The first few minutes of the game was a whole lot of nothing, but I did notice Michael McLeod have a decent shift around three and a half in. In the midst of offensive pressure, McLeod slowed down the play with the puck at the edge of the faceoff circle, and calmly turned and shot low for a moving AJ Greer screen - but it was saved.
A minute later, the Canadiens rushed the Devils defense and got Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton to go too low, resulting in Graves losing Nick Suzuki on the cross-ice pass. Suzuki beat Andrew Hammond to give the Montreal Canadiens a 1-0 lead over the New Jersey Devils. A couple minutes later, Jake Evans gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead, blasting a slap shot from above the faceoff circle above a shrugging Andrew Hammond.
The Devils responded just 30 seconds later. With the Zacha line on, Dawson Mercer got the puck near the corner on the goal line. He found Tatar at the far faceoff circle, and his shot beat Allen for his 14th goal of the season. 2-1. Fabian Zetterlund came close to tying the game less than a minute later, but Jake Allen fell backwards to squeeze the trickling puck off a hard shot and second try at it. On the goal by Tatar, Damon Severson got his 40th point of the season on a secondary assist.
Tuna getting the boys in the game pic.twitter.com/iDzADQlVHC— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 7, 2022
Yegor Sharangovich had an excellent chance in front, as he collected a rebound from a Severson point shot and had Allen a bit out of sorts as he did not appear to track the rebound. Sharangovich shot wide. Shortly after, Montreal sprung Cole Caulfield on a stretch pass to the far blue line and he beat Hammond with a clean shot to the top corner.
Jesper Bratt got a chance to score early in the second, taking a flubbed shot at the side of the net and shooting straight into Allen’s outstretched pad. Tomas Tatar cut down the middle on a rush just a bit after, and he was unable to do much with the backhand. Pavel Zacha followed it up with a shot off the rebounding puck that went up high off Allen’s blocker. That made it two golden opportunities stopped by Allen in the first minute and a half.
The Zacha line continued to show some good work a few minutes later. After Zacha made a bad shot on a two-on-two chance where Tatar dropped the defenders back for him, he made up for it a bit with some good work around the boards, one-handing it around the end boards with a defender on his back to Dawson Mercer. Mercer made a similar play to Tatar to the goal in the first period, but Tatar’s shot was right into Allen’s chest. Zacha and Mercer showed some good passing on the rush and around the net leading up to the shot. Dougie Hamilton nearly scored, with the puck glancing off Allen’s shoulder on a rush shot created by Janne Kuokkanen, who found Hamilton with space to shoot.
Nick Clague took the first penalty of the game, as he caught Michael McLeod with a high stick. Seconds before, AJ Greer knocked a Canadien into the back of the net and nearly made it topple over on Allen. Alone out of the chaos, Greer fanned on a one-timer after skating to the front of the net.
Pavel Zacha got the pass from Hamilton to start the power play. His shot was low into Allen’s pads and the Devils took another faceoff, which was lost leading to a Canadiens clear. A shot by Hischier went wide on the rush at the end of the first minute, and the Devils then had to recollect in their own zone with a line change.
Janne Kuokkanen had a chance to score after splitting the defense, but he was unable to get Allen out of position on the breakaway, and his weak backhand was smothered. It looked like he ran out of room as Allen cut the angle while tracking the puck, and Allen did not give the five hole away in the process.
Michael McLeod continued to look like a completely different player. Fabian Zetterlund caught a puck in the air and sent it across to AJ Greer. Greer got tangled up down low on the ice, and McLeod settled the play down. He turned his back to the defender, giving himself time to send it down low through the screen. AJ Greer took the puck and went around the net and shot the backhand off of Allen’s helmet to score his first NHL goal! 3-2. Andrew Hammond would make it for nothing, though, giving up a weak shot from Joel Armia in the high slot. Hammond went to the far side of the crease for a pass to the middle and was unable to recover enough for the shot, and was screened on the play. 4-2 at the end of two periods.
