After a problematic 3-6 loss to Washington last night, the New Jersey Devils were in for a tough challenge at the Rock with the Winnipeg Jets tonight. John Hynes decided to add to the challenge by starting Keith Kinkaid, who was bad against the Caps last night; scratching Will Butcher for reasons I do not understand; and putting Drew Stafford in the lineup as Michael McLeod was demoted and Steve Santini was activated off injured reserve and did not play. It was not an ideal set of circumstances going into the game. But the Devils did what they could and made a comeback in the third period to force overtime to get something out of the game. Unfortunately, overtime went as well as it did in the other four overtime periods this season and the Jets won the game there. The Devils lost 3-4 tonight.
Normally, taking a point is not a bad thing, much less one from a quality opponent in the other conference. It was exciting to see Jesper Bratt finally snap the team’s cold streak on the power play with a goal to put the Devils within one. It was uplifting to see Brian Boyle come on the ice as an extra skater, hammer a low slapshot at Laurent Brossiot, and see Marcus Johansson, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, and Taylor Hall all work on trying to jam the puck in. Hall provided the final touch, no one interfered with Brossiot, and the Devils made it 3-3 with under two minutes in regulation. What seemed like a sure-bet for a regulation loss turned into an opportunity for a win.
If Keith Kinkaid had any signs of fatigue, they were not really on display as he stopped plenty of rubber and made plenty of big stops - especially in overtime. The risk of starting the same goalie back-to-back is real. Hynes’ gambit paid off in that Kinkaid didn’t give up any soft goals. If anything, he deserved better from his skaters tonight given how well he played.
Unfortunately, he did not get it. In overtime, the Devils were out-matched again as they were out-shot 1-6. The Devils finally got a shot in overtime for what seemed like the first since, what, two overtime periods ago? It was a 2-on-0 with Hischier and Hall. Hischier passed to Hall and Brossoit made a left pad save. A bit disappointing but it was better than anything over the Islanders or Detroit OT losses. The Jets responded with offense and the Devils could not break the puck away. The Jets were excellent at maintaining possession and breaking the Devils down in 3-on-3. Kinkaid did the very best he could and even bailed himself out when he got picked off when trying to pass the puck up for a breakaway. Late in OT, Hischier had the puck again and tried to pass it across to Sami Vatanen. The pass failed, the Jets responded, Hischier doubled-back and seemingly denied Scheifele. Scheifele won the puck back, took a shot, and then buried his own rebound. The Devils’ skaters were bodied in OT and that they could only generate one (1) shot after taking 38 in regulation is baffling.
I could see why you would’ve thought it was over when the 2-on-0 led to no goal. Or just by the fact the game went into OT. All the same, the Devils are now 0-5 in overtime periods, which are five points lost that the Devils can ill afford to lose. On its own, an OTL to the Jets is usually not something to feel disappointed about. With the season slipping away, it isn’t enough. And it is disappointing to see good or even great performances not be enough to get a win. Yes, tonight’s performance was better than the Washington game last night. It was not enough to get a win. Such are the 2018-19 Devils.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Arctic Ice Hockey for their take on tonight’s game.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com:
The Game, Period by Period: The performance overall was somewhat uneven.
The Devils did very well in the first period. After a big stop by Kinkaid, the Devils counter-attacked and Marcus Johansson finished the play with a high shot to make it 1-0. The Devils kept on attacking and forcing Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers and several other Jets to scramble to get in the way on defense. It was a good period. The Devils out-attempted the Jets 18-13, out-shot them 11-6, and out high-danger chanced them 6-2 in 5-on-5 play. The Devils drew two penalties, one during a 4-on-4 situation, and a late one for 5-on-4. The Devils underwhelmed on both to a point where I wish I could see a PP and just be whelmed.
The second period was more back-and-forth. The Jets started playing with more flow, but the Devils hit back with offense as well. The Jets did tie it up after an odd-man rush led by Mirco Mueller did not lead to a shot on net. The Jets countered and with Blake Wheeler holding on the puck in the left corner, Mueller decided to throw his body to the ice to deny a potential pass. Wheeler watched Mueller slide uselessly to the endboards. Then he fired a killer pass to Mark Scheifele, who one-timed it in past Kinkaid to make it 1-1. The Devils did have good looks of their own, but the Jets started to get more from their aggressive forechecking as the period wound down to the end. 5-on-5 attempts were even at 20 each, the Devils had a slight lead in 5-on-5 shots at 14-13, and (somehow) the Devils still led big in high-danger chances, 6-1. It was a fair representation of the period.
