First Period: The New Jersey Devils got started early on when Mirco Mueller was tripped. The Devils went on the power play, and it was a successful one. Damon Severson, on the power play again after being taken off before the game versus the Stars, got a feed from Marcus Johansson that he did a great job at finishing. It was a great pass from Johansson and a great shot by Severson. Miles Wood got the secondary assist on the goal.
The Devils took their first penalty of the game almost halfway through the period. Zacha lost the puck in the offensive zone and tied up a Flyers stick and was called for hooking. The penalty kill seemed to be doing a good job until the Devils were called for a hand pass, giving the Flyers an offensive zone face off. Travis Konecny got the puck off the draw and used Damon Severson as a bit of a screen and his shot hit the back of the net.
A couple minutes after the goal, Kevin Rooney was called for high sticking Nolan Patrick. It was one of the more obvious high sticking penalties I’ve seen, as Rooney kept his stick up for a full second or two before bringing it back down. It also made two penalties on the game for Devils’ penalty killers, which was a bit maddening, considering they were down two penalty killers to injury.
However, this penalty kill was able to survive the full two minutes. It didn’t seem like the Flyers did as good a job pressuring the Devils, and Rooney’s penalty did not result in a goal.
Continuing the maddening pattern, Blake Coleman took a holding call with just under two minutes left. Without Coleman, this penalty kill was a tad more scary. Wayne Simmonds created a rebound with a turnaround shot that Andy Greene cleared into the corner, followed by a one-timer for Claude Giroux that fired wide. Andy Greene later on continued his good shift by pushing the Flyers deeper into the neutral zone.
At the end of the first period, the Flyers had the shots advantage with seven to the Devils’ five. The Devils had blocked nine shots, while the Flyers had blocked two shots. The Devils also won an outstanding 19% of faceoffs in the period. To add to the Devils’ woes, Steven Santini left the game after taking a puck to the face, having only logged over two minutes.
Second Period: Not starting off the period any better, Damon Severson took a crosschecking penalty just a minute and a half into the period. Thus penalty kill did not go well, as after the Flyers hemmed in the Devils for the first full minute, Brian Boyle took a “tripping” penalty, as Jordan Weal fell to the ice after getting a stick to the jersey. The referees then changed the penalty to a hook, with an embellishment for Weal, averting potential disaster and immense anger. The Devils killed the rest of the penalty, with Severson coming out of the box after a golden chance for Kevin Rooney to get a shorthanded goal.
Nearly halfway through the period, Pavel Zacha took a pass in the neutral zone and stepped around Shayne Gostisbehere. He took a shot in the circle that gave Brian Elliott a bit of trouble. It was a better moment for an otherwise struggling player (over the past few games).
About halfway through the period, Jordan Weal took a penalty for interfering with Jean-Sebastien Dea in the neutral zone. After a shot by Taylor Hall went wide, the Flyers cleared the puck. The Devils had issues getting the puck back into the offensive zone, with two straight failed entries followed by a dangerous chance for the Flyers shorthanded. On the next entry attempt, the Devils were called for offsides. The Devils never really got back and set into the zone.
Right after the penalty, the Devils came very close to a goal with Stefan Noesen and Miles Wood in front of the net. The rebound was just out of reach, and after an attempt by Noesen that went wide the Flyers took the puck back down the ice and Keith Kinkaid made a glove save.
The Devils took another penalty, with Andy Greene crosschecking a Flyer in front of the net. I didn’t like the call, but it is what it is. It was Mirco Mueller time. A play off the boards for the Flyers got away from them, and Brian Boyle took the puck all the way to the net, using Kevin Rooney as a decoy. His shot was saved, and soon enough the Flyers were back to pressuring the Devils. They created a couple good rebounds for themselves, but couldn’t capitalize. The Devils were not focused on applying pressure on the penalty kill, opting to collapse around the net. The Flyers just could not get to their rebounds. Shortly after the penalty ended, MSG flashed a graphic showing the Devils having 23 (!) blocked shots to the Flyers just having four. For what it was worth, it was still a 1-1 game.
