After a brief delay (the Boston Bruins honored longtime goaltender Tuukka Rask before puck drop), the Bruins won the opening draw and got the puck deep, but a hand pass caused a quick stoppage. The New Jersey Devils lost the ensuing draw and Boston worked the puck down low for a shot from the slot from Brad Marchand that Nico Daws turned away. After a clear, Taylor Hall flipped the puck in deep. Jonas Siegenthaler fed it up along the board to nobody in particular, leading to Matt Grzelcyk firing it long distance from the point and in for a 1-0 Bruins lead 57 seconds into the game.
The Devils came right back firing a shot that deflected out of play and Miles Wood getting into a bit of a scrap after the whistle. After a lengthy delay due to an issue with the game clock at TD Garden, the Devils won an offensive zone draw which led to a Tomas Tatar backhanded chance that was stopped by Linus Ullmark. The Bruins came back with some offensive zone time but Daws made the save off of the wrister. The Devils got the fourth line on and Mason Geertsen dropped the mitts with Josh Brown after Brown caught him with a hit near the boards.
The Devils came right back with the first line and Yegor Sharangovich trying to spring Jack Hughes but the pass was a little too hot to handle. Hughes came back and set up Ty Smith with a drop pass. Smith fed it in front but the puck was deflected into the corner. Miles Wood came on and absolutely leveled Charlie McAvoy along the boards. Mike Reilly took exception and the Devils got a power play out of it as Reilly earned the double minor for roughing.
The Devils wasted most of the first minute of the power play before Hughes failed to connect with Nico Hischier on a seam pass, leading to a Brandon Carlo clear. They got the second unit on and Tomas Tatar fired a shot from the point. Yegor Sharangovich whacked at the loose puck in front of Ullmark but he eventually covered up for the stoppage. The Devils got one last good look on the power play as they connected on a feed in front for Sharangovich that he missed. Tatar fired a shot from the Ovi spot that Ullmark stopped to take us to the first TV timeout.
The Devils were a little disjointed over the next few minutes with some offsides infractions. PK Subban failed to connect on a long distance pass, leading to a Bruins scoring chance the other way and an easy glove save by Daws. Boston won the offensive zone draw and set up Patrice Bergeron with some space. Daws was up to the task though and denied him. The Devils came back with Jesper Bratt sending a brilliant feed to Nico Hischier as he gained the offensive zone. Hampus Lindholm held up Hischier enough to give the Devils another chance on the power play.
The Devils started the power play with the second unit and Boston got an immediate clear and second clear. They got a third clear and the Devils got the first unit on. Severson found Hischier for a shot but Boston got another clear. The power play expired but Hischier kept the play alive controlling the puck behind Ullmark’s net. Hischier got knocked down but managed to get enough to punch the puck over to Jack Hughes from a tight angle. Hughes had enough room to snap it past Ullmark to tie the game at 1. This would be the final ‘highlight’ by the Devils on this evening.
F̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶i̶m̶p̶o̶s̶s̶i̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶g̶l̶e̶.̶— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 31, 2022
Jack can score from anywhere. pic.twitter.com/tm1HAup6p2
The Boqvist line got pinned deep by the Hall-Haula-Pastrnak line, leading to an eventual Devils icing. Boston continued to apply pressure with their top line of Marchand-Bergeron-DeBrusk and PBP broadcaster Steve Cangialosi noted that Marchand just missed on a big hit on Nico Hischier. The Devils got caught in a 2-on-1 as a puck went off Jesper Boqvist’s skate and Pastrnak and Hall were bearing down on Daws, but Boqvist did a nice job getting back to break the play up. After another Devils icing, Patrice Bergeron flipped a puck towards the net. Daws gave up one of the biggest rebounds you’ll ever see to Jake DeBrusk, who slipped by everyone unnoticed, and DeBrusk easily beat Daws to give the Bruins the lead again. 2-1 Boston.
The rest of the first period played out without much of anything notable happening and the Devils went to the dressing room down a goal. Overall, it wasn’t a great 20 minutes for the Devils even though they did hold a 4-2 HDCF edge. Boston controlled the pace of play, outshooting and out-attempting the Devils, which shouldn’t be surprising since they’re the better team playing at home. Would things get better in the second?
No, they would not.