The third period was mostly all about Winnipeg. After a good first shift or so, the Devils got to play a lot of defense for most of the next ten to twelve minutes. They started getting lost among Winnipeg’s cycles and the Jets’ forecheck made their stays in the Devils’ offensive zone even longer. It felt like the Jets were going to find a goal and they eventually did. A breakdown in coverage plus Josh Morrissey jumping up into the slot led to Jack Roslovic hooking him up for a one-timer goal. Later, Kyle Palmieri was hauled down by Ben Chiarot with no call. As the fans were irate, the Jets went to work on offense and the Devils forgot about Andrew Copp. Copp was below the goal line, to the left of Kinkaid with no one on him. Adam Lowry set up a streaking Mason Appleton for a one-timer. Kinkaid stops the shot. Copp freely picked up the rebound, went around the net, and put the puck past a sprawled out Kinkaid. No help at all from the skaters there and it seemed like that would be the game. After all, the Devils had all of three shots by that point of the game and the Jets were seemingly styling on the Devils.
But then a comeback happened. A holding call on Chiarot - he held up Brian Boyle - provided the opportunity. The first power play unit underwhelmed again. The second unit, however, made something happen. Pavel Zacha fed Damon Severson at the point and the defenseman found Jesper Bratt alone in the left circle. The long pass was complete and with the help of a screen by Boyle, Bratt fired a shot seemingly lobbed into the net. The power play streak of futility ended with the team’s first PPG since November 21 against Montreal. The Devils followed that up with not much for a few minutes. The next SOG the Devils would get would be Boyle’s slapshot that four Devils helped to turn into a goal. Despite Hall playing like he was fired out of a cannon right after the goal, the period was closed out at 3-3. I appreciate the comeback. It wasn’t like the Devils played all that well. In 5-on-5, the Devils were badly out-attempted 6-18, out-shot 4-11, and out high-danger-chanced 1-4. The power play - which no one had any confidence in tonight or recently - and extra skater situation salvaged a point. With all situations in the third period, it was more even in terms of attempts and shots and chances. But 5-on-5 in the third was not kind to the Devils and the Jets owned that one.
Of course, overtime was pretty much all Winnipeg save for that 2-on-0.
Who Did Well: The line of Pavel Zacha, Marcus Johansson, and Jesper Bratt were re-united and they did well. They did quite well against Kyle Connor, Bryan Little, and Patrik Laine - who’s contribution to the game was hitting the post in the third period. The line provided a goal in 5-on-5 play. Bratt provided the drought-breaking PPG and Zacha’s secondary assist on it was his first assist of the season. Johansson contributed to the jam play effort that tied up the game. These three have generally been good together and I was pleased to see Hynes put them back together.
As it is sometimes hard to watch, Miles Wood was not an anchor for the team tonight. His linemates Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman generally did good work tonight. The unit also more than held their own against Wheeler, Scheifele, and Nikolaj Ehlers. Had Mueller picked a better option on his odd man rush or, more importantly, didn’t slide in front of Wheeler assuming he’d already fire a pass, then this line would not have been scored on. The run of play was generally good for the Devils when these three were on the ice in 5-on-5 play and both Zajac and Coleman did well to keep Winnipeg’s one power play from taking any shots on net.
I thought Sami Vatanen had a good game defensively. Based on CF% and SF%, he was head and shoulders above the other defensemen in 5-on-5 play. But I also think he was a bad fit on the top power play unit as he replaced the scratched Will Butcher for the night. He took the one penalty that led to Winnipeg’s only power play of the night; but the PK yielded nothing so it is not a huge deal in the bigger picture.
Kinkaid did well, in my view. Again, none of the four goals against were soft. He squared up well with a lot of shots and made plenty of saves. I never want to see him try to pass the puck up in open ice in overtime for a while; but he made up for that critical error. I wonder if he’ll have enough left in the tank for Tampa Bay on Monday.
Who Didn’t Do Well: The fourth line of Brian Boyle, Drew Stafford, and Brett Seney did not really provide a lot of positive impact. Seeing Boyle as the extra skater with two minutes left was odd; but that decision worked out as he created the game-tying goal in regulation.
The top line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri also did not have that strong of a game in 5-on-5 or on the power play. They did have good shifts and were crucial for the game-tying goal. They didn’t do badly against Connor, Laine, and Little. For whatever reason, they were notably out-attempted, out-shot, and out-chanced by the likes of Lowry, Copp, and Brandon Tanev. Normally, you’d want the first line against a depth line but tonight, the depth line created more and threatened more.
