Deja vu is the phenomenon of having a strong feeling of seeing or experiencing something now that was already seen or experienced in the past. Tonight, the New Jersey Devils played the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio. They mostly looked like trash as they conceded six goals in a loss in their house. It was very reminiscent of their last game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio. They mostly looked like trash as they conceded six goals in a loss on their house. Deja vu is the phenomenon of having a strong feeling of seeing or experiencing something now that was already seen or experienced in the past.
OK, the phenomenon fades once one looks at the score. That previous game ended with a 1-6 final score. Tonight's game featured a smaller lead as the Devils lost 3-6. It also had a goal scored outside of the second period, none taken away by an intent to blow call, and none allowed in the second period after the Devils started scoring. (They gave up a bad one to Boone Jenner before a surge.) Those were key differences. Kyle Palmieri got a touch on a long shot by Damon Severson to convert their first power play. Adam Henrique didn't really break away from Cody Goloubef after receiving a long pass from Palmieri. But he got in front and knocked in a backhander past Sergei Bobrovsky before crashing into the goalie and the net. That converted their second power play and made it 2-3. The Devils attacked and looked like an equalizer was possible. And it came early in the period after Palmieri roofed a lovely backhand pass from the corner by Reid Boucher. The Devils made a game of it out of a very bad start in the second and they did tie the game.
Yet, the positives nearly end there. Shortly after that goal, Oliver Bjorkstrand scores his first NHL goal in the slot when an Alexander Wennberg pass to the slot got away a bit from John Moore. Eleven seconds later, the Devils' fourth line and third defensive pairing gets housed by Columbus'. With Seth Helgeson recovering from falling down and Damon Severson trying to move over to help, Gregory Campbell set up William Karlsson to make it 3-5. Those two goals were backbreakers for New Jersey. Columbus never let up. Bjorkstrand scored on another shot - one that should have been stopped - to make it 3-6. The Blue Jackets still kept going forward to pick on a miserable-looking Devils team. Thankfully, the goals stopped coming despite some of the best efforts of a loose-at-best defensive effort.
The sad thing is that the third was arguably a little better than the first period. Steve Cangelosi summed it up perfectly on the broadcast before the second period began. Columbus took sixteen shots, thirty shooting attempts, hit two posts, and scored two goals. Those goals, well, not so good goals to allow by the team. I know a penalty killing situation means someone is going to be left open. But having no one adjust after a shooting attempt to take Cam Atkinson at the right side of the net? That led to Alexander Wennberg finding Atkinson for a score. While it may have been deflected by Adam Larsson's stick, Seth Jones scored from the sideboards. Not the point, not in a scoring chance location, not anywhere that's normally dangerous. The sideboards. The Devils may have put up some fight, but Columbus was in control and could have blown away the Devils right then and there.
With all that, deja vu only goes as far as the notion of "Well, the Blue Jackets dropped a touchdown on New Jersey. This seems familiar." Tonight's game was akin to a sandwich with solid fillings (meats, spreads, etc. whatever you like) and really hard and cold bread that's beginning to get mold. It didn't go down well for those who watched it. And it really doesn't with the fact that these two teams will get to play each other again in Newark tomorrow. Suffice it to say, you know a season is lost when your immediate hope for the rematch is "Please don't give up six goals to the worst team in the division for a third time."
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: Mike MacLean has this highlights recap of tonight's game at The Cannon.
It Starts in Net: I didn't mention the goaltenders' names. Yes, goaltenders. Plural. Keith Kinkaid started this game and was given the hook after giving up a terrible goal to Boone Jenner. The shot trickled through him and John Hynes saw enough. I suspect that, combined with the optics of Jones' goal - Kinkaid wasn't screened and the shot came from the sideboards, the head coach sensed things were going south. So Yann Danis got into the game. He faced few shots in the second and got lit up for three goals in the third. That third goal was similar to Jenner's; Danis got a piece of the Bjorkstrand shot - meaning he should have got all of it. While the Devils faced a deluge of shots and attempts in the first period, the performances by both goaltenders left a lot to be desired. Who should start on Sunday? Who knows. Neither really inspired much confidence.
