By the boxscore, the New Jersey Devils lost 3-4 to the Detroit Red Wings with the game winning goal being an empty net shorthanded goal by Trevor Daley. Down 2-3, the Devils pulled the goalie. With about 49 seconds and change, a jam play was denied by Jimmy Howard. Jonathan Ericsson cross-checked down Marcus Johansson and the refs called the penalty. With six skaters against four, this was a big chance for the Devils to tie it up. Brian Boyle lost the faceoff clean, Daley took the puck, he fired a clearance that went hard around the boards, the puck went past Will Butcher, and the puck slowly slid into the gaping net. Due to a total consolation goal by Johansson with four seconds left, that ended up being the game winner. It was a bad break if there was ever was one. Of course, this is All About the Jersey, and we know better than to rely solely on the boxscore in recapping a game.
Truth be told, the Devils earned this loss in Detroit. They were bad. Detroit has been beset by injury at forward such that they dressed eleven forwards and seven defensemen. They out-worked, out-skated, and out-played the Devils for stretches in this game. They controlled most of the pace of the game. Even when the Devils tied it up or had a brief lead, the Red Wings were keeping up the attack, threatening to score, and eventually did so. The Devils, in contrast, constantly lost pucks going forward, could not slow down Detroit when they got their cycle going, and were chasing plenty of plays. While it was not a rout like the recent 3-8 loss in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, this is a worse loss. If only because I am left wondering what the Devils actually learned from that loss and what they did to prepare for this game. Apparently, not much for either.
I will give credit to Detroit first. This is their third-straight win. Thought to be the doormats of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, they picked up wins over Dallas (who are playoff contenders and just beat Toronto) and Columbus. Their puck control was quite good. They had the puck on their sticks more often, which allowed them to play faster. With the Devils fumbling passes or having pucks in transition blocked or deflected away, the Red Wings were able to swoop in and take advantage. Their special teams have been quite successful to start this season and their power play tonight was effective at setting up and distributing. Dylan Larkin was a Hall-like threat. Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm were effective getting forward. The limited minutes of Martin Frk and Wade Megan were usually great ones for Detroit. Their blueline (sort-of except for Niklas Kronwall) was very good at both ends; they supported Howard and their forwards well. Maybe the Red Wings end up as the basement dwellers of their division and/or conference. Tonight, they were anything but. If nothing else, the Devils players, coaches, and especially fans should take this loss as a reminder that playing poorly against anyone in the NHL is likely going to end badly.
What frustrates me about this loss was how the Devils did not really react to what was happening. The first period was not terrible but a lot of worrisome signs were there with respect to passing, supporting each other on defense, and Detroit’s general hustle. I don’t know what John Hynes and his staff did - or did not - in the first intermission, but the Devils were even worse. Down a goal, the Red Wings were carrying the play and attacking as if they were losing by two and needed to score to save a rabbit’s life or some such. While the Devils ended up tying the game in the second period, the Red Wings pressed on. While the Devils went up 2-1 early in the third, the Devils conceded another penalty, conceded a PPGA, and continued to concede the pace of the game to the home team. While the Devils went down 2-3 (and this was enraging enough to warrant its own section in this recap), the Red Wings were attacking up until there was less than two minutes left - which is not so coincidentally when the Devils had an extra skater on the ice. You know how that ended.
So while the GWG was some really awful luck, the Devils put up a second-rate performance for the better part of sixty minutes tonight. They were flat. They were slow. They were rolled by the Red Wings tonight. They earned this ‘L,’ which was more clear from the performance than the score would suggest. Combined with the fact that the Devils are 1-4-1 since their awesome 4-0 start to the season, and I can understand why Devils fans are unhappy and upset and thinking the worst. 5-4-1 is not at all an abysmal record but with the road trip continuing for another five games, I agree that this may get worse before it gets better and that is not at all a good place for the team or the organization to be in.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out this recap by Mike Bremer at Winging it in Motown, where they are understandably happy about this game.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, the game’s highlights:
Poor Schneider: Cory Schneider made his first start of the season tonight. He did get some minutes in Tampa Bay after Keith Kinkaid was beaten seven times, but this was his first full game. He was good. He was even named a star by Tonight’s Attending Media in what turned out to be a 3-4 loss. In 5-on-5, he stopped everything. From routine saves to quick reactions to some netmouth scrambles where he even made stops on his behind. On special teams, Schneider was beaten three times and maybe only the first one was stoppable. Let’s review them.
