It was fun while it lasted.
The Devils, coming off a bounce-back performance against the Islanders, faced off against a Flyers team coming off of back-to-back losses to the Bruins which exposed flaws in their defensive structure. In the first few minutes, the Flyers performed like a team on a losing streak, as they allowed a penalty within the first minute of the game. The Devils were unable to score, but saw multiple opportunities which were stopped by Brian Elliott. Then, received a breakaway opportunity from a Travis Zajac pass, which was stopped by Elliott. With a flurry of opportunities seen, the Flyers defense realized they needed to stabilize their play, which helped to neutralize the pressure going forward.
13 minutes in, the Devils’ Andreas Johnsson were called for a holding call, where the Devils initially looked to capitalize themselves. Travis Zajac, yet again, spun a no look pass to Yegor Sharangovich, who found himself on a breakaway in the Flyers’ end. Unfortunately, Sharangovich hit the post on his shot, which eventually led to the Flyers capitalizing on a Ivan Provorov shot, which was tipped in by James Van Riemsdyk for 1-0 Flyers lead.
The Flyers pressured the Devils for the rest of the first, which forced Wedgewood to stand up to the Flyers forwards and prevent multiple scoring opportunities. Sloppiness in passing began to show as the period went on, which the Devils would need to address.
The Devils opened the 2nd period with a… questionable at best call going against Kyle Palmieri for goaltender interference, leading to another penalty kill where Provorov slapped a puck from the point with Van Riemsdyk tipping the puck in for a 2-0 deficit. From my viewpoint, Palmieri was pushed into the goalie by Nolan Patrick. He also barely touched Elliott.
So yeah. Thanks refs!
This deflating start saw the Devils struggle for the next five minutes, as Wedgewood was forced to make multiple point-blank saves to avoid further deficit. PK Subban, in typical PK Subban fashion, showed low IQ by committing a blatant interference penalty.
The Devils were, luckily enough, able to kill this penalty. And thus started a streak of wonderful play, which led to a mini-comeback.
Miles Wood then showed how he possesses massive value to this Devils team, as he utilized his speed to burst past a Flyers defender and backhand a centering pass to Mike McLeod, who snapped a shot through Elliott for his long-awaited first career NHL goal.
Off of this momentum-switching goal came more success by this Devils team, as Kuokkanen dropped a backpass to Andreas Johnsson, who snapped a shot which deflected off of Travis Zajac and past Elliott to tie the game 2-2. Just like that, the game was tied.
After this, Zacha was able to find an open lane to shoot, which was robbed by Brian Elliott. A Kyle Palmieri one-timer was stopped, before a Ryan Murray blast from the point was also stopped by Elliott.
With 20 seconds left, Jack Hughes showed he still had some youthful inexperience, as he gave away a dangerous pass to the Flyers in the defensive zone, but PK Subban and Scott Wedgewood were able to bail out the young forward. And with that, the score was tied at 2-2 heading into the 3rd.
The Devils nearly broke the tie early in the 3rd, as Andreas Johnsson showed flashes of his offensive tools as he found a loose puck, deked a Flyers defender, and fired a backhander straight off the top post.
The Flyers responded with some pressure on their own, as Connor Bunnaman was able to find a pass in the front of the net and direct it towards Wedgewood, who comfortably stopped the up-close opportunity.
The Devils yet again pressured nearly immediately afterwards, as some solid control from the Sharangovich line led to a puck which was controlled by Severson, who rang it off the post yet again.
This last ring of hope marked the end for the Devils.
One problem that this new look Devils team has is that they occasionally try to get too fancy with their passing, making it so that the team can’t get out of their defensive end. In this case, players such as Pavel Zacha simply refused to send the puck out of the defensive zone as they unsuccessfully searched for a breakout pass. The Flyers were able to come away with the puck, draw Wedgewood out of position and pass the puck to Nolan Patrick for an easy goal. Just like that, 3-2 Flyers.
