After a great game against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night, the New Jersey Devils hoped to carry over some of the positivity into an early afternoon matinee against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Just like many other times this season, however, just when it looked like the Devils were starting to put everything together, they would break our hearts as we would watch the wheels fall off the bus again.
While the Devils came out initially looking like the better team, it was the Blue Jackets who struck first on their first shot of the game, when Artemi Panarin found Cam Atkinson with a perfect cross-ice pass. The broadcast mentioned how last time it only took 4:17 for Columbus to score; today it was fourteen seconds less than that. To make matters worse, almost a mirror passing play (with the EXACT same Devils on the ice) caught the Devils again a minute and a half later. Keith Kinkaid didn’t have much of a chance with Sami Vatanen and Steven Santini not helping him, but he had a chance on both shots and didn’t bail his team out either.
Brett Seney would get a beautiful chance just prior to the twelve minute mark, but Sergei Bobrovsky decided to show the Devils what real goaltending looks like. To compound the slow start, the Devils took a pair of penalties in the period while Columbus (allegedly) took none; I only add the allegedly because there were a couple of plays that were close, but I could understand it going as a no call as well. In one good moment from the first 20 minutes, the PK went two for two.
The awfulness continued through the middle of the second when Panarin struck unassisted off of a turnover to put Columbus up 3-0. Kinkaid was pulled at this point in favor of Mackenzie Blackwood. I can’t say I was disappointed by this decision, as Keith just wasn’t making the big saves, and Panarin’s weak backhander going in was atrocious. The poor play would continue (even further) with a turnover by the top line, resulting in Damon Severson having to take a hooking call to prevent Panarin from possibly cashing in again.
The PK continued to be a bright spot here, as they killed a third straight penalty, and again looked to have a more dangerous chance than the Jackets’ PP. The Devils would FINALLY get a PP of their own with just under four minutes to go, as Hischier would eat a high stick from Seth Jones. Columbus would pick off a pass and start heading for a two on one, however it would be negated by the Jackets having too many men on the ice. With 1:41 of a two man advantage, the hope was that Jersey would finally solve Bobrovsky; it didn’t happen. Panarin would come out of the box going the other way, but Blackwood would keep the deficit at three. The period would end without much additional fanfare, and the Devils would go to the locker room still without anything on the board.
Miles Wood would kick the third off trying to spark the team just over a minute in, but again Bobrovsky would keep the puck out. The Devils would continue to press and pressure, but again, nothing was getting through, with the exception of Devils players falling into the net. While the Devils again looked like the better team, another penalty would come after Kyle Palmieri would go back at Bobrovsky for initially tripping him. The PK would remain perfect thanks to a little help from Blackwood.
The Devils would get their second PP after a good flurry on the Columbus net; Markus Nutivaara would go off for holding, but the Devils didn’t get much going and came away empty handed again. The refs did miss another trip, but with the way the Devils struggled with Bob, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. The rest of the third was much of the same; the Devils pressure the Blue Jackets, Santini hit the puck off the crossbar, nothing beat Bobrovsky. The Devils will head into the Christmas break with a record of 12-16-7, good for second worst in the league.
The Game Highlights: Head on over to NHL.com for a
highlight low-light package. If you are a Jackets fan, you should enjoy seeing Bobrovsky’s shutout.
Heritage Hopelessness: Steve Cangialosi pointed out that the last time the Devils wore today’s jersey scheme was in 1992; if the results the Devils have with these threads are the same as today, then please send them back to that era. I think they look sharp, but the Devils have had poor results with third uniforms before; while I’m not the most superstitious person, the Devils need all the luck and charms they can get right now. Let’s hope tonight was just a one-off.
Advanced Analysis: There was only one Devils who was not a positive or break even in terms of Corsi and shockingly it was Taylor Hall, though he was still relatively good at 48%. Today’s game is a good reminder that advances stats can be useful in determining who is helping to push play forward, but it doesn’t serve as a be all, end all analysis for if a player is good or not. By these numbers, the Devils should have shutout the Jackets, not vice-versa.
I will say the stats don’t lie because the Devils did control a large body of play today, however a couple of poor defensive plays and some poor goaltending (goal #3 was stoppable) doomed the team to yet another loss.
Shout out to the Devils fourth line, who were all over 80%(!!!) CF, and absolutely caved in Columbus’ players while they were on the ice. Unfortunately, Pavel Zacha, Brian Boyle nor Drew Stafford were able to cash in despite heavily controlling play while on the ice.
More MacBlack: It’s a small sample size for certain, and last season in the AHL wasn’t all that great, but Mackenzie Blackwood has looked the best out of all three Devils goalies to play this season. Maybe there’s some recency bias here, as Kinkaid had a great start to the season, but he’s come back down to Earth hard, and MacBlack is providing at least respectable goaltending. Mackenzie should be starting when the Devils return to action on the 27th; if this is truly the lost season it appears to be, then let’s use it to evaluate someone who could be a long-term piece.
A Final Thought: What a miserable result to a good effort of a game; again, maybe alternate jerseys are a curse for this team.
Your Take: The Devils deserve varying amounts of coal for Christmas due to how bad of a stinker this game was, and it really doesn’t inspire any confidence that they couldn’t build off of a game where they dominated the Sens. The downward spiral continues, and hopefully some wholesale changes will be coming at varying points in 2019. Please leave your thoughts on either this game, or the direction the team is going based off of this performance in the comments 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 as always for reading.