Today’s game was supposed to be one of triumph for the New Jersey Devils. The team is heading into a bye week, and came face to face with an Anaheim Ducks team that has had their own struggles this season. The Devils have been a pretty good home team, and coming off of a practice with a players only meeting, things were sure to be better right?
Maybe if this wasn’t the 2018-19 Devils.
The first period saw three goals scored within it again, but it was Jersey’s Team that struck first tonight. Marcus Johansson would score 6:50 into the opening frame, off of a great feed from Jesper Bratt. Will Butcher deserves mention here as well, as it was his outlet pass that sent the top line forwards in on an odd-man rush. MoJo would put a nifty backhander past John Gibson to give the Devils the lead.
It wouldn’t last long unfortunately, as the Ducks would score exactly 2:20 later. Butcher loses all the previously earned good will here, as his lame puck movement allowed Adam Henrique to intercept the puck, get it to Nick Ritchie who would seemingly send it out front to Daniel Sprong; it could have been knocked away from him. Sprong would pounce on the puck and slap it past MacKenzie Blackwood to tie the game. The Devils would challenge the play for offsides (prior to anything you can see on the replay) and lose, giving the Ducks a power play which they would capitalize on.
For the second straight game, the Devils would frustratingly allow a rookie to score their first NHL goal. Today it was Troy Terry, as the defense didn’t get Devin Shore out of Blackwood’s line of sight, and Terry was able to get a shot past the screened goalie. The Ducks took their first lead of the game and didn’t look back.
The second was fairly uneventful aside from the fight between Nathan Bastian and Josh Manson. While Manson got the better of Bastian in the early going, Nathan came back with a pair of big punches that staggered Manson and then put him down on the ice. I’m not a boxing judge by any means, but I give the nod to Bastian in that bout.
The Devils continued to push the pressure in the third and had some good attempts to try and tie the game. Unfortunately, there always has to be a defender on the team screwing that up it seems, so Mirco Mueller come on down! Mueller want back to retrieve a puck, and got nudged a bit, resulting in his attempt to go around the boards being super, super weak. Troy Terry (he’s back) picked off the puck and sent it into the slot where Derek Grant was waiting due to either Steven Santini or Marcus Johansson losing their man. Grant one-timed it and Anaheim had their insurance goal.
The fight from the Devils was lessened and the fact that the PP still can’t buy a goal added insult to injury. Cam Fowler took a late penalty, and the man advantage did nothing, making me dread the goalie pull, which came right at the end of the penalty. After a couple of close calls, the Devils got to within one thanks to Jesper Bratt. Despite there being close to a minute left, New Jersey couldn’t replicate Bratt’s feat and the Ducks would hold on for their second straight win.
The Opposition Opinion: They haven’t posted one yet, but check out Anaheim Calling for their take on today’s action.
The Game Highlights: NHL.com beat me today; their recap video was up before I posted this, so here it is:
The Argument Against Advanced Stats: Today’s game is a prime example of why advanced stats don’t always tell the entire story of a game, and why you can’t always rely on them. Only five Devils (Nathan Bastian, Kevin Rooney, Steven Santini, Brett Seney and Brian Boyle) were below 50% CF; additionally Kyle Palmieri was at almost 80% CF! The Devils did a good job controlling play and limiting the Ducks to only 14 shots. The issue is that three of those 14 shots went in due to crummy defending and turnovers.
Listen I believe there’s some value to advanced stats, but not from games like this. When you control play like this, but let in three goals on a low number of shots, good and bad advanced stats go out the window. There’s something else fundamentally wrong, and that needs to be figured out before Corsi percentages or other advanced stats get questioned.
Don’t Blame the Goalies: After last game, I had a small section where I spoke about why MacKenzie Blackwood should not have been blamed for the team’s loss. After watching today’s effort, I can comfortably say that goaltending isn’t the primary issue. Keith Kinkaid and Cory Schneider have let in their share of weak goals for sure, but there are problems that continue to keep rearing their ugly heads that are allowing opposing teams to get golden looks and chances. Either one of the coaches needs to wake up and realize/fix this, or somebody (multiple people?) in the coaching area needs to be relieved of their duties.
Pretty Even and Pretty Pathetic: The faceoff percentages, hits, and blocked shots were all very close; the penalty calls were also pretty close, with the Devils “benefiting” from a pair of extra power plays. The Devils also dominated in shots, but some of that discrepancy is to be expected due to the extra time with the extra man and due to them trailing most of the game.
The pathetic part is that not only did the Devils still lose, but the powerless play continued! John Hynes is a good coach, so he changed his units for this g...wait, what’s that? He rolled out the same PP units? Yeah, that alone makes my head hurt. As a whole for his time in New Jersey, I like what Hynes has done with what he’s had to work with; I like that he’s a player’s coach. The one consistent criticism of him is lack of adaptability and this is just another dart hitting that bulls-eye.`
Pavel Zacha and Brian Boyle have no business being on a power play, though with Taylor Hall in the lineup, the argument can be made to park Boyle in front of the net. Travis Zajac should be the next player on that list to be moved off of the unit, but I don’t think we have three players to replace them all. The fact that Blake Coleman continues to get next to no power play time reeks of bad coaching decisions.
A Final Thought: Being an out of market fan and having to watch on NHL.tv is super rough right now, because the commercial for the All-Star Game jerseys comes on every break and the jersey they show in the commercials is that of Our Hated Rivals. So...we have a game in San Jose...with three representatives from the Sharks...and THAT’S the jersey you show? No favoritism at all there NHL...
Your Take: The New Jersey Devils dropped yet another game this week, and go into the bye week on a three game losing streak. Things need to change, and while personnel are saying the right things, I don’t think anyone has a real solution
Thank you to Mike for providing coverage on the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and everyone who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all as always for reading.