Last game brought us our worst loss of the season, against our biggest rivals. So today has to start better, right?
We start off with a 4 minute minor for high sticking to Sami Vatanen less than two minutes into the game. Stellar. The Devils get the first clear, then Adam Fox carries the puck from the opposite end all the way down the ice straight through the middle and puts it through Blackwood’s five-hole, who barely moved. Can I get a re-do?
Anyway, looking on the bright side, that’s two less minutes of powerplay we have to kill! Right? And Alexander Georgiev got his first assist of the season. That’s just so nice.
A few minutes later, Zacha failed to get the puck out of the zone on a pass to Vatanen that gets picked off, Strome picks it up and backhands it over Blackwood’s shoulder. Into the net. So now its 2-0. That’s fun.
The defense. THE PASS. The shot.— Rangers on MSG (@RangersMSGN) March 6, 2021
SATURDAY RANGERS BABY pic.twitter.com/f3gJFaLe6v
The best part of this game is starting to be the commercials.
Following this goal, we actually get some zone time! The Zacha- Maltsev combo seems to be working so far, and we actually manage to get some puck movement and keep possession for a bit, though nothing exciting comes out of it. I mean, no goals or real schoring chances come out of it, but honestly the puck being somewhere other than our zone is kind of exciting to me at this point.
Filip Chytil gets a breakaway, but I think he might’ve felt bad for us because he barely even shot the puck, and Mackenzie Blackwood got to make an actual save.
Back in the Devils zone after Vatanen took a shot that just didn’t include the puck whatsoever and just left it for the Rangers to rush. And then we failed on the clear attempt. But Blackwood made another save!
Wood, Zajac, and Palmieri force the Rangers to do a little work this time, keeping the zone for a little bit. The Rangers get it out and we change our offense and come back in for another rush. Zacha wins a battle on the boards and gets the puck back to Subban, who seems to have learned just enough from his errant puck blastings to actually get it on net this time, and puts it in the top corner past Georgiev. Devils are on the board, 2-1.
Puck drops, Bastian finds Maltsev already with his running shoes on bolting down the middle. Maltsev, who seems to have the magic touch against Rangers goalies, backhands it past Georgiev. Bye-bye, horrific start, bye-bye, two-goal deficit. Tie game in 17 seconds, 2-2.
Buuuuut not for long.
Remember Kevin Rooney? Well, he takes a run down the ice with Filip Chytil, catches Subban on a 2 on 1 that he defends horrible, and Rooney finds the corner above Blackwood again. Its been a while since I did flash math but I’m pretty sure its 3-2 at this point.
I think the game plan at this point is honestly ‘well, we can’t play defense, so let’s just play offense’. Because defending, we ain’t. Another breakaway for the Rangers, PLUS a rebound chance. Fortunately, Blackwood seems to be getting his handle back. I sure wish I had an explanation for what’s going on with him, but I really don’t besides ‘covid sucks’.
The Devils flip the battle into the Rangers end for the final seconds and PK forces Georgiev to make another couple saves (and rips a shot off Kreider as payment for his hat trick last game) but we’ll still go intermission down a goal. I’ll take down 3-2 after an offensive blitz of a period than down 2-0 because we forgot to show up for the first ten minutes, though.
We can’t possibly maintain that level of action, right? Well, I’m not sure my heart can, but apparently the Rangers can. 90 seconds into the game, we decide there’s no point in attempting to prevent a zone entry. The Rangers get the puck to the point and Libor Hajek gets his first goal of the season, because of course he does.
Some great build-up play from the Rangers rewarded with LIBOR HAJEK'S FIRST GOAL OF THE SEASON pic.twitter.com/u8d9pT2Ol3— Rangers on MSG (@RangersMSGN) March 6, 2021
What wouldn’t spice this up but another Devils penalty, amiright? Kulikov decides to judo throw Chytil so we’ll go to the penalty kill yet again. However, somehow we turn it into a few shots on net for us? A little shorthanded action? I’ll take it, we kill the penalty, no harm no foul. Devils immediately turn the play into the front of Georgiev following the penalty kill, but apparently shooting the puck on net is illegal for us so we just decided not to.
Apparently its also illegal for us to play at 5 on 5, so why not trip somebody by diving for the puck and sliding for ten feet across the ice before they decide to fall over you? That’s the Ty Smith way today. Back to the penalty kill we go. Fortunately all the penalty kill practice lately seems to be paying off for us, so we manage to make ourselves slightly more of a problem shorthanded than we have been at 5 on 5 again (2018 Devils, here we come?) until the penalty expires.
Finally, Zacha draws a penalty, so we’ll go to our super successful powerplay against the rangers.... best penalty kill in the league lately. Oh.
I’ll save you the suspense. We got one shot on net, and it did not go in the net.
We really just can’t buy a goal when we need one lately, The period is waning, we’re leading in shots, in the final minute we have a netfront battle that leaves Georgiev inside the net facing the wrong way. And we still don’t score. We’ll go into the intermission down two this time, and I’ll take several antacids.
