A summary for tonight's game should be as followed: The New Jersey Devils defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1. The power play was on New Jersey's side as both goals came on the power play. Most everything else in tonight's game was in Boston's favor except for one man: Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid returned to the crease and stopped 39 out of 40 shots to keep the Devils in a game where they were dominated for more than half of regulation. The Devils' goals were good. Kinkaid was fantastic. The result was nice. The Devils' performance utterly sucked.
Allow me to do it for you to start. Why am I being so down about another Devils win? Mainly because I watched all of this. Forget the stats for a moment. There's a point where the ice is tilted so much, it cannot be ignored by anyone just witnessing what was happening. It wasn't as if Boston played like a perfectly well-oiled machine in the second or third periods. They just kept coming at the Devils and pinning them back. If the Devils were able to have the pucks on their sticks exiting their own end, it was not long before they lost possession. Even when they had a clear shooting lane off the rush or a rare shift where they set up on offense, a decision to pass the puck would just go awry. That often led to Boston just going back on offense. The ineptitude on offense and the constant fear of Boston finally catching both the Devils defense and Kinkaid unaware was frustrating to see.
I know I wrote in my preview that I wanted Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Reid Boucher, Adam Larsson, and Andy Greene to matchup against Boston's top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Lee Stempniak. Marchand not only ended up being healthy enough to play, but he was in full Marchand-mode with shots away from the play, a few beefs, and scoring a sweet goal which served to emphasize how annoying and hate-able he can be. Bergeron played like an ace. Stempniak supported them well. While Zajac and Boucher scored the power play goals, the 5-on-5 play largely belonged to Boston due to their line top line going through 12-19-21. Even Greene and Larsson made errors that just made life more difficult for Kinkaid.
At the same time, what could have John Hynes done? The line of Adam Henrique, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Joseph Blandisi was terrible tonight. The bottom six had some nice spurts but put them in their own end and it was akin to rolling a die. Damon Severson and John Moore had their headpalming moments, while David Warsofsky and Seth Helgeson showed that they would make a great AHL pairing in their limited minutes. I'm not kidding when I state that Kinkaid was the most important Devil on the ice. There were shifts where it seemed like he was the only one succeeding on the ice at what he has been asked to do.
Do I like seeing any of this? No. Do I like seeing any of this multiple times this season? No. Do I like seeing the Devils give up three 2-on-1s in the first period - the decent period of the game for New Jersey? No. Do I like seeing the Devils scramble against Bruins players swarming by Kinkaid to clean up loose pucks because someone didn't cover or step up to take away space from a Bruin on offense? No. Do I like seeing Kinkaid having to make many bailout saves from quick glove stops because Andy Greene lost a puck at the blueline to robbing Loui Eriksson at the left post because no one on the PK noted he wasn't accounted for to stoning Matt Beleskey with his right pad on his doorstep? Well, yes for the saves, no for the play that led to those situations. Do I like seeing Boston and the Devils' own issues with the puck hold the Devils to seven shots combined in the second and third periods? No. Do I like the Devils providing practically nothing on offense to keep the Bruins honest for long stretches of time? No. Do I like seeing the Devils falter when they had the glorious opportunity to get a shot on net for the first time in three, five, seven, etc. minutes? No. Do I like seeing the Devils put up no shots on goal in the final minutes of a one-shot game? No. Nearly all of this does not make for a good viewing experience for nearly all kinds of Devils fans, much less myself.
So how can I be positive about a game where the Devils got out-shot 15-40, out-attempted 29-62, and needed their not-always-reliable power play to succeed twice while asking the goalie who's been sitting the last four games to be amazing almost immediately? I can't. I simply can't. This wasn't just a gap made by the Devils going up a goal in the third period. The Devils were just dominated for a majority of the game. I can't enjoy that and I won't say I will because they won. I must repeat myself: The Devils' goals were good. Kinkaid was fantastic. The result was nice. The Devils' performance utterly sucked.
The Game Summary: 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: You could check out Stanley Cup of Chowder for a recap. I can't imagine they would be happy about this loss. If they or a Bruins fans asks you about this game, just comfort them by stating that they won't be seeing Keith Kinkaid in the NHL postseason in two weeks.
It Couldn't Have Been That Bad?: OK, here come some numbers.
Palmieri, Zajac, and Boucher were on the ice for three shooting attempts at even strength tonight. Zajac and Boucher were present for 26 against and Palmieri witnessed 30 by Boston when he was on the ice. Want just shots? Zajac's and Boucher's splits of shots for and shots against were 2/15; Palmieri was at 2/17. Remember, they got the Bergeron line tonight. Bergeron, Marchand, and Stempniak were all at least a +20 in raw Corsi differential. They steamrolled them. What about the top pairing on defense usually behind them? Likewise, Larsson and Greene saw the most attempts against with 32 each and were present for only six attempts by their team. Shots were 4/19 for Larsson, 4/18 for Greene. The Bergeron line steamrolled them with the added "bonus" of Marchand splitting through them and fighting through their stickcheck to go up to Kinkaid and lift it over his out-stretched body.
