The New Jersey Devils took down the Second Rate Rivals, also known as the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1 tonight. It was a game decided by special teams, Miles Wood was involved in much of the action, and it was a game that drew up a lot of salt. The frustration mounted for the Flyers as the game went on from the fouls that were called, the fouls that weren’t, and as the Devils pulled away with the victory.
Referees Dan O’Halloran and Francois St. Laurent were very busy tonight as they called fifteen penalties that resulted in thirteen man advantages for both teams. Some were dubious. For example, such as a first period interference penalty on Miles Wood when it appeared that Claude Giroux purposely moved into the Wood to draw the hit. Or when Radko Gudas went for a hip check on Miles Wood and was assessed for clipping when he made contact. Other calls were just plain obvious and stupid by the guy who took them. Such as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tripping Vernon Fiddler and Wayne Simmonds spitting verbals at a referee after Gudas’ penalty was called. All of those examples resulted in goals, and the Devils came out better among the special teams.
It is true that Travis Konecny jammed in a puck past Keith Kinkaid just after Wood’s interference penalty ended. That was not technically a power play goal against, but the power play created the situation. That goal made it 1-1. But the Devils managed to score two power play goals. Kyle Palmieri blasted a shot past Michal Neuvirth for the team’s first 5-on-3 goal of the season, which made it 2-1. Bellemare’s tripping penalty led to an actually functional and enjoyable power play where the Devils were set up and moving the puck effectively. It ended with Taylor Hall finding Miles Wood on Steve Mason’s left flank for a power play goal. That marker made it 4-1. It was amazing to witness the Devils’ power play actually work like a power play, much less drive a win for the first time in quite some time. Not all of their power plays were so good, but with seven opportunities, the Devils did make a mark with fourteen shots along with those two goals. Unfortunately, the Devils took plenty of penalties themselves to give the Flyers six power plays. But the Devils killed all of them - thanks largely to Keith Kinkaid, who stopped 14 shots - since Konecny’s goal was just after the penalty ended. In total, special teams were officially 2-0 in favor of New Jersey and practically 2-1 in favor of New Jersey. That helped lead to tonight’s result.
Tonight’s game featured a lot of Miles Wood. Some moments were not good moments. Like Wood grabbing Michael Del Zotto in chasing down a puck for a silly holding penalty. Some were notable but not necessarily bad, such as checking Radko Gudas in chasing a dumped-in puck, which resulted in Wayne Simmonds wanting to fight him so they fought. The biggest moments were good though. He drew the call from Gudas that resulted in a 5-on-3 thanks to Simmonds. In the final minute of the third period, Steve Santini stood up a Flyer at the blueline and knocked it loose while Mark Streit was trying to get off the ice. Michael Cammalleri took the puck and laid it off for Wood. Wood broke away on a 2-on-1 and torched Neuvirth with a shot to make it 3-1. That goal was huge if only for giving the Devils a cushion. Then, of course, his power play goal in the third period nailed the coffin further. Wood showed off what he needs to improve upon (defense, defense, general smarts) while showing off what he’s great at doing (using his speed to take advantage on the ice). Five shots on net, a -18 Corsi (5 for, 22 against in 5-on-5), two minor penalties taken, one penalty drawn, and two goals. Wood was everywhere and ultimately made a positive impact on the game.
I will say that the game’s hero, as it were, was Keith Kinkaid. Cory Schneider was sick again, so Kinkaid started again. The Flyers really rolled the Devils in the run of play in the second and third periods. The third period was expected as the Flyers were down multiple goals. The second period was mostly 1-1 until the end, so the Flyers just picked on the Devils in 5-on-5 play. Philadelphia put up a total of 85 shooting attempts (Devils put up 48). There were so many blocked shots, plenty of misses, and 36 that actually got to Kinkaid. They came in from distance, in close, and a lot from the right circle. Kinkaid stopped all but one of them. He was excellent whether it was an even strength or a penalty killing situation. He was fantastic at denying plenty of shots from Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Nick Cousins, and Gudas. Kinkaid protected the score for New Jersey and eventually the lead. He was the most important Devil on the ice in my view.
