After winning in Philadelphia, Florida and Tampa Bay to start the season 3-0-0, New Jersey’s hot start has quickly evaporated after suffering their third consecutive loss at the hand of the Rangers on Tuesday night.
New Jersey held a 3-1 midway through the 3rd period before allowing two goals in the final 11 minutes and eventually losing in overtime.
1. I’ve seen a lot of people blaming Pete DeBoer for the loss, which I think is ridiculous. The argument from most is that he had the Devils sit back and that’s why they blew the 3-1 and lost. That’s not the case, though.
New Jersey entered the 3rd period up 2-1 and scored a goal just over 30 seconds into the period to make it 3-1. They outshot the Rangers 10-9 in the period despite holding a two goal lead, and were even in the shot attempt battle.
They had several chances, notably Mike Cammalleri’s mini breakaway where he hit the cross bar, to close the game out and they didn’t. That’s not on DeBoer.
2. Every team in the NHL was out shot, out possessed and likely outscored while leading last season. It’s called score effects. It doesn’t matter if DeBoer, Mike Babcock or the guy at the corner store is coaching, the same things tend to happen. Either all 30 NHL coaches tell their team to sit back, or it’s on the players.
3. New Jersey was really on the wrong end of some bad luck and bounces in this game. I’ll go in more detail on the other three, but the first goal was a Ryan McDonagh shot that was stopped by Cory Schneider, bounced out over the stick of the Devils’ defenseman and right to Chris Kreider. The Devils were playing a real tight box and did a good job preventing chances on that penalty kill, they just had a bounce go the other way. It happens.
4. On New York’s 2nd goal, the Devils appeared to be in good position to prevent it. As you’ll see, the Rangers have a screen set up in front of Schneider, but Bryce Salvador did a good job of taking away the shooting lane to prevent the Rangers taking advantage of that.
The only play available was to fit a pass through a small lane to Chris Mueller, who is probably the least offensively talented player on the ice at the time, and hope he gets a shot off if it a) gets through Patrik Elias and; b) Andy Greene doesn’t quickly close the gap.
Elias was a couple inches shy of intercepting the pass, and Greene was a step slow getting to Mueller, so it ended up in the back of the net. Not much you can do there.
Zidlicky was a bit hard on the backhand and the puck missed Zajac by a couple inches before floating into a ton of open ice, where the Rangers picked it up and scored shortly after.
One of the first things you’re taught as a defenseman is never to go up the middle of the ice. Zidlicky went against that rule and it nearly worked, but instead of an easy zone exit the Rangers tied the game.
6. The final goal was inexcusable, really.
You could argue Dainius Zubrus and Ryane Clowe, two of the slower forwards on the team, shouldn’t be on the ice together during 4 vs 4.
Andy Greene defended his man nicely, but Zubrus followed the puck carrier rather than keeping an eye on the trailer, Kevin Klein, and he burned the Devils.
7. I thought Adam Larsson was OK in his season debut. He did make some nice plays in the defensive zone, and for the most part his outlets were on target. That said, on a couple occasions he turned the puck over or failed to get it out, and it led directly to scoring chances against. It was his first game of the year so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but if he wants to establish himself as an NHL regular and take the spot of someone like Eric Gelinas on a regular basis he’s going to need to be a lot better.
8. As I noted early this season, I like that DeBoer continues to sit Greene on power plays. Again, he’s fine in that role, but when you have the likes of Merrill, Severson, Gelinas, Zidlicky, etc. there’s no reason to force him to play extra minutes. The power play has been relatively successful and Greene is playing a couple minutes less per night than he normally would, so the early returns on that strategy have been good. It’ll really make a difference later in the season when guys start to wear down.
9. Damien Brunner was excellent in this hockey game. I was in favor of him coming into the lineup, I just thought it should have been Jordin Tootoo sitting rather than Tuomo Ruutu. Regardless, Brunner was a difference maker in this game. He had a pair of power play assists, including a gorgeous pass to Jon Merrill on his goal, and was a big asset on the power play. I don’t think he’ll be sitting any time soon.
10. Up next for the Devils is a clash with the Dallas Stars. They have a ton of weapons offensively, so the Devils really need to tighten up and stop taking so many penalties. If you spoon feed Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and co. power play opportunities they’re going to make you pay. Recent posts On T.J. Brodie’s five-year extension Nathan Horton’s back injury may be career threatening Takeaways from week two of the season Where is the best fit for Tyler Myers? Stanley Cup predictions
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