The final blow came as a result of a Ty Smith giveaway, which happens with young defensemen. His defensive zone pass was intercepted by Oskar Lindblom in the slot, who fed it to Scott Laughton for a shot. His rebound directed towards Joel Farabee, who deposited the puck into an open net for a 4-2 lead.
As the game unraveled further, the Devils decided to pull a goalie, but never truly had another opportunity. Subban took a shot which, as expected with Subban shots, was blocked easily by Provorov, who cleared the puck into the empty net for a 5-2 game.
With just a bit over 1 minute in the game, a shot from the point was picked up by Zacha, who chipped it by Elliott to end at a 5-3 game.
The Devils oftentimes found themselves gaining momentum in their play, but would always end up making a sloppy turnover, committing a penalty, or not committing a penalty but the refs are…. before then instantly giving up a goal. They had streaks of hot play before instantly running cold, with the Flyers capitalizing on the cold runs.
Speaking of the referees – I’ll hold nothing short and say today had horrendously one-sided officiating. The Kyle Palmieri penalty, which I described as weak at best, was quite realistically not even close to a penalty. The Flyers committed a variety of different trips and high sticks throughout the game, but those were often ignored by the referees, who I consistently found myself astounded by. Maybe part of this is my bias towards the Devils, but I can’t recall a game which I thought was more poorly officiated.
Our penalty kill was significantly better as the game continued, due to Ruff deciding to switch the lines up a bit, with players such as Kuokkanen and Bastian seeing some time. However, the beginning play was absolutely abhorrent, as they struggled consistently to zone out Van Riemsdyk up front.
Who Played Well and Who Played Poorly
The 4th line of McLeod, Wood and Bastian caused havoc when on the ice whilst simultaneously pinning the puck in the Flyers zone throughout the game. This showed in their Corsi stats, as all three stood comfortably over 50%. Andreas Johnsson, despite his slow start to the game, made himself noticeable on the ice as the game progressed as he eventually ended with a Corsi of 86%.
I thought Jack Hughes yet again played well, sans one nearly costly giveaway. He is proving himself to be the most dynamic Devils forward when on the ice, as he danced his way through multiple defenders on multiple occasions to put the Devils in a good position.
Lastly, Wedgewood kept us in until the very end, when he couldn’t help the Devils anymore. For the first two periods, he was yet again playing at a staring goaltender level. In the 3rd, he was a mere mortal.
As for who played poorly, I found myself frustrated with PK Subban throughout the game. Subban seems to have developed this tendency where he gets the puck at the blueline and only decides to shoot when there is a man clearly in front of him. These shots, while the thought could admittedly be nice at times, almost never work. This results in a consistent stopping of any offense from the Devils’ part whilst simultaneously usually leading to an opportunity on the other end. Furthermore, Rupp has decided to play him on the penalty kill at times, for some unknown reason. As expected, this hasn’t worked in the slightest.
Ty Smith looked like a rookie today – which luckily for him, he is. On the other hand, Matt Tennyson yet again looked like a rookie. In Tennyson’s case, he is not. I can’t wait for Vatanen to come in.
But hey! We can always reside ourselves on the fact that this Devils team is not even close to its highest level, yet we look promising in most games. Eventually, Blackwood, Hischier, Bratt and Vatanen will come back. There’s a lot to look forwards to.
The NHL Highlights
This will be added once NHL.com uploads it.
Congratulations to Mike McLeod for his first NHL Goal. Congratulations to Janne Kuokkanen for his first NHL point. Lastly congratulations to Andreas Johnsson and Dmitry Kulikov for their first Devils’ points – hopefully this is the first of many for Johnsson (and in a perfect world, Kulikov).
Again, this game may hurt for fans, but the Devils did have some promising play. Furthermore, they hit the post on three separate occasions, so part of it was due to bad luck as well. Lastly, the refs aren’t typically this bad.
Let me know what you guys thought of this game in the comments below. Who played well? Who played poorly? What are some takeaways we can draw from this game? Let me know in the comments below and have a good night!