The New Jersey Devils were in trouble early, as Eeli Tolvanen had a dangerous turnaround chance right in front of Jonathan Bernier for the Nashville Predators, following poor play in the defensive end by the Devils in which they could not move the puck up ice. After making a line change, the Devils got into their offensive zone and Jonas Siegenthaler took a slap shot that was gloved by Juuse Saros.
Nathan Bastian took a faceoff less than two minutes into the game after McLeod was chased from the dot, as that duo was officially reunited. Bernier continued to be tested by the Predators, stopping a good backhand by Trenin as he beat Siegenthaler and Subban on the rush less than five minutes in.
The Devils took the first penalty of the game six and a half minutes into the first as Andreas Johnsson was called for boarding Eeli Tolvanen in the neutral zone, shortly after Ryan Graves took a hit from behind, behind Bernier’s net. 11 seconds later, the referees made a clear makeup call, calling Duchene for hooking Ryan Graves. The boarding was an odd call, as Tolvanen didn’t go right into them and was turned a bit to the side of them.
The Nashville Predators scored at four-on-four, as Roman Josi, as Bernier let in a terrible sharp-angle shot from below the faceoff circle. It hit Bernier, and it trickled into the net to make it a 1-0 game. The Predators were going to make it a 2-0 game soon after, as P.K. Subban had to trip Mikael Gralund as he cut across the open net.
On the power play, the Predators had an immediate two-on-one as the Devils were completely unprepared for the kill. Duchene had a one-timer on a pass across a diving Severson, and Bernier made the sprawling glove save to keep the game tied. The rest of the kill was a bit better, as the Predators missed a wide-angle chip shot chance - and the Devils suppressed them in the final minute. Siegenthaler blocked a move to the side of the net on one knee, helping preserve the kill in the final half-minute before the Predators struggled to maintain possession.
The referees called yet another penalty with just under seven to play, as Filip Forsberg was called for slashing. On the power play, the Devils struggled to set up in the first half minute before finally getting across 40 seconds in. Subban telegraphed a slap shot at the end of the first minute that weakly went wide. Jimmy Vesey had a chance in front shortly after that was snuffed out by the Predators penalty kill, and Nashville kept the Devils from having offensive zone time until the final 20 seconds. Andreas Johnsson’s one-timer from the circle was blocked with 10 seconds, and he could not get another shot off as he got the puck again.
I don't think Jimmy Vesey and P.K. Subban on PP1 is the solution.— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) November 26, 2021
With three minutes to play, the Devils still only had the Siegenthaler shot counted. Dawson Mercer had a one-on-one chance with just over two to play but he danced a bit too much and it got broken up by the man back. Damon Severson finally got another shot with 40 seconds to play, through a heavy screen, off Jaros’ pad. After another attempt from him went wide, the puck got out to Vesey, whose pass was behind Severson and the puck came out with 3.3 to play, and the period ended at 1-0 in favor of the Predators.
Through one, it was a very uneventful period. At five-on-five, the Predators had a 10-4 Corsi advantage (28.57 CF% for the Devils) and a 5-1 shots advantage. The Predators had the only five-on-five high danger chance, and had a 0.33-0.12 xG ratio (26.41 xGF% for the Devils). The Predators led in four-on-four with a 3-1 Corsi advantage with two shots, a goal, and a 0.12-0.01 xG ratio (25.00 CF% and 7.7 xGF% for the Devils). The Devils had three missed attmepts on the power play, while the Predators had two shots and two missed attempts. The Predators had 0.35 xG on the power play, while the Devils had 0.00. That’s about as poor a period as the Devils could possibly have, but it was relatively low-event and Bernier kept the damage to a minimum - letting a bad goal in but making some very good saves.
At the start of the second, McLeod’s line took the ice and had to defend the Predators’ attack, before being called for icing 39 seconds in. Bernier froze play at the end of the first minute, and the Devils continued to defend against the Predators’ strong possessive play. After a few minutes of play passed by. Dawson Mercer sped into the offensive zone but missed Johnsson on the pass across. The puck got back to Mercer, whose shot trickled through Saros but was slapped out of the crease. Going back the other way, the defense failed to defend the front of the net, as Dougie Hamilton did not take a man and passively waved at a pass across, standing on the goal line, allowing Phillip Tomasino to get on it and tap the puck past Bernier. 2-0, Nashville.
The Devils played...slightly better after the second goal. They were not allowing much offensive zone time for the Predators, but were not exactly threatening Juuse Saros themselves. That was, until Phillip Tomasino had a one-timer chance on an odd-man rush with 12 minutes to play - but Bernier snuffed it out. After Dougie Hamilton made a terrible pass to Dawson Mercer, who was at a standstill, from behind the net, Hamilton took a kneeing penalty for taking out Mikael Granlund as he took the puck away from Mercer and had a sure chance to get a good shot off.