What of the others? What of them? The only ones who didn't witness more than ten attempts against them at evens were the fourth line and the limited third pairing of Seth Helgeson and David Warsofsky. That said, they were all out-shot, although the fourth line was out-shot the least at only -1 for Bobby Farnham and Tuomo Ruutu. While one may have noticed Sergey Kalinin or Blake Pietila - who had four shots on net somehow - trying to do a thing, or perhaps Joseph Blandisi chasing down a puck into space at times, you needed to just watch the Devils' end of the rink to see them in action. Or inaction depending on the situation.
While the Bruins got forty shots, where did they come from? While shot location data remains iffy, HockeyStats.ca's map is instructive as to how far apart these teams were. The answer is anywhere the Bruins wanted it. Their dots were all over the map. In terms of scoring chances - defined as the homeplate area in front of the net between the dots and up to the tops of the circles - the Bruins were clearly ahead. At even strength alone. They generated twenty that were either on target, missed the net, or went into the net. Notably, there were six in the left circle compared to two in the right circle, which gives an idea of what side the Bruins may have targetted. The Devils? Five. And only four were on target. Throw in special teams and it's a bit better at 21-8 in favor of Boston. Sure, the Devils' and Bruins' goals were 1-1 in that regard. Nice, but again, the Bruins were clearly creating dangerous shots on top of controlling the puck. That's the point.
I cannot stress enough that after the first period, the game really just went in Boston's favor and never looked back.
Tonight's Deserving First Star: Kinkaid was simply sensational. A goalie making 39 saves out of 40 shots is almost always sensational. He made quick saves, saves up close, and saves through all kinds of traffic - particularly as the game went on. He was sure to cover pucks when he could. Rebound control wasn't exactly on point but with the amount of volume and the diversity of the shots Boston was giving him, I'm just impressed he stopped as many as he did. Throw in the fact he hasn't played in over a week and it's a remarkable performance. The win was just as much on #1's back as well as anyone else's. If Scott Wedgewood playing well can cause some fans to wonder if Kinkaid's job is in trouble, then this performance was a giant "Not so fast" to that notion.
Special Teams Matter: They really do make a difference in a game. They did so tonight. The Devils' penalty kill was perfect in success. While Eriksson should have scored on the team's second power play, Kinkaid stunned him with a pad save at the left post. Outside of that danger, the penalty killers were able to consistently get clearances to run out the clock. They did their job.
The power play did shine twice, which was enough to provide the difference on the scoreboard. They only got three shots on net out of five power plays. Granted, the last power play of the game was with 1:11 left in regulation so the Devils weren't looking to fire away then. Still, the Devils got two conversions. Reid Boucher set up Travis Zajac in the slot to convert the team's second power play. The fourth power play ended quickly after the penalty was call. Boucher slammed in a loose puck after Zajac fed him in the left circle from the slot to make it 2-1. Tuukka Rask perhaps should have stopped the first one; he had little time to react on the second one. Boucher correctly one-timed it and scored a big one. While the first and third power plays weren't so good, I'd call a two-goal performance a good night overall for the power play.
The striking thing about the special teams is about what caused them. The Devils and Bruins seemed destined to get real nasty after a contentious first period that featured Bobby Farnham being dumped into the bench, Farnham jawjacking whenever he could, Blandisi and Marchand having an argument after the Bruins' second penalty, and all sorts of hard, legal hits. That didn't really materialize. However, the Devils were better about going to the box compared to. Farnham went off for high-sticking despite it maybe wasn't his stick that went high on Noel Acciari and Larsson had to sit for a delay of game. Those were the two shorthanded situations the Devils allowed. In contrast, Boston allowed five. Stempniak held Henrique to deny him a shot on net and a positive impact on this game. Bergeron hi-stuck Boucher, which he paid the price for. Frank Vatrano tripped David Warsofsky during one of the few good shifts by the Devils in the second period. Two calls came in the third period. Zdeno Chara boarded Devante Smith-Pelly and was lucky to not get anything more after arguing the call to the referee. He also paid for his crime. Lastly, with the extra skater out for the Bruins, Marchand slashed Larsson's stick to deny him a chance to play the puck. While the Bruins would get about thirty seconds of a shorthanded 5-on-5 attack, that hurt their cause for a dramatic equalizer. Considering how the Bruins controlled most of the game, taking three calls in the last two periods really hurt them - and it ultimately cost them this game. In a game where opportunities aren't guaranteed, the Devils took them.
One Last Thought: The fifteen shots is the lowest amount of shots the Devils have taken in a hockey game this season. They finally broke the sixteen-mark, which they achieved four times this season. Frustratingly enough, the team is now 4-1 when they take sixteen shots or less in a game Needless to say, the goaltending was great in those wins too. That loss? Well, it came to Florida, who are the Devils' next opponent.
Your Take: Kinkaid was great, the PPGs were good, and the win was nice. I didn't like much else about this one. What's your take on this game? How do you feel about a win like this one? Is the performance or the result more important at this stage of the season? What can the Devils change, if anything, for their next game against Florida? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
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