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Devils Lose “Must Win” Home Opener to Detroit 5-2 as Crowd Chants “Fire Lindy”

Miles Wood called today’s Devils game a must win. The Devils not only did not win, they lost in epic fashion as the Prudential Center crowd got restless.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at New Jersey Devils
Ruff night at the office for Lindy....that pun was terrible, trying to delete....
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The New Jersey Devils got things started Nico Hischier winning the opening faceoff, but Detroit came right back and sailed a shot wide of the cage. After Vitek Vanecek made a few stops, the Devils got the Palat-Hughes-Mercer line on and Mercer’s shot went wide. Miles Wood high-sticked Robert Hagg to get a rise out of the Devils crowd, but give Detroit an early chance on the power play. The Red Wings moved the puck quickly with their top PP unit, and the Devils got a much needed clear about 45 seconds in and another clear shortly after. Andrew Copp missed Dominik Kubalik on a pass and Ryan Graves cleared the puck to kill off the rest of the Detroit power play.

The Devils got on the scoreboard moments later with a really strong shift by first the Hischier line and then the Hughes line. Dougie Hamilton took the feed from Jesper Bratt and fired from the blue line to send a fluttering shot past Alex Nedeljkovich for a 1-0 lead.

The Devils kept at it with a strong shift by the Wood-Haula-Zetterlund third line. The energy the Devils played with has certainly picked up from the Philadelphia game. Jack Hughes found Brendan Smith for a shot attempt that was turned away. The Devils iced the puck and Olli Maataa got a shot on net on the ensuing sequence that Vanecek denied. After a clear, the Devils took the puck away in the offensive zone but Hischier and Bratt just missed connecting with Palat for a shot. Nedeljkovich stopped Hischier with 7:39 left in the first to bring us to the first TV timeout.

The Devils had some offensive zone time but had a couple shot attempts deflected out of play. Jack Hughes had a chance on a breakaway that Nedeljkovich denied. Hughes came right back with a pass back to the blueline for Severson, who found Sharangovich. Unfortunately, Sharangovich partially fanned on the shot and Nedeljkovich covered up for the stoppage.

The Devils were incorrectly dinged for icing when Jack Hughes beat Flilp Hronek to a puck sent deep. The Tatar-Hughes-Mercer line got pinned back for a bit on the ensuing possession and failed to get a clear for a bit. Brendan Smith eventually got called for roughing to give Detroit another power play. McLeod and Hamilton had an odd-man rush early but McLeod couldn’t make the clean pass. Detroit came back with Dylan Larkin failing to bury a puck in a half-open net. Palat found Mercer for another chance later in the penalty kill but Mercer missed the shot wide. The Devils cleared right as Smith exited the box. Severson almost connected with Hughes on the doorstep but Larkin tied up his stick to deny the clean shot. Detroit sat on the puck behind Nedeljkovic’s net as the first period came to an end.

Second Period

The Hischier line took control of the puck off of the opening draw and Bratt nearly made it 2-0 shortly after. Palat came right back with a brilliant feed for Hughes who couldn’t bury the backhander or the followup attempts. Detroit came back with a good feed for Larkin in the high slot but missed the net. The puck came loose to Ben Chiarot who ripped it through a mass of Devils bodies and past Vanecek to tie the game.

Tatar found Mercer in front who couldn’t punch it past Nedeljkovic. Ryan Graves couldn’t keep the puck in the offensive zone, leading to a 2-on-1 the other way that Jakub Vrana predictably buried to make it 2-1 Detroit. That lead would be short lived though.

The Devils had another change shortly after Yegor Sharangovich played perfect defense on Jack Hughes to keep him from getting a shot off. In other words, get out of the way #17! Detroit pinned the Devils back shortly after that for a bit but they eventually got a clear before the first TV timeout.

Wood found Haula in front for a chance that was turned away. Elmer Soderblom got caught closing his hand on the puck to give the Devils their first chance on the power play. Detroit got an early clear but the Devils came back and set up Hamilton for a shot that Nedeljkovich stopped. Severson found Holtz on a seam pass for a chance that Nedeljkovich was able to corral. The Devils didn’t do much at the tail end of the power play as Severson lost the offensive zone late in the power play. Nedeljkovich robbed Hughes on a point blank chance and there was some pushing and shoving going into the next TV timeout.

Jesper Bratt and Lucas Raymond both got 2 minutes for roughing giving us 4-on-4 play. Tomas Tatar found Hughes for another point blank chance, but Ben Chiarot hooked his hands to keep the game tied. Hamilton found Holtz for a shot attempt that was stopped. Hamilton tried feeding Hughes but the puck skipped over his stick and that essentially ended the power play threat. Bratt found Haula in front who couldn’t elevate enough over the pads of Nedeljkovich.