That one was a one-timer by Martin Frk that got through between his right arm and his body. It was a one-timer that was created across the slot so it is never an easy shot to stop, but he did get some of it so perhaps he should have had all of it. That was GA #1. The other two weren’t his fault and anyone claiming otherwise should watch the tape and probably stop trolling. The second GA was a rebound put-back by Michael Rasmussen. The young forward was camped out in front of the crease. Schneider made a save on a shot from Nyquist. The rebound was short and Rasmussen was in the right place and at the right time to lift it up and in for a PPGA. Will Butcher was a little late to getting to Rasmussen. Normally, Butcher is not on a penalty kill but with Sami Vatanen serving a minor that led to the situation and Mirco Mueller sitting for fighting, he had to be there. That was a play where he needed to tie up a stick or try to body up Rasmussen. Butcher loses the size game but he wasn’t quick enough to help out Schneider and what happened would happen to any goalie on any team. The third GA was, well, enraging and deserves its own section. I’ll just state here that Schneider did his job on that play.
The larger point is that Schneider came in for his first game and gave his team many chances to stay in a tied or one-goal game. His reward was being hung out to dry several times and not getting a lot of support from offense (creating attempts and shots mean the other team isn’t doing it) or defense as the Red Wings skated around the Devils like pylons in their own end on several shifts. The goalie did not get the support he needed. I feel for him in these situations. Even if Kinkaid started this one after conceding 7 to the Bolts, he’d suffer a similar fate because the 18 guys in front of him didn’t play well at all tonight. Poor Schneider. This isn’t on him, no matter how some fans want to highlight a cherry-picked statline because they have some bizarre beef against the man.
The Enraging Play: The situation was a good one created by Kyle Palmieri. After a good defensive play by Damon Severson, Kyle Palmieri was sprung for a one-on-one with Niklas Kronwall. Palmieri got around the defender and Kronwall hauled him down. It was not a clear breakaway, so it was just a holding penalty instead of a penalty shot. In a 2-2 game where the Devils were being out-done in 5-on-5, this was a welcomed opportunity. The following then occurred:
First, Boyle won the offensive zone faceoff. Palmieri gets the puck on the right sideboards and passes it to Will Butcher at the top of the 1-3-1 formation before Justin Abdelkader arrives. No issue there.
Second, Luke Glendening is applying pressure on Butcher. With his stick outstretched, Butcher forces a pass to his right to Hall and so the puck is blocked by Glendening’s stick. Abdelkader sees this and turns.
Third, Glendening recovers the puck and instantly charges forward. Butcher drops back. Abdelkader is the second Red Wing exiting the zone as Glendening carries the puck out. Three Devils - Palmieri, Nico Hischier, and Taylor Hall - are behind the two Red Wings.
Fourth, as Glendening enters New Jersey’s zone, Butcher starts skating backwards. Glendening first looks for a pass. Butcher is in the way of a pass but he is not covering Abdelkader.
Fifth, Glendening shoots the puck towards the left post (far post). Schneider stops it. Butcher turns around to look for the puck as he still is not covering Abdelkader.
Sixth, an uncovered Abdelkader pounds in the rebound.
Twelve seconds into a third-period power play, the Devils give up their first shorthanded goal of the season and it was effectively a backbreaker. This was maddening to watch live. Upon watching it again for this recap, it still irks me. I now realize that it was not that two Devils watch Abdelkader step right in to put home a rebound. Hischier had to cover a lot of ground to get within three feet of Abdelkader and given where each player started on this rush, it is not fair to fault him for not catching him. However, this was very much all on Will Butcher. He forced the pass in the face of pressure for the turnover. While he smartly retreated in case of a counter-attack, he ended up defending nothing. Yes, he was in the passing lane but he needed to be on Abdelkader to try to stop him from doing what he ended up doing. Schneider had the shot and he made the initial save. The defender’s job is to clean up any rebounds or loose pucks in that situation and Butcher did not put himself in a position to do so.
As a result, Schneider and the Devils have an egg on their face and Detroit went up in what could’ve been a salvaged game. While this did not hold up as the game winner, this goal allowed effectively won Detroit the game. And it was a terrible one for the team to allow. Palmieri earned them a power play. Boyle won a faceoff. The team was in formation. And in seconds it blew up in their faces. Again, what was the team’s response to this? It wasn’t enough and Detroit did well to keep New Jersey more than honest until the final minutes. Frustration is not even the word.
Defensemen Thoughts: The 5-on-5 numbers for Mirco Mueller and Will Butcher flatter their respective performances. Mueller spent the first two periods being skated around and making poor decisions that led to free shots by Detroit. Butcher was bad around the net and that contributed to two goals against tonight, as previously described.
Sami Vatanen finally scored a goal after 27 shots this season. It was a power play goal that beat Howard through a screen set by Miles Wood. It was a mix of PP1 and PP2 on the play that worked out. Not long after that Vatanen interfered with Larkin. Maybe it was questionable but no more than the two minors Larkin took earlier in the game. That penalty ended up being costly. He was not beaten up in 5-on-5 play.
