This afternoon, the New Jersey Devils hosted Our Hated Rivals. The Devils had the benefit of having Friday off while the New York Rangers played and lost to Boston in overtime on national television. The Devils also had the benefit of coming off a 6-4 win in Montreal where their offense was in form and put five past Carey Price. The Rangers have one of the worst defenses in the NHL and were starting Alexandar Georgiev, who had issues catching and holding pucks back in last month’s game. I am not stating that the signs were there for a Devils victory, but they had some advantages. The Devils squandered them and eight power plays - including a double-minor and a five-minute major - in a 0-4 loss to the Rangers. To call it an embarrassment is an understatement. In fact, it is actually worse than what that score looks like.
Not only did the Devils fail to score in the 15 minutes they had over their eight man advantages, they generated only seven shots on net. They were missing shots and getting blocked in a relatively times they were able to set-up in their 1-3-1 formation. There were some personnel swaps but it was the same nonsense on a different date with way more time to waste. Drop pass to Taylor Hall for a zone entry that goes awry? Check. Losing pucks on the perimeter or throwing them away on rimming it around? Check. Shooting into traffic with no clear idea of whether the puck will even get to the net? Check. It was outright painful to see what we have seen in so many games this season where the Devils treat a 5-on-4 like they’re the ones down a man and fail to consistently have the goalie make a save. The Rangers gave the Devils so many opportunities and the Devils made the least of them.
Worse, the Devils paid the price on two of them. A high-sticking double minor to Libor Hajek carried over into the third period. The first power play unit at least pinned the Rangers back for well over a minute. They did not create a good, clean shot with a good, clean look at the net, but they at least had possession. The second power play unit lost a puck and Brendan Lemieux set up Mika Zibanejad in a 2-on-1 to make it 0-2. In a one-shot game with plenty of power play time, the Devils gave up a goal. It was terrible. Could it be worse?
Of course it could be because it did get worse. Later in the third, Chris Krieder slammed Matt Tennyson from behind into the boards. Boarding was called and it was made a major penalty as Tennyson’s eye was cut from the hit. The Devils had a five-minute major penalty. Down two with a full five minutes with a man advantage. What do the Devils do? Give up a 3-on-1 because Hall missed on a pass and Nikita Gusev fell down and Blackwood gets beaten by Jesper Fast. And shortly after that Zibaenjad breaks away and Gusev slashes him from behind so the Devils did not even have their full five minute power play. To shortly recap: the Devils received a five-minute major power play because Chris Kreider is an reckless idiot and the Devils come out of it down three goals and had to play part of it in 4-on-4 because Zibanejad could have made it 0-4. All the while, the Devils were as threatening on the power play as a stuffed teddy bear.
The Devils’ power play performance this afternoon was one of the worst in recent memory and it cemented this loss.
I would you like to consider the other team for a moment. The Rangers, like the Devils and many other teams, ran a 1-3-1, generate more than a shot per advantage and managed to convert one of their two power plays after running the same play three or four times. Kaapo Kakko to Adam Fox was the last time as Fox beat Mackenzie Blackwood on his weak side. P.K. Subban was beaten by that pass and Blackwood had no chance. It is astonishing to me after this game that a Rangers team can do so much more easily than what the Devils try to do. It is not like the Rangers were like Montreal on Thursday and just rolling through the Devils in the neutral zone all game long. They just executed their system, which was more effective than the Devils with a quarter of the situations. Given that the Devils scored zero goals today, their one power play goal was enough for the win.
In an effort to be somewhat fair, I have to say that Our Hated Rivals were better coached and better prepared and they had plenty of energy despite losing yesterday in a game beyond sixty minutes. Their penalty kill was aggressive against a Devils team that cannot handle it and they hit big with two shorthanded goals. Their defensive woes were not so woeful. Georgiev made himself big and squared up with shooters so he did not need his problematic glove. This is not to say they played a great game. They were fortunate that they did not play against a team with a competent power play this afternoon with their penalties. They were also fortunate that Georgiev was actually OK and the defense were not a bunch of matadors in blue. Yes, the Devils won the expected goals battle and out-attempted them greatly (45-26 in 5-on-5, 63-35 in all situations) but holding them to less than 3 in that plus holding them to six high danger chances all game long (all situations) is a feat for a team that has been bleeding them all season long. I do not like praising Our Hated Rivals but they did a job today and came away with a win against a team that, somehow, is on its way of being the worst in the Ray Shero Era.
And so I turn to the New Jersey Devils. Allow me to rant a bit:
I am disgusted by how the Devils played today. I did not attend today’s game and I am glad that I did not because it would have been a total waste of money, time, and energy to have watched all that in person. The power play performance was utter garbage. The puck movement was similarly trashy. This was game #25 of the season and the players look more lost than they did during the preseason. I understand that the players need to execute better on the ice. However, when the team continually demonstrates the same issues over and over again, it is a system issue. What are these issues? Once again, here’s a laundry list of them from this game and many others from this season: Issues with zone exits. Issues with the breakouts. Issues with moving the puck around on offense. Issues with players not moving off the puck into dangerous areas on offense. Issues with communication. Issues with playing in the third period (another winnable situation, down by one, turned into a loss with a 0-3 third period). Issues with all things power play related. And, do not forget issues with preparation. Again, the Devils had the advantage of a day off and coming off a win. The Devils may have come out hitting but they did not come out to play good hockey and they sagged their way to another terrible loss. Worse, it was at home to the one team it is never good to lose any kind of game to: Our Hated Rivals.