Detroit got right back on the scoresheet as Severson lost the puck along the boards. The puck came out loose in front and Vanecek tried to poke it away but chipped it right to David Perron who buried it to make it 3-2 Detroit.

Jack Hughes got slashed by Oskar Sundqvist to give the Devils another power play but that advantage was short-lived as Tomas Tatar high-sticked Andrew Copp. John Marino knocked down Lucas Raymond in the offensive zone to stop one late Detroit scoring chance but Detroit kept at it as Vanecek made a blocker stop on Hronek, but lost his stick in the process. Copp connected with Dylan Larkin who beat the buzzer with 0.8 seconds left in the period to make it 4-2 Detroit as the boo birds are out at Prudential Center.

Third Period

The Devils killed off the final 30 seconds or so of the Tatar penalty as the “Fire Lindy” chants came down from the cheap seats. They went right back on the kill though as Tomas Tatar took a stupid roughing penalty. Fortunately, Detroit didn’t muster much aside from a Perron shot that sailed high and the Devils killed off the penalty.

Lindy Ruff shook up the lines putting Tatar and Hughes with Bratt and Mercer with Wood and Zetterlund. Mercer and Sundqvist got into a shoving match and each got two minutes for roughing. The Devils got a scoring chance after the ensuing penalties expired but Hagg tied up Haula to keep him from getting the shot off.

Shortly after the second TD timeout, Tomas Tatar lost control of a puck wrapped around the boards. Predictably, the Red Wings made the Devils pay as Dominik Kubalik scored on Vanecek to make it 5-2 Detroit. The “Fire Lindy” chants are getting louder.

Aside from Nedeljkovich making a couple more stops on Hughes and the restless Prudential Center crowd chanting “Let’s Go Yankees” (nice job blowing Game 3 with your trash bullpen Boone.....another coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing), most of the rest of the third period was uneventful. The remaining fans from the sellout crowd booed during the final minute and as the buzzer sounded as the Red Wings congratulated each other on a 5-2 win.


The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Visit Winging It In Motown if you would like to read the Detroit perspective on tonight’s game. I’m sure they’re praising the performance of Alex Nedeljkovic tonight after he was the best player on the ice for either team. And rightfully so.

Things I Didn’t Like From The Game

  • As much as I’d like to say that I liked Jack Hughes being an offensive threat, I DIDN’T LIKE that he didn’t bury one of the approximately 10 chances he had. Am I asking too much of our highest-paid forward to finish one of these chances? Especially since the Devils apparently are going to have to score 4 or 5 goals a night to have any chance of winning games.
  • I DIDN’T LIKE the Devils line combinations. I don’t like playing Tomas Tatar, who was awful in this game, as much as the Devils did with Yegor Sharangovich on the fourth line. I don’t like sticking Alex Holtz in a 4th line role and pairing him up with Sharangovich and Michael McLeod when this strategy didn’t work last year. Why would Lindy Ruff think this would work now when it didn’t work then? I don’t understand why Holtz isn’t with Palat and Hughes after playing with them most of the preseason

If you don’t trust Michael McLeod enough where he’s only playing 4 minutes, why is he even dressed? Ruff had his reasons when pressed about it postgame and part of it had to do with easing Nico Hischier back in and planning to double-shift Hughes, but there are other options. Put Mercer as the 3C and dress Bastian to replace McLeod. Dress Boqvist instead of McLeod. Dressing McLeod only to play him a handful of minutes makes no sense.

  • I DIDN’T LIKE the pairing of Ryan Graves and Damon Severson, who were awful defensively. I also didn’t like the decision to play Brendan Smith at all, although Graves was probably the worst player on the ice. Tough call between him, Severson, and Vanecek. And I probably won’t like it when Kevin Bahl still doesn’t draw in for either defenseman.
  • I DON’T LIKE that my season predictions appear to be coming true. In case you missed it, I wrote this.

“So why do I get this feeling that nothing will actually change?

We have seen the Devils make drastic changes before in recent years. We have seen them make what we thought were well-thought out moves, fill holes, balance the lineup, and “win the offseason” only to have everything blow up in their face before Christmas, coaches be fired, and veterans be traded away at the deadline.

My thoughts on this coach and GM are well-documented. I am not a fan of the coach and I am not 100 percent convinced the GM knows how to build a winning team; so I will not continue to beat that proverbial dead horse. But I am at the point in my Devils fandom where my patience with this rebuild is running out and I need to see it - the ‘it’ being wins - to believe it, because I will be calling for jobs if we do not. You should as well, as prolonged losing should be unacceptable moving forward.”

Two games in, and it appears that once again, I am right in my analysis.

