While the results do not mean much, starting off preseason with a 2-0 result is a nice way to go about it. The performances of the players mean more than what is the final score. Fortunately, the New Jersey Devils’ victory over the Philadelphia Flyers featured plenty of strong performances by the Devils.
Both the Devils and the Flyers had split-squad games. As noted in my preview of tonight’s games, the Devils were icing a stronger line-up on paper than the Flyers. The action on the ice reflected that. In 5-on-5 play, the Devils were simply the better team throughout regulation. They had better control of the puck, their passing was crisper, they won more battles for pucks, their forecheck was effective, and they just kept attacking. Early in the game, the Devils built up a large shot lead and it never really closed. The Flyers were limited to 21 shots on net and didn’t even get to twenty until there was less than two and a half minutes left to play. In contrast, the Devils reached twenty within the first two periods and ended with thirty. The run of play was in favor of the stronger team.
But it was more than just the NHL players dictating the pace. At times, the Devils were just rolling their four lines and pairings at will and Philly just didn’t have much of an answer. It’s one thing to see Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, and Beau Bennett pin the opposition back. It’s another to see it after Carter Camper, Luke Gazdic, and Miles Wood do the same. Again, the Flyers’ lineup was not their strongest and with this being the first preseason game, everyone had some rust. My point is that just about every Devil had their shift (or many shifts) to shine. Among them was Nick Lappin. He banged in a rebound for the game’s lone non-empty net goal and he sealed the win with an empty net goal. Not to mention he hammered the post in the first period. He was otherwise a solid addition on a speedy and effective unit with Pavel Zacha and Sergey Kalinin. He earned tonight’s first star of the game.
Unfortunately, it was not all sunshine and lollipops for the home team at The Rock. If there’s one takeaway from this game that was a negative, then it was the discipline. Or the lackthereof. The Devils committed eight minor penalties with seven resulting in power plays. Most of the calls were a result of being too aggressive, whether it was Beau Bennett tripping Andy Miele ten seconds into the game in going after a puck or Blake Coleman tripping Robert Hagg in the offensive zone midway through the third period. The good news is that the Devils did an excellent job on the penalty kill tonight. They conceded a total of eight shots on net over 13:37 of ice time. Neither Keith Kinkaid or Anders Lindback were beaten. The bad news is that the Devils committed eight penalties and were shorthanded for nearly a quarter of the game. I’m certain all of the coaches will make a point about this in tomorrow’s practice and/or film review. The other half of special teams wasn’t too hot either, but the penalties were the biggest drag on what was otherwise a great all-around even strength performance.
That all said, it’s the first preseason game and, while there were plenty of sure-fire New Jersey Devils in the game, it was not a full roster. The rest of the performance was otherwise positive. The score suggested that the winners did well and they really did. I think it could have been a bigger margin of victory if it wasn’t for the very good performance of Alex Lyon, Philadelphia’s goaltender tonight. Still, 2-0 is fine and how the Devils achieved it is the important takeaway from the evening.
The Opposition Opinion: Go visit Broad Street Hockey for a take on this game from their perspective.
An Overview of the Devils’ Penalties: Beau Bennett is pretty much a lock for the New Jersey roster, but he didn’t do himself any favors with a tripping call ten seconds into the game and a holding penalty in the third period. Blake Coleman is pretty much a lock for Albany and he also didn’t help himself with holding-the-stick and a tripping penalty, both in the offensive zone. I really wasn’t a fan of Miles Wood high-sticking TJ Brennan. He was attempting a carry-in, he lost the puck, but Wood kept going forward and went high with his stick on the defender. That wasn’t smart. Lappin also got tagged with a hooking call, but at least Danick Martel sold it so much that he got two for embellishment. Ben Lovejoy got tagged for a cross check that was pretty obvious. Damon Severson got hit for interference, too. With the exception of maybe Severson - and I may be wrong, it was in the far end of the rink - the other seven calls were easy ones for the referees to call. They were obvious penalties. Most were a function of just being too aggressive. For the next game, I would expect the coaches will make a point of it to a number of these players - namely, Bennett and Coleman - to ease up a bit for the next game.
