Allow me to list the positives for the New Jersey Devils in tonight's 1-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. First, they did not get shutout. Kyle Palmieri intercepted a bad pass on defense, he had a give-and-go with Reid Boucher, Palmieri broke in all alone on Matthew Murray and scored. It was a very nice goal. Second, the Devils killed all three penalties in the third period. Yeah, the last goal of the night was scored shortly after the power play ended for Pittsburgh. But at least the goals were punishment for poor play as opposed to fouls. Third, if you're a fight fan, then you probably enjoyed Tom Sestito wanting a fight and then having Jordin Tootoo maul him as Tim's less-talented brother couldn't get his gloves off. Given that Tootoo was giving up a lot of size to Sestito, it was an impressive sight. While the penalties issued turned out to be costly for the Devils - Evgeni Malkin converted a power play off of it - I have to note it as a positive because it was one of the battles the Devils actually won against Pittsburgh.
Very few things go right for a team on the wrong end of a 6-1 scoreline. What annoys me the most was how it happened. The loss came as an amalgamation of all the aspects of the game that the Devils have struggled with all season. Passing? Yeah, it got decent at points but there were many more zone entries, zone exits, and neutral zone plays that could have been better if the puck movement was executed properly. Shooting? If you love bad decisions to shoot or not shoot by New Jersey, than this was your game. Turnovers? You bet. Pittsburgh jumped on many of them, even when the game was out of doubt - which eventually led to this big of a blowout. Defensemen who struggle real bad that you wonder if they're a shell of their former selves before the age of 25? Take your pick of Jon Merrill and his worsening relationship with gravity; John Moore turning into the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz; and Damon Severson, who seems so different from the bright rookie from last season. Power play woes? The Devils not only flopped on their 5-on-4 power plays. But they also struggled with a significantly long 5-on-3 that was a perfect opportunity for the Devils to pull within one in the second period. Yes, we got a return of the two-man advantage woes from earlier this season! Their shots to set up? Apparently, misses from distance and shots from below the dots at sharp angles. You know, instead of from the dots like they do at 5-on-4. The players themselves? Oh, there were a ton of passengers and not enough drivers as usual.
What really got me tonight was who did the damage for Pittsburgh. I expected Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Patric Hornqvist to flex their collective talent muscle on New Jersey. I expected Olli Maata and Kris Letang to boss the game from the back. Malkin did score twice and those players all did well. But look at the other goal scorers: #1) Matt Cullen off a snap shot that just sucked the air out of the arena save for the Penguins fans who made the trip (or live in NJ). #2) Nick Bonino in front after Moore got owned in the neutral zone, Adam Henrique didn't respect Bryan Rust, and Severson missed the interception. All so Bonino was all alone to score. #3) Bryan Rust re-directs a shot from the debuting Justin Schultz. #4) Scott Wilson dunking a pass by Sidney Crosby shortly after the last power play of the night ended. Cullen, Bonino, Rust, and Wilson are a part of Pittsburgh's banged up and depth-tested bottom six. A bottom six that included Tom Sestito for the night. And they lit up the Devils. Attempts weren't in their favor, but they managed to keep the shots near even and, oh yeah, score goals! Imagine if Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, and Hornqvist were forced to step up and be great. This could have been so much worse than 6-1. With all due respect to Pittsburgh and no respect at all to New Jersey, the lesser Pens doing most of the damage really points to how bad the Devils were tonight.
The numbers behind the game are telling. The scorer in New Jersey is stingy as the count was 36-35 attempts in favor of Pittsburgh in all situations and 26-25 in even strength situations. Yet, the shot count was 30-18 in favor of Pittsburgh in all situations and 22-14 in even strength situations. Very low event hockey and the Pens still manage to ring up six on the Devils like it was no big deal. All told, Kinkaid was bad. The defense as a whole was bad. The forwards were bad. I'll even say the coaching was bad. It's one thing to drop eight out of your last ten, it's another when most of those eight losses come with similarly awful performances. To sum up the Devils in one word tonight: inept. They looked, communicated, executed, and played like an inept hockey team. Yes, the Penguins are a good team bound for the playoffs and possibly avoiding a terrible match-up with Washington. That doesn't really change how abysmal the Devils were tonight.
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: Hooks Orpik is thrilled in his recap at PensBurgh. As he should be. The Penguins looked fantastic and the Devils were jobbers.
