While the tri-state area was being hit hard by snow and sleet, the Wells Fargo Center was being given a show from the mostly lights-out performance by Keith Kinkaid. The New Jersey Devils shutout the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-0, thanks largely to the team’s current #1 and the owner of the #1 jersey on the roster, Keith Kinkaid. He faced 29 shots and got them all. He saw 54 unblocked attempts and was not phased. He witnessed 68 attempts, with a lot of them coming out of desperation to get something on the board. He held true. No, he did not score the goals tonight. But he ensured that the Devils were going to have a better time in Philadelphia than the October 20 game. Based on his performance, the Devils obtained a degree of revenge on the Winged P’s.
How in the zone was Keith Kinkaid? In the final minutes, Kinkaid went out of his net to play a puck and turned around the post like he was Martin Brodeur in 1997. He flung the puck up the middle and Wayne Simmonds picked it off. The net was empty and the Sportscenter Not Top 10 clip was ready to go. But somehow. But someway. Kinkaid dove to the crease and got a piece of the shot with his stick. I thought Ben Lovejoy saved the goal, but it was Kinkaid. Simmonds was effectively given a gift for Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Boxing Day, and the Great American Smokeout and Kinkaid robbed him of that gift. That’s how in the zone he was tonight.
Kinkaid did get some help. First and foremost, the Flyers hit the post five times. Four of which in the first period, and two of those came on one power play. The goal frame is a goalie’s best friend and the goal frame had Kinkaid’s back tonight. These weren’t weak ones off the side frame. These were shots that woke people up; there was no mistaking what the post hit.
Second, James van Reimsdyk took a goal off the board for Philadelphia. After the Flyers drew their first power play, the play was faceoff win, pass, shot by Shayne Gostisbehere, and score. However, the refs waved it off for incidental contact. Dave Hakstol challenged the ruling. The replay on TV and, presumably what the refs saw, was van Reimsdyk skate into Kinkaid on a moving screen. His side hit his glove and just as the shot was coming towards the crease, van Reimsdyk’s hip came cross Kinkaid’s head. Given the nonsense from Tuesday’s night game, the NHL seemingly treats goaltender interference like the NFL defines a catch and roughing the passer and the NBA handles traveling. I was pleased to see common sense prevail for a change this evening. It was a great wave-off by the ref, the challenge was upheld, and the shutout was still alive.
Third, the Flyers’ accuracy was terrible. Officially, they were credited for 25 missed shots. It could have been more. The Flyers surely had the run of play down, which is expected to a degree as they were trailing. However, 29 out of 68 attempts actually getting to Kinkaid is a remarkable level of inefficiency. They weren’t all posts that denied the shots. Many went astray. Andy MacDonald was credited for five misses by himself. Some of the team’s most offensively talented players - Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Sean Coutrier - each had at least two. Sure, the Flyers ended up tilting the ice more often than not, but it did not seem like a threat at times because the shifts did not yield much.
This is all not to say that Kinkaid had it easy. No, it is to point out that there were some things that went the Devils way. But Kinkaid was massive in the crease tonight.
The Flyers crashed the net early, often, and successfully. The Flyers racked up 35 scoring chances and 19 high-danger chances in all situations tonight per Natural Stat Trick. In contrast, the Devils generated 18 and 9, respectively. Giving up chances is one thing, but the one thing about the team has been protecting its area around the net in most cases. That was not the case and so Kinkaid had to be composed with jam plays, point-blank shots (his denial of Couturier in front on a power play was great), and ones ending up from the slot.
With all of the attempts, Kinkaid had to be alert throughout the game. While the Devils nearly had as many shots on net, the attempts point to how the flow of the game went. The Flyers absolutely played like a team that wanted to get back into the game. When they did find the target, Kinkaid said “no.” No, to an open shot by MacDonald on a move that fooled nearly everyone. No, to long bombs by Gostisbehere. No, to tricky ones from Giroux. No, to multiple free ones from the high-slot by Voracek. No, to a breakaway out of the penalty box by Folin. No, to those aforementioned point-blank shots. No, to six power play shots against from four power plays for Philly. Kinkaid said no over and over and over and it was good.
Adding to the degree of difficulty was the loss of Sami Vatanen. 4:36 into the second period, Provorov high-sticked Vatanen. As a result, the defenseman was knocked off-balance and crashed into the right (Kinkaid’s right) corner. Vatanen went back to the locker room and would not return. This meant the Devils were again playing with five defensemen in Philadelphia. Given that Philly did not rack up a ton of shots and the offense did not disappear entirely, I’d say the defensive effort was admirable. Will Butcher and Damon Severson stepped up; Ben Lovejoy was more active; and even Mirco Mueller was more aware of his position and when he was on the puck. Still, that can create match-up issues over time and a miscommunication there and a misunderstanding here could be costly. But Kinkaid ensured it would not be tonight.
Not to detract from his other two shutouts, but this one was extremely well-earned by Kinkaid. Philly did not play last night and this is the middle of November so everyone has the early-part of the season worked out of their system. Yes, he got some help; but Kinkaid was magnificent from big saves to routine saves to giving the Flyers not a whole lot to shoot at (which they tried anyway). He reigned supreme in what was a gutsy 3-0 win in Philadelphia.
