After about a minute and a half of controlling the puck, Adam Henrique won the puck in overtime and took it up ice. It led to a shot on net by Kyle Palmieri. Henrique then decided to go for a line change as the Oilers collected the puck and darted up ice. Henrique was late in going off. The bench was asleep. Only Jon Merrill was back as Connor McDavid skated up ice with the puck and Leon Draisaitl skating with him. Merrill chose to do not much in the middle of them. Pass by McDavid, shot by Draisaitl, and that’s how the New Jersey Devils lost in overtime tonight. The Devils lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 2-3. Schneider skated off, seemingly in anger and I don’t blame him. I was watching it unfold and it made me angry on my couch in New Jersey.
To be blunt about it, the Devils blew this game. They clearly did not learn the right lessons from their last game against Edmonton, which happened all of five days ago. They were steamrolled in that game. After an even-at-even-strength first period that ended with a late goal by Travis Zajac, the steamrolling began. The Oilers came out in the second period, Andrej Sekera scored on the team’s first shift on a goal Cory Schneider should have stopped, and then continued to make it miserable for the Devils. It took over five minutes for the Devils’ first shot on Cam Talbot in the second period and it took about another six minutes for Devils’ second shot on Talbot in the second. In the interim, the Oilers just kept rolling on the Devils. The good news is that the Devils would attack more and get a favorable bounce in the final minute. Taylor Hall picked up a long rebound, turned, fired a shot, and it hit off Steve Santini’s arm to drop into the net. Why Santini was at the net is anyone’s question, but his first NHL goal put the Devils up 2-1. That break was welcomed and the Devils promptly ruined it in the next period.
I know score effects would dictate that the Oilers would rise up and push real hard to tie up the game. They did just that. The issue is that the Devils responded with very little in response. The Devils were out-shot 12-4 in the third period. The Devils were out-attempted 18-8 in 5-on-5 play in the third period. The Devils kept collapsing in their own end, which did little to deter Edmonton’s attack. The Devils’ exits often ended with the puck on Oiler sticks so there was no reason for the Oilers to be worried about the Devils adding to their lead (perish the thought that happens). The Oilers would get their equalizer after a McDavid shot and Patrick Maroon jammed a puck past a sprawled-out Schneider as the other Devils - namely Nick Lappin and Jon Merrill nearby - did nothing to Maroon. It was a soft from the skaters and they responded with giving up more opportunities. As an aside, the goal is a great example of how a team does not necessarily need a big, physical, “crease-clearing” defender (like a 6’3”, 205 pound 24 year old) to make those plays. The Devils just need someone to find the puck and box out the crease - just get in the way. They failed to do either and Maroon made them pay.
As bad as the goal allowed to Sekera was, Schneider really did well to drag the Devils into overtime yet again. Especially after Jon Merrill committed one of the most heinous turnovers in recent memory to Benoit Pouliot and Schneider bailed him out. Despite one last shot by Palmieri, the Devils went into OT again against an Oilers team that thoroughly outplayed them.
This is what I mean by blowing it late. True, the overtime goal allowed was from a horrible mistake by Henrique and the bench. But the third period play was so, so awful that it led to this result even happening at all. Imagine if the Devils handled their business in 5-on-5 in the third period like they did in the first period. Then, even Merrill was making good plays. The Devils did keep the Oilers honest. By the third, Merrill looked very much like the overwhelmed #6/7 defenseman that he may really be. Of course, matching him and Ben Lovejoy against the McDavid line would do that. But the larger point remains that the Devils had an opportunity and a break to get past a non-ideal second period. Instead, the Devils were dominated in the third period, Schneider once again bailed out the team as much as he could, and the team eventually lost when given another chance - overtime - to take the game.
And this is only the first game of this four-game road trip.
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 NHL.com Shift Chart | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Check out The Copper & Blue for a recap of this game from their side.
So Many Bad Devils Tonight...: The Devils were not at all helped by some absolutely poor performances by several skaters tonight. Let’s quickly go through them.
Adam Henrique will deservedly be criticized for his boneheaded decision to go for a line change in overtime as Edmonton had the puck. But Henrique’s night should not be defined by one error. No, he was bad all night long! He was deep in the red from a Corsi perspective, he added nothing on offense, and with being present for ten shots on net in 5-on-5 play (Edmonton had 25 and only two other Devils were worse than Henrique), his defense was questionable at best. The line change that helped create the OT goal was just the icing on a pile of garbage from #14 tonight.
Jon Merrill may have done better than I thought on Monday. Ditto Ben Lovejoy. Tonight, not so much. Merrill finished the night with being on the ice for eight shooting attempts and 21 attempts against. He was out-shot 2-12. Lovejoy had an attempt differential of ten and twenty-three while being out-shot 3-13. This pairing drew McDavid, Draisaitl, and Maroon and that line crushed them. Why John Hynes didn’t try another pairing, I do not know. But Merrill was notably worse as the game went on and had a hand in the last two goals against by not having a hand in the play. Merrill stood about on Maroon’s goal and took nobody in a 2-on-1 in OT. He nearly gave up the game to Pouliot late in the third. Merrill keeps being brought up by Ken Daneyko as a young defenseman who can develop and is still learning. Merrill is 24 and has played over 180 games. He is who he is at this point: a defenseman that cannot drive any play forward, adds little to the offense, and has absolute brainfarts in his own end. Tonight was another example of who he is - a defenseman who is not very good.