There should be firings after this game. Note that I typed firings. Plural. A whole lot of pink slips were fully justified today. Spare me the question of “Who do you want to replace them?” The fact is, they are not the right people to coach this team and sticking with them until the right people, whoever they are, come along is not going to make anything better:
- John Hynes, the head coach who is taken a team who added offensive talent to be on pace to finish with a worse record than last season, deserves one.
- Rick Kowalsky, the power play head coach who is making Geoff Ward look like a brilliant man, deserves one.
- Alain Nasreddine, who has yet to cut down on the killer mistakes from the defensive side of things and explain how zone exits should work, deserves one. At least the defense was better today than in Montreal, but even a half-hearted effort would have been better than whatever that was on Thursday.
- Roland Melanson, the goalie coach who certainly has not helped any goalie under his tutelage in New Jersey, deserves one.
- Mike Grier, the assistant coach who does...something?, hey, why not unless there are plans to make him take over for Kowalsky or someone else.
- Whoever decided that the Devils should wear their “Heritage jerseys” for this game despite the fact that it has been years since the Devils have won in those jerseys and they only serve to remind the fans of today of the 1980s teams that were similarly awful. Related: burn those uniforms.
And the owners should have some tough, tense meetings with plenty of others upstairs. Ray Shero definitely deserves one for the inaction so far as the team is spiraling towards being out of the playoff race by Christmas. Tom Fitzgerald could get one for asking what in the world he saw on the bench and why did he not do much there or during it. They could even call up Tyler Dellow, Matt Cane, Kate Madigan, and the other analysts hired by the team to ask them what in the world they are analyzing and concluding. I’m ranting here but a lot of people are involved in a team’s success and so a lot of people are also involved in the actual, ongoing failure of the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils. They should at least be asked what in the hell is happening here by the highest members of the organization.
And, hey, if the team wants to move Taylor Hall - Pierre LeBrun scooped the Devils’ beat writers for this one - then fine by me at this point. Hall clearly did not give a whole lot of a damn in this one, so why should I?-
Say what you want about Lou, but he would at least make it clear how unacceptable this was. Jars of jelly and jam and maybe even some bricks deserve to be thrown here.
I’m obviously salty about this loss. This was not just a loss to a rival, but a terribly embarrassing one where the Devils botched every advantage going into the game and in the game itself on their way to lose 0-4. Cooler heads may prevail tomorrow, but I really do not know how there can be “status quo” after this one. If this kind of a loss does not lead to any kind of material change with the team, then I do not know what would. I do not know how any one from ownership down to the player can look at this loss and think, “Actually, this is fine.” This was not the first bad loss of the season. This was one of many bad losses. It was the third loss by three or more goals within the last two weeks. This one, in my view, is a tipping point because of how the Devils lost it. There should be firings after this one. We’ll see if there are any.
Post script: MacLean was fired on December 23, 2010. The Devils played that night, which led to the famous Jacques Lemaire response of how the team did not look like they were in any shape. The Devils can absolutely fire Hynes and/or assistants before the Buffalo game on December 2. They can even do it that morning.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: If, for some reason, you want to read what a fan of Our Hated Rivals thinks of this game, then please read Tom Urtz Jr.’s recap at Blueshirt Banter.
The Game Highlights: No.
Can You Praise Any Devil Today?: Jack Hughes, Mirco Mueller, and John Hayden were thankfully exempted from this tire-fire of a loss.
About the On-Ice Stats: Many Devils look great by CF% and xGF% but the team’s inaccuracy betrays it. They were also flattered by the Devils chasing most of the game due to Fox’s PPG in the first period. While that is normally a good thing, the Devils put in the kind of game that seemingly made the least amount of it. The Rangers literally handed the Devils opportunities to attack with terrible discipline and the Devils may of well shrugged them off this afternoon. This was very much a game a team with a halfway-decent power play likely wins or at least gets a point of it. The Devils do not even have a halfway-to-decent power play. In the rare times the Devils had some space to go after Georgiev in 5-on-5, they would either lose the puck, miss the net, or make the least of a potential chance. To an outsider looking at Natural Stat Trick, they may think NJ was merely unlucky today. Those who had the misfortune of watching or following the game live and can remember it will know better.
One Last Thought: This game really deserves one word from the Devils perspective:
Your Take: I’m very unhappy with this loss. I’m sure most of you are as well. I will kindly remind you that, no, you cannot swear at All About the Jersey. And you should be nice to each other. You all did not play in the game. You did not fail this Saturday afternoon, the Devils did. That stated: What is your take about this loss? Where do the Devils go from here? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments.
Thanks to Chris for the game preview. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread. Thanks to everyone who followed along @AAtJerseyBlog on Twitter. Thank you for reading. You all deserve better than what the Devils put on the ice today.