The Opposition Opinion: Kyle F. has this recap of the Flyers’ latest loss at Broad Street Hockey.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here are tonight’s highlights. The goals that actually counted and were scored legally were only by the Devils tonight:
Oh, Yeah, The Goals. Those Were Important Too: Kinkaid was great but despite his nearly disastrous attempt, he did not score any of the goals tonight. Here, Blake Coleman deserves special mention as he was involved in all three goals. A summary of each one:
The first goal was a beautiful combination play started by a big check by Sami Vatanen at the Flyers’ blueline. It was a risk but it paid off as the puck was freed up. Coleman took it, held it up just enough for Joey Anderson and Brett Seney to get on-side, and then carried it in. Coleman passed it to his right to Seney at the sideboards. Seney one-touched it back to Anderson, who was trailing Coleman. Anderson one-timed the pass for a shot that sailed through the legs of defenseman Christian Folin and goaltender Brian Elliott. That was Anderson’s first ever NHL goal. That was Seney’s first ever NHL assist. That was the first point of the night for Coleman. That was the first goal of the game.
Congratulations to Anderson and Seney for the firsts.
The second goal came in the third period. The Devils had some big chances to score. Pavel Zacha was robbed on what seemed like a sure-fire one-timer goal on the weakside. Jesper Bratt was robbed on the resulting rebound. Taylor Hall had chances. Miles Wood even had a big one in front that Elliott denied. Say what you want about Brian Elliott, but he played very well tonight. Unfortunately, one of these would be finished by New Jersey and it would be more costly for Elliott. Ben Lovejoy broke up a Flyers’ entry and Travis Zajac won the puck in the neutral zone. He made a short pass to Coleman, who carried the puck up and tossed it to Palmieri. As Palmieri headed down the wing, Coleman went to the net to draw some attention. Palmieri beat Ivan Provorov, Elliott went hard to his right, Palmieri wrapped around the net, and tucked the puck in the post as Elliott failed to get across. That is because he injured himself on the play. The Devils were up 2-0 and Elliott had to be replaced by Calvin Pickard. I do not like seeing players get hurt - even rivals - so I hope Elliott will be OK soon. As for the score, it was refreshing. Elliott was playing well enough such that I was nearly convinced he was not going to be beaten again. Thanks to Palmieri, that did not happen. Coleman’s primary assist was his second of the night.
The third goal came towards the end. Needing something late, the Flyers pulled Pickard for an extra skater. After a faceoff loss, Voracek attempted a cross-ice pass. Palmieri intercepted it. Instead of just firing a long one, Palmieri settled the puck, and made an easy exit pass to Coleman. Coleman responsibly carried the puck over the red line, he took a shot (it would not be icing), and hit the net. Coleman’s goal sealed the game and his first-ever three-point night in the NHL.
CJ wrote about Coleman being the team’s best non-top line forward on Wednesday. Even Coleman liked it on Twitter. You should go read it given he had a significant positive impact - five shots to lead the team, three points on the boxscore - on tonight’s game.
The Mitigating Numbers about the Run of Play Tonight: The trio Coleman, Seney, and Anderson suffered the most from an attempts perspective. When either of them were on the ice in 5-on-5 play, the Devils were out-attempted 8-18 (Coleman), 7-18 (Seney), or 5-17 (Anderson). But given how the Flyers struggled to find the net, the shots against were only 6-7 (Coleman), 4-9 (Seney), and 3-7 (Anderson). Those aren’t great but it is not as bad as one would think from the attempts. That was the worst of it among the Devils skaters.
The on-ice numbers for this game at Natural Stat Trick are filled with these big differences. Andy Greene is another example. When he was on the ice, the Devils were out-attempted by 13 but only out-shot by 2. It’s not something great; we should want the Devils to not get run over in attempts and chances in games. But given how only a fraction of them were actual shots for Kinkaid and the Devils weren’t bodied in that category, it is not so bad.
Was Anyone Above 50% CF% on New Jersey?: Yes! The top line! Travis Zajac’s stat line is impressive if only for the fact that when he was on the ice, the Flyers generated just one shot on net in 5-on-5 play. One! Zajac, Hall, and Palmieri was commonly matched with Giroux, Konecny, and Couturier, which is a tough line to play against. Keeping those three (plus Robert Hagg and Provorov) to one shot is impressive. The Zajac renaissance continues, as Gerard would probably write. Hall and Palmieri were also quite good in this regard. Palmieri did score the refreshing and relaxing insurance goal plus setting up the ENG, so he definitely brought something to the proverbial table.
Jesper Bratt also ended up on the right side of 50%. He put on his working skates tonight. I enjoyed his forechecks. He was brave to go in deep, get physical, and won a few pucks for it. He was good to keep hustling throughout the night. As such, he stood out from Marcus Johansson and Pavel Zacha from the run of play. They weren’t bad, but Bratt was better off. He also drew a penalty too. He did take a silly minor penalty in beefing with Not Nico, but Nolan Patrick took one as well so it was just a 4-on-4 situation.