As an aside, Luke Gazdic was mostly behaved. He wanted to start something with Brandon Manning, but the refs kept them apart and they went their separate ways. All while play was ongoing.
The Power Play Wasn’t Hot Either: I want to chalk it up to personnel, but I would have expected a bit better from a roster that included Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson, Zajac, and Damon Severson. They ended up putting up four shots on net on four total advantages. Not only did they not score, but they nearly conceded a shorthanded goal off a blooper: a quick shot that Lindback stopped and a rebound that went high and nearly bounced off the goalie and in. When the Devils did gain possession, I don’t think they really had a clear idea of what the plan was. And they didn’t with, again, only four shots getting to the goalie over eight minutes of action. So the man advantage could use some work from a tactical and execution standpoint.
Goalie Thoughts: Keith Kinkaid had all of six shots to deal with in roughly 29 and a half minutes. Again, the Devils were dominant at controlling this game. He was really challenged on one of those shots; he made a sprawling save early in the second. Anders Lindback had more to do and it appeared he really tried to do more. He was active at going after pucks, almost to a fault. His most memorable play was charging out of the net to get to a loose puck during a Devils power play and launching that puck away. Yes, he put it out of danger. Yes, he iced it. Lindback also appeared to be “fighting” the puck more, although that could have been a function of dealing with more bouncing pucks. He did make all of the stops; he made two really good ones on point-blank shots in the second period. But he wasn’t so good that it would make you think he could challenge Kinkaid or Scott Wedgewood. Of course, a goalie can only deal with the shots he faces and other than a couple of them, it was not like Philly was giving him a lot to work with.
Defensemen Thoughts: Andy Greene and Damon Severson looked the best among the six. While they had some less-than-ideal moments, they were few and far between. They were among the most experienced players on the ice tonight and it showed. Ben Lovejoy also had a good outing in his first appearance in a Devils uniform. Cross checking penalty aside, Lovejoy did very well - particularly on the penalty kill, where he nearly played six of the team’s thirteen and a half shorthanded minutes. I thought he did OK with Karl Stollery on his side. I wasn’t thrilled with Brandon Gormley or Reece Scarlett, but they weren’t too bad either. I’d like to see who would really be paired with Lovejoy and I’d like the team to continue pairing Severson with Greene.
Forward Thoughts: As noted earlier, I felt Lappin shined the brightest. Of course, he scored the only goals in the game. But that unit of Kalinin, Zacha, and Lappin appeared to give the Flyers the most issues and they were constantly attacking at even strength. All three looked solid; Zacha was skating seemingly without effort, Lappin was getting into the right spots for shots, and Kalinin was effective with both.
What’s impressive about tonight’s performance is that everyone but the following players had at least one shot on net: Gazdic, Stollery, Wood, and Cammalleri. Which one of those four doesn’t belong? Other than that Stollery is a defenseman, it’s Cammalleri. Gazdic and Stollery aren’t really expected to do much on offense and Wood would have had a great one-on-one chance with Lyon, only to be tripped up by Hagg (it was called). Cammalleri, who will be a major part of this team’s offense, was surprisingly quiet tonight. I thought Zajac was pretty good - he even had two shots on top of passing up a few - and Bennett showed some nice skills when he wasn’t in the box. But #13 just didn’t get going. I’m hopeful he does soon.
Still, I go back to my earlier point that mostly everyone had their moments to shine. Josefson managed to be more active on offense than usual with three shots and five attempts. Coleman had a great read off a long pass in the dying seconds of the second period and drew a penalty that started the third. Carter Camper did very well on the PK and had some effective forechecks. I’d like to think he earned that consideration for Albany with tonight’s performance. Even shotless, Gazdic did well to not be an anchor on his unit and moved the puck pretty well.
I do think a lot of this was made possible by Philadelphia icing a mostly-minor league squad. All the same, the Devils’ forwards should have won most those match-ups and they definitely did tonight.
Your Take: While this game wasn’t on TV or local radio, perhaps you were there and would like to offer your two cents on the win. Or you read this and have something to comment about how someone played, or perhaps have a question. Have at it in the comments; I want to know your take on this victory. Thanks to everyone who followed along on Twitter with sparse Tweets by the @AAtJerseyBlog account. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread. Thank you for reading.