Those are the opening lyrics to the classic entrance theme music for Vince McMahon in the WWE. Unfortunately on this night for the New Jersey Devils, that was also what their goaltending gave them, as Jon Gillies surrendered a bunch of gimme goals in a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers as the Devils finished their Western Canada road trip with 3 straight regulation loss.
Nico Hischier won the opening draw away from Connor McDavid in this one and gained the offensive zone but Jesper Bratt’s shot attempt was blocked down in front. After some neutral zone back and forth, the Oilers gained the offensive zone. Jesse Puljujarvi fired the puck towards the net. Jon Gillies thought he controlled it squeezing the pads, but he did not as the puck was loose behind the net. Jonas Siegenthaler partially fanned trying to clear the puck, pushing it right over to Leon Draisaitl for the easy tap on the open net in as Gillies was still frozen and was way too late getting over. 1-0 Edmonton.
Edmonton came right back with a Warren Foegele breakaway chance that Gillies somehow stopped. Nico Hischier and Andreas Johnsson caught the Oilers coming back in a 2-on-1, but Mikko Koskinen knocked his own net off its moorings while kicking the pad out. It probably should’ve been a penalty, but that is rarely called and the Devils would’ve wasted the power play anyways.
Dougie Hamilton picked up a loose puck in the defensive zone and made a nice pass to Nico Hischier at center ice, who found Jesper Bratt for the breakaway opportunity. Bratt tucked the puck in the net just past Mikko Koskinen’s outstretched pad to tie the game. It was Bratt’s 20th goal of the season, and it was a beauty.
Breakaway Bratter strikes again. pic.twitter.com/YKcxeSSGKX— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 19, 2022
Zach Hyman got caught tripping Jack Hughes to give the Devils their first power play opportunity. The Devils lost the ensuing draw leading to an early Oilers clear. Josh Archibald did a nice job defensively tying up Nico Hischier’s stick and the Devils couldn’t hold the zone. The Devils second unit came on and didn’t do any better generating anything offensively as Hyman exited the box. Edmonton got some sustained offensive zone time as the Devils did a poor job of clearing the zone, but Bratt eventually cleared the puck. Jack Hughes found Dawson Mercer for a good scoring chance that Koskinen turned aside. The teams continued to play at a brisk pace the next few minutes highlighted by Tomas Tatar missing dead red on an open net and a Michael McLeod shot being easily stopped.
The Oilers won the offensive zone draw and cleared but the Devils came back with Nico Hischier finding Jesper Bratt. Bratt had some space to move closer thanks to soft defensive coverage by the Oilers, but couldn’t convert. Leon Draisaitl chased down Yegor Sharangovich and took the puck away in the offensive zone, leading to some sustained pressure by the Oilers. The Devils eventually got a clear though. Josh Archibald high-sticked Ty Smith but Smith got caught with a retaliatory cross-check so we’ll play 4-on-4.
After a breakout pass attempt went off Ryan Graves’s skate which led to an icing, the Devils got a clear. Draisaitl took a puck away from Hughes to set up a chance for Evander Kane, but the shot went off the glass. The Devils came back with a shot attempt by Jonas Siegenthaler that Koskinen fought off. Not much happened in the final minute of the first and the teams went to the dressing room tied at 1.
Koskinen made the glove stop on a Nico Hischier shot early in the second period. Gillies made a stop on a Puljujarvi shot off of a feed from Draisaitl after a neutral zone turnover. The Devils came back the other way with Dawson Mercer controlling the puck in front of Koskinen, but he elected to make an extra pass for Hughes rather than try the backhand. That poor decision did not go well as Koskinen had no trouble stopping the shot.
Mason Geertsen and Zack Kassian had words for each other after Koskinen stopped a Damon Severson shot. They dropped the mitts off of the ensuing faceoff and each got some blows in before Geertsen took down Kassian. Jimmy Vesey drew a holding call on Duncan Keith moments later to give the Devils another power play opportunity at the 4:58 mark.
The Devils tried to find Nico Hischier in the slot, but couldn’t connect on the pass and the Oilers cleared it. They eventually got set up off of a Hischier drop pass and had some decent looks but the Oilers got a clear off of a Hughes shot deflected away by Koskinen. After Keith left the box, McDavid won a faceoff to set up a shot attempt by Russell that Gillies covered up, taking us to the first TV timeout of the period.