Aside: Nolan Patrick did play tonight. So did Wayne Simmonds. I can forgive you if you needed this part of the recap to remind you. They were largely forgettable except for a moment or two.
No defensemen made it above 50% but Vatanen and Butcher were even in attempts for and against, and when Severson was on, the Devils ended up only being out attempted by one. That’s all quite good given that, as a team, the Devils were out-attempted by 13 in 5-on-5 play; and that Butcher and Severson took on additional minutes after Vatanen left the game.
No, He Didn’t Score Again But...: Pavel Zacha is the most snake-bitten Devil. Sure, Johansson (who was robbed by Pickard) and Wood have been unlucky. Bratt too at times. But Zacha had a glorious chance to score a goal tonight; a one-timer at a near-empty net on Elliott’s flank during the Devils’ second power play. (Aside: This was the closest the power play got to scoring tonight; the Devils struggled against the Flyers’ PK and with their inconsistency with making the cross-ice passes required for their zone entries and 1-3-1 formation.) Somehow, Elliott made the save. Only Palmieri topped it later that period by whiffing on a potentially killer cross-slot pass from Zajac (the puck did bounce up on him).
But, like in the Pittsburgh game, Zacha got a tough match-up and won it. Tonight, he saw Patrick and Voracek for over 7 minutes tonight. Oscar Lindblom and van Reimsdyk split up time as the other winger. In 5-on-5 play where Zacha was on the ice against Patrick, Voracke, and/or Lindblom, the Devils out-attempted and out-shot the Flyers. Given that did not happen throughout all match-ups and the sheer frightening skill of Voracek alone, that’s another impressive feather in Zacha’s cap. I want him to score too, but wininng these match ups point to what I saw in the game. I saw a young player maintain his assignments, make good reads, and support his teammates on and off the puck. He was very good on the PK although I did not like the hooking call he took in the first period. Still, the point remains, he had another good performance. I just hope he starts getting points somehow, someway soon to secure his spot in New Jersey.
Playing with Fire: The Devils took four minors and the fouls were mostly legit. The only bad call was Hall being tagged for tripping Dale Wiese. Yes, Hall’s leg was out but he was going for the puck. The man who took out his skate was Zajac, but he did not get blamed. In any case, the Devils PK and Kinkaid kept the slate clean; but the Flyers had some of their more threatening chances on the power play tonight. The Devils were fortunate to not be burned while playing with fire.
Fun Sloppy: From the start of the game and up until the end, the puck was bouncing a lot, the action was up-tempo, hits were thrown without getting too ridiculous or nasty, and defensive plays often led to counter-attacks. This was not the sharpest game by either team, but it did make for an entertaining game. Call it “fun sloppy.”
Food Drive Reminder: The Devils’ food drive will continue on Saturday. Bring 2 items of non-perishable food and you will receive a voucher for 2 free tickets. Go and help someone and get rewarded!
A Step Up: Thanks to Pittsburgh losing to Tampa Bay in regulation, the Devils are now seventh in the division and two points behind Philadelphia with games in hand. The Devils’ second road win of the season had good timing. With more good fortunes (and results this weekend), the Devils may be able to climb themselves up in the standings soon.
I’m waiting and seeing how the weekend goes before I declare any slumps to be over. But this was the first time the Devils won consecutive games since the winning streak to start the season. It feels good. I like this. I want this to continue.
Anniversary: My most beloved reader reminded me that my first full post at SB Nation went up ten years ago. Yes, In Lou We Trust / All About the Jersey turned 10 today. I completely forgot about it between life, work, a snow storm, getting home without hitting anything, and paying attention to the game. Thank you all: from the tech people to the league managers to Tyler Blezsinski (if only for starting an A’s site instead of a Devils site) to the many writers on this site and, most of all, you, the readers. Thank you for supporting the site on SBN for a decade. Let’s try to keep the world-class Devils blog going for as long as possible.
One Last Thought: Yeah, faceoffs were better for New Jersey tonight. Zacha and Jean-Sebastien Dea won over 50%; Zajac went 9-for-20; and the team won 45% of them overall. It was a far cry better than the October 20 game. That said, this is really just a footnote. The faceoffs did not really factor in the result or how the performance went. But, even as a footnote, it is another small piece of evidence that tonight was a better one than the last game in Philly.
Your Take: The Devils won two in a row by shutting out Philadelphia, 3-0. Keith Kinkaid was great. Joey Anderson’s first NHL goal was great. Blake Coleman being involved in all three goals was great. Was it a perfect performance? No. Do things need to be better? Yes. Should we hope for health soon? With Vatanen joining Hischier, Boyle, and Santini, yes. But should we be happy for the win over the Second Rate Rivals? Absolutely! Please let me know what you think about the victory, the performance, and what you saw tonight.
Thanks to Chris for the game preview, Mike for running @AAtJerseyBlog account during the game, and the people who commented in the Gamethread. Thank you for reading.