Do you know what I think this game was really missing? Another Devils penalty. Thank you, Andreas Johnsson, for deciding to hold somebody else’s stick for utterly no reason 30 seconds into the period. I was wondering when I would get to see the sweet, sweet, penalty-killing styles of the New Jersey Devils again. It’s been a while since I’ve sat on my couch and screamed SOMEBODY MOVE at the top of my lungs because I just love it so much when we attempt to kill a penalty by playing dead. Somehow, however, road-kill defense worked and we survived yet another penalty.
Back to 5 on 5, and we manage to survive a few more minutes before yet another turnover at the blue line leads to yet another goal for the Rangers. Blackwood windmilled like a power turbine to try and make the save but he had just no help from his teammates and Chytil roofs it to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead.
Some things happened in the following ten minutes, but they mostly sounded like this “save by Georgiev. Given away by the Devils. Save by Blackwood. Hughes. Kakko. Georgiev makes the save. Pass picked off by the Rangers. Chytil. Hughes. Lafreniere. Save by Blackwood”
Finally, in the final 2 minutes of the game, Georgiev overreaches for a Bastian shot that wobbles through under his arm, and the Devils hack at least one more piece off the Rangers lead to make it 5-3.
With Blackwood pulled, we make what was probably supposed to be some kind of last ditch effort, but it was honestly the most disorganized, pathetic 6 on 5 I’ve ever seen, especially considering it was actually a 6 on 4 at the beginning since Zibanejad tripped over himself and couldn’t get back up and we did literally nothing with it and actually backed out of the zone. 6 on 4 and Zajac is the only guy in the zone attempting to play the puck. Strome beats PK Subban and puts it in the empty net, and we go down as the team to allow 6 goals to the Rangers two games in a row.
Post Game Thoughts:
Mackenzie Blackwood is still not back to Mackenzie Blackwood, but our game strategy is still ‘rely on Mackenzie Blackwood’. That’s not really compatible with winning games.
Our defense? Bad. Awful. Atrocious. Disgusting. In 60 minutes we made one solid defensive play and it was on a one on two. Second-grade soccer players whose entire game strategy is EVERYONE RUN TO THE BALL are playing better defense than we are because at least in those games someone is pressuring the person with the ball. Not the Devils. We let the USNTDP record holder for assists in a season and career assists walk end to end and score, and did nothing about it. We allowed the first overall pick to stand directly in front of our goaltender without any pressure or coverage from the defenseman standing right next to him. Unacceptable.
Our offense? Well, it can’t be worse than our defense, but it’s far from shooting par. We’re creating scoring opportunities, even getting a wide-open net and then coasting to the puck and giving the goalie ample time to close the gap and make the save easily. We’re forcing passes telegraphed so horribly a fake psychic in Kentucky can sense they’re coming. We’re holding the zone, but only because we’re not doing anything other than passing the puck around the outside and surprise, setting up PK Subban to shoot. Did it work one time today? Yes. And one time my cat meowed and sounded like she said hello but that doesn’t mean she can speak. Subban is shooting at a whopping TWO PERCENT (and that’s only the shots that actually hit the goalie!!). Meanwhile if you put Nikita Gusev in the bottom of the circle and tell him there’s 18 seconds left, he’s scoring at 100%, so maybe we should be trying that instead of continuing to try the one shot that is only slightly more likely to score than my chances of winning the lottery while being eaten by a shark. It just might not be the most effective strategy when A. he only plays a third of the game (thank god) so there’s just no one else allowed to shoot the remaining 65% of the time and B. even the color commentators from other teams know he’s the only one who’s going to shoot. We might want to try making it slightly harder for other teams than telling them not to worry about defending anyone else other than the guy 50 feet away from the net, who can’t hit it if you paid him 9 million dollars to do it.
If only we had some kind of puck-moving, offensive-type defensemen on our team that could help coordinate some kind of offense. What I wouldn’t give to have a Will Butcher, Ty Smith, or Damon Severson on our team, right? Oh well. We can only dream.
On a lighter note...
Somehow, all of the Devils play still isn’t worse than being forced to listen to the Rangers broadcasters. I’m pretty sure if they had the ability Georgiev would’ve been awarded an Oscar, a Grammy, a Nobel prize, and possibly the Medal of Freedom for the saves he made in today’s game alone. Not a single one of them was impressive. I pray every day to our lord and savior Gretzy that we may soon be released from our contract with MSG so I can actually listen to Kenny and Cangy and not have to hear the sapping praise equivalent to a firefighter saving a basket of 18 kittens and an old lady every time Georgiev freezes the puck or Kaapo Kakko ties his skates.
Let me hear it: what’s wrong with our New Jersey Devils? What do we need to do to get back the poise and power we had coming into this season? Will you be crying, dancing, or both when Nico Hischier is cleared to return? Leave your agony, misery, and at least one coherent thought in the comments below, and I’m sorry you had to suffer through reading this.