Jesper Bratt picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone to set up a shot attempt for Siegenthaler that sailed wide of the net. Leon Draisaitl came right back and nearly juked Siegenthaler out of his skates, but he stuck with it to do just enough to stop the former MVP from getting his second goal of the game. The Oilers kept the pressure on as Siegenthaler lost an edge in the neutral zone, leading to an odd man rush. Boqvist blocked the shot attempt. The Devils came back the other way with Nico Hischier sending a beautiful setup to Jesper Bratt that he couldn’t bury.
After the next TV timeout, Damon Severson sent a shot through a screen that Koskinen stopped. The Oilers came back with a setup in front for Archibald that Gillies stopped. Jimmy Vesey came back the other way with a breakaway chance that was denied. The Devils and Oilers got tied up behind Koskinen’s net, but the puck sprung free to Jack Hughes in front for a backhanded attempt. Unfortunately, Koskinen made the stop.
Kassian got caught high-sticking Bratt to give the Devils their third power play opportunity. The first unit did nothing of note over the first 40 seconds and the second unit gave up a short-handed shot attempt by Devin Shore. The second unit eventually set up a chance for Jesper Boqvist in front that Koskinen got across to stop. The Oilers got one more shot attempt on net in the closing seconds of the man advantage and the Devils are now on an 0-13 stretch on the power play.
Evander Kane came back with a wraparound attempt that Gillies was slow to react to with his lateral movement to cover the opposite post. It appeared to the naked eye that Gillies might have recovered in time to make the stop, but the horn went off to initiate a review. Replay clearly showed Ryan Graves putting the puck in his own net as Gillies was slow to cover the post. 2-1 Edmonton as Kane is credited with his 11th of the season.
The Devils came back with a shot attempt by Dougie Hamilton that was stopped by Koskinen, who has played very well to this point. They set up a shot attempt by Hischier in the closing seconds of the period that was blocked away into the corner as time expired to end the second.
New Jersey got the equalizer early in the third as Hischier drop passed the puck in the offensive zone for Andreas Johnsson, who fed it to Ryan Graves. Graves sailed the shot wide of the cage, but Jesper Bratt stayed with it and backhanded it in off of Koskinen’s back or rear end for the tying goal.
Bratt made a brilliant play in the neutral zone to steal the puck from Draisaitl to create a scoring chance. Koskinen stopped the initial attempt but overcommitted and Bratt punched the loose puck back for Hischier for the backhanded goal to give the Devils their first lead of the day.
Our captain doing what a captain does. pic.twitter.com/18GqxWWljB— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 19, 2022
Hughes came back the other way but got tied up enough trying to set up Sharangovich for the shot attempt. Sharangovich deferred to Mercer, but Koskinen made the stop.
The Oilers top line made a push which culminated in Gillies making a stop on a Kane shot in front off of a loose puck. The Devils came back with Hischier setting up Siegenthaler with a saucer pass that he shot wide. The Hughes line came on with Jack doing a nice job behind Koskinen’s cage evading Darnell Nurse to try to keep the play alive. The Devils couldn’t capitalize on the feed in front though. Edmonton came right back with Kris Russell keeping the play alive in the offensive zone and Tyson Barrie beating Gillies over his left shoulder as he didn’t completely cover up the post.
PK Subban tripped Draisaitl with 9:28 to go to give the Oilers 4th ranked PP their first chance. The Oilers had no trouble moving the puck to set up Draisaitl, who missed the net. After a clear, McDavid set up Draisaitl again after re-entering the zone but Gillies made the stop. The Oilers stayed with it to set up Kailer Yamamoto down low but they couldn’t convert. McDavid found Draisaitl again who missed the net once again. Edmonton kept the zone as the Devils failed to clear. McLeod blocked a Barrie pass in front but the puck went right to Evander Kane for the easy backhander to give the Oilers the lead yet again. 4-3 Edmonton.
Jon Gillies continued to show he’s not an NHL-caliber goaltender as the Oilers extended their lead. Codi Ceci shot the puck towards Gillies, who couldn’t come up with the routine glove save. The puck came up high on him as he fought it off and he essentially took himself out of the play entirely as Puljujarvi collected the loose puck, worked it to Draisaitl past Ty Smith, and got it over to Zach Hyman for the easy tap-in and a 5-3 Oilers lead.