Michael Cammalleri continues to be a very frustrating player. While his attempt differential was actually one of the better ones on the team, Cammalleri continues to play checkers while everyone else is trying to play chess. He was notably bad along the sideboards on the Devils’ continually ineffective power play. He continues to carry and turn with the puck when he really needs to make a quick pass or even go forward for a shot. He continues to try to make plays that just aren’t there. It’s been like this for weeks now; I’m not sure what one can do with him.
The collective bottom six was awful, although I will give a pass to Blake Coleman. This was his first NHL game. He didn’t do much but my expectations for him were very low. He did not cost the team. The rest, well, they were bodied again by the Oilers’ depth. Devante Smith-Pelly and Nick Lappin contributed very little on offense and even less on defense. Sergey Kalinin was drowning out there; he’s not really a NHL center any more than DSP is. Beau Bennett was just a body out there. Miles Wood did not get a chance to use his speed to threaten the Oilers. He was just out there and managed to run into his own teammates a couple of times - more times than shooting attempts on net tonight (zero for Wood). Pavel Zacha was scratched in this game, presumably because the coaches do not like how he has been performing. After this game, I cannot understand how that makes any sense. Some of these guys have been so bad recently, you cannot tell me that Zacha has somehow been worse.
Debuts: Karl Stollery and Coleman both made their NHL debuts tonight. Stollery did as well as he could in the 15:59 he did play tonight. I do not think he really belongs on a NHL power play, but the Devils power play has way more problems than having Stollery on one of the units. Coleman, again, was just out there and he didn’t cost the Devils in a limited role.
Poor Referees: The refs did not have a good game in my view. I do not carp on refs in the NHL, but some of the calls against the Devils were pretty weak. Like Cammalleri’s “trip” on Oscar Klefbom. Like Damon Severson’s “hook” on Patrick Maroon as he careened into the net. Most of all was an incident involving Zach Kassian and Taylor Hall. After an Edmonton offside, there was a faceoff. The Devils won it and Hall threw an elbow that caught Kassian in the mouth. Then, there was no call. Play continued and then Kassian caught up to Hall, grabbed him, dropped his gloves, and tried to fight Hall. Somehow, Hall was given four minutes for a high-sticking penalty as Kassian’s mouth was bleeding. There was no high-stick, it was an elbow. The whistle happened sixteen seconds after the faceoff, when the foul occurred. And Kassian only received two minutes for trying to fight an unwilling opponent. Needless to say, I did not understand why Brad Meier and Jon McIssac called it that way. Thankfully, the Devils killed all of these penalties tonight.
Any Good Devils?: Schneider played very well. That goal against Sekera was soft as soft could be, but he did make 32 saves as his team gave him just 19 shots and two goals to work with. It wasn’t as abhorrent as last Saturday, but I’d say Schneider dragged this team to another post-regulation point. I liked what I saw from Taylor Hall, except for the elbow. I think Henrique and P.A. Parenteau were trying too hard to give him the puck for shots, especially after Hall would pass them the puck. I liked what I saw out of Kyle Quincey and Damon Severson too. They were a far better pairing and I think they should have received more minutes against McDavid’s unit as Merrill-Lovejoy was getting creamed by them. I even liked how Kyle Palmieri played. I would have wanted more plays where the puck would be taken, driven forward, and then shot in general from New Jersey. Palmieri sort of had the idea, so there’s that. His wraparound did set up Zajac’s goal. Plus, I liked how Palmieri played on defense tonight - he was actually effective in his own end. So there were good Devils tonight. But the overall performance favored the home team and in a big way.
One Last Thought: You want frustrating? Check this out. Despite what Edmonton was doing, New Jersey was still committed to collapsing in the slot on defense. They were still committed to finding an outlet in their own end when trying to move the puck out, regardless of whether that was the right play at the time. They were committed to not forechecking Edmonton regularly. They were committed to getting the puck in deep on offense and working out from there. They were committed to the same tactics and tendencies despite what opponents have done to them. During the first period broadcast, John Hynes apparently wanted more zone time and more shots. The Devils were out-shot 19-34 and out-attempted 40-69 in all situations. You’d think that this would lead to any changes to how the Devils play. You’d think that but I’m not seeing any changes or adjustments, especially as the game goes by. It only makes me give an exasperated and annoyed sigh.
Your Take: The Devils did get a point in a 2-3 OT loss to Edmonton. What do you make of this particular overtime loss to the Oilers? What went right in your eyes? What went wrong in your eyes? Who was the best and worst Devils on the ice tonight? What can they take away from this game before they play Calgary on Friday?
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed the site’s Twitter account (@AAtJerseyBlog). Thanks to Devin in advance of a preview of the Calgary game. Thank you for reading.