Today, the fans of the New Jersey Devils learned, reacted, and accepted the news of legendary forward Patrik Elias announcing his retirement. Mike put it perfectly: Elias was something special for the franchise. There was also a game tonight against the New York Islanders whereupon -
(Whistle) “Penalty, Jersey. Two minutes for Clumsy Segue”
(Watches as Josh Ho-Sang shows off plenty of stickhandling skill before making a pass that leads to no real good shot on net.)
(Leaves box, hustles to bench for a non-penalty killer like Michael Cammalleri to get on the ice.)
OK, lesson learned. Anyway, with the big news earlier today, the focus would move to Brooklyn in the evening when they visited the New York Islanders. The Islanders played last night and were wrecked by Philly. I thought they would play like they had a point to prove. That wasn’t apparent early on as the Devils did muster up some work for Jaroslav Halak. Despite an array of five shorthanded situations in the first period alone, the Devils were only out-shot 6-10. The Devils were down 0-1 due to Anders Lee getting alone with Keith Kinkaid in front and stashing in a low shot past the goalie to convert a power play. But other than that, Kinkaid and the penalty killers did an excellent job. Being down only one goal after having to kill two 3-on-5 situations amid five calls that led to shorthanded situations is respectable. It could have been a lot worse. It was still a game.
The run of play stayed even through the second period until the Devils started executing their offense better. Players were able to poke holes at the Islander defense and eventually Halak would be challenged more often and with more difficult shots. Especially going post-to-post on a shot by John Moor-
(Whistle) “Penalty, Jersey. Two minutes for Glossing Over Events.”
(Watches Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy put in marathon-like shifts to keep the Isles from getting desirable shooting lanes.)
(Leaves box - and then gets clobbered from behind by Johnny Boychuk. And this post continues.)
My apologies for mentioning something exceptional like five penalties in the first period and ignoring two more in the second period. The Devils have not had more than seven shorthanded situations in an entire game all season. Tonight, the Devils had seven shorthanded situations within the first thirty minutes of the game. Discipline issues would be an understatement. Some of the calls were obvious ones. Such as Joseph Blandisi and Blake Coleman each getting a delay of game minor for a clearance over the glass. Or Coleman’s holding penalty in the first period. The cross-checking penalty Blandisi took during a Devils power play - which ended with Lee’s goal - and the slash Stefan Noesen had on John Tavares were particularly poor calls to take. That said, a few of them were just bad calls. Referees Tim Peel and Kendrick Nicholson were all over the place as to what was and was not a penalty. Johnny Boychuk shoving down Coleman from behind while Coleman is trying to go one-on-one with Halak? No call. Tavares piling into Keith Kinkaid? No call, despite a stoppage to allow Kinkaid to get up. But Beau Bennett’s “high stick” on Thomas Hickey? That was two minutes. Jumping ahead in the game, Bennett got tagged for a hooking call on a forecheck that, live, I thought was dumb of Bennett. On replay, Anthony Pelech held up Bennett’s stick - and the referee saw it and still called Bennett for a foul. I was wrong; the ref was dumb. Did the Devils lose their cool? Absolutely. They should have been much smarter and calmer than they were. But Nicholson and Peel were key players in tonight’s ga-
(Whistle) “Penalty, Jersey. Two minutes for Unsportsmanlike Criticism of Officials.”
(Watches Keith Kinkaid fend off a couple of strong shots to keep the game close.)
The real problem with having to kill ten shorthanded situations is that even if most of them were killed, it hinders the rest of the team. The Devils’ penalty killers had a load of work tonight and survived. Kinkaid was fantastic for stopping fifteen out of sixteen power play shots on net. With Lee providing the only conversion, the Devils made the best of having to play 13:52 out of 60 minutes tonight with at least one man in the box. However, that’s 13:52 where the Devils didn’t generate any real offense. That’s 13:52 where regular lines and pairings were broken apart as several players are kept off the PK for one reason or another. That’s 13:52 where the Devils were placed in a more difficult situation than usual. This isn’t the first or the last game where the penalty kill would have to be big for the Devils to stay in a game. Doing so for nearly a quarter of the game is excessive.
All told, the Devils did just that. They even did some damage of their own special teams. During one of their three power plays, towards the end of the third one, Adam Henrique managed to make a conversion. Pavel Zacha took the initial shot, John Quenneville forced a rebound save from Halak, and Henrique finished the third effort past a sliding Stephen Gionta. That made the game 1-2 and for those not onboard with a tank, it made the following eight-and-a-half minutes interesting. Until the bad hooking penalty call on Bennett occurred, a more legitimate interference penalty by Steve Santini on Gionta, and a needless fight with an extra cross-checking minor which started said fight by Ben Lovejoy. Then the Devils were down men to attempt any kind of comeback. Whether Peel and Nicholson were terrible or the Devils were just that undisciplined - it’s a bit of both, really - the calls factored in how this game went.
So what provided the difference maker? An even strength goal. After a shot block by the Isles, Jason Chimera rushed up ice to give the puck to Josh Ho-Sang. As the backchecking Devils were more focused on the right side of the ice. Ho-Sang saw Anthony Beauvillier open on the opposite wing. Pass and one heck of a short-side snipe later, the game was 0-2 late in the second period. It was a great shot off a fine pass involving two players who were thorns in the Devils’ sides all night long. The Devils ultimately did not have an answe-
(Whistle) “Penalty, Jersey. Two minutes for Run-On Imagery.”
