About twenty five minutes into tonight’s game, I was disgusted with the New Jersey Devils. They were down by four goals to the Arizona Coyotes. I suppose the Devils were more energetic than they were in the start of the game against Colorado; but energy and $1.06 will get you something at the dollar store. The Devils were just getting beaten on and the score reflected that. My main thought was what I wrote the following in the preview for this game as my one last thought:
One Last Thought: I know I noted that rock-bottom was that loss to the Avs. I am reminded of the common phrase from Mythbusters: Failure is always an option. I really hope I don’t have to witness another failure. Draft pick positioning doesn’t make me feel any better about watching these losses.
That’s the best way to describe how the Devils were performing within the first twenty-five minutes of this game against Arizona. They failed. They took penalties and paid the price twice. Two of the four goals against Cory Schneider weren’t good ones. While he had no chance to stop the actual shot for the first goal; Schneider put himself in a bad position prior to said shot. And I think he could’ve stopped the fourth one; he was pulled for Keith Kinkaid after that one. But all four goals against indict a Devils defensive performance that was just poor; the low-point being Adam Henrique coughing up the puck to Jordan Martinook, who fed Tobias Reider for a goal in what was a 2-on-0 within ten feet of Schneider. Offense? Yeah, the Devils were getting pucks close to Mike Smith. But the Coyotes had the better chances and scored on them. I was watching a really bad New Jersey Devils team seemingly seal their tenth loss in a row before the game was halfway over. I was prepared to either write a very long and rant-filled recap or a very short one that just said, “The Devils failed.” I was disgusted all the same.
Fortunately for the Devils, Arizona is also a really bad hockey team.
The Devils managed to make a comeback. They did generate an advantage in Corsi - something Steve Cangelosi actually brought up during the broadcast on MSG - and the shots eventually came. First, the Devils put together a great play on a power play amid a lot of poor play. Joseph Blandisi stripped the puck from Josh Jooris to keep the puck in the zone, skated to the right side of the zone, and made a nice pass to Taylor Hall across the zone. Hall had an open shot, but instead made a pass to the right post. It was the right play as Kyle Palmieri got to that spot and slammed the puck past Smith. The Devils’ offensive chances continued to challenge Smith. Later in the second period, Beau Bennett stole the puck in the Arizona slot after Luke Schenn fumbled the puck. Bennett beat Smith high with a beauty of a backhander. The Devils’ issues defensively and in the neutral zone were still there. And the Coyotes controlled most of the play towards the end of the second period; Kinkaid was forced to be great and he was. But the Devils were down 2-4 and so the game wasn’t out of doubt. They just needed to keep up the effort to come back.
They did and within the first minute of the third period, the Devils got a break they have rarely received amid their winless streak. Damon Severson launched a shot from the left post and it managed to trickle through Smith. Apparently, Kyle Palmieri and perhaps Adam Henrique deflected the puck so the goal was credited to Palmieri. All the same, interest was renewed in the game and instead of preparing for yet another ‘L’ for the Devils, I had hope that maybe - just maybe - this would lead to the end of the streak.
Unfortunately, Arizona was smart to keep trying to attack. Thirteen minutes into the third, the Coyotes pinned back the Devils and they paid the price. The Coyotes defensemen were in closer due to their possession and so Anthony DeAngelo was in a very good position. He received the puck, made a fake, delayed enough for a shooting lane to open up and Kinkaid to be screened, and fired. He gave the Coyotes an important cushion at 3-5. It became vital less than two minutes later when Pavel Zacha made a great cross-ice pass to John Moore, who jumped up during the play. Moore put a backhander to the left post to beat Smith and renew the Devils hope. With less than five minutes, the Devils’ comeback was still on. This could still be the streak-buster.
The hope peaked with 2:38 left. Moore sprung Hall with a long pass and #9 was in behind the defense. Schenn hooked him down to deny him a shot and the referee called a penalty shot. This could have been a fantastic moment. The Devils already provided some highlight-reel worthy plays amid what initially looked like a terrible blowout loss. This would have been the centerpiece. Alas, Smith closed his legs to deny the five-hole for Hall and keep the score at 4-5. Worse, the Coyotes clamped down. The Devils found it to be far more challenging to get possession in Arizona’s end, Tobias Reider made plenty of heads up plays, and Kinkaid wasn’t able to get off the ice for an extra skater until there was less than minute left. The Coyotes held on and survived a scare. The Devils lost their tenth in a row, 4-5.
In a way, I’m happy that the Devils made a game of it and provided some hope. Really bad teams lose a lot, so any smaller successes are, well, successes to recognize. At the same time, I don’t want to praise this result too much because it’s been so very familiar. The losing streak is now ten games long and the Devils lost by one goal in seven of them. And one of those three games was a one-goal loss if you take out an empty netter. These games have been close. These games could have broke the Devils way in just one of them and cut short this losing streak. This game was different than the others, namely in that it was a high-scoring one-goal loss. It’s still a loss and it’s still the tenth consecutive one for the Devils.
