After yesterday afternoon’s disappointing result against the Detroit Red Wings, our New Jersey Devils looked to rebound against a Carolina Hurricanes team in a similar situation; both were on the latter halves of back to backs, so on paper it appeared as though this would be a match-up of somewhat tired teams.
The last time I wrote a recap for a New Jersey Devils game was against the Winnipeg Jets from one week ago; coincidentally, that game was also the last time Cory Schneider started. Also coincidentally, I could probably have copy and pasted the first paragraph of period 1 from that game to start out tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, with just a few changes to names.
The Devils fell apart within half of a minute in a game for the second straight Sunday, though this time it literally only took the first half minute of the entire game! Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev had a collective brain fart on their first shift pressing too far forward while not really tracking the whereabouts of the puck. Travis Zajac and Taylor Hall would attempt to get back and cover, but Justin Williams was too far away from where both were and he placed a slow wrist shot that seemed to go both five hole and under Cory’s right leg. While the defenders are certainly to blame, that first goal was the definition of a Schneider Softy and one of, if not the main reason why he’s no longer this team’s starter; starting goalies make that save.
The next goal saw a Damon Severson pass get picked off, and the Canes exploit a 3 on 2 advantage; Micheal Ferland would convert (Schneider made a good attempt but couldn’t come up with the big save) on a cross ice pass for a 2 goal lead with 19:30 to go. Thankfully, Jersey’s team did not roll over and just over 6 minutes later Jesper Bratt would do the exact same thing that he did yesterday: find Pavel Zacha (yes, that Pavel Zacha) for a goal. Zacha grabbed his second of the season, and the Devils grabbed some of the momentum back.
Severson recovered from his earlier gaffe to have a much stronger rest of the first and almost tied the game with under 8 minutes left off of a blistering shot from the point; the puck would hit off Canes’ goalie Curtis McElhinney and unfortunately die in the crease allowing the goalie fondly known as McBackup to find and cover the puck. Hall would be dragged down on the play just before passing to Sevs and the lack of calls for the Devils would continue from the last game, as even Ken Daneyko would make a comment about there being “no call.”
After a couple of uneventful minutes, Pavel Zacha would be struck in the ear by a puck; he would go the bench but not the locker room. The Canes would head the other way on the next shift and pepper Schneider with a couple that didn’t go in thankfully. The period would conclude 2-1 in favor of Carolina.
“Hallelujah” to quote Daneyko again as the Devils finally got a power play off of a Hurricanes hold with 18:07 left in the second period. It wasn’t much of a blessing as the Devils didn’t score and they had roughly the same amount of chances that they allowed the shorthanded Canes to have. The 5 on 5 play, however, would see the Devils shore up a lot of their early first period jitters to control the game; playing the team averging the most shots on goal per game, the midway point of the game saw the Devils out-shooting the Canes 24-14.
“Reverend” Ben Lovejoy would take a penalty as he seems to be doing roughly every other game, but Carolina wouldn’t convert, even after Mueller’s stick would be lost/broken (Joey Anderson did the right thing and gave his up to him), resulting in essentially a 5 on 3.5. New Jersey would remain hemmed in for a bit after the expiration of the minor, but the team would work the puck out and eventually be able to once again ice 5 skaters each with a stick of their own.
Special teams continued to be the name of the period, as the Devils got a second (!) power play with roughly six minutes to go in the period. It was arguably worse than the first, and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. They would get another (!!) chance with 2:34 to go; it would be cancelled 16 seconds later by a boneheaded Stefan Noesen offensive zone penalty. The four on four was uneventful, the truncated Carolina power play was as well, and the score remained the same as the teams went back to their locker rooms.
The Canes would get their second chance on the PP early in the 3rd, due to a terrible turnover and penalty both by Greene. The game would be kept a 1 goal game after another good kill. The action would be limited, and the Devils would have to pull Schneider for an extra attacker; the refs again appeared to swallow their whistles leading up to a New Jersey timeout with 18.5 to go. The Canes won the draw, the puck bounced around and Carolina almost got an empty net goal, however Hall knocked the net off trying to defend. The last face-off would go, time would expire and the 2 goals surrendered to start the game made the last 59:30 virtually meaningless.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Canes Country for their review.