The Game "Highlights": Thanks to NJmetal15, who pointed out how to embed videos from NHL.com in the comments of the Dallas recap. So here's the recap video, which has all of the goals scored. I saw this all happen live, now you will get to suffer like I did. Let me know what you learn from them.
Why the frame is a different size from the video? I don't know. It wasn't an issue in the embed code from the old NHL.com, that's for sure.
Burn This Tape: Usually, the right thing to do after any game is to go back to the tapes of it and focus on certain areas and aspects about what went right and what didn't go right. The idea is to visually understand what happened in order to learn how it occurred and whether it's something to encourage or something to fix. I'm going to make a case for the opposite for this game. I think head coach John Hynes should burn the tape for this one. Or throw it away, which is probably the safer option. The point remains.
Why? Simply because the Devils have presumably been looking at tapes of these awful performances for the last two to three weeks. This isn't even their only 1-6 loss in recent memory. Yet, I'm not seeing any signs of any actual improvement from them. I'm not seeing the team play any more aggressively, conservatively, slowly, quickly, or anything else I can name that ends with a -ly. It's the same old story from the most of the players. Palmieri and Henrique may do something and then drift away in the games. The fourth line provides energy and little more. Tyler Kennedy looks completely in over his head. So on and so forth. If the team gets pinned back in their own end even for a little bit, they panic and rely on the old standby of clear it up the boards - nevermind that the opposition is wise to it and just keeps the Devils back. The lack of shooting, the lack of passing, the lack of communication, and the stupid tactic of dumping the puck in just because you're on a certain line and not because of the situation on the ice. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Reviewing this tape isn't likely going to get the team get it together - as much as they can - for this upcoming trip through California. Just toss it and let that speak volumes about this game.
Where Were They?: According to the score-sheet, Devante Smith-Pelly, Sergey Kalinin, and Tuomo Ruutu all played in this game. I was at the Rock, yet I didn't know.
What Was Worse?: This goal by Bonino, featuring 2-28 getting owned?
Or Merrill losing his fight with gravity and Malkin scoring shortly by using David Schlemko as a screen (second time tonight for #8)?
Both videos are from NHL.com, of course.
Also Missing: Jacob Josefson was out tonight with an upper body injury. Not that Josefson would have changed the course of this entire game, but I can see how he was missed tonight. I didn't know he and Lee Stempniak were the glue holding the skaters together, but hey, we all learn something new everyday.
One Last Thought: Justin Schultz played tonight. I wanted to see him Jultz. I was hoping he would Jultz. The Devils didn't put him in a spot where he was forced to Jultz. I'm disappointed that he looked like a real NHL defenseman instead of the Jultz machine that he was in Edmonton. Granted, a Jultz likely would have made it 2-6 and not 1-6, but at least I could say I saw it instead of lamenting that I did not witness it's (in)glorious nature live.
A Second Opinion: My brother had two thoughts about this one. Since he is my brother and he has given me his OK to do so, I will share them with you.
First, he says this was a butt-whipping and the Devils supplied all of the butt. I cannot disagree.
Second, he thought my recap should have just been these two words:
I was tempted, I'll admit. He's not wrong, after all.
But Tootoo Said...: No. I don't care. I'm not Rich Chere or some lame blogger who's more interested in off-ice stuff than the game itself. I'm not hunting for clicks. I just want to move on from this game.
Your Take: This was game was bad. Real, real, real, real bad. The Penguins looked and played like stars, the Devils looked and played like scrubs. The score fully reflects how this one went. On top of this, Tom Gulitti reported after the game at Fire & Ice that Cory Schneider has a Grade 1 MCL sprain and isn't coming back for at least two weeks. Just more misery rained on the team. Anyway, you know what I (and my brother) thought of this game. What do you think? What goal did you hate the most from Pittsburgh? Was anyone on the Devils good tonight? (I would say no, just out of principle of this loss and performance.) Who was the worst Devil? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread, those who followed the site's account (@AATJerseyBlog) on Twitter, NJmetal15 for letting me (and you, dear reader) know how to embed videos from the new and not really improved NHL.com, and you for reading this. I know it wasn't in depth or all that even-handed, but a 1-6 loss doesn't deserve much of either.
P.S. If you're interested in the team dropping in the standings as a goal, then you may like tomorrow's post.