Congrats on your first as a Devil, Greer. Keep grinding, boys. One more period to go. pic.twitter.com/rd7KX3H7GU— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 8, 2022
Andrew Hammond continued to suck in the third, giving up a goal off a shot from the benches. The puck deflected off Dvorak and in. 5-2. Chris Wideman was awarded the goal. Shortly after, Christian Dvorak scored again after splitting Hamilton and Subban on a stretch pass. Hamilton let the pass go right by him with all the time in the world to defend it. Nico Daws came in for the last 18:34.
Ty Smith did something nice for once, picking up a drop pass with speed from Nico Hischier and ripping a shot from one knee above the faceoff circle. He shot through the legs of Edmunson and through the seven hole to make it a 6-3 game.
Drop pass from Cap and Smith nets it home! pic.twitter.com/ChcNyndYGF— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 8, 2022
Brendan Gallagher took a tripping penalty behind Daws’ net, forechecking a bit too hard on Andreas Johnsson and missing with the stick. Nothing happened on the power play, but AJ Greer forced Allen to make a glove save after the two minutes expired.
Jesper Bratt finally got himself going, as Nico dropped the puck to him on the rush - and Tatar shot the puck off a feed from Bratt which went off Hischier’s skate. Bratt took the puck and shot the puck off Allen’s pad into the top of the net. 6-4.
Nick Clague beat Nico Daws with a farside shot, top shelf from the goal line. Daws did not seal the net off. 7-4. Nico Daws made up for a bit later, as Ty Smith had his pocket picked leaving the defensive zone - and Daws had to make a glove save on Jake Evans on the breakaway. The Devils showed little fight down the stretch as they lost, 7-4.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Habs Eye on the Prize.
The New Jersey Devils dominated the run of play in the first two periods despite falling behind 4-2. However, the Canadiens really shut the door on them in the third period, outshooting the Devils 11-9 with a 56.41 CF% and 64.94 xGF% in the final frame. In the first two periods, the Devils had a 74.77 xGF% at even strength. That’s a 46.89% decrease in expected goals share between the first two periods and the third - even though they should have seen a score effects boost with the Canadiens trying to hold down the lead. At least, that is what would be expected.
But nobody is scared by a team that seems to have no faith in itself. I do not know if the players have given up on the coaching staff, but it sure seems like it sometimes. This was the third game out of their last five in which the team gave up seven goals - that has to wear on a team’s skaters. But unlike the games against Boston and Florida, the Devils were really controlling play this game. This game fell on the shoulders of Andrew Hammond - shoulders which were seen shrugging at pucks as they went top shelf a couple times tonight.
Andrew Hammond has let up 13 goals on 60 shots against for the New Jersey Devils. That is a .783 save percentage and a 7.54 goals against average through two starts. This is the goaltender that Tom Fitzgerald traded Nate Schnarr - who was thriving under Kevin Dineen in Utica - for. This is the move that Tom Fitzgerald said he owed to his team. Natural Stat Trick shows an expected goals against of 0.99 for Andrew Hammond tonight. Five goals allowed above expected would be bad for half a season. For a single game? I guess we were wrong to think a goaltender could play any worse than Jon Gillies. I mean, Hammond is coming off an injury. Perhaps the Devils should be aware of those types of issues when they trade for what is basically emergency goaltending.
Headed for Last Place
In their last 12 games - since the March 15 loss to Vancouver - the Devils are 2-9-1. In this time, the Devils have given up 60 goals on 385 shots - that is a .844 team save percentage. In this time, their penalty kill dropped from a 81.52% kill rate until March 15 to 72% since then. So, these goals are not just coming at even strength - the Devils are unable to stop a puck in all situations. Ruff pointed to the goals given up as the reason for what went wrong tonight. Still, he looks rather defeated even when praising certain guys on the roster, such as Greer and Zetterlund. This is just depressing to look at.