Sami Vatanen prevented a goal, skating back on a two-on-one - he broke up a cross-ice pass. It was a pretty solid play. However, the Devils would not continue to play well defensively. Damon Severson kind of just let the pass go past him to Nolan Patrick, and Keith Kinkaid could not get across quick enough.
There was a pretty innocent check at the end of the period by Dea, and there was some jostling after the horn, but no fisticuffs broke out. The teams went to the locker room, with the Flyers up 2-1. The teams were tied in shots at 12-12, but the Flyers were winning the faceoff battle 30-eight. For the sake of the team, the Devils need Travis Zajac to return soon.
Third Period: With 20 minutes to tie the game, I wasn’t really expecting the Devils to succeed. John Hynes started with something interesting - Pavel Zacha centering the first line. The fourth line actually managed to get something going (they got the second shift of the period), as Rooney rocked Radko Gudas along the boards, and Boyle got a couple of chances to score a goal, but nothing came of it.
The Flyers took another penalty, and it was Jordan Weal again. Marcus Johansson was high sticked, and went down quickly. Looking at the replay, I was pretty surprised he didn’t bleed at all. But on the bright side, Johansson wasn’t hurt. Starting the power play, the crowd got very frustrated with the linesman for blowing the whistle on two draws. The third went along smoothly, and the Flyers cleared the puck. When the Devils got back into the zone, Will Butcher got the puck to Brian Boyle at the top of the circle. Boye skated backwards, and then towards the net and sniped it from the faceoff dot for his third goal of the season. Given I was not looking forward to the third period effort very much, I was very happy. However, Dave Hakstol challenged the play for goaltender interference. I don’t think any goalie could have stopped Boyle’s shot - it was about as perfect as could be. And I don’t think Kyle Palmieri even skated into Brian Elliott - but he was in the crease. Sure enough, the referee’s original call stood, and the game was tied at 2-2.
The Zacha-led first line was looking okay, but Butcher had trouble moving the puck back up the ice, and the Flyers got some zone time against the Devils’ first line. Their pressure ended when Zacha broke up a pass and pushed it forward and out of the zone.
Pavel Zacha continued to play well in the defensive zone, and seeing him get top line time was just adding to the mountain of frustration that he could not put a puck in a net. After his backhanded play to Severson led to the Devils breaking down the ice, Kyle Palmieri was smothered by two defensemen in front of the net, and the line maintained possession for most of the shift but just could not get a clean opportunity.
Andy Greene broke up a play for the Flyers just past the halfway mark of the period. Keith Kinkaid was still towards the top of the crease, and the puck was in a golden spot for the Flyers. But, the captain was first to the puck, and his clear made its way to Hall, but Hall was unable to create stable possession for the Devils in the offensive zone.
With under five minutes left in the game, Keith Kinkaid was going off for the New Jersey Devils. He made a sprawling left pad save on Konecny, followed by a glove save, and then another save on a Konecny one-timer. However, the Devils rewarded his great goaltending with an unnecessary icing.
Andy Greene made an awful pinch on Jakub Voracek, and Damon Severson had to play the pass on the two-on-one. Voracek deked out Kinkaid, and slid the puck into the net to take a 3-2 lead.
After a nice forechecking play by Pavel Zacha, Taylor Hall was about to get on the puck when he got his leg taken out by a Flyer. Kyle Palmieri also went down due to the collision. Hall glared at the referee, but the Flyers successfully wasted more time. With just over a minute left, the Devils pulled Kinkaid, and only got one shot attempt that was knocked down, leading to an empty-net goal for Wayne Simmonds. 4-2.
The Devils pulled the goalie again, but it was too little, too late. After a wrap-around try almost went in for Kyle Palmieri, Hall just could not connect with Miles Wood in front of the net. The Flyers got the puck back down the ice and Scott Laughton made the official game score 5-2.
The Opposition Opinion: Broad Street Hockey should be pretty happy about this one. They should be.