The defensive effort got worse as time went on. The Jets loved an aggressive forecheck tonight and I think it did wear down on the defense. With Butcher out, Andy Greene was paired up with Ben Lovejoy and that pairing played more defense than not. Severson and Egor Yakovlev were together and they too were also out-attempted and out-shot in 5-on-5 play. Only the Mueller-Vatanen pairing finished with seeing more Devils shots attempted and on-target than Winnipeg. But even then, Mueller’s gaffe in the second period was costly and Vatanen was overworked by the game’s end. While Butcher may be a third pairing defenseman, his exclusion forced Hynes to make some pairings that didn’t work well. Throw in that forecheck, and the Jets piled up more and more on Kinkaid as the game went on.
About the Opposition: Scheifele was excellent in OT and in spots on offense for Winnipeg. I thought Trouba put in a lot of work to frustrate the Devils. The line of Lowry, Copp, and Tanev punched above its proverbial weight. Like Kinkaid, Brossoit put in a good performance as well. The Jets owned OT and had the better of the run of play in the third period. They’re a quality team and so they earned this result.
Another Criticism of Hynes in OT: Did you know that Sami Vatanen was on the ice in overtime for 3:18 tonight? Did you know that one of his shifts lasted 2:36? Vatanen started that super-long shift with 2:56 to go. With 2:22 left, Kinkaid froze the puck. Vatanen with Zajac and Hall replaced Hischier and Zajac. The Devils lost the offensive zone faceoff. Hall blocked Ehlers, Scheifele steals another puck, one more saves for Kinkaid, one zone exit that ends up with the Jets taking control, and Kinkaid blockered Scheifele’s puck away. the puck went out of play with 57 seconds left in the game. Already, Vatanen played nearly two minutes. Hall was already at 1:25. Hynes called his timeout. On the faceoff, Hynes keeps Hall and Vatanen out there and puts in Hischier in for Zajac. There’s a fracas that forces a whistle with 47 seconds left. 9, 13, and 45 stay out there.
So even with breaks in between, Vatanen was the one rushing up with Hischier and he was already past the two-minute mark on his shift. Hischier failed to find Vatanen with the pass. While Hischier flys down ice to try to win the puck back, Vatanen had to track all the way back too. Scheifele won it back from Hischier and Vatanen was then caught like a deer in headlights. He put himself in between the shooter and Kinkaid. Kinkaid thankfully made the first save but the rebound hit off Vatanen’s leg to put it to the left side. Kinkaid was beaten dead to rights at that point by Scheifele.
While many will point to Hischier not shooting on his rush up ice and I will agree, he should have shot it, consider the usage of Vatanen. It is not Vatanen’s fault he was leaned on this much in OT. He was stuck out there for a long shift. Despite an opportunity to make a change with the neutral zone draw shortly after the timeout, Hynes was fine keeping him out there (plus Hall, who wasn’t exactly super-fresh either) instead of putting in a fresher defender. Vatanen put himself in a bad spot on Scheifele’s shot before the GWG and his leg accidentally made it academic. I’m not saying that Severson or Greene or even Mueller or Yakovlev would have guaranteed a win, but they could have done something better than what Vatanen did. Hischier does bear a lot of responsibility for the final shift in overtime going against the Devils. He’s not going to like remembering that shift for a while. He should realize he should’ve shot the puck on the last shift. But Hynes should not escape criticism for his personnel decisions in OT either.
Fix It, Kowalsky: While Bratt scored a PPG, the Devils had a whopping three shots on net over all three power plays. The drop/backward pass in the neutral zone may lead to entries but it isn’t putting players in better spots and it ultimately takes more time than if the Devils found someone open going forward. The Devils weren’t moving enough to force the Jets penalty killers to break their own formation. There were too many attempts that ended up being snuffed out easily by the Jets skaters. The Devils’ power play units played like they didn’t have a Plan A or a Plan B. For that first unit, who was the target? Palmieri? Vatanen, who likes to bomb away? Hall? Hischier? I’m happy that Severson found Bratt and Bratt just fired a shot. But if the power play is going to get out of it’s November doldrums, there is a lot of work to do.
Blog Note: Division Snapshot may be a little late tomorrow due to the lateness of this recap. The November Month in Review will be up on Monday.
One Last Thought: The Devils fans sounded great at the Rock tonight. Maybe it means the team plays too many of the same song, but I appreciated how the fans finished lyrics of the Lit song, the A-Ha song, the Queen song, and the DJ Otzi song (Hey, hey baby, ooh ahh, I wanna knooooow if would be my girl) after they were played. I like it when fans sing, whether it is at Red Bull Arena or at the Rock.
Your Take: The Devils clawed their way to get a point tonight but they failed to get a win, which was what they really do need. The Devils lost 3-4 in OT to the Jets. What do you think about the loss? Who did well in your view? Who did not do well in your view? What needs to be better so the Devils can win a game and end this 5-game winless streak? Please leave your answers and other comments about the overtime loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread tonight. Thank you for reading.