The Game Highlights: Courtesy of NHL.com. You could alternatively watch the first 7 minutes of the game and see everything that you need to; your call!
The Short List of Positives: Zacha scored again while Bratt continues to look good as a crafty playmaker. Schneider only let in 2 goals. The team didn’t look terrible for 59:30 and the PK was perfect again.
The Power-less Play: I think this one’s probably been on everyone’s mind, and the broadcast even mentioned that it has been 6 games now since we’ve had a goal on the PP. I think it’s been a problem for even longer, but when goals are going in, it masks the issues. Now they’re not and the issues are looking like gigantic, repulsive warts.
The drop back pass is becoming ridiculous to the point where it’s almost always what the play is and teams are telegraphing it. Additionally, a play like this requires everyone who has already skated to the offensive blue line to stop skating so that the drop pass recipient will enter the zone onside. In the time it takes those players to get moving again, the defense has already stripped the puck carrier and more often than not, found a way to get the puck out of the zone.
To me, this is the wrong PP entry style for a “fast, supportive, attacking” team, as it negates the speed ability on the team. I would suggest firing the power play coach, but this is the same system under two different assistant coaches (on the offensive side of the puck) meaning it’s probably the brain child of John Hynes himself. No matter whose idea it is, someone needs to adapt and come up with a more consistent power play that makes use of the Devils’ strengths.
How to Lose a Game in 30 Seconds: I think the fact that I (and probably many of you) was screaming at my television at 19:30 of the first period says everything that needs to be said about this game. While I can’t blame Cory Schneider entirely, I stated in the game summary that he’s no longer the team’s starting goalie and I’m going to go a step further (and it pains me as a Cory fan to say this) but his days as a starter in general are over. He’s not making big saves or bailing out his team when they fail him. Now I’m not saying even the best goaltender can bail his team out all the time, but he needs to occasionally make a big stop, and he hasn’t done that in a long, long time.
Additionally, the Devils need to get together and collectively figure out why no one showed up in the first 30 seconds, because the start to tonight’s game is unacceptable for NHL level players. If they don’t want this season to go down the toilet, and they don’t want Taylor Hall to walk away in free agency in two years, people need to start taking responsibility and holding each other accountable.
Underachievers: Marcus Johansson (who everyone probably knows I’m down on) continues to look like a passenger for the majority of his shifts. He had a good moment or two, but in general just doesn’t seem to fit with anyone on the team.
Miles Wood also needs to step his game up; after a good season last year and a hot start to the season, he’s colder than ice right now.
Stefan Noesen could use to sit a game when players are healthy; he’s not contributing and now he’s actively taking away from the team with dumb penalties.
I’d could add J.S. Dea here as well, but he’s being used in a limited role as he should be, and isn’t getting 3 minutes of PP time like his teammate and fellow fourth liner Noesen.
Nico Hischier and Brian Boyle can’t get healthy soon enough.
Out-shooting: This evening’s game was only the second time all season that the Canes have been out-shot. As we’ve pointed out before in game recaps, teams that trail for most of the game do tend to out-shoot their opponents; the Devils trailed for 59:30 so they get the dubious and useless distinction of being the second team to put more shots on goal than the Canes in a game this season.
When Zacha Scores: The Devils are 0-2...I don’t have a sarcasm font for the article, sorry folks!
A Final Thought: The Hurricanes salute at the end of a win is really strange...
Your Take: A disappointing weekend sees the Devils pick up one point when they could’ve picked up 3-4 if they had shown up for all 120+ minutes. The coaching staff once again problematically shows a lack of adjustment ability (particularly on the PP) despite being able to control 5 on 5 play. The Devils should have gotten this one done; instead we will lament what could have been. Please leave any thoughts and or comments that you had from this travesty of a contest below.
Thanks to Chris for the game preview, to Mike for running the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and all of those who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all for reading.