Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night, the New Jersey Devils looked to rebound against Minnesota LW #11 and the rest of the Wild. Cory Schneider got the start again after an excellent previous outing; the result was much of the same even if the game was not as competitive. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Devils are already starting to evaluate for next season...
Similarly to their last game again, the Devils would jump out front 1-0 thanks to a member of the fourth line scoring a goal. This time, it was Brett Seney who would give New Jersey a lead, getting the Wild defense to back off and rifling a shot off of Devan Dubnyk’s glove and into the net 6:57 into the game. It was good to see Seney strike after being a healthy scratch a few games ago.
The lead would not last long though, as Marcus Foligno would collect a puck that went behind the Devils net from a defender’s point shot, bring it to the front, and roof a backhand pseudo-wrap-around over Schneider’s right shoulder to tie the game. I was disappointed with the defense coverage here, as neither Will Butcher, nor Ben Lovejoy knew to pick up whoever’s side of the net it was. Jesper Bratt was also down low and didn’t do much to help either. The good news was the teams went to the locker room for the first time tied at one.
The second period would see the game begin to trend downward, as LW #11 would redirect home a shot by Ryan Suter while Ben Lovejoy sat in the box for his usual dumb penalty. This came with 15:26 left in the second, but only a pair of seconds would tick off the clock before Foligno would be engaged in a fight by Kurtis Gabriel. While the fight itself was more of a hug-fest, I do appreciate Gabriel trying to invigorate his teammates.
The Wild were not finished in the middle frame however, as Joel Eriksson Ek would increase the Minnesota lead to 3-1 when he cashed in a rebound in front of the net. The Devils’ broadcast recapped the goal during the third, and said it appeared Eric Gryba pushed Travis Zajac down on the play, but during my viewing it appeared Wild defender Luke Kunin interfered with Zajac. Either way, the goal stood and the Devils went into the second intermission trailing by a pair.
The team came out and looked much better to start the final period, and within four minutes, Damon Severson would make a pass to a cutting Jesper Bratt who tucked the puck behind Dubnyk to bring the Devils within one. Now at this point, there are two unfortunate things to mention; one, this is the closest the Devils got, and two, the Wild wouldn’t wait even four more minutes to reestablish their two goal lead.
Luke Kunin would steal a puck from Ben Lovejoy (lowering his trade value by the second in this game) and would push around him getting a shot off. Cory Schneider would let in a “Schneider Softy” to get to what would be the final score. The Devils would press some more, they would get a sixth attacker on towards the end, but nothing they did made a difference as they dropped yet another game.
As the title says, this game was a love letter to John’s buddy Sherman Abrams; people who want the Devils to tank love games like today’s. Two more points slip away, the Devils stay low in the standings, and the hope that another prized prospect will land in New Jersey go up along with the percentage chance of it happening.
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: It hasn’t been posted just yet yet, but check out Hockey Wilderness for their recap of today’s action.
The Game Highlights: NHL.com brings us this afternoon’s package of clips that we really don’t want to see:
The Corsi Corner: It was an ugly day in terms of trying to push play forward for the Devils; Travis Zajac who is usually excellent in terms of possession got absolutely killed today for instance, finishing with a CF of 36.67%. Only five Devils finished at or above 50% in all situations with Kurtis Gabriel (50% in 5:01 of ice time) and Brett Seney (53.33% in 8:46) being two of them while each playing less than a sixth of the game! Will Butcher gets a shout out here for playing pretty well against lesser competition, posting a 58.62% CF in almost twenty minutes of ice time. The rest of the team didn’t really do a great job of holding onto the puck or pressing forward when they did have it, and both the stat sheet and final score reflect this poor play and performance.
An Evaluation Proclamation: The broadcast this afternoon gave a look at both Nick Lappin and recently acquired Ryan Murphy up on the press box, as they were called up from Binghamton earlier today. They also stated that they personally felt with the back to back games this weekend that each player would probably be getting a look. Considering the number of injuries currently and just how badly this team has underachieved this year, I think Ken Daneyko and Steve Cangialosi know a little more than they’re letting on. I would expect both players in the lineup tomorrow, more than likely for Gryba and one of the fourth line guys. Neither one may be a big piece for the Devils going forward, but with where they are this year it won’t hurt to look.
Eighteen: 18 shots? Against a bubble playoff team, the best that the Devils could muster was 18 shots? This is even more baffling when you consider that this was a home game and that the Wild only blocked 15 other attempts by the Devils. Comparatively, the Wild had 33 shots on goal with the Devils blocking 14 more. While the Wild may be a better team this season, disparities of this margin should not be happening at home. It’s another good indicator of how pathetic today’s performance was.
A Final Thought: I mention all the time how players run into each other due to issues with the team’s system; it happened again today when Drew Stafford got decimated on a check by Will Butcher. That’s right everyone, when Butcher isn’t trying to be physical, he actually can be physical.
Your Take: The New Jersey Devils season-long slide continues and has now extended into home games. The power play continues to be useless and the injured reserve list continues to grow. Hopefully better days are coming soon fellow Devils fans.
Thank you to Devin for the game preview, to Mike for providing coverage on the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and to everyone who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all as always for reading.