Flyers 3, Devils 0; A Disappointing Opener Indeed


Last night, the Devils opened their season in front of a sold-out crowd at the Prudential Center.  The place was rocking early, ready to see a team they hadn’t watched in nearly six months take their first step towards a new playoff run.  However, this was not to be; the Devils came out flat on virtually all ends, and despite the fact that they were only down 1-0 after two periods, the team was outplayed all night by a much better-looking Flyers club.  In game one of 82, there was not much to be proud of; continue reading this post for what is, admittedly, an overreaction to the season opener, but a reasonably concerned recap as well.

First of all, being at this game was a great experience.  The pregame tribute to those we’ve lost in the NHL community was terrific, and the player introductions were great as well.  By the time both teams lined up for the opening faceoff, the crowd was absolutely electric, and continued to be even after a poor start to the game.  There was a buzz in the building that lasted until the Flyers took their 3-0 lead, and if the Devils had prevailed in this one, it would have been a really great way to excite the fanbase early on in the season.

Unfortunately, this didn’t come close to happening.  Claude Giroux scored what was somehow the Flyers’ only goal of the first period, as Marty was sharp in net for most of the night.  After two periods saw the Devils well within striking distance, Matt Read scored his first NHL goal under three minutes into the third, and just 129 seconds later, Wayne Simmonds netted one as well.  This was a game the Devils could have easily lost by four or five goals, with little offensive momentum all night.


Offensively, it was not fun to watch this team last night.  Despite a couple of chances in each period, the Devils had extreme trouble sustaining pressure in the offensive zone, struggling on entry passes and dump-and-chase efforts alike.  You would expect this from a team that wasn’t quite ready for the season to start, and this is the way these forwards looked last night.  The Devils almost looked unsure of themselves, in fact, when they would have possession in the offensive zone, unaware of how they should go about moving the puck in an effort to develop a scoring chance.  While some skated fairly well, collectively, it was clear that these lines need a lot of work.

Individually, it is hard to believe that Petr Sykora could be a first line player for much longer.  We all know about his chemistry with Elias; however, you have to be able to produce, and while his shot may be strong, he has to be able to do a lot more to play on one of the Devils’ top units.  Nick Palmieri also had a rough start to his season, looking fairly slow all night and finishing with a -3 to show for it.  In the first half of the game, David Clarkson (to name one positive) looked strong on the forecheck, doing a nice job of puckhandling and starting a couple of rushes that the Devils would quickly waste (to no fault of his own).


Despite not lighting the lamp, I am personally more disappointed with this group than I am with the forwards.  Defensively, the Devils could not find a way out of their own zone, and looked much like they did in the first half of last season (I was hoping I would not have to reference this).  It seemed like, with very little effort, the Flyers could force these d-men into turning over the puck, which they were able to do throughout the night.  Hopefully, the coaching staff spends a lot of time with this group in working to clear their own zone; the Devils made it look very tough for themselves last night.

Individually, Bryce Salvador did not