Steven Santini: I don’t know who to go with for “most disappointing game”, but I think I have to go with the guy who played 2:33 in his first chance of the season. It was not due to his play - as he left due to injury. The team definitely could have used him, because Vatanen, despite his playing time, was pretty terrible in the run of play. But unfortunately, the worst case scenario occurred.
Kevin Rooney: Kevin Rooney did not have the worst game in the world. His possession was close to the Devils’ average on the game, and he was not on the ice for any goals. However, how did he reward the Devils for calling him up in place of John Quenneville so he could play on the penalty kill? He was on the ice for the first goal, and then took a penalty. I guess he was okay for the rest of the game, but it was not a good look.
Jean-Sebastien Dea: It did not seem like John Hynes very much enjoyed watching his choice of a second line center today. He played the second least of all forwards, and had a Corsi for percentage of 26.67. Rightfully so, Pavel Zacha moved up the chain mid-game.
The Mueller-Vatanen pairing: Despite allowing no goals, and Vatanen making a good play to break up a scoring opportunity on a two-on-one, I mark this as a disappointing game for the “top pairing”. They combined for, in 10:37 of even strength time together, a 25% CF%. There were several times throughout the game I thought Mueller just did not know how to handle the puck. But, in the name of making Andy Greene have an easier time, I guess...
What went well for the Devils?
Brian Boyle: I think that Boyle, despite having one of the ugliest looking lines (Boyle-Rooney-Stafford) I can remember the Devils penciling down since last season, had a pretty strong game. He had a power play goal, and did not helplessly flail whenever the Flyers had the puck on offense. He also shared some thoughts after the game on how the Devils played that I think were generally correct.
#NJDevils Brian Boyle: “Too casual. We were just too casual.”— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) October 20, 2018
Damon Severson’s Power Play Woes are No More: Damon Severson got the first goal of the game, and it was pretty. It was also the first power play goal of his career. For someone who has been with the Devils for awhile, and has gotten quite a bit of time with the man advantage, this was pretty striking.
That was his 82nd PP shot and first goal.— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) October 20, 2018
No one else in Corsica's database (2007-present) has 500+ minutes and no goals. https://t.co/rOjF5JaxOB
The Devils just love having players who seem to do so well and never have anything go their way.
An Improved Game For Zacha: By no means did Pavel Zacha have a great game. He did not perform well in all zones. But he played well in the defensive zone - probably the best of anyone on the team. He even got to play with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri throughout the third period, and had some good moments with them breaking up the Philadelphia attack, though their counterattacks just did not get clean attempts off. This was a step forward for Zacha after having a couple of bad games, though he needs to get on the scoresheet soon, plain and simple.
The Blocked Shots Crew: Will Butcher and Sami Vatanen may not have had the best games offensively, but they joined Andy Greene in combining for 17 blocked shots between the three of them alone, according to Natural Stat Trick. Greene had seven, and although I’d rather be aggressive on defense, given our speed, I understand why the Devils mostly just tried to get in front of shots this game. They were down a few important pieces, and the Flyers have some firepower. We saw what happened when Voracek got behind Greene in the third period.
Looking Ahead: The Devils next play on Thursday at home versus the Nashville Predators. As Pekka Rinne was placed on IR today, he will not be in net for the Predators. With four days off between now and then, the Devils coaching staff needs to preach discipline to their team. If Travis Zajac and Ben Lovejoy manage to play Thursday, it would be great for the Devils. The second line needs Zajac, and Butcher apparently needs Lovejoy (and probably some time to rest too, given his apparent shoulder injury). Perhaps even Jesper Bratt could be back for then, which means that the only call-up will probably be Eric Gryba from Binghamton - hopefully as the seventh defenseman if Ben Lovejoy recovers quickly enough.
It was not a pretty game. The result was deserved, and there’s a lot of things to pick apart in today’s performance. But the Devils can make it right - and they need to - unless they want to make their hot start look like a fluke.
Your Thoughts: How did you feel about today’s game? How did you feel about the referees’ calls during the game? Do you think they missed calls in the third period? Who was a bright spot for you? Who did you think played the worst? How did you feel about Pavel Zacha getting time with Taylor Hall? Is there something important I didn’t mention from the game? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.