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Devils’ Defensive Deficits their Downfall in 6-3 Loss to Rangers

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The team was bad today on defense, and padded their shot totals with a lot of bad angle and weak shots, so they weren’t even that great on offense either.

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers
Hold. Your. Stick. Out. To. The. Shooter.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

First Period: MacKenzie Blackwood had to make his first save of the game on a shot from the left faceoff circle just past the minute mark of the first period. Artmi Panarin sent a weak one-timer into his chest. The Devils got their first shot a minute later after blocking a shot high in the zone, as Miles Wood took it out of the zone and got a sharp-angle shot on the other end.

The Devils went to the power play under three minutes into the period, as Brendan Smith took a delay of game penalty. They had trouble getting anything going until Kyle Palmieri ripped a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle after a re-entry. The next good chance for the Devils came when Wayne Simmonds had a loose puck in front of Igor Shesterkin, but Shesterkin got a piece of his chip shot and deflected it out of play. At the end of the power play, a Zacha wrister went wide, and then a pass to P.K. Subban for another attempt was mishandled. The Devils were sent back to their defensive end before they iced the puck, having gotten four shots on the power play.

The Rangers played the behind-the-net pass to Panarin for a one-timer for the first goal of the game. Tony DeAngelo sent him a backhand pass after skating behind Blackwood, and Adam Fox picked up the secondary assist.

The Devils went to the penalty kill for the first time of the game with 12 minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the first period, as P.K. Subban went off for interference. Kevin Rooney (!) scored his first goal of the year on the penalty kill after the Rangers iced the puck. Pavel Zacha made a few moves off the draw before shooting high off his backhand. Shesterkin couldn’t cover the rebound, and Kevin Rooney put it home.

However, the Rangers struck back right as the penalty expired. Tony DeAngelo was all alone in the right faceoff circle, and Mika Zibanejad saw him for the one-timer. MacKenzie Blackwood had given up two goals that were one-timers off passes from behind the net.

To make matters worse, the Devils went back to the penalty kill as John Hayden clipped Kaapo Kakko’s arm in the neutral zone after the puck had left his possession, and Hayden went to the box for two minutes for interference. On the penalty kill, Blake Coleman took an errant Artemi Panarin pass down low, as he and Damon Severson worked to move the puck out of the zone before Severson let off a shot from the blueline that Shesterkin covered. The game quickly started falling out of reach anyway, as Tony DeAngelo slapped the puck all the way down the ice, and Chris Kreider got in behind the defence to negate the icing and scored on the breakaway on Blackwood. 3-1.

On the play immediately following the goal, Mirco Mueller rang a shot off the post. The Devils would not have any other near-goals before the Rangers’ counterattack came crashing down on them. The Rangers, prior to the four minute mark of the period, were getting the vast majority of high danger chances. After play resumed from a television timeout, the Devils were attacking with much more togetherness, having placed Jesper Boqvist with the top line and Pavel Zacha with Wood and Wayne Simmonds.

With under two minutes remaining in the period, a shot from Damon Severson at the blueline was tipped down by Blake Coleman to make the game 3-2. It appeared that no good things may happen on their own, as Pavel Buchnevich began to celebrate a goal with his team for his shot on a breakaway on Blackwood with Mueller and Palmieri in pursuit. Despite the goal signal from the referee, the light and horn did not come on - and upon further review it was seen that the puck hit the crossbar and never crossed the goal line. Nothing else of note happened for the rest of the period, which ended at 3-2.

Second Period: The first good chance of the second period came around two and a half minutes into the period, when Miles Wood and Wayne Simmonds played a give-and-go that resulted in a breakaway for Wood. Wood shot it straight off his forehand, and Igor Shesterkin made the stop.

A few minutes later, Miles Wood sent a bad shot on net from the low corner that Shesterkin made the stop on. For several seconds afterwards, Pavel Zacha attempted on his own to take the puck back on the forecheck to no avail, other than slowing down the Rangers.