Lastly, while there could have been many improvements in the Devils’ performance, this was a decisive score in a tough situation. It’s on the road. It’s after a loss to Montreal in a game where the Devils were just abysmal. It’s against a rested Flyers team. It’s with a goalie starting back-to-back games and he’s not the starter. It’s without the team’s best defenseman (Andy Greene). It’s without one of the better bottom-six forwards in Beau Bennett. It’s a roster that included Luke Gazdic (who did a whole lot of nothing tonight). It’s a game against a team who has offensive talent to burn and could very well be a playoff team. And the Devils won 4-1 with two power play goals, two goals from Wood, a sensational performance from Kinkaid, and absorbing tons of pressure. I don’t know about you, but I was excited as the Devils pulled away on the scoreboard and sealed the win.
I suppose I’d be salty if I were a Flyers fan. But I have a clue so thankfully, I am not a Flyers fans. Besides, when are Philadelphia fans not mad about something? Get mad, stay mad, whatever. Just recognize that the Devils showed the world once again why the Flyers are the Second Rate Rivals.
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 Charts | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Somebody called “goldomatic” wrote this quick recap at Broad Street Hockey where in the writer wrote more about playing Ocarina of Time than the hockey game. That’s a special kind of salt to just straight up discount the game that just happened. BSH may have the page views or whatever, but All About the Jersey keeps it about the Devils regardless of how good, bad, whatever the game goes.
The First Goal: Amid all of the events of the game, it can be lost that Pavel Zacha scored the first goal of the game. Kyle Quincey put a long shot on net and Zacha touched the loose puck towards Jacob Josefson. Josefson made a quick little pass to allow Zacha to enter the slot, where he beat Neuvirth with a backhander. It was a neat sequence and the rookie was able to get a goal. Unfortunately, Zacha did not really do a whole lot since that goal. The score was his only shot on net tonight. He wasn’t that bad in 5-on-5 play and he received plenty of power play time. But he didn’t contribute a whole lot there. Still, he got onto the boxscore and that will help secure his status in the lineup.
An Enjoyable Start: After a night where I saw the Devils put up only three shots on net in the first thirty minutes of regulation, the first period was downright refreshing to watch. Taylor Hall went for a wraparound for the team’s first shot on net in the first minute. The Devils attacked and kept it somewhat even in the run of play for fourteen shots on net in the first. Outside of two wasted power plays, the Devils were competent. Passes were made. Players weren’t bunched up together or not making themselves unavailable for the puck carrier. The Devils weren’t stuck to their plan, they recognized what the Flyers allowed. Despite the run of play in the second and third periods (lots of turnovers in the third), the first period led to a better performance than last night’s awfulness.
I Checked, He Did It: According to NHL.com, the Devils have had six 5-on-3 opportunities this season that lasted 4:18. Tonight was the sixth and it lasted seventeen seconds thanks to Kyle Palmieri’s shot. It was the team’s first 5-on-3 conversion this season. And it was important as it broke the deadlock in the score in the second period. Simmonds’ words to the ref doubled down on what some may consider to be a bad call. When the ref says no more and you keep talking, then you’re getting two for unsportsmanlike conduct. Simmonds did, which created the two-minute 5-on-3 situation for New Jersey. Palmieri made it quick and the Devils carried on well in the following 5-on-4 situation. With that in mind, thanks for the eventual game winning goal, Simmonds!
By the way, Wood was grinning the whole time as both Flyers went to the box. I’d like to think he was thinking the word, “tranquilo,” the entire time.
LOL. #PHIvsNJD pic.twitter.com/UXyDmrjjSy— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 22, 2017
Palmieri had a pretty good game all things considered. He had four shots on net (second to Wood tonight) out of nine shooting attempts (most on team). He looked much more comfortable at his natural position on the power play, particularly on the team’s later power plays. While he did not get an assist on Wood’s power play goal, that he was able to keep the puck in play and on his teammates’ sticks ultimately helped make that power play successful. Palmieri was the closest of being even in Corsi despite Philly tilting the ice so much in 5-on-5, too. He had a good game on top of scoring a goal.