Nico Hischier won the opening draw to start the second period but Ullmark covered up a harmless puck that was kicked towards him by Brad Marchand. Boston won the ensuing draw which led to Ryan Graves blocking a shot by Bergeron and McAvoy sailing a shot wide. The Hughes line came back with Jack setting up Sharangovich in front but he was off the mark. Boston got the puck in the zone which led to Geertsen delivering a big hit on Taylor Hall. Michael McLeod failed to get a clear though, and the Bruins made the Devils pay for that mistake as they lost Erik Haula in coverage. 3-1 Boston.
Frustrations boiled over as PK Subban hit Anton Blidh into the boards and got called for holding. Boston nearly scored twice on the power play in the first 30 seconds as they just missed connecting with Marchand and Pastrnak. Daws eventually covered up a loose puck for a stoppage with :38 seconds to go on the Boston power play. Hampus Lindholm sent a wrister from the point through a maze of bodies but Daws did a nice job fighting through it to make the save. The Devils killed off the rest of the penalty and Boston iced the puck shortly after.
The Devils had a 3-on-2 chance with Hughes feeding Bratt but Bratt shot the puck wide. Boston pinned the Devils back deep in their end, Daws whiffed as he tried to poke at a loose puck that came out near the front of the crease, and Marchand easily beat the out-of-position Daws to make it 4-1 Bruins.
Boston got another power play opportunity as Jesper Boqvist went to the box for a faceoff violation. They wasted little time continuing to dunk on the Devils as Pastrnak ripped it from the top of the key and Bergeron redirected it in to make it 5-1 Boston. That’ll do it for Daws tonight, and Jon Gillies comes in to relieve him.
Jake DeBrusk laid out Ty Smith in the corner with a big hit, essentially creating a man advantage as Smith was removed from the play. Boston took advantage of this. Nobody covered Marchand as he took a feed and beat Gillies for his 2nd goal of the night and a 5th unanswered goal by the Bruins. Boston continued to pour it on as they caught the Devils in a 2-on-1 and Trent Frederic found Marc McLaughin (making his NHL debut) for the one-timer to make it 7-1 Boston on his first NHL goal. Nico Hischier took a feed from Damon Severson and bobbled it enough for Pastrnak to strip him of the puck. Pastrnak found Taylor Hall for the easy tap-in. 8-1 Bruins.
Tomas Nosek spun Jack Hughes around and found Marchand as he gained the zone on a blantant offsides. That didn’t stop Marchand from easily beating Gillies, leading to Bruins fans throwing their hats on the ice and causing yet another delay. Why the Devils didn’t get in his face afterwards, I couldn’t tell you. Tomas Tatar had a shot blocked as the second period finally came to an end.
Eric Haula hooked Jack Hughes and the Devils got another power play opportunity early in the third period. To the surprise of nobody, the Devils didn’t score, but at least they didn’t give up another short-handed goal, so there’s that. Haula exited the box and got a clean look in front that Gillies made the stop on. Siegenthaler went to the box for a puck over the glass with 12:34 to go. The Devils killed off the penalty as Boston (and the Devils for that matter) more or less have taken their foot off the gas by this point. Geertsen got himself tossed with 2:57 to go for a post-whistle scrap with Charlie Coyle. The rest of the game played out without incident and the Devils lost decisively 8-1.
They were none. But there were plenty of lowlights.
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: Visit Stanley Cup of Chowder if you want to read the Bruins perspective of this game.
Abysmal Efforts Like This Starts With the Coaching
Yes, Boston is a really good team. Yes, they’ve played brilliant hockey of late, going 14-2-1 in their last 17 games before tonight. Yes, the Devils goaltending has been an issue all season. And no, this isn’t even close to being the first no-show we’ve seen from this Devils team this season.
Next sentence.....what we saw tonight are defensive breakdowns that we’ve become accustomed to all too well under Lindy Ruff and Alain Nasreddine. The Devils repeatedly turned the puck over, lost board battles, got outmuscled and made questionable decisions with the puck, which have been a staple under this coaching staff. To make matters worse, the Bruins made the Devils pay for their mistakes EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. We’ve seen two seasons of a Lindy Ruff coached Devils team (and even more from Nasreddine, who has overseen bad defenses in Newark since 2015) to know this isn’t going to get better no matter what they do with personnel. The systems are what they are, and they’re not good enough in 2022.
I saw this tweet from Steve Cangialosi pregame (credit to John for referencing it in the gamethread). Read it, and then look at and think about what you watched tonight.
