This morning, the New Jersey Devils entered the Rock with a three game winless streak to play a Florida Panthers team, who won last night and was hungry for more points after a poor start. Just before 3 PM Eastern Time, the Devils snapped the winless streak by snapping the Panthers in a 3-2 victory. Do not let the close score fool you, it was not that close of a game.
At least, it was not that close in the first forty minutes. The Devils were sloppy for the first eighteen minutes. The Panthers were similarly sloppy as they generated all of one dangerous scoring chance in 5-on-5 play, which was denied by Pavel Zacha. Both teams won pucks and promptly lost them frequently with wobbling passes, poor decisions, and denials-by-the-opponent surprising them. After surviving some penalty trouble that provided Florida with most of its threatening play, the Devils ran up most of their nine shots on net in the first period within the last two minutes. Most importantly, they broke through. A long shot by Damon Severson was deflected in front by Kyle Palmieri. This was the source of some controversy, but the goal was held up on review so the Devils went into the second period up 1-0.
I do not know what was said at intermission, but the Devils sharpened up their performance in every aspect in the second period. With the lead, the Devils made a point of it to keep attacking, keep going forward, and to keep putting pressure on the Panthers. Yes, Florida had some good looks with the occasional NJ turnover. The Devils more than matched it. The results: 14 shots for NJ, 22 total shooting attempts, three drawn penalties (two on offense), and two more goals. The second score was created by a beautiful saucer pass from Palmieri to an isolated Taylor Hall, who dunked it into the net. The third came shortly after Sami Vatanen had a try after a bad Florida turnover in their own end. The shot went around to Mirco Mueller, who took a chance himself, and Blake Coleman re-directed it in past James Reimer’s left to make it 3-0. Not that the Panthers had nothing going for them, but they could not solve Keith Kinkaid then, they floundered on a couple of prime chances, and the Devils just had a response for everything they did. The Devils earned their 3-0 lead after two.
That would explain what happened in the third period. When it comes to score effects, the losing team has every reason to attack more often and the defending team does not. The Devils were not giving up on offense entirely, but they noticeably tried for more counter-attack plays or long passes to spring forwards as opposed to sticking with what worked in the second. This was not very successful. The Panthers had to generate more and take more risks to pin the Devils back, which happened much more often in the third. Hence, the Devils were out-attempted 8-20 in 5-on-5 play in the third period. The attempts were not all that great, though; only 7 of those 20 attempts were on net. Kinkaid was holding the fort as well as he could.
Unfortunately, this kind of pressure cannot always be stopped. After 31 saves and three posts, Mike Matheson drove through the slot, deked out Andy Greene, and rounded Kinkaid to make it 3-1. The Panthers pulled Reimer with under three minutes to play and the 6-on-5 effort lasted until the end of the game. With a stickless Palmieri (he gave his to Severson, who lost his stick earlier on the play), Mike Hoffman fired a shot through traffic that snuck in with 14 seconds left. Both were consolation goals and the Devils held out to win.
I can see how some fans would be disappointed that another opponent was able to put up a third period goal against within the final ten minutes of the game. However, this was not like the last few games. The Devils had a large enough cushion in case there was a great move against them (Matheson) or a seeing-eye shot (Hoffman). While the Panthers drove the play in the third period, they pretty much had to and the Devils had to respect it. I agree that New Jersey should not have tried for as many long passes or look for exits instead of possession, but they also could not play exactly as they did in the first two periods in 5-on-5 either because Florida was pushing forward as much as they did. As nice as it would have been for New Jersey to have scored a fourth goal - and there were at least three opportunities to do so - they did more than enough to win the game. And so they did.
The win is an important one, at least for this current situation. Today is final game at the Rock for the New Jersey Devils for the next two weeks. Our favorite team will embark on a seven game road trip that will see the Devils return to Newark for a game against Pittsburgh on November 13. The Devils went into today’s game with three games without win. They were playing an opponent who is trying to pick themselves up out of the mud they fell face-first into for the first few weeks of the season. Going into the road trip without a win in their last four would have been worrisome. That worry is now past. The Devils won their week, they secured a winning month at 5-2-1, and they aren’t going to be holding their sticks too tight or playing so anxious trying to snap a winless streak in Tampa Bay of all places. Today was a good day for the Devils, even if the third was controlled by Florida.
The Opposition Opinion: They are frustrated at Litter Box Cats. Which makes sense, this was a frustrating game by the Panthers for the Panthers fans. That is the main theme of this recap by KKski at Litter Box Cats.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are the highlights from today’s game. If nothing else, watch Hall’s goal.