13 games to go.
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: Check out Five for Howling for their opinion on this game.
The Best Devils: I was impressed again by how much Kyle Palmieri did. While Hall was very good at distributing the puck and demonstrated that several times tonight, Palmieri was just making all kinds of attempts. His two goals weren’t exactly great shots. The first was a tap in thanks to a great pass by Hall and the second was a deflection I didn’t initially pick up when I saw the goal. But the man had six shots out of eleven attempts and he was pushing as hard as anyone when the game seemed to be doomed during and after the first period. I really liked that.
Aside from Palmieri, I was more pleased with Miles Wood’s play. He actually helped on defense. I liked that his zone entries weren’t always chasing down dumped pucks. I liked that he didn’t take a penalty tonight. This was a good game for Wood. I also liked Pavel Zacha as well. His pass to Moore was great, but his other decisions on the puck were also solid. Zacha was benched in the Colorado game. He definitely responded tonight.
Defensively, I’m loathe to praise a defenseman given some of the errors. But I will say that the John Moore and Damon Severson pairing worked out. They both contributed on offense, with points on the scoresheet (Moore got a goal, two assists for Severson). Both defensemen did well in 5-on-5 play. This is good for Moore, who has mostly been a shot sieve in New Jersey. This is good for Severson, who needs to continue to prosper. This was the best of a not-so-solid defensive group.
Lastly, Kinkaid did very, very well in relief. He made twenty saves and he definitely didn’t see DeAngelo’s goal. Kinkaid was more sound in his positioning as he didn’t have to scramble too much in response to Arizona’s puck movement. It’s odd to praise a goalie coming into a 0-4 game, but his stops made a comeback legitimately possible.
The Best Coyotes: While Arizona’s fourth line was the best in terms of CF%, but the play of other Coyotes was superlative. The defensive pairing of Jakob Chychrun and Anthony DeAngelo were standouts. Each scored a goal, each were very good at passing the puck, and each were often a part of Arizona going forward on offense. It was just one game, but they showed why they’re a part of the Coyotes’ future.
Up front, the Coyotes that did the damage just were hammered in the run of play. That could be a consequence of scoring a whole lot early such that New Jersey was just going to carry the play. Radim Vrbata tapped in the first goal and drew the second period penalty that led to Arizona going up 0-4. Jordan Martinook made two great passes that led to goals. Brendan Perlini made his mark. The Devils did succeed at making sure they didn’t ruin them all night long, although they looked pretty ruined being down three and four goals.
Corsi: Beau Bennett’s goal led to Steve Cangelosi discussing Corsi during the broadcast and there was a graphic correctly showing that Bennett was the best at it. While Ken Daneyko kind of tried to shut it down by noting that it doesn’t measure finishing - no one says it did - but the point was the same: Bennett was a standout in an aspect of the game the Devils aren’t good in. His goal was nice and hopefully that helps his cause for getting a job next season, whether it’s with New Jersey or elsewhere.
The Sherman Abrams Section: Mr. Abrams was sweating by the end, but he got the result he wanted: another Devils loss. This loss kept the Devils in 28th overall, which is ideal. Sherman is concerned, though. The Devils eventually have to win a game and the standings are still tight enough such that a win might move them up a spot or two. Worse, it may lead to a run of wins. For now, the losing streak is enjoyable for tankers like him.
Elsewhere in the league, there was some good news. Buffalo finally won - late - to keep them a bit further ahead of the Devils. Carolina lost in overtime, so their point moved them slightly ahead of New Jersey. It wasn’t all good news: Philly lost and they could be entering this race for the bottom soon, whether they like it or not. Winnipeg lost too, so they’re like Buffalo in that they’re not so safely far away. Lastly, Vancouver was losing as of this writing so they’re in the picture. All the same, the Devils finished this night where they began and that’s what Mr. Sherman Abrams wants to see.
One Last Thought: As much as I would have loved it if Hall scored on his penalty shot, I hope the big takeaway from this loss is not that he didn’t score on it. Yes, it was a great opportunity and you’d want the star player to make those count. Yet, the Devils could have created more opportunities afterwards, but failed to do so. They could have also not conceded five goals too. That’s the bigger problem than whether Hall should/should have not done something different on his attempt against Smith.
Your Take: The Devils lost their tenth in a row. They made it a game against Arizona when it seemed like a big loss was inevitable. But it was still a loss. What was your take on the loss? Who looked good (or bad) to you? What should the Devils try to do differently for their next game, which is on Tuesday against Winnipeg? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.
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