Bruins winners of 14 of their last 18. Lindy Ruff: “We’re using this as our own playoff.” @NJDevils in Boston just after 7p. pic.twitter.com/j3ig8A47Z6— Steve Cangialosi (@CangyManMSG) March 31, 2022
If what we saw tonight is the type of “playoff” performance we can expect from a Lindy Ruff-coached team, I want no part of it. That was pathetic. At the rate Ruff’s going though, he won’t have to worry about that. There is little reason to believe the Devils will ever sniff the actual playoffs under Ruff, Nasreddine, Recchi, and Rogalski as long as they remain behind the bench.
Lindy Ruff continued to have no answers postgame.
“The group didn’t have a good night.”— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 1, 2022
Hear from Lindy Ruff following tonight’s loss. #NJDevils | @Genucel pic.twitter.com/ypm5Ab6gMH
With 15 games to go, I hope the Devils braintrust takes a long, hard look at the coaching staff and asks if they can win with this staff. I know the answer to that question, and the answer is no. Does Tom Fitzgerald, who has said as recently as ten days ago he likes this team? Does ownership, or are they more concerned with trying to buy Chelsea than the hockey team they own extending this never-ending rebuild another season?
There is no reason to throw away next season before it even begins. Let’s hope the Devils, who have a lot of smart cooks in the kitchen but continue to assemble bad hockey teams, are at least smart enough to see this.
Passengers Being Passengers Continues to be a Problem
I wrote in my game preview the other day how its gone under the radar that the Devils secondary scoring has pretty much dried up entirely. It gives me no pleasure to point out that those struggles have only continued.
How much have the forwards struggled?
- Tomas Tatar - 4 goals, 5 assists in his last 31 games
- Andreas Johnsson - 2 goals, 7 assists in his last 29 games
- Jesper Boqvist - 5 goals, 5 assists in his last 30 games
- Jimmy Vesey - 1 goal, 3 assists in his last 30 games
- Nathan Bastian - 3 goals, zero assists in his last 27 games
- Michael McLeod - 4 goals, 3 assists in his last 33 games
I don’t bring this up because I’m being lazy recycling content. I bring it up because it continues to be an issue with this team as they’re essentially getting nothing from guys who have consistently been in the lineup. This doesn’t include Pavel Zacha as well, who had 4 goals and 9 assists in his last 30 games before his recent injury. It also doesn’t include Yegor Sharangovich, who whiffed on some scoring chances when the game was still in reach. It doesn’t include Dawson Mercer who was mostly invisible tonight. Aside from a nice goal by Hughes and a gutty effort by Hischier to get him the puck on said play, everyone was bad in all facets of the game tonight.
Stephen wrote the other day about how the Devils have the makings of an excellent forward group. While that is certainly debatable, what isn’t debatable is that they’re not getting enough from the other guys outside of their top forwards. It’s safe to say that most of these guys I called out above aren’t going to be part of the solution going forward.
Other Things I Didn’t Like
- I mentioned it earlier but Yegor Sharangovich was off the mark on a couple nice feeds from Hughes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ruff shake up the lines and break up Sharangovich-Hughes-Mercer, although at this point, its akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
- Nico Daws’s road struggles continued, and while he wasn’t good, neither was pretty much everyone else in front of him. With Andrew Hammond finally participating in practice, I would hope the Devils start him Saturday against Florida. He probably won’t fare a whole lot better than Daws, but you acquired him for a reason.....to get through the season. No sense in waiting.
- Shoutout to Lindy Ruff for waiting for it to be 7-1 Boston to call a timeout to “settle down” his team. Way to have your finger on the pulse of the game and your team, coach.
- With the loss tonight, the Devils are now officially mathematically eliminated from postseason play. Again, this is the effort we got in a game Ruff referred to as “our own playoff. In actuality, the Devils were effectively eliminated sometime in late November or early December. Either way, for a team that was hoping to play meaningful games late in the season, its another reminder that they have a long way to go before they get to that point.
What did you think of the loss tonight? With the Devils officially eliminated, what are you looking for over the final 15 games of the season? Do you want to see the coaching staff back next season, or are you still putting the blame on the players? Or both? You wouldn’t be wrong to do so.
Please feel free to leave a comment on whatever that was we watched tonight and thanks for reading!