First Period: After the Hischier line was buzzing for the first minute of the game, with Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha able to hold the zone and continue their attack to the end of the first minute. After the first line failed to get off and was pressured by an Avalanche counterattack, P.K. Subbam made a block on one knee to allow a line change.
A few minutes later, P.K. Subban made a terrible shot at the blueline, which was blocked out of the zone by Gabriel Landeskog, and Landeskog nearly had a two-on-none. However, Andy Greene barreled down on the backcheck, and went into a dive with his stick outreached to deny Landeskog a clean shot, which Blackwood did not need to make a save on. Landeskog got a follow-up chance in the scramble back, which Blackwood stopped with his arm.
Kyle Palmieri had Pavel Zacha on a two-on-one, but Palmieri showing pass allowed a second Avalanche defenseman to get in the lane, forcing Palmieri to shoot, and Grubauer made the stop.
Blake Coleman was sprung for a breakaway when he collected a puck skating backwards near the blueline of the offensive zone. He spun into the zone, splitting the defensemen and going backhand on Grubauer, who made a good save on the move.
Kyle Palmieri made a great play in the offensive zone with about six minutes remaining. He was turning in the corner, and had a contested lane to the slot, where Hischier was. Palmieri feigned for an extra moment before making the pass, which made the Avalanche defenseman miss. Hischier’s shot went wide, however.
The Avalanche had a goal with a minute and 11 seconds remaining, which was immediately waved off. Joonas Donskoi, who has been in the midst of a terrible scoring drought given his nearly point-per-game pace through the first 30 or so games of the season, batted the puck from about a foot above the crossbar into the net.
Second Period: Nazem Kadri was all alone behind the Devils net, as Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson followed the dump-in from behind. Vatanen guarded the far post, allowing Kadri to make a quick move to the net and get a shot on Blackwood. Severson, late getting back, then tripped Kadri, who went spinning on the ice.
On the penalty kill, the Devils had a good first minute, which ended with an icing by the Avalanche, giving the Devils an offensive zone faceoff. Zajac won it back, and after the Devils played it into the neutral zone and then back into the offensive zone, P.K. Subban was set up for a blast that appeared to give Grubauer some trouble. As the penalty was ending, MacKenzie Blackwood made a save, which was followed by a rebound attempt by J.T. Compher as Blackwood drifted out of the net, and the shot was blocked by Andy Greene.
Mirco Mueller had a shot blocked high in the zone by Matthew Nieto, who pressured Mueller all the way back to the Devils’ net, but Mueller maintained possession for the Devils for the moment. After the Avalanche worked the puck into their offensive zone, the Devils were mostly keeping them without attempts until a loose puck came to Nieto again, who fired on Blackwood, who made the save. Damon Severson had the puck in his skates, which gave the Avalanche another chance to score.
Mikko Rantanen had a chance to make a pass to an open man by Blackwood with around 11 and a half minutes to play in the period, but Andy Greene dove to the ice to stop the pass with his body.
Mikko Rantanen, showing why Andy Greene made the move he did earlier in the game, received a short backhand pass from Nathan MacKinnon from the boards, and shot from the faceoff circle high past MacKenzie Blackwood. 1-0, Avalanche. Samuel Girard got the secondary assist.
Gabriel Landeskog had a one-timer opportunity from the slot with about five minutes and 30 seconds to play, which bounced off Blackwood’s pad. Mikko Rantanen had position to score, but overskated the puck, despite Sami Vatanen not being in good position to play the rebound.
Ian Cole scored on a screened shot off a faceoff, as an initial attempt was blocked, recollected, and passed back to him. Cole quickly wound back and slapped the puck, which fluttered high into the corner. 2-0, Avalanche. Vladislav Kamenev had the assist.
The second period was a bad one for the Devils. After outshooting the Avalanche 12-10 in the first period while not allowing any high danger scoring chances against, the Devils were outshot 14-3 in the second period, while allowing two high danger chances.
Third Period: Cale Makar made quick work of the Devils to start the period, working the puck below the goal line and sending a pass to a cutting Mikko Rantanen, who shot it past Blackwood. 3-0, Avalanche.
A few minutes later, Tyson Jost was sprung from a stretch pass and had one man to beat before Blackwood. Jost’s shot went high. On the follow-up, Mikko Rantanen battled with Sami Vatanen, who managed to prevent Rantanen from driving the net with the puck.
Miles Wood took a minor penalty behind the Avalanche net, as he held Ian Cole from behind, sending Cole to the ice.
On the penalty kill, the Devils were able to keep the Avalanche cycling around the perimeter of the offensive zone. After a Blackwood glove save and defensive zone draw, Blake Coleman went end to end with Zajac on his far side. Coleman took the shot, and it went past Grubauer. 3-1.
After the penalty expired, Miles Wood got behind the Avalanche and had a breakaway. He made a quick move to his forehand and shot while being tripped from behind, giving the Devils their first power play of the game.
On the power play, Nikita Gusev gave the puck to Sami Vatanen about halfway through the first minute, who made a weak shot as he entered the zone. After the draw, Damon Severson was very blatantly tripped by Matthew Calvert, which went uncalled. A minute later, Jesper Boqvist cut into the middle and shot into Grubauer’s chest. The rebound was swung at twice but Nikita Gusev missed the net on his attempt. With that, the penalty expired. On the replay, it appeared that Kyle Palmieri was taken down while playing the rebound, and Gusev’s shot hit his stick.