On the penatly kill, the Devils got the puck out 20 seconds in, off the stick of Nico Hischier. The Predators got the puck into the corner after coming up ice, but Severson and Graves won it away - and Graves sent it back down. The Predators could not set up a shot on their third time in, as the Devils plugged the lanes and pressured the puck carrier enough to disrupt their cycle. The Devils got the kill, and Hamilton came out of the box to set Janne Kuokkanen up for a shot from the inside of the circle - which was knocked down with the glove and covered by Saros.
With around eight minutes to play, Lindy Ruff switched Yegor Sharangovich and Nico Hischier in the lineup. Nico set Jimmy Vesey up going into the offensive zone with a backhand pass, but Vesey got too ahead of the play as he would have been all alone. It was a close offsides call, and not one I’m sure should have been made. Still, Vesey should have slowed up going in.
Jonathan Bernier had to stand all alone after Dougie Hamilton and Andreas Johnsson collided in the neutral zone, with Johnsson diving after a pass. Mattias Ekholm pinched for a point-blank one-timer, and Bernier had to seal off the side of the net. At the end of the period, Saros and Bernier traded saves on some long shots, and the period ended at 2-0 in favor of the Predators.
Nico Hischier ripped a shot high and wide to start the period for the Devils, on a chance the Devils need to have on net. P.K. Subban went crashing into Bernier’s net 40 seconds in, and the draw came out to the neutral zone. He got the puck deep, and Jesper Bratt shot the puck over the net after it came out to him to the outside of the high slot. Bratt later threw the puck from the wall over toward Dawson Mercer at the mouth of the crease, as the puck was initially saved by Saros and redirected off Mercer’s stick back to him, forcing an offensive zone draw.
After losing and regaining the zone, the Devils had a great chance for Colton White as he drove the net and almost scored on the backhand, cutting from the goal line. Colby Sissons got hurt by a Severson one-timer earlier in the possession.
The Devils, with their lines all scrambled, seemed to be doing better at the start of the third. Mercer was with DeLeo and Bratt; and McLeod with Kuokkanen and Tatar. Tatar charged into the zone four minutes and 15 seconds in, but could not get on the dump and the Devils had to repossess in their defensive end. Graves fired from center ice and the Hischier line, with Zacha and Vesey, tried to get on it. This only resulted in a long shot for Graves, gloved by Saros.
The Devils finally got another good shot six and a half minutes in, as Zacha found Hischier through the seam, giving the Devils the offensive zone. Hischier cut into the middle and ripped a shot from the high slot that was a bit too centered on Jaros. On the Predators’ first shot of the period, just 15 seconds after the draw, Mikael Granlund got a one-timer from Matt Duchene to the side of the net, as Duchene set him up from behind the net. Severson and Hamilton were far out of position and scrambled too far in response to Duchene handling the puck behind the net, not picking up any Predators around the net. 3-0, Nashville.
The Devils finally got on the board with eight minutes to play, as the Mercer line, reunited with Johnsson, got the puck deep - and Johnsson won the puck from the battle to Bratt behind the net. Bratt got it to Mercer at the edge of the circle, who slid it across to Johnsson for the tap-in. 1-3.
Finally get one. Need a big finish. pic.twitter.com/u7bBUEEas0— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 27, 2021
The Devils struggled to follow this up with anything notable for two or so minutes. Play was frozen with 4:57 to play as the Kuokkanen-Sharangovich-Tatar line had the puck deep but was about to yield an odd-man rush the other way before play was blown dead as the Predators crossed into their offensive zone. The Devils failed to pull Bernier during a lengthy offensive zone shift for the Mercer line with under three minutes to play, leading to him making a save with under two minutes to play that led to play being frozen in the defensive zone.
McLeod won that draw, and he got it deep into the zone. Bernier got of, and the Predators flipped to the neutral zone. Sharangovich sent in, and Tatar took it away from the Predators as they were about to break out. The puck got across to Severson from Kuokkanen on the drop, and Saros gloved the shot. McLeod took the next draw, lost it, and the Predators scored on the empty net with the full-ice shot by Alexandre Carrier.
Of course, Tomas Tatar scored a goal to make it 2-4 with 27.4 to play, as Saros came too far out of the net to play a puck that was trickling into the zone off a dump out from Johnsson. Tatar was all alone, speeding through the neutral zone and scoring on a quick shot past Saros, who was scrambling back. Chase DeLeo was taken down with seconds left, but time expired before a penalty could be called.