The first stoppage came almost nine minutes into the period, as the net was knocked off its moorings on a netfront scramble. Off a knocked down Damon Severson shot, Jacob Trouba and Blake Coleman went skating into the moorings, while also taking the puck across the goal line. Upon further review, it was ruled that Trouba caused the net to come off its moorings, and the puck also crossed - and therefore the Devils had tied the game.

Somehow, 3-3.

With about eight minutes and 20 seconds, as the Rangers were threatening with good puck movement again, Nico Hischier went sliding down and made a block on a Tony DeAngelo shot. However, after the Zajac line came on, DeAngelo shot right over Blackwood’s pad as there were two Rangers right in front of the Devils crease. 4-3.

After the Rangers go-ahead goal, the Devils went back to the penalty kill on a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Jesper Boqvist served the penalty. The Rangers got a couple attempts in the first minute, but Blackwood didn’t have to deal with much danger from the Rangers. Tony DeAngelo kept shooting, and Blackwood made a glove save on him with 51 seconds remaining to allow the second units to come on following a freeze. Pavel Buchnevich nearly had a breakaway on a stretch pass, but he lost his footing and hit the ice as the Devils turned play around. However, to the side of the Rangers net, Nico Hischier took a two-minute minor for high sticking Adam Fox in the face on an errant stick lift.

Zibanejad won the first draw, and Panarin played the puck back to Tony DeAngelo at the high slot as Boqvist came out of the box. DeAngelo skated to the top of the circles as Greene and Zajac played for blocks instead of pressure, and he ripped the puck high past Blackwood. 5-3. Since the goal came after the bench minor expired, play resumed at even strength. However, with five goals on the board, Louis Domingue came on for the New Jersey Devils. I thought it was the wrong time to remove Blackwood, as he was still making good saves and I considered that shot by DeAngelo as one not reasonably expected to be stopped.

Just as the Devils were about to go to the power play as Pavel Zacha was taken down in the corner by Jacob Trouba, Wayne Simmonds took a cross-checking penalty on Greg McKegg right next to them. I was not happy.

At four-on-four, the Devils did not do anything of note with the puck except turn it over, until Damon Severson took a weak shot at the very end of the period off a pass from Pavel Zacha. Thus, the period ended 5-3, while shots stood at 31-28, Devils.

Third Period: The first notable event of the third period came 50 seconds into the period, as the Rangers took an unpressured icing. The Devils lost the offensive zone draw and fought for possession until Blake Coleman knocked Chris Kreider off to allow Travis Zajac to lead the Devils into the zone. Their zone time was spent along the boards, until the Rangers took the puck back and forced the Devils to take an icing of their own a mere 52 seconds of game play after the last one. Zajac’s line worked the puck out of the zone and changed for Zacha’s line, and Jesper Boqvist hopped around Tony DeAngelo before dipping and shooting high, but Shesterkin made the stop with his arm.

With Wayne Simmonds back on the top line, Nico Hischier was being held along the boards as the Devils tried to create offense, but no call was made as multiple shots were taken by a stickless Jacob Trouba. Ken Daneyko commented on the play, saying he had no idea what was going on, as there was no hockey play being made on Hischier except for shoves and hands from behind - and apparently the referee did not either.

The Devils finally returned to the power play with 11 minutes and 10 minutes remaining, as Blake Coleman was held and interfered with by Chris Kreider, who went off for two minutes. On the power play, the Rangers won the initial draw and forced Sami Vatanen to take the puck through the neutral zone by himself. Vatanen’s shot was deflected straight into the air by Shesterkin, and nothing else of note happened before the Rangers cleared the puck from the zone twice. P.K. Subban finally got a shot from the point after the penalty expired, and Jesper Boqvist nearly scored on the rebound. If only they tried something like that (shooting?) during the power play.

