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Devils Not Sharp Enough in 6-3 Loss to Canucks

Bad start, soft finish.

NHL: MAR 15 Devils at Canucks
Nico Daws had a lot to deal with tonight.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First Period

Nico Daws had plenty of work early, getting a few long-range shots to get himself going against the Vancouver Canucks. They controlled the pace of play early, but Jesper Boqvist and Pavel Zacha had a two-on-one almost three minutes in that resulted in a backhand by Zacha being covered by Thatcher Demko. Zacha was checked down, and he went crashing into the corner boards. He left the game. Less than a minute later, Brad Hunt took the puck from J.T. Miller and blasted a slap shot underneath Nico Daws’ glove. 1-0, Canucks.

About eight and a half minutes in, Nico Daws made an incredible stop on J.T. Miller, who received a pass from Quinn Hughes on the wall for a one-timer to the side of Daws’ net. Daws got the shot with his pad, keeping the Canucks lead at one. A couple minutes later, however, Nils Hoglander cleaned up a rebound from a shot by Horvat by batting the puck out of the air with his backhand - and it beat Daws. 2-0, Canucks.

The Devils began to have more chances as the period went on, and it finally paid off in the waning minutes. With under three to play, Yegor Sharangovich picked up the cross-ice connection on a multi-man rush - and Ryan Graves hit the back of the net with his shot under the glove! 2-1.

Second Period

Both Demko and Daws had to make some timely saves in the opening minutes of the second. Demko had to contend with Jack Hughes, who was buzzing around the net for a goal. The Devils continued to pressure, and Severson passed across to Sharangovich for a tap-in - but Sharangovich did not get his stick on it. J.T. Miller had a breakaway not long after - but he did not get a clean shot due to back pressure and Daws made the save. Jack Hughes had a breakaway of his own a bit over a minute later, beating Tyler Myers in the neutral zone after a flip from Bratt following a blocked shot - and he beat Demko to tie the game!

Tomas Tatar made a bad decision to pass on his backhand to Jimmy Vesey across the blueline, and Bo Horvat picked it right off. Vesey tried to cut down the angle, but Horvat blasted a slap shot through Nico Daws and it trickled through to give the Canucks a lead. This was a bit infuriating, as Daws had been making consistent stops and Tatar had to test him. Just following the goal, Ty Smith lost his man in coverage and Tyler Myers sent a slap pass to Tanner Pearson to give the Canucks a 4-2 lead. This brought Jon Gillies back into the fold for the Devils.

With the Devils in a half-change, Jack Hughes sent the puck from the neutral zone up ahead to Yegor Sharangovich. Sharangovich had a much fresher Bastian straking in, and Sharangovich took the shot through him. Bastian slapped his stick down to the ice with his backhand and cleaned up the rebound, bringing the game to a 4-3 score. This was Bastian’s 11th goal of the season.

With two minutes left in the period, Andreas Johnsson took a high stick from Tyler Motte that drew blood - and Motte went off for a double minor. Johnsson left for the dressing room to stop the bleeding. With the first unit on the ice, Damon Severson set up Hughes for an initial shot that was saved by Demko. Hischier won the second draw back, and the Canucks blocked a shot before forcing the puck out to center ice. Jack Hughes set up Nico Hischier after the re-entry, but Nico rang the shot off iron. Severson had a shot gloved by Demko at the end of the first minute. The second unit did nothing, and the Devils went into the second intermission down one.

Third Period

It took the Devils awhile to get into the offensive zone, as J.T. Miller had the first chance of the period in tight on Gillies with Hischier defending him. Jack Hughes got a shot from the circle on net after the end of the first minute, but Demko gloved it. With the Devils starting to get their second unit on, Dougie Hamilton was on the wrong side of the ice to defend a rush by Bo Horvat, who rang a shot past Gillies after a breakout feed from Quinn Hughes. 5-3.

With the Devils struggling to get sustained pressure at even strength as well, Colton White took a tripping penalty when defending Connor Garland on the rush with under 11 minutes to play. Bo Horvat sent a shot over the net to start the Canucks power play. The Devils had a couple of shorthanded shots come from Yegor Sharangovich and Dougie Hamilton off of passes by Nico Hischier, but Demko was unbothered.