The New Jersey Devils are currently the fourth worst place in the NHL standings, with 54 points in 71 games. The Montreal Canadiens just moved to three points behind them. The Kraken are currently leading the Blackhawks through two periods and may be two points behind the Devils after tonight. The Coyotes, who are currently down 1-0 in the first period to the Canucks, are probably the biggest barrier between the Devils and the top odds for the number one Draft pick this offseason, as they are five points behind the Devils - though they will play the Devils on Tuesday.
This season is on track to be the worst Devils season by points since 1988-89, when they went 27-41-12 for 66 points. They might even end up with less points than the 59-point 1985-86 team, though they had 28 wins. I do not think the Devils will even get four more wins, which would match their 2016-17 total when they went 28-40-14. The Devils have already lost more games in regulation than that team. With their 41st regulation loss, they match the 1988-89 and 2018-19 records for total regulation losses. Both Jim Schoenfield and John Hynes were fired early into the following seasons, with Schoenfield going 6-6-2 before getting canned for John Cunniff, while Hynes went 9-13-4 before Alain Nasreddine took over. Perhaps somewhat similar to this season, John Maclean had a career year for that 1988-89 team with 87 points in 74 games. This coaching staff has wasted career years from Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Nico Hischier (though I think all of them still have room to grow).
Coaches do not survive this. Generally speaking, they should not survive this. Goaltending problems or not, injury problems or not - NHL coaches need to rise above adversity at times if they want to keep their jobs. Lindy Ruff, Alain Nasreddine, Mark Recchi, Chris Taylor, and Dave Rogalski should be shown the door. Nasreddine was the only man there who I think was possibly worthy of a pass, but the defensive collapse over the last 10 or so games has even put that in jeopardy. The Devils defense is healthy - there is no way they should be giving up this many goals per game. I understand the goalies cannot stop a beach ball most nights, but this team is so bad that I expect it to be completely overhauled in the near future.
Some Players Deserve Praise
Not all Devils were bad tonight. Fabian Zetterlund showed why he should have been a New Jersey Devil months ago, with a team-leading 0.44 ixG on four shots in 15:01 of ice time. AJ Greer caused some havoc and scored a goal in 12:07, showing up at second on the team with 0.38 ixG on four shots. Michael McLeod played a great game with the puck tonight with 0.20 ixG on two shots with a drawn penalty. McLeod also led the team at even strength with an 87.50 CF%, with the Devils outshooting the Canadiens 6-2 with him on the ice for a 0.5-0.05 xG ratio (91.33 xGF%). Of course, one of those two shots against went in. AJ Greer led the Devils with a 94.26 xGF%, and the Devils outshot the Canadiens 12-2 with him on the ice at five-on-five.
Damon Severson had a hell of a game. He had a 63.89 CF%, 63.90 xGF%, and was on the ice for the Devils outshooting Montreal 11-7 at five-on-five as he was one of only two Devils to not be on the ice for a goal against. The Devils scored all four of their goals with Severson on the ice. Severson saw time partnered with Siegenthaler (9:16), Graves (4:40), Smith (2:31), and Subban (2:10) - with the Devils scoring one with each of those pairings on the ice. All other defensive pairings were obviously underwater in goal differential. Severson also moved into a career high in points (40) and assists (30) with tonight’s game. Severson has 33 points in his last 43 games. That’s a 63-point pace per 82 games in that span compared to a 22-point pace in his first 26 games.
Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Tomas Tatar had two-point nights for the Devils, with Nico and Bratt above water (2-1 and 2-0) in goal differential, while Tatar was on the ice with the Zacha line for some rather piss-poor play in the third period for a total of four goals against after good play early on. Bratt, with a goal and secondary assist, moves up to 23 goals and 44 assists in 66 games. Bratt was on the heels of a four-game pointless drought going into tonight. Nico Hischier has 19 goals and 33 assists in 62 games with his two primary apples tonight. Hischier has 28 points in his last 23 games, as he is one of the only players who has not fallen with the rest of the bunch. Tomas Tatar, with a goal and a secondary assist, has 14 goals and 15 assists in 68 games.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Is the coaching staff fired yet? 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.