(Watches Blake Coleman receive shorthanded shifts in the third period - and not result in any more penalties for him.)
The main point remains: Devils lost 1-2 and the penalties, no matter who or how you point the finger, factored into it. It would have been nice to see how the run of play would have been with more even strength time, but it’s moot as the Devils’ lost season comes to a close.
Since the Islanders are in a crunch to get points for a postseason berth and John Tavares left the game early, clutching his left hamstring, this game may become moot for them soon enough.
(Whistle) “Penalty, Jersey. Two minutes for Inappropriate Use of ‘Moot’ and Other-”
5 games left.
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: Dominik has this quick recap up at Lighthouse Hockey.
Who Did Well for NJ in 5-on-5 Despite the Relative Lack of It: The Zajac line. Kyle Palmieri was pretty notable early on. His hustle made him stand out in a good way. Not just in 5-on-5, but also for clearing a puck off the line after a shorthanded blast by John Tavares hit the post and then Kinkaid’s pad. Taylor Hall also demonstrated his usual display of stickhandling with pace and grace to find space. He also drew a penalty (And took an unsportsmanlike call I didn’t quite pick up on why. Did he say something dumb?) Travis Zajac did a fine job in between. The Natural Stat Trick numbers show that those three stood out the most in attempt and shot differential in 5-on-5 play. As they contributed a third out of the 27 total shots on net the Devils put on Halak, it would have been something to have them take more shifts if there was more even strength time. The Andy Greene and Steve Santini pairing also did pretty well behind them. In that they didn’t get wrecked throughout the night.
The Return of Cammalleri: Michael Cammalleri played his first game with the Devils since March 2. Cammalleri was just kind of there. He was one of the many players that suffered with all of the penalties; his ice time was limited to less than fourteen minutes. Cammalleri didn’t do anything really wrong or weird like he has throughout this season. But he didn’t do anything particularly well on offense, which is the area the Devils hope he can bring. It was his first game back and this night wasn’t an ideal night for anyone who wasn’t a PK regular, so it’s forgivable.
The Debut of Kapla: Michael Kapla signed an entry level contract with the Devils earlier this week and he was assigned to New Jersey. It was too quick to get him in uniform on Tuesday, so this was his debut NHL game. Being assigned right away to New Jersey means the Devils management really wanted to see how he performs in the toughest league in the world. Out went Dalton Prout in the lineup (Jon Merrill stayed a scratch) and in came Kapla. Adding to the difficulty was that his most common partner was Ben Lovejoy. Kapla did play just over fifteen minutes, received some power play shifts, and didn’t do anything particularly bad. I didn’t notice him too much, which isn’t a bad thing on defense but not so positive for offense. Still, it’s his first game and this was a tough one to debut in with all of the additional stops. I think he’ll get a longer look over the next week; hopefully he can stand out more as far as what he can do for the team in the future.
The Kinkaid Redemption: Keith Kinkaid’s last start in Brooklyn was rather bad. Tonight, despite nearly having a post-shot go off his pants and into the net for a shorty, Kinkaid played very, very well. Stopping 36 out of 38 shots means the goalie did his job as well as he could be expected to do so. Especially with taking a shot to the mask and Tavares’ shoulder at points in the game. Kinkaid battled through it and did his best to get in front of all kinds of shots. I would have appreciated better support for him. Such as the Devils realizing that Ho-Sang has yet to learn to shoot off the rush (he kept passing, which is OK, but teams will figure it out in time), trying to get more shots on Halak and not into Islander skaters, or taking so many penalties to give the Isles loads of possession time with an extra man on the ice. All the same, #1 was the best goalie that I saw on the ice tonight. He did as well as he really could and that was particularly pleasing to see in light of his last start at Barclay’s.
The Sherman Abrams Section: Mr. Abrams thought some of the calls were poor ones too. But he doesn’t care because the Devils took care of business with a regulation loss. No overtime. No shootout. Just another zero point night in the standings for the 28th place Devils. With 26th place Dallas ahead by five points, the next few days are easy for Mr. Abrams and his fans in terms of what you want to see happen. You should want the Devils to lose in regulation (check) and Vancouver to get points (they’re in progress against Los Angeles, 0-0 as of this writing). It’s that easy. A Canuck win really helps make it easy going into the final week of the season.
By the way, Mr. Abrams doesn’t believe in Arizona. But you can believe in Arizona. As of this writing, they’re up 3-1 on Washington. A hot streak by the Coyotes and 29th place may become in play. It’s a long shot but weirder things have happened.
The Month in Review Preview as a Final Thought: Devils finished the month with a 2-11-2 record. That’s right, out of a potential thirty points, the Devils earned six. It’s not going to be a happy review.
Your Take: The Devils were called for a lot of penalties and lost by only a goal. It could have been worse - and sadly, we’re at the point of the season where that is the positive way of looking at these games. What did you think of this game? Who stood out to you in a positive or a negative way? What can the Devils take from this one ahead of their game tomorrow night against the Second Rate Rivals? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented tonight and/or followed along on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.