The Devils pulled Gillies with 2:02 to go. Edmonton sent the puck the length of the ice off of the ensuing draw but it went wide. Severson sent one in front for a redirection attempt by Hischier that Koskinen denied. The Devils won an offensive zone draw but Hamilton made an errant cross-ice pass to Severson that was intercepted by Connor McDavid for the easy empty-netter to ice this one. Edmonton wins 6-3.
The Opposition Opinion: Visit Copper And Blue if you want to read the Oilers perspective on tonight’s game.
Gillies Over Daws? I Get It, Even Though It’s an Automatic L
Jon Gillies allowed 1.5 goals above expected in all situations according to @HockeyViz. That was the difference-maker once again.— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 19, 2022
Jon Gillies is not an NHL-caliber goaltender. I don’t write that to pick on him but his body of work as a member of the Devils has only cemented that fact, as he’s among the league leaders in expected goals surrendered. He now sits at -14.4 Goals Saved Above Expected, despite only playing in 16 games. Unfortunately, he’s one of the two goaltenders on the NHL roster at the moment, which means technically he’s an NHL goaltender. In actuality, he’s an NHL goaltender like how I’m a good writer.
Gillies has had these recurring moments in these games where he fails to make a stop, but he thinks (or hopes?) he froze the puck. The Draisaitl goal in the first period is a good example of that. If this was the first time that’s happened this season, I suppose I could give him a break, but we’ve seen several goals allowed this season where the puck is either still loose and trickles into the net or its loose behind him and gets tapped in. Those types of plays are on him.
Gillies has shown sub-standard reaction time, such as on the Evander Kane goal where he was slow to move from post-to-post and gave Kane a chance to put it in. Yes, the puck went in off of Ryan Graves’s stick, and yes, that’s a rough break, but a goal like that is created because your goaltender can’t move laterally quickly enough to make that play on a power move. Again, that’s on him.
The Barrie goal was a bad one to allow as well, and Lindy Ruff said as much postgame. It’s a tight angle shot, but he also failed to properly take away everything above his shoulder as he was too low covering the post despite his 6’6” frame. Sure enough, he got beat above his shoulder. I can give Gillies a break on the Kane PPG as that was a bang-bang play off of McLeod’s skate, but on the Hyman goal, that should’ve been a clean glove save. Instead, the puck went up high on him on what should’ve been a routine play and the puck is once again in the back of the net before he knows what even happened.
I get that the Devils can’t and shouldn’t overwork Nico Daws down the stretch. Today would’ve been his 10th consecutive start had he made it. Given Daws’s struggles earlier on the road trip, I have no problem with Gillies getting the start here, and I don’t have a problem sticking with Gillies just to give Daws a breather after a couple rough outings earlier on the road trip. The problem is that Gillies gave the Devils no chance tonight, just like how he gives them no chance pretty much every time he’s out there. We’re going to have to accept that the Devils are essentially punting on any particular game when they put Gillies in net.
Make no mistake. Nico Daws is the only Devils goaltender in the organization right now that gives them any chance to win when he’s out there. I hope that with 20 games remaining, Tom Fitzgerald and Lindy Ruff are smart enough not to chase short-term results by playing Daws too much down the stretch, because we saw first hand once again tonight just how bad the alternative options are.
Special Teams Continues to Be Inept
The Devils went 0-3 on the power play to extend their recent stretch of futility to 0-for the last-13. The Devils were 0-1 on the penalty kill as Edmonton not only scored on their only power play, but had no trouble moving the puck to get the looks they wanted. I do credit the Devils for being disciplined the last couple games and not taking a lot of penalties, but it doesn’t change the fact the penalty kill went 0-fer.
Its just another reminder that Mark Recchi (and the entire coaching staff) should be shown the door on April 30th. The penalty kill hasn’t been as bad as the power play, but the continued lack of commitment to defensive play should mean these are the final 20 games that Alain Nasreddine spends on this staff as well. Nasreddine has been an assistant for seven years here and the defense continues to look worse and worse despite personnel changes and personnel upgrades. I get that the goaltending does not help matters, but this is cyclical and the defense needs to do their part as well to help out the goaltenders. For the most part, I thought the defensive play was actually a smidge better tonight than it was in Vancouver and Calgary, but not by a whole lot.