It Continues on D: David Schlemko was a scratch for this one with the dreaded upper body injury, so Seth Helgeson got back on the ice. While he wasn't too bad, the other defenders just were off the mark. Andy Greene and Adam Larsson were under siege throughout the night. Larsson's cross-checking penalty in the first turned out to be costly. Damon Severson wasn't so bad and created the Devils' first goal. I thought he handled the puck better than he did against Minnesota, but he wasn't so good next to Helgeson. That double-minor for high-sticking Bjorkstrand in the third period wasn't necessary either; although the Devils didn't concede a PPG for those four minutes. Jon Merrill did his best impression of Columbus mainstay and Possession Black Hole, Jack Johnson tonight. The forwards just didn't provide enough help as needed, which allowed Columbus to have many shifts and stretches of the game where they could do as they wish. And, just like Hynes said before the game, the Blue Jackets found success again in the slot and around the crease. It's amazing how the head coach can state something like that to the media and yet the players didn't get the message from it. Maybe they'll realize it for the fifth game of this season series.
John Moore wasn't good either and it was hard to watch him inadvertantly set up Bjorkstrand's first goal of the night. I do feel real bad for him. During a the final power play of the night, Moore blocked a shot by David Savard with the inside of his left knee. Moore howled in pain so loud, it was heard on the television broadcast. He was down and trying to crawl to the bench; he was unable to get up on his own. After the play was whistled dead for a frozen puck by Danis; Devils skaters helped him to the bench. It appears to be an injury to an insult of a performance by the team.
It Also was Failure by the Forwards: Backchecking! Communication! Not shooting into players selling out for blocks! Execution on passes! Do you have any of this? After 72 games, I'm thinking the answer is "not really." I liked how the Zajac line played going forward. Henrique's goal was nice. The top two lines seemingly gave as much as they took, at least at even strength. Between the two, I'd say the Zajac line had the better game. Tyler Kennedy and Devante Smith-Pelly didn't make much of impact tonight. The bottom six got steamrolled. Not so much in the second period, but a lot of bad shifts in the first and third periods. Ultimately, it's the story of the season for the forwards: few drivers, few producers, and too many passengers.
Grade for the Night: I don't grade games. But I'm thinking a "F" for this one. Or a "D-" if one is feeling generous. Not so much a "F-minus" because, again, the Devils made a game out of a bad first period where they got dominated. They didn't get dominated in the second period. They made the game close with two PPGs and nearly got the third then. Then Palmieri got the equalizer early in the third. What killed them was how they played within the minute after that goal. It essentially buried New Jersey tonight as the Devils didn't get much of an attack going. Sure, they got ten third period shots, seven after Palmieri's goal. But there wasn't much of a consistent attack. Not too many chances to pull the game within two. The two quick ones in the third, again, were backbreakers.
Let's Praise the Opposition: And why not? Bobrovsky did well. While giving up three isn't great for most goalies, I don't think he had much of a chance on the first goal as it was a deflection in front. Henrique's goal wasn't exactly a breakaway and Henrique just knocked it in as Bobrovsky had to prepare for impact by #14. Not an easy situation. But he kept his team well in it when the Devils surged in the second period. The initial lead was lost but he made sure he didn't make the Devils get back into it when Columbus re-took it.
I came away impressed with how good Seth Jones and Ryan Murray looked. While they were on separate pairings, they handled their business quite well. I think the hope in Ohio is that both will become the leaders of Columbus' blueline. I think they'll be pleased. I was similarly impressed with how well Alexander Wennberg was passing the puck. He threaded the puck through a tight window for Atkinson's PPG. He got a break from Moore, but his feed in front shows he knows where to place the puck. I wonder why he doesn't get a little more ice time; maybe he will in the future. And Oliver Bjorkstrand. He came very close to a hat trick in the third period. Like Mike Sislo - who did play tonight - on Thursday night, Bjorkstrand scored two very nice goals for his first NHL goals in his career. It may have been one period, but it was a very good one. No disrespect to the usual suspects like Jenner, Atkinson, and Foligno, but those were the ones who stood out to me.
One Last Thought: A quick note to the MSG broadcast, I get it but please stop framing Devils games with respect to a playoff race. Apologies for those still holding on to fading hopes, but this is not a playoff team. They lost too many games (Again, this is the second loss to Columbus where they gave up six goals. Oh, they lost 1-7 earlier in the week too.), they have had too many bad performances (the underlying numbers for this squad are miserable for offense), and they need too much help in addition to making up points in the standings to have a realistic shot. This isn't a playoff team. They pretty much need to run the table and that's not happening. Stop. Just accept the Devils are playing for a slightly better position in the draft, if they are playing for anything at all.
Your Take: The Devils gave up a touchdown of goals to Columbus for the second straight game between the two teams. While the Devils tied up their initial 0-3 deficit, they lost the game in the third period with three more goals allowed. What's your take on how the game went? Who, if anyone, looked good on the Devils? Who impressed you among the Blue Jackets players? Can the Devils not give up six (or more) to Columbus tomorrow? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who followed along tonight either in the Gamethread and/or on Twitter with the site account, @AATJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.