Kevin Rooney made an important play with just over eight minutes remaining. As the Avalanche were in possession for a lengthy stretch, Rooney got in a passing lane and picked off Nathan MacKinnon, clearing the zone and allowing the Hischier line to get on. As that line worked behind the Avalanche net on a dump-in, Kyle Palmieri was interfered with by Tyson Jost, and the Devils returned to the power play.
Damon Severson had a good chance on the power play, as Nikita Gusev fired a pass across the crease for a one-timer. The puck bounced off Severson’s skate, and he got a shot off, but Grubauer was able to make the stop.
The referees’ awful game continued as MacKenzie Blackwood was tripped behind his own net by Calvert, who slew foot Blackwood. The puck got to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who fired the puck into the empty net. The fact it went to a coaches’ challenge was pathetic in itself, and the referees called it a good goal because of “incidental contact” outside of the crease. Alain Nasreddine’s lips were clear as day on the broadcast, too, and I wish I could use some of his words in regards to that sequence. 4-1, Avalanche. Wayne Simmonds was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, as the Devils were assessed a bench minor.
Rather than a five-on-three, which would have been the standard for tripping the goaltender while on the penalty kill, the game became four-on-four, followed by an abbreviated Avalanche power play. The Devils were able to kill it, as it finished with a big check by Damon Severson on Joonas Donskoi, and a clear.
After the penalty expired, the Devils went to the power play again, as Pavel Zacha was tripped in the defensive zone. Nasreddine pulled Blackwood with over three minutes remaining, and for the duration of the power play. Play was halted 53 seconds into the power play, as the Devils knocked the puck down with a high stick.
The Devils second wave seemed more energetic in the offensive zone, as Zacha and Zajac quickly moved the puck between each other before setting their defensemen for shots. On the third attempt, the puck was worked back to Sami Vatanen from Pavel Zacha, who took the shot - which was tipped by Jesper Boqvist in the high slot through Grubauer’s five hole. 4*-2.
Nasreddine kept the goalie pulled, and the Hischier line got a chance to make it a one-goal game. As Hischier and Palmieri battled for the puck in the corner, Nathan MacKinnon spun around and threw an elbow into Palmieri’s ribs as the Avalanche iced the puck. Palmieri remained down for awhile before returning to the bench as the trainers started making their way onto the ice.
After play resumed, the Devils had a netfront chance on a rebound that was swept away in a scramble by the Avalanche. On the follow-up, Sami Vatanen’s blast was blocked and played to Mikko Rantanen, who played chicken with Vatanen in the neutral zone with the net empty, as Severson raced back to the net in case Vatanen couldn’t block it high. Rantanen scored through both of them from the neutral zone. 5*-2.
No-Call? Why Call Anything?: I generally hate complaining about the referees because, as far as comparisons to other sports leagues go, I think NHL referees are generally less stand-offish, and better at their jobs. Tonight, that was not the case. There were plenty of missed trips, a few uncalled boarding penalties, and the third period was an absolute trainwreck. Had the game been called as accurately as it normally would be (where I don’t feel like I’ve seen several blatant missed calls, and just a few minor-moderately important ones), the Devils probably could have taken the game to overtime.
However, as we cannot know what would have happened if those calls were made (as the Avalanche may have approached the game differently), we have to live with this result.
Solid Devils Debut for Street: Ben Street was called up for tonight’s game due to the injuries to Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. In 9:24 of even strength (and total) play, Street led the Devils in possession stats at a 54.17 Corsi For percentage (CF%). He also had the highest expected goals for percentage (xGF%) on the team at 47.15 at even strength. He gave Philipp Grubauer some trouble with a shot from the left-side faceoff circle when he had an option to pass to a cutting Miles Wood, as it nearly squeezed through. Street had three shots, which tied Miles Wood for second on the team after Blake Coleman’s five. He also blocked three shots, which led the team.
Personally, I could stand to watch him over a guy like John Hayden, as Street’s third line outshot the Avalanche eight to six tonight, while the fourth line got outshot four to two. I think he is probably capable of playing in the bottom six every night given his showing tonight in addition to his performance in the AHL. And while Binghamton’s performance is important to developing players there, having Street be better than a John Hayden in the NHL is better for the team than having Street languish his whole career away in the minors so Cory Schneider can win a couple games.
On Goaltender Interference: I understand that the contact could reasonably be called “incidental”. However, that’s not my issue with what Calvert did or did not do (if you want to be one of those people that say the goalie skating back to his net tripped Calvert instead of the other way around, despite Calvert touching Blackwood’s skate with his stick prior to taking out his other skate).
Rule 69 of the NHL rulebook states:
(1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
So where, in that replay below, do you see Calvert make an effort to avoid that contact? Where else is Blackwood going to play this puck? Outside the trapezoid? Calvert skates through Blackwood’s path to his net, and that’s why I don’t buy the “incidental contact” excuse to not wave off the goal.
Devils furious after they lose goaltender interference challenge on Pierre-Édouard Bellemare goal pic.twitter.com/zrXqOKFwLs— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 5, 2020
As Calvert reaches his stick around Blackwood, what path does MacKenzie have other than the one he took?
Your Thoughts: What did you think went wrong in tonight’s game? Do you think Blackwood could have made saves on any of the goals? Do you wish Nasreddine threw a bench? Did anyone catch your eye on the Devils? On the Avalanche? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Whether you followed along on the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.