a bad bounce. The other one was where they were guilty of puck watching instead of checking out if anyone was open behind them on a penalty kill. There was - the power play goal scorer, Brandon Dubinsky. Not a good game for them, though 7-28 was much more problematic from what I saw.
Getting away from defensemen, this was an equally bad game for Jacob Josefson line. Joseph Blandisi not doing his job on defense? Check. Tyler Kennedy not making any sort of impact? Check. Josefson completely in over his head? Check. They drew the line of Matt Calvert, William Karlsson, and Foligno tonight. That line steamrolled them - and the Merrill-Severson pairing - for four goals. Brandon Saad was in for Foligno as Calvert and Karlsson set him up for the third first period goal. Anyway, this unit was just bad. Lee Stempniak, Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri all had a handful of shots but they ultimately had inconsequential games. Not necessarily bad, but it didn't help the cause.
I will say this for Blandisi and the Devils. They did get hosed in the second period. Korpisalo made a stop on his goal line, he fumbled the puck, and Blandisi jammed it in. After the puck went in, referee Chris Lee blew his whistle and then emphatically signaled for no goal. If I recall correctly, he reviewed his call and confirmed it. (And it wasn't challenge-able by John Hynes.) Based on the live play and the replay with sound, the Devils basically got hit with the Intent to Blow. It wasn't long after that Foligno got that deflection for his hat trick to make it 1-4. I'd like to think the game would have went a lot differently at 2-3. It certainly would have made it more interesting. Alas, that didn't happen.
I'm sure there will be some second guessing. Perhaps Kinkaid should have started this game. Even if it went as bad as it did, Schneider would have been fully fresh for Friday's game against Tampa Bay. Perhaps the lines could have been mixed differently and sooner, at least to salvage a Josefson line that was getting pounded. Perhaps Merrill-Severson should not have been a pairing. Although, that would have meant Eric Gelinas or Seth Helgeson would have played and I don't see either as an upgrade for either of those two defensemen. I'm not as convinced of those changes; the performance was so abysmal, Columbus just had to take advantage.
And they really did. Korpisalo had to be great for about thirteen minutes and he was for the most part. He had no chance on Boucher's goal and he got bailed out by Intent to Blow, but he also made a lot of tough saves. Especially on the Devils' third power play. Seth Jones and David Savard played a great game on defense, which was important as Jack Johnson left the game early with an injury. Again, the Calvert-Karlsson-Foligno unit was fantastic to the detriment of New Jersey. Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, and Boone Jenner really didn't do a lot at evens, but Dubinsky made his mark on Columbus' first power play and Atkinson nearly got a shorty. So even they had an impact there. In general, Columbus got the bounces, had their legs, had their heads right, executed their plays well, and didn't let up. They played a great game.
The Devils, well, they get another F-minus (or minus five stars) for the night. As if the 1-6 score didn't say it already.
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 Natural Stat Trick Advanced Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Advanced Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Eric Seeds has this highlight-based recap up at The Cannon. Yeah, they deserve all of them tonight. They had pretty much all of them.
Your Take: I don't really have a lot to say about a game like this. It stunk. I didn't enjoy watching it. I don't think any Devils fan enjoyed watching it. I don't think anyone would dispute this was a bad game. But maybe I'm wrong about that. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this. Devils get to play a playoff team tomorrow. That should be something.
Thanks to everyone who endured this game in the Gamethread and/or followed the site account (@AATJerseyBlog) on Twitter. Thank you for reading.