Well. That happened. Lets get this over with...
First Circle of Hell
The Sabres came out in the beginning of the first period looking feisty and dynamic. The Devils have struggled to maintain a presence against this style of game, and Buffalo sure looks like they know that. Marcus Johansson draws a penalty from Blake Coleman in the neutral zone less than a minute into the first period, and we go directly to the penalty kill. Nico Hischier takes Coleman’s spot on the PK, both teams of which are surprisingly successful. Pavel Zacha makes some excellent steals, and the Sabres struggle to maintain any kind of zone presence until the final ten seconds. Unfortunately, as the penalty expires, those few seconds of zone time prove costly. Jack Eichel finds himself in front of the net with a loose puck that leaks through Louis Domingue’s legs. Buffalo finds themselves up 1-0 on the first shot of the game.
The Devils third line pops out and picks up the pace a little bit. Hall has good chemistry with Bratt, and Bratt has good chemistry with Zacha, and Zacha is good with just about anybody. They manage some zone time and things start to look like a hockey game again. Unfortunately, that line has to get off the ice some time. They did, and Jeff Skinner stripped Andy Greene of the puck, carried it down and scored over Domingue’s shoulder while they changed. 5 minutes in, and the Devils are down 2-0 on 2 shots.
Hall picks up the puck in the neutral zone and opens himself up a ton of ice to skate into the offensive zone. He has all the room in the world to shoot at, but chooses to make a pass instead which does not lead to a Devils goal. Instead, the Sabres pick up the puck and take it the other way, Skinner takes a shot which Domingue kicks out. Connor Sheary dives for the rebound and flips it past Domingue for the 3rd goal. On the 4th shot.
Off the face-off and we return to the Devils zone. Jesper Boqvist pucks up the puck in the corner and starts to skate it out, but drops it off to a defenseman when challenged at the blue line. Unfortunately, a Devils defenseman wasn’t standing there, but Skinner was. Domingue makes the save this time. The Devils finally get the puck out and are able to carry it down and actually get a shot off on Linus Ullmark— their first of the game. 8 minutes into the period.
Wayne Simmonds strips a Sabre at the blue line and the fourth line manages just the second few moments of zone time in the game, but to no avail and no shots. They change for the second line, who also manage a bit of time in the offensive zone but can’t get a shot off before they’re forced out and change. Eichel picks up the puck during the change and flies down the outside and towards the net but he’s held out by Severson and Domingue keeps the puck out as well.
Bratt Hall and Zacha come out and start to buzz a bit in the Sabres zone. Hall is tripped but no call is made, so after a save from Ullmark on Zacha he opts to draw another penalty and this time its called so we go to the power play.
Buffalo starts off their penalty kill with a shorthanded rush the other way, but Domingue makes the easy save and we return to the offensive zone. The Devils set up, Nikita Gusev gets the puck, loses an edge and falls over and subsequently turns over the puck. They did not set up again for the rest of the power play. Hall carried the puck into the zone as the penalty expires and there was a chance of some action, but the lines were mixed and tired from their failed efforts on the power play so nothing developed.
Connor Sheary picks up a loose puck in the neutral zone and carries it down the outside. He flips a shot on net that Domingue punches with the blocker. The puck flies up, straight back down behind him and into the net. I have an extensive number of questions, a physics textbook to reread, and a headache. 4-0 Buffalo.
Attempting to clear the zone, Bratt taps a buddy pass to Vatanen that’s intercepted by Casey Mittelstadt. He passes to Rasmus Apland who rips a wrist shot over Domingue’s shoulder with under a minute to go in the first circle of hell known as a period. 5-0 Buffalo.
Second Circle of Hell
Mackenzie Blackwood has entered the chat.
Domingue pulled to start the second period, Blackwood comes into the game in relief.
Three minutes into the game and we get a shot attempt. Its a wrist shot from Kevin Rooney. It was not on net.
The Devils are however starting to get a bit feisty in the offensive zone. A bit of zone time, a few punches thrown around the goal crease from PK Subban and Colin Miller, which leads to some 4 on 4 hockey.