The pairing of Andy Greene and Damon Severson was absolutely beaten up in 5-on-5 play. Their CF%s tonight were around 41% and 30%, respectively. They played a lot of defense and struggled to get out of their own end plenty of times. Adding to it, Severson took a dumb holding call when he grabbed Anthony Mantha’s jersey near the end of the second period. At least the Devils killed it. And at least Severson denied Frk a sure goal at the right post in the third period; but this pairing was stuck in mud for a lot of their ice time tonight. Ben Lovejoy continued to underwhelm with the team being out-shot (and generating very little) when he was on the ice on top of taking a stick-hold call that ended with Frk’s goal.
Overall, giving up 31 shots is not terrible. But these 31 shots were from 58 attempts that also include 32 scoring chances and 11 “high danger” chances according to Natural Stat Trick. Much of this was in 5-on-5 play too. Being stuck back and not connecting cleanly on breakouts and exits also contributed to the Devils only generating 36 attempts and 16 shots in 5-on-5 play. So while Vatanen got a goal and Severson created a great play for Palmieri that led to a PP, I cannot really say the defense as a whole had a good game.
Offensive Struggles?: Despite three goals on the board, the Marcus Johansson goal was scored with four seconds left tonight. It does not really register as anything but something to break the string of zeroes on his statistical game log. The Devils weren’t far off from Detroit in all situation play, but again in 5-on-5, the Devils were held to just 36 attempts and 16 shots on net. Their one goal was a sweet one. Travis Zajac hooked up Blake Coleman just outside of the slot and Coleman ripped one high past Howard. It was a rare chance where a Devil was both close to the net and open.
There could have been more opportunities generated tonight. But the Devils kept playing into Detroit’s defensive ways (Detroit’s forwards were very supportive) and kept losing pucks from their own poor passes and decisions. Offensive plays that looked to be intentional and not just throw-something-at-the-goalie-and-hope-it-bounces-right were few and far between. I’d say the first line had the most and best chances. But even then it was not consistent and Detroit would often respond with an attacking rush on the same shift when they would win the puck back or get something going on the next one. The fourth line was not abysmal but one cannot rely on Boyle, Kevin Rooney, and Jean-Sebastien Dea for an attack. They didn’t generate much either way. The middle two lines were beaten and while Coleman got a goal and Johansson would get one, the combo of Zajac, Johansson, and Miles Wood was picked on relentlessly by Detroit. Wood was particularly ineffective, especially on defense tonight. Pavel Zacha did not fare too well either, so I anticipate another run of comments lamenting how he’s not a star instead of the ox that he is (thanks Tony Rolo for that comparison) as if he lost the game - which he didn’t. I guess Joey Anderson was fine. But the offensive issue tonight at 5-on-5 was team-wide and not specific to one player or even one line.
Overall, a sharper Devils team could have utilized their speed and really put the Detroit squad on their heels. But they were not sharp, it did not seem they were properly prepared, and so the Red Wings often tilted the ice their way and the Devils’ offense was left wanting - despite scoring three goals tonight.
A Small Note: Palmieri is no longer averaging a goal per game this season. That run ended. Taylor Hall still has a point streak with a primary assist on the consolation goal.
A Potential Problem: So John Hynes was just out coached by Jon Cooper and Jeff Blashill. Barry Trotz is the bench boss of the next opponent. Trotz is a very smart coach for an Isles team currently punching above its weight. They won their fourth straight, which includes wins over Carolina and two over Pittsburgh. I am worried for Saturday.
Related: Can somebody in the professional media that isn’t a team employee ask Hynes about the team’s lack of adjustments after intermissions from the last two games. Or the team conceding goals and potential games in the third period since the winning streak? Or how the team came out overall flat against a Detroit team after being blown out by Tampa Bay? I may be just a blogger but I think these are valid questions to ask. I know several fans would be interested in the answers. Basically, the last two games have been bad and the team has been mostly sliding since shutting out Dallas. What’s up with that, Hynes?
Don’t Panic...Yet: The team is 5-4-1. While I understand the frustration over this game and agree with much of it, perhaps we can leave the “We suck now” and “When’s the draft” and “where’s the tank” comments until the Devils are actually in seventh or eighth in the Metropolitan? I agree they are on a bad trend and this could get worse before it gets better. However, I remind you, the team is 5-4-1.
One Last Thought: The broadcast did announce that the Devils are holding their food drive on three nights in November: November 13, November 17, and November 21. Per Steve Cangialosi, if you bring two non-perishable food items, then you will receive a voucher for free tickets to a future game. So go to those games, help out some people, and score some extra tickets. If memory serves, the collections are held outside of the arena provided it is not raining. So you could just show up in Newark with some food, get a voucher, and leave. I hope the preceding sentence did not jinx that possibility.
Your Take: The Devils played badly and earned a 3-4 loss to Detroit. I am not happy with it. You’re probably not happy with it. I’m sure you have your scapegoats ready to go for this one. I’m sure I included some of mine in this recap. All the same, what is your take about this loss? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Thanks to Chris for the game preview. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed along on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog. Thank you for reading.