A couple minutes after the Devils killed the penalty, the Canucks were bullying the Devils low in the zone, and Lammikko tipped a shot down to give the Canucks a 6-3 lead. It was close to being a high stick, but the referees gave the good goal signal. The Devils did not challenge for goaltender interference, and play resumed.

Bo Horvat took a minor penalty for tripping Tatar in the neutral zone, and the Devils went to the power play with under four minutes to play. Tyler Myers took Nico Hischier down before Hischier could have had a clean breakaway a minute in, but no call was made. Time wound down to the end of the game, and the New Jersey Devils lost 6-3.

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

The Opposition Opinion: Check out Nucks Misconduct.

Slow Starts With No Siegenthaler is a Bad Combination

I was not a fan of the way the New Jersey Devils started this game. They were slow off the opening draw, with their passing leaving a lot to be desired. It was only after they had already fallen behind 2-0 that I felt they really started to take the Canucks to task. Still, they had their lapses. Without Jonas Siegenthaler, it seemed like Nico Daws had to face point-blank shots far more often than usual. This proved to be a bad recipe for Nico Daws, who was pulled before the halfway point.

And if you were wondering whether Nico Daws was just having a bad night, Jon Gillies stepped in and did a tad worse for the Devils. Daws allowed four goals on 21 shots - 1.59 expected goals against. Gillies, in 31:09, gave up two goals on 10 shots and an expected goals against of 0.75. There was a goal or two Daws could have had, but the Devils did a poor job at defending their house in the first half of the game.

The Power Play, Again

So, remember how hot the Devils’ power play got for awhile? Well, although they have nearly clawed back to a league average power play, they still have an extreme shorthanded goals problem. Tonight’s shorthanded goal by Bo Horvat was the ninth the Devils have given up this season. The league average is five. When factoring in shorthanded goals, the Devils are still running a horrifyingly inefficient unit.

I have not called out Mark Recchi’s unit as much as the year has progressed, but the shorthanded goal against tonight was the killer. The Devils were in the game with the score at 4-3, and what do they do with their double minor power play? They let the Canucks expand the lead to two goals. On the power play, your biggest fear as a viewer should not be that the Devils are about to give a shorthanded goal against. 18.45% of power plays have resulted in a goal for the Devils. 5.36% of power plays have resulted in a goal for the opposition. The league average for both, again, is 20.76% and 2.89%. Shorthanded goals against should be aberrations, or the product of some incredible individual work by an opponent. Instead, the Devils hand shorthanded breakaways to other teams like free candy.

What to Do Without Zacha

Quinn Hughes forced Pavel Zacha to leave the game early tonight after less than a minute of ice time, as Zacha was injured after Hughes shoved him from behind following a backhand shot by Zacha. Zacha went crashing into the boards and struggled to get up, and the trainer took him to the locker room. This could affect any trade negotiations that the Devils are a part of, as Zacha’s name has been thrown around plenty of rumors.

Lindy Ruff thought it was a good idea to switch Bratt and Mercer, double-shifting Johnsson and Tatar between Hischier’s and Boqvist’s lines. While Bratt and Hughes worked magic together, Andreas Johnsson stuck out like a sore thumb in the top six. He lost his balance with the puck a couple times and was not reliable on either end. Johnsson did draw a penalty, but I would rather see him not crater the Hischier line’s possession play.

With the Devils playing tomorrow night in Calgary, there probably is not time for the Devils to get an injury replacement. Given the role being filled - a top six winger - I would call up Alex Holtz if I were Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils had a day off tomorrow. However, since the Devils are in a back-to-back, I assume Mason Geertsen will draw into the lineup, and one of Jimmy Vesey, Nathan Bastian, or Andreas Johnsson will be given the chance to look out of place on the top matchup line. If Zacha misses more than one game, I think Fitzgerald should definitely give Holtz the chance to show what he can do with a string of appearances.

Your Thoughts

Tonight was a dud. Did you stay up to watch? Do you regret your decisions? Do you think the Devils played poorly? Did Thatcher Demko make it seem like the Canucks played better than they actually did? How did you feel about the chances the Devils let up in front of Daws compared to in front of Gillies? How should Ruff and Fitzgerald react to the apparent Zacha injury? 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.