The Devils 4 on 4 squad allows Eichel and Victor Oloffson to play catch in the Devils zone before Oloffson rips a shot Blackwood couldn’t hope to save. 6-0 Buffalo.
Hischier gets tripped off a face-off so the Devils go back to the “power play” which at this point I’m really wishing we could just... decline. We immediately give up a shorthanded rush to Jimmy Vesey. The Devils turn back and actually get a good shot off that Ullmark lost the rebound on but so did everyone else on the ice so they can’t capitalize on their best chance of the night. The Devils really start to buzz and finally the wall of Ullmark is broken by Nico Hischier at the doorstep off a rebound from a Vatanen shot. Devils break the shutout and the goalless streak to make it 6-1. Its a bit like failing a test but celebrating the one question you got right, but at this point I’ll take whatever we can get.
Palmieri takes a penalty for Casey Mittelstadt falling over (alright, on Palmieri’s stick, but you know what there should be a penalty mercy rule. Can we just be excused). Henri Jokiharju scores from the point. 7-1.
Hall picks up a bank pass in the neutral zone, tosses it up to Bratt who’s all alone in the offensive zone. Naturally, as one does in such a situation, he tries to drop pass it and immediately turns in back over the the Sabres. I’ve talked a lot about the lack of confidence in the team this season. Marcus Johansson recently implied Bratt lacks the level of confidence he needs to perform with his skillset. That fail is the peak example of lacking confidence.
The Devils had twice as many shot attempts and shots during their time in the second circle of hell this evening as the Sabres. They had half as many goals. There are no words to describe this that are longer than four letters and I’m actually allowed to write here.
Third Circle of Hell
Props to any/all of y’all still reading at this point honestly.
Not only are the Devils getting slaughtered defensively, they’re getting absolutely robbed on the offensive chances they do get. Wood picks up a rebound in the crease and flips a shot that may actually have hit both posts. Gusev picks up a rebound from a high Zajac shot that Ullmark flies across the crease and snatches midair. The goal store is sold out, we just cannot buy one.
I cannot make any of these neutral zone turnovers, possession without shooting attempts, or minutes spent hemmed in their zone sound exciting, so I’m not going to insult you all by going into detail on them. It’s a lot of nothing.
With 6 minutes gone by in the third, Jesper Bratt draws a penalty from Montour and we go back to the power play. They managed some zone time for the first minute or so of the man advantage, but the Sabres picked back up an effective kill and swatted their attempts at entering the zone for the rest of the penalty. Back to even strength and the Devils manage some zone time a bit, even getting a shot on net from Severson that didn’t take forty seconds to wind up for.
Hall gets what could be a breakaway but falls for no reason in the neutral zone and crosses the blue line on his face. Still manages to get a shot away, but its about as effective as pelting a polar bear with a blueberry.
The Devils fourth line draws another penalty as Simmonds gets hooked by Jokiharju. At this point I’d rather summon a demon than the Devils power play but for some reason the Sabres keep doing it.
Palmieri has an opportunity at the side of the net but the puck has decided it is personally offended by the Devils terrible play and absolutely refuses to give them anything else tonight.
Some interesting stats from the first period:
Corsi for Buffalo: 15
Corsi for NJ: 13
Shots for Buffalo: 13
Shots for NJ: 6
Goals for Buffalo: 5
Goals for NJ: 0
I wish I had an explanation for that disparity, but I really don’t. Somehow they’re getting shot attempts, but the offense is not turning chances into shots on net, and the defense is not preventing them. Its an all-around travesty.
The Devils had 68 shot attempts in this game. 45 shots on net. The Sabers had 32 shots. The high danger chances evened out to 9 and 9 by the end of the game.
This is not a game you expect to end 7-1. This says an awful lot, and hopefully it speaks loudly enough to get some changes made. I’ll leave things at that tonight.
Your Take: Everybody okay after this? Any takes on changes that need to be made besides fire the coaching staff? Anyone have an explanation for which law of physics that 4th goal broke? Did anyone on the Devils do well tonight? Leave your comments below and I apologize for y’all having to read this.