Help Me Understand: In the second period, Travis Konecny launches into P.A. Parenteau in the Devils’ right corner well after Parenteau moved the puck. This results in Damon Severson leading a “conversation” by the Flyers bench. Severson ended up getting a roughing minor out of it while Konecny received nothing for hitting Parenteau late. After the Devils killed that call, Gudas and Hall go at it behind the net and nobody received a roughing minor. This seems inconsistent. Is it me? Am I not understanding something?
The Returns of Merrill, Fiddler, Kalinin, and Gazdic: Jon Merrill returned to the lineup after being out sick last night. While he and Ben Lovejoy were pinned back, I thought both defensemen did a good job in their own end tonight. They did not commit too many turnovers - Merrill had a bad one in the third. They did not get caught too much out of position. The pairing took care of business as needed, even on the PK. Strange as it may seem since I was criticizing him a lot, Merrill’s return was welcome and he performed like a NHL defensemen. When Andy Greene returns, it’s going to be interesting to see how the blueline gets restructured.
Blake Coleman was sent down to Albany so the Devils could activate Vernon Fiddler from injured reserve. This was welcomed if only so Kalinin and DSP do not have to play center. While Coleman did have some nice moments, the 25-year old was really up until someone got healthy and Fiddler did. Fiddler wasn’t all that hot tonight. The fourth line did not contribute much in general and he was beaten plenty of times at the dot (4-for-14). He did get tripped in the third period, which led to Wood’s power play goal, so there’s that. I will say that he’s an upgrade over sticking wingers at center. It just wasn’t so clear tonight.
Speaking of, Sergey Kalinin entered the lineup in place of Devante Smith-Pelly. Kalinin effectively stepped into DSP’s role as a fourth liner that receives shifts on the penalty kill. He didn’t really do a whole lot. He wasn’t awful and he didn’t cost the team much of anything. It was just a game from him. As both Kalinin and DSP have not played consistently well enough to stick in the lineup this season, I suspect this will go on for a few more games before DSP draws back in.
Lastly, Beau Bennett was held out from a minor injury from a shot block. Luke Gazdic entered the lineup. Gazdic really did not do much of anything on the ice. You’d think in an intense rivalry game like this one that Gazdic would enforce something. Nope. Gazdic didn’t. Honestly, I prefer it that way. I want the Flyers to go dumb; I don’t want the Devils to go dumb with them. Gazdic did tell off a Flyers fan that, I think, flipped him off as he was heading towards the locker room. It may be nice banter for message boards, sub-reddits, and social media. So there was that.
Ha!: The Devils chased Michal Neuvirth from the net. Steve Mason replaced him in the third period. It’s always a goaltending controversy in Philadelphia, isn’t it?
The Best of the Opposition: A number of the Flyers really stood out to me. Claude Giroux showed how good he can be. While he had three shots out of five attempts, he was constantly in New Jersey’s end of the rink. He owned Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac on faceoffs. It was thanks to Kinkaid that he didn’t end up with any points tonight. Defensively, Ivan Provorov is the truth for Philly. He was making strong plays on Taylor Hall early and against any non-Zajac line. He was also a catalyst for Philadelphia’s 36-shots, 85-attempts offense tonight with four shots out of ten attempts. He’s going to anchor that defense, so get used to seeing him for a long time. Lastly, I think Voracek had the best move for Philly when he just took on the Devils’ PK in the third period off a rush and managed to get through by himself for a high shot on Kinkaid that forced his helmet off. It was impressive stuff. Again, it was thanks to Kinkaid he ended the night pointless.
One Last Thought: Woo.
Your Take: The Devils won 4-1 over the Second Rate Rivals tonight and they did with special teams, Miles Wood, Keith Kinkaid, and more. They survived getting housed in possession but the win remains sweet all the same. What did you make of tonight’s win? What about the Devils’ performance did you like the most? What did you like the least about it? How salty does one need to be if you’re a Flyers fan? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
Thanks to Devin for previewing tonight’s game. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed the site’s account (@AAtJerseyBlog) along on Twitter. Thank you for reading.