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Devils lose 5-4 in the shootout as mistakes loom large

As happy as I was with the first two periods of the hockey game is also just as disgusted I was with the 3rd period of this game.

I know we forgot about it given the amazing circumstances and heroics of Mackenzie Blackwood in the previous affair, but the coaching staff should have taken a hard look at the previous game, and realized the team was getting blitzed in the final period. Even with the 1-0 win and potential save of the year candidate, surely the coaching staff wouldn’t look at the game and do… nothing right?

Lindy Ruff, this is what typically happens when you let the other team take complete control of the final period. You fooled the Bruins once, but come on! Shame on you for thinking that Blackwood could carry the team again. While you may be yelling at the players in the locker room as a result of their transgressions, the writing is on the wall. This loss wasn’t only on the players – as the leader of this sinking ship, the loss is on you, Lindy Ruff. So have all the other losses, where the Devils have continuously failed to comfortably close a game.

Mark Recchi, I’ll gladly take some of what you’re having. If it means that I can be blind to my mistakes and blaming my failures on “the loss of Nico Hischier”, I’ll actually of a lot of what you’re having. Your power play is awful. The breakout passes suck, your personnel choices suck, and you’ve constantly struggled to make the necessary adjustments that help the team win. Also, why is Kyle Palmieri perched in front of the net? What in the world?

“But Devin, this team is rebuilding anyway, you should stop being angry and focus on the future!” Of course I’m excited about the future, despite my pessimistic outlook. However, I do think that a rebuilding team with effective coaching would help the Devils grow even more than this shambolic personnel group. This is probably emotional Devin talking, but enough time has passed in the Ruff and Recchi eras where I’d be extremely content with seeing both out of the door. Even with this recent “hot” streak (which really isn’t hot by a normal NHL team’s standard), we’ve seen the Devils nearly give away the previous Boston game, nearly surrender a 3 goal lead to a bad Flyers team, and get decimated by the Capitals in the 3rd period of basically all of their recent games. Even in this good stretch of games, the signs have always been there. This was just the first time it really went to hurt the team.

With my rant done, let’s focus on the happy things. The Devils opened the game really well! For forty minutes the team was getting the better of the Bruins chance-wise, as they performed well. Just over a minute into the game, PK Subban was able to get a turnover in the Bruins zone and found Miles Wood in front. Wood controlled the puck and immediately shot it at Halak, beating him clearly and giving the Devils the early lead.

After this, Blackwood made a big oopsie, as a harmless Nick Ritchie shot bounced off of Blackwood’s glove and into the net, immediately tying the game.
The shift after this goal, Bergeron was unlucky as his shot hit the post, before Blackwood then did a good job of stopping Charlie McAvoy.

The Devils fourth line and Michael McLeod then took advantage of a deflected pass, as he found a puck on the side and drove Halak. He made a great deke, slotting a backhand by Halak.

The rest of the period saw the Bruins show a weak defensive presence, as they were pressing too much. A myriad of nice Devils chances were then found, including chances for Palmieri, Wood and Boqvist, With that, the Devils finished the first period up 2-1.

The second period started with the Devils allowing a goal, though upon review it was clearly goaltender interference on David Krejci. With this, the Devils took advantage of this scare, as Jesper Bratt took a shot from the point which Zajac tipped in past Halak. It was goal number 200 for Zajac – congratulations to Zajac for that!

After this, a scrum in the front occurred, where Marchand ended up bullying Ty Smith in the front of the net, which led to the Rat getting called for roughing. The Devils power play had NOTHING, which set the tone for the game. As such, I will mention them for the rest of the recap but highlight none of it, because that’s basically what happened the whole game. For all of them.

After this, Brad Marchand charged Dmitry Kulikov, which surprise! He wasn’t called for (He LITERALLY jumped off his skates ref). To everyone’s surprise, Jesper Bratt was the one who responded, as he (kind of) dropped the gloves against Marchand, only to be disrespected with a roughing call.

The proceeding four-on-four unfortunately saw PK Subban called for slashing David Krejci, leading to a Boston power-play, which saw a Pastrnak shot clang off the post. The Bruins wouldn’t leave this opportunity for naught though, as Brad Marchand of all people was able to take advantage of a tired Devils penalty kill and rip a shot past Blackwood.

With the momentum Boston’s way, Kyle Palmieri found a way to take advantage of a really, and I mean REALLY bad pass on Jeremy Lauzon’s part. He intercepted the puck immediately off the faceoff and cleanly beat Halak with a wrist shot, to restore the two goal lead.
With that, the period ended with the Devils up two goals! Unfortunately, this would begin the downfall of my sanity.

The Devils opened up the 3rd by immediately giving the puck away, forcing Blackwood to stop Coyle in front. The Bruins played physical, and the referees were willing to let them get away with it, as the Devils had no response for the tomfoolery.

Halfway through the 3rd, the Bruins were able to sustain some offense from Craig Smith, who sent a shot towards Blackwood. Blackwood made the stop, but the rebound was a bit too juicy as it found McAvoy on the flank. He was able to deposit a one-timer past Blackwood, and the score was now 4-3.

Severson was then called for high-sticking and killed it, but were immediately heartbroken as a Matt Grzelcyk shot found its way past Blackwood.
The last minutes of the period saw the Devils continuously rescued by Mackenzie Blackwood, as he stopped a multitude of high-octane Bruin chances in the slots. As Ken Daneyko said it best, the Devils were lucky to even escape the rest of the 3rd and head into an overtime period.

The overtime period saw no chances for the Devils, even with a 4-on-3 power play for the team after a Severson breakaway saw him hooked. The overtime period ended, and the game headed to a shootout, where the Devils lost as a result of Blackwood falling for the same move twice and pretty bad shots from Zacha and Palmieri.

Quick Thoughts:

My rant aside in the beginning, there was a lot of promise from the Devils players in the beginning periods. Miles Wood is very valuable for this team – if he had a better shot, WOW could he be good. He had many chances which he created with his speed and energy, and was able to deposit at least one of them.

Bratt’s hands are on a different level than other players on the teams. His elusiveness confuses defenders a lot on even strength, which confuses me as to why he isn’t the primary puck-handler on the power play. The Hughes and Subban experiment has shown many cracks recently, so a chance could be in order. The Bratt and Kuokkanen switch didn’t have the effects that I would have liked, but it’s clear that Bratt has a lot of talent on this team.

Jack Hughes is searching hard for points, with his frustration starting to show. He’s still extremely young, at only 19 years old, so his time will come. At his age, it’s normal for the struggles to occur, and it’s very good to be patient with him.

Andreas Johnsson does nothing.

Resign Zajac. He’s a veteran presence on the team that has really stepped up his game for the Devils, and made his teammates better. Without him, Kuokkanen wasn’t successful at all. Reunite Kuokkanen with Sharangovich and Zajac immediately. Also, he was willing to crush Zach Senyshyn for daring to try to drive the net, which the rest of the defense should take notes on.

Where would we be without Mackenzie Blackwood?

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