The Opposition Opinion: Over at On the Forecheck, check out their recap.
Recchi’s Power Play Continues to Flop
The Devils had a power play tonight, but it was pretty hard to tell they actually had a man advantage. They had no shots, no scoring chances, or anything. It was pathetic, and the Devils are now 1 for 23 (4.35%) on road power plays, with their only power play goal on the road coming on November 14 against the Rangers. In total, the Devils are 7 for 52 on the power play for a 13.5% effectiveness.
Every day Mark Recchi is still coaching the power play is a day Lindy Ruff puts his job more at risk. A good power play to follow up the early deficit could have pumped some mojo into this team - but just that’s too much to ask for. Zero shots.
No Show Offense
I was not really a fan of...any line tonight, whether original or reshuffled (however, Nico Hischier had a 33.33 CF% with Tatar and a 76.92 CF% with Vesey). After a great game on Wednesday, I was looking forward to what the Devils could do tonight. They were terrible. Despite 16 shots in the third period, they only had 25 on the game, letting Saros ease into his net and not have to deal with anything really threatening until the last 10 minutes of the game. This was an unacceptable effort, and Ruff’s mashup failed to make an impact. I am not sure what preparation, if any, they got for this game - but it needs to be better.
The Devils’ forwards had 15 shots on 32 attempts. More than half of their attempts were either blocked or missed the net. Pavel Zacha was a complete non-factor tonight, getting zero attempts off his stick - though he did spring Nico for a chance and almost hit Tatar with a slick behind the back pass that could have led to a good shot in the third - but Tatar was not focusing on the puck enough and was not ready for it. Nico needs to drive the net a bit more when he gets the puck, as I felt he shot a bit prematurely a few times today and damaged his chance of scoring.
Andreas Johnsson had two points, but his main line was not really that good tonight. They found themselves defending often and had trouble connecting prior to the third period goal. Meanwhile, I do not understand why Chase DeLeo temporarily took Johnsson’s spot. DeLeo was pretty weak on the puck and failed to prolong possession a few times on both the second and fourth lines tonight - and I hope the Devils consider Graeme Clarke, Nate Schnarr, or Nolan Foote for that fourth line soon. While Clarke and Schnarr are both right-handed, they have been producing a lot in the AHL - and they could be decent triggermen as Bastian consistently plowed the road tonight just for nothing to be made of the retrievable puck. McLeod just does not shoot very well, and passing to DeLeo was a non-option tonight. The Devils might be more keen to call up a left-hander like A.J. Greer - but they should really be giving younger guys chances right now.
The worst thing of all tonight was watching the Devils try to cover - especially around the net. I thought Dougie Hamilton had his worst game as a Devil, as he was a total non-factor offensively and actively hurt the Devils in the defensive zone. He was out of position on a few plays, and Ryan Graves often was not enough to keep the Predators at bay. Statistically, Siegenthaler and Subban had a good game - but they need to stop winding up for shots in the third period when the Devils are down by multiple goals. But Graves and Hamilton really killed the Devils, as the team relies on them to spring the counterattack - and they had nothing tonight on either end.
Tonight, the Devils defense had 10 shots on goal on 20 attempts. Subban saw 0 of his 3 attempts hit the net. Severson and White led the defense in ixG with 0.12 and 0.09, respectively, while the next best was Siegenthaler’s 0.04. Graves, Hamilton, and Subban were good for much less danger on their attempts, as Severson and White had two of the Devils’ five high-danger scoring chances. Subban, Siegenthaler, and Graves could stand to take fewer attempts, as Graves had two of his five weak shots hit the net in addition to the second pairing wasting a few good zone entries and cycles in the third period.
Just a Bad Game
The Devils need to move on from this. They have not played stinkers like this throughout the early season, and they need to regroup fast. Jack Hughes’ return is on the horizon, and I would like to see them get another win or two against the Flyers and Sharks - who are next on the docket for the Devils. With the Devils returning home for those games, it would be nice for some semblance of a practice to be held to work out their power play ineptitude and for actual preparation be made for the games at hand.
“We weren’t ready. We’ve got to find a way. There’s just no excuse.”— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 27, 2021
Hear from Nico Hischier after tonight’s 4-2 loss in Nashville. pic.twitter.com/GOxDNu6prL
What did you think of tonight’s game? Did you feel like you were wasting your time? How did you like Tomas Tatar being referred to as Tommy Novak for the first two periods, if you watched the ESPN+ broadcast? How did you feel about Bernier? How about Ruff’s coaching decisions? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
And whether you followed in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.