Rebound from Kinkaid: Keith Kinkaid played a really good game today. After giving up an awful goal plus three others against Nashville, Kinkaid really rebounded this afternoon. He had to deal with a couple of one-on-ones and two-on-ones thanks to some poor turnovers. Such as Mueller getting picked off a no-look turnaround backhand pass attempt at the Florida blueline springing Evgeny Dadonov in the second period. But Kinkaid stopped every one of these. His positioning was on point and he was very good about providing too many dangerous rebounds. When the Panthers tried to crash the net, Kinkaid swallowed up the puck and held onto it well amid bodies. During the Devils’ five-plus minutes of penalty killing in the first period, Kinkaid was solid as he could be with six saves amid that run. While he was helped out by the goal frame three times, Kinkaid did make 35 saves and did his best to keep his shutout going. Neither goal against was a bad one - I do not even think he even saw the last one from Hoffman. I really liked what I saw out of #1 today.
As an aside, with the road trip coming up and Cory Schneider having played three games on his conditioning assignment, my current preference is that Kinkaid plays in Tampa Bay this coming Tuesday and Schneider makes his debut against Detroit next Thursday. If he plays like he did today in Tampa, then I think the Devils will have a chance to come away from the Amalie Arena with points.
I Told You They Were Amazing: My post this morning was about how great the Devils’ top line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri have been this season They further justified that post in today’s game. While Florida ended up leading in Corsi and shots in 5-on-5 play overall (41-54, 23-24, respectively), this line was above 50% in attempts and above 70% in shots. In other words, when they were on the ice, the Devils were often attacking and creating opportunities. It took them a while to get going in the first period, but they had the first non-angled shot at Reimer, they created the first two goals, and they kept making chances. While they only took five shots between the three, they scored twice. The boxscore lists goal for Hall, a goal and an assist for Palmieri, and two assists for Hischier. This line deserves a name.
And the second goal deserves its own video to be posted in the middle of this recap.
Aaron Ekblad unwisely went away from Hall to defend a potential pass. Palmieri fired a superb saucer pass of Ekblad’s stick to a wide open Hall in front of the net. Leaving Taylor Hall alone in front of the net? Florida, you deserved every decibel of the “HEY! YOU SUCK!” after the 2017-18 MVP dunked on Reimer. And do note that the play begins with Hischier winning a board battle because like a certain B.G., Hischier plays bigger than his actual size.
This line needs a name and needs to be together for as long as possible.
The Controversial First Goal: In the dying seconds of the first period, Hall won an offensive zone faceoff and Hischier passed it back to Severson. The defenseman unloaded a snapshot. Palmieri deflected it and it got past Reimer as the goalie fell. Live, it was called a goal on the ice. Live, it appeared Palmieri bumped Reimer and that’s why it was a goal. The play was challenged for goaltender interference and, live, I thought there was a case to be made for it. It did look like Palmieri contacted the goalie.
If I had the benefit of slow-motion, then I think I would have been more confident. It did appear through replays that Reimer initiated the contact. According to the NHL’s website, the official explanation was that the contact was incidental and it was outside of the crease. Still, I was surprised that the goal was held up since goalie interference calls have gone both ways over the years. I am happy that it did. As a result, the Devils went up 1-0 right before intermission and Palmieri still has a goals-per-game rate of 1.
Texas was Back: Blake Coleman, Stefan Noesen, and Travis Zajac were re-united for today’s game. With Marcus Johansson being out sick and Joey Anderson brought into the lineup, some changes were made. How did they do? Well, the line did provide New Jersey’s first goal without 9-13-21 being involved in a while when Coleman re-directed a shot by Mueller. The line also played with speed with Coleman hitting quite a few Panthers from the first period onward. Overall, the run of play was not so kind to them; the line was out-attempted and out-shot by 2-4 shots in 5-on-5 play. Still, it was not a heinous day for them.
Due to that reunion, the other middle line was Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, and Jean-Sebastien Dea. This line was also not so good in the runof play at 5-on-5. They also arguably had more negative moments. Wood did not play smart in the first period as he took a delay of game call and got his leg out to trip Matheson on a forecheck. He was better in the other two periods if only for not taking calls; instead he drew one during a power play (Trocheck high-sticked him after Trocheck failed on a shorthanded breakaway). Zacha was OK and did deny Florida an early score; but he had another agonizing miss when he missed a tap-in from Noesen on a rush play near the end of the Devils’ fourth power play of the day. The sort of miss that will cause fans to lament his lack of production - and they would not be wrong. Dea played a game of ice hockey. The line was not that great, although it was not a disaster either.
Mike’s point about a lack of secondary scoring still rings true, but at least this crew provided a goal. And it stood up as the winner. Small steps.
The Debut of Anderson: Joey Anderson made his NHL debut today on a fourth line with Brian Boyle and Kevin Rooney. With the penalties, the fourth line was limited to less than nine minutes today. Anderson played 8:30, took no attempts, registered no shots, and when he was on the ice, the Devils were out-attempted 7-10 and out-shot 3-7. That’s not all Anderson’s fault; the fourth line did not create much offense as a whole (Rooney and Boyle are hardly offensive weapons) and they had a bad shift after Matheson’s goal that led to those differentials. I thought Anderson looked decent, but he did not really do much different than John Quenneville from the Nashville game. Still, congratulations to Anderson for making his NHL debut. We may see more of him in the future.