  • I DIDN’T LIKE that Miles Wood apologized for his comments saying today was a must-win game. Don’t apologize. You were right. You had the right idea. You are sick and tired of being on a bad team. I’m sick and tired of watching a bad team. And while I didn’t like the dumb penalty he took early tonight or the nothing he did Thursday in Philadelphia, I did like his effort overall tonight. At least we can file Miles Wood under the list of players who give a damn.
  • I DIDN’T LIKE the play of Vitek Vanecek in his Devils debut, although the aforementioned Devils defensemen and the poor system the Devils run did him no favors.
  • I DON’T LIKE that the first two games of this season are essentially repeats from the last two seasons, just with different players involved. If you saw a rerun of a bad sitcom like “The Big Bang Theory” on TV, you’d change the channel even if you like the actors involved. Why should the Devils be any different?

(Yes, I keep harping on this. But I’m doing that for a reason. I harped on this throughout last season and nothing changed. Two games into the season now, what’s left to change?)

  • I DON’T LIKE the “Deserve To Win O’Meter”, which means about as much to me as the “offseason championships” the Devils have won the last few years and the fancy stat projections that annually overrate this Devils team. Miss me with that nonsense.
  • Lastly, I DID NOT LIKE THAT Bill Spaulding went on and on and on during the MSG broadcast about xG. While there is a time and place for incorporating advanced stats into the broadcast, right after the Devils give up 4 goals in a period in the home opener when fans are already on edge isn’t that.

I don’t care “how well the Devils are playing” because a chart says so. I don’t care about expected goals when Graves and Severson are a defensive sieve and Vanecek can’t stop a beach ball. I have eyeballs that work just fine and a functioning brain. I care about actual goals, which the Devils are not scoring. I care about actual goals that the Devils are allowing the other team to score.

Lastly, since I brought up the broadcast, can we also not anoint the Devils a “Top 10 Defense” when they can’t and haven’t stopped the other team from scoring? Again? Can we stop crowning this team WHEN. THEY. HAVE. ACCOMPLISHED. NOTHING!?!?!?

Prudential Center Crowd Made Their Voices Heard

I had a feeling that tonight’s sell-out crowd for the home opener would have little patience for bad hockey and general nonsense. After all, I believe most Devils fans are like me in that they’re tired of the losing, excuses, nonsense, losing, non-existent defensive play, poor goaltending, losing, teams lapping us in a never-ending rebuild, and more losing.

I present this tweet from our very own Mike Stromberg.

We’re all fans here. We don’t always agree on everything or the right way the team should go about rebuilding, but one thing I think we can agree on is that after having the proverbial football pulled away from you for the billionth time by a team that can’t get out of its own way, the fans might become a little restless. Defensive. Skeptical.

I didn’t think the fans would be this vocal.

Always a good sign when the positive vibes of the home opener are drowned out by fans booing the coach and calling for his job.

Of course, I have no issue with the fans who paid their hard-earned money to watch this garbage in person. They’re within their right voicing their displeasure as the Devils are beginning another season where the team is going nowhere. If you went to the game tonight, feel free to leave a comment below about the vibe and general mood in the building.

If you care what Lindy Ruff had to say about the fans calling for his job, you can watch his comments below starting at the 1:41 mark.

Of course, this entire situation was completely avoidable had the Devils been proactive with this situation last year and saw what the rest of us saw and continue to see with this team and this system. But they didn’t. They hid behind injuries and excuses. There are no injuries now. There are no more excuses.

Tonight wasn’t the first “must win” game the Devils lost under this coach either. Tonight’s crowd had a playoff atmosphere that came across on TV when the puck dropped in the first period, but the last time the Devils were a so-called “our own playoff”, they got eviscerated. Just like they got eviscerated tonight. So again, I ask “when is enough enough?” Are the Devils really about to continue on in another failed season where they wait too long to fire a coach who is in over his head? Are they really about to repeat the sins of the previous regime that waited way too long to make a change until that season was lost? The Devils don’t have to throw this season away before we give out Halloween candy in a couple weeks.

It is never too late to admit you made a mistake. The Devils made a mistake with this hire and they have continued to double down on that mistake at every opportunity. I would implore Devils ownership to step in and correct this mistake before the Devils waste yet another campaign for no good reason. There is no reason why a team this talented should be this bad. None.

Lindy Ruff needs to go. Now. And since Tom Fitzgerald attached his fate to the fate of this coach, he can go too for all I care. Enough is enough.

Final Thoughts

The fans who attended tonight’s game at Prudential Center made their voices heard. I have made my voice heard. Now, it is time for you to do the same.

What did you think of the game today? What did you make of the performance on the ice, that was all too reminiscent of performances we have seen since 2020-21? What did you make of the fans getting restless and calling for the coach’s job? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and thanks for reading!