The game became out of reach with about seven minutes remaining, as the Devils were caught in a two-on-one with just Sami Vatanen back. Ryan Strome assisted Jesper Fast on the one-timer, which was possible thanks to P.K. Subban not attempting to backcheck. Artemi Panarin picked up the secondary assist.

The Devils went back to the penalty kill as Mika Zibanejad drew a hooking call on Miles Wood with less than four and a half minutes to play. Louis Domingue made a great save on the penalty kill as the Rangers created chaos early, forcing P.K. Subban and Kevin Rooney to make desperate blocks to prevent the extra point from being added to the board. Louis Domingue started playing with Sami Vatanen’s stick after having his own knocked while trying to play the puck behind the net, before retrieving it at the end of the penalty

The game ended 6-3, with the shots at 49 to 37 in favor of the Devils.

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

Opposition Opinion: Blueshirt Banter will have the Rangers’ side of things.

Cover the Point Man: Tony DeAngelo walked all over the New Jersey Devils tonight. For a guy who has a reputation for being one of, if not the most offensively gifted defenseman on the Rangers’ roster, fans should be unhappy that the Devils did not make so much of an effort to keep a forward near him. He had space throughout the game. Yet, the Rangers were able to constantly pressure point shooters whenever they wanted to, despite the Devils’ lack of a comparable skill to Tony DeAngelo.

Coming into this game, DeAngelo had eight goals and 23 assists in 42 games, with a 9.3 shot percentage. These are not the numbers of a guy you should give space to - whether it be to shoot or pass to Artemi Panarin.

Blake Coleman The Goal Scorer: If you told me coming into this season that Blake Coleman would expand his scoring pace in comparison to last season, I would have been pretty skeptical. As good as Blake Coleman is, I did not think he would have 15 goals by game 43 of the year - that would be a pace for 28 or 29 goals for the whole season, if he were to play 82 games. There wasn’t much room I thought Coleman could possibly grow, but the volume at which he gets pucks on net is a boon for his scoring and the Devils’ future outlook. His six shots tonight, which tied for the team lead with P.K. Subban and Miles Wood, brought him to 126 shots on the season - which comes out to 2.93 shots per game, versus his paces of 1.85 and 2.73 shots per game in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. His two goals tonight bring his shot percentage to 11.9% on the season, versus his marks of 8.9% and 10.3% in the last two seasons. I think the question on Blake Coleman is: how much longer can we expect him to improve his game for?

For the Devils sake, the day Coleman starts trending in the wrong direction had better come later, rather than sooner. He is definitely well past the average starting point for an NHLer’s decline, yet produces more efficiently as time goes on.

The Ballad of Ben, Kevin, and John: In a stunning three minutes and 36 seconds of ice time, the fourth line did not get a single shot on goal while together. They allowed four shots, three scoring chances, and two high-danger scoring chances - effectively taking an entire line out of commission and forcing Alain Nasreddine to roll three lines, as Ben Street only played three minutes and 55 seconds tonight.

This is after the Devils told the AHL that Ben Street will be unavailable for their All-Star Game, because they plan on keeping him for under four minutes a night, apparently. But if you want stats that can cause involuntary shaking of the head, here was the fourth line’s even strength expected goals for percentages, according to Natural Stat Trick:

  • Ben Street: 0.01 xGF - 0.5 xGA (2.05 xGF%) - 3:55
  • John Hayden: 0.09 xGF - 0.53 xGA (15.18 xGF%) - 7:51
  • Kevin Rooney: 0.1 xGF - 0.59 xGA (13.86 xGF%) - 8:16 EV and 2:58 PK (0.32 xGF - 0.31 xGA and a goal in four-on-five)

Game 43.

Your Thoughts: Who is John Hayden? Who is even strength Kevin Rooney? Why did the team tell the AHL they wouldn’t send down Ben Street and then keep him under four minutes? Did Blackwood deserve to be pulled? Should Nasreddine have kept Boqvist on the top line? What did it feel like watching this game of hockey? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.