Good and Bad on D: Since the team allowed 37 shots and 81 attempts in total, I cannot say the Devils were really good on defense. I still have some thoughts.
First, Mueller and Vatanen both had good games marred by some poor decisions on the puck. One of Mueller’s turnovers thankfully became a highlight for Kinkaid instead of Dadonov. Vatanen’s passing into or through the neutral zone were hit or miss and he took a hooking penalty I do not think he needed to take. But overall, they put in a fine game. Offensively, while Mueller had created the goal, Vatanen tried his best with five shots out of ten attempts by himself. In terms of the run of play in 5-on-5, the Devils out-attempted and out-shot Florida when Mueller and Vatanen were on the ice. That’s big seeing that the Devils were out-attempted 41-54 in 5-on-5 play and that pairing saw plenty of Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Dadonov.
Second, Damon Severson had a good game despite Andy Greene. Severson created a goal and ended up with a superior CF% than Greene. While the Devils being out-attempted 14-23 is not great; the team did out-shoot the Panthers 10-9 with 28 on the ice. Both are better marks than Greene’s 8-22 for attempts and 5-9 for shots. Going to the Linemates section for both is instructive. While the pairing yielded the Devils being out-attempted 7-18, Severson with the Hischier line was positive (as in the Devils out-attempted Florida) and Severson with other defensemen were slightly positive. Greene, on the other hand, was in the red throughout the lineup. Throw in Greene getting beaten by Matheson for Florida’s first goal and that is why I think Severson played better than Greene today. Greene could have been better.
Eric Gryba was more annoying to watch than against Nashville. In the first period, he went for a hit on a dump-in during a penalty kill and tripped up Hoffman. This meant the Devils had to kill a 3-on-5 for a bit and then kill the rest of Gryba’s minor. In the second period, he harnessed the power of the last guy who wore #2 and went in on a pinch that failed miserably and forced Will Butcher and Kinkaid to bail him out. In the third period, he just got to play a lot of defense. In other words, I miss Ben Lovejoy and Steve Santini.
I think if the Devils were not cruising throughout the third period, the defense would have been better than it was. But it was not like the entire blueline was made of paper today.
Special Teams: The Devils’ PK was great in the first period and ensured they would not give the Panthers any hope in the third period. In fact, they not only held that third-period PP to one shot but Coleman created a breakaway. Unfortunately, he made the same move that he didn’t score on against Nashville and ended up skying the shot. In a 3-0 game, that does not sting as much as it did in a 3-2 game on Thursday.
The Devils’ PP is no longer hot. The Devils had four power plays with two overlapping for a brief 5-on-3. Not only did they not score, the Devils only put up three shots on net. Florida was aggressive on their forecheck, which often resulted in the puck carrier being left on an island and struggling to make a pass for the breakout. The back pass did not free up much space for a good zone entry and when the Devils did complete one, it was not long before Florida won the puck and cleared it away. The Devils are going to have to make some adjustments when they face aggressive penalty kills. Otherwise, they will have more power plays like their first and fourth ones today where all they did was take two minutes off the clock.
A Good Problem to Have: The Devils could have iced this game with two third-period breakaways. Coleman missed on his shorthanded breakaway. A turnover in the neutral zone gave Hall a complete one-on-one with Reimer only for the goalie to stuff them. It would be great if the Devils could finish these breakaways. Unless I am mistaken, the Devils have yet to score on one of these this season. At the same time, this is a good problem to have since the Devils have scored many goals in several other ways such as off deflections, power plays, rush-plays, and good shots from good plays. I have to recall where I read it, but breakaways generally have a 33% shooting percentage. So if the Devils keep generating one or more per game, then I am confident they will result in goals. Therefore, the Devils should keep at it.
Warrior: Lauren “The Warrior” Liff (@Letsg0devs) sang the National Anthem and did a very good job of it.
Site Note: The October Month in Review will be posted on November 5.
One Final Thought: Hall narrowly missed on an empty-net goal from his own sideboards by a couple of inches. ENGs seal off games and the Devils could help themselves by getting more of them. It would have boosted the score to make it more reflective of who was the better team today. That said, they have not had too many empty-net situations this season and they did get one already from the Edmonton game in Sweden which just turned 4-2 into 5-2. So it is not this big thing the Devils have not yet done in this young season. Since the Devils had a two-goal lead, it was not mission-critical to do everything possible to get it. If the Devils keep playing well enough to have leads going into the final few minutes of regulation, then they’ll get more opportunities at it too. As with the breakaways, I’d like to think they’ll get there.
Your Take: The Devils snapped a three-game winless streak by snapping Florida in a 3-2 win. What are your thoughts from this victory? Who impressed you the most? How amazing was that pass from Palmieri to Hall? What name should we give the line of 9-13-21? Who needs to step it up in the next few games? What should the Devils take away from this game to better prepare themselves for Tampa Bay on Tuesday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
Thanks to Devin for the game preview,Mike for running the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and to all those who followed the Twitter account and/or commented in the Gamethread during this game. Thank you for reading. 12 years of blogging down, and many more to go.