Pay Bratt (And Other Individual Player Thoughts)
If there was a positive from this game, it was the brilliant play of Jesper Bratt with three more points (2 goals and an assist) to bring him to 60 points on the season. Not too shabby considering he was reportedly one of the players who the team was concerned about coming into the game due to a bug going around the team. There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said about Bratt already to this point other than Tom Fitzgerald will need to pony up and pay that man his money. Credit to Nico Hischier as well who chipped in with a goal and an assist and their line controlled the run of play, which is a tough task when he saw a lot of Connor McDavid tonight.
As for the negative, I thought the Oilers made an concerted effort to neutralize the Sharangovich-Hughes-Mercer line and, to their credit, job well done. Hughes didn’t have a ton of space to operate, and aside from one play in particular where Mercer couldn’t finish, they just struggled to get much going. It’s not really a cause for concern long-term, but it did serve as a reminder that when the opposition is getting the matchups they want, the Hughes line isn’t quite matchup-proof yet.
Nathan Bastian barely played in this game, which leads me to believe he just didn’t have much to offer as he was one of the players who was reportedly under the weather. So was Tatar, but its tough to tell if he was ineffective because of illness or just because he’s Tomas Tatar in 2022. I noticed the Devils leaned hard on Ryan Graves in the first period with a whopping 9:24 of ice time, probably because Dougie Hamilton was somewhat limited. To his credit though, Hamilton picked up the pace as the game went along.
Road Woes Continue
Chicoandmarty requested in the Gamethread that I touch on the Devils road record, which falls to 8-21-2. Since I am a man of the people who consistently has very good opinions, I’d be happy to give my thoughts on this.
Personally, I don’t think its all that complicated. The Devils aren’t a good defensive team, in general. The Devils have some of the worst goaltending in the league, in general. The Devils don’t have the benefit of last change when they’re on the road, which opens them up to other teams exploiting their deficiencies with the matchups they want. They get pinned back in their zone a lot and tonight wasn’t really any different in that regard. Add in the fact that a few players played this game under the weather, a few players were a step slow to react, special teams gave the Devils nothing, and some of the best players in the world are on the other team, and its not a surprise the Devils lost another game on the road.
But hey, give credit to Jay Woodcroft, who improved his record to 12-6-2 as the interim coach of the Oilers. Which is weird, because I was specifically told that you can’t possibly fire the head coach mid-season because who are you possibly getting that’s any better? It’s not like the Oilers have a shutdown defense or world-class goaltending either, so hey, he’s gotta be doing something right.
Final Game Before The Trade Deadline
Today’s game was the final one before the NHL Trade Deadline at 3pm ET on Monday, March 21st. The Devils didn’t really hold any players out of the lineup for precautionary reasons (Pavel Zacha was held out due to the injury he sustained on Tuesday), although with various players involved in trade rumors, its possible that today was the final game for PK Subban, Jimmy Vesey, Andreas Johnsson, and others as a member of the Devils.
If this was the last we saw of them as a Devil, I wish them the best elsewhere. If not, then I wish them good health and success the rest of the way.
As for my predictions as to what happens with the Devils at the trade deadline? I’m sure there will be an open trade deadline post like there usually is on All About The Jersey, but given how quiet rumors have been surrounding the Devils, my expectations are fairly low. The one thing I would say is that with the prices we’re seeing in recent trades for Hampus Lindholm, Ben Chiarot, and Calle Jarnkrok, it would be organizational malpractice if Tom Fitzgerald doesn’t have the “For Sale” sign posted for any non-core piece. Outside of a small handful of players, everybody should be available.
The Devils hung in there over the first 40 minutes of this game despite their goaltender letting them down and even managed to take the lead briefly in the third period, but poor goaltending and poor special teams play ultimately sunk them in a deserved 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. With that loss, they finish the Western Canada road trip 0-3 and head home for a matchup Tuesday against Our Hated Rivals, where Prudential Center will be 60 percent Rangers fans and I’ll be sick to my stomach seeing that watching the game on TV.
What did you think of the loss tonight? Are you as frustrated with the goaltending as I am? What do you think Fitz can even do with this roster with the trade deadline two days away? Please feel free to make your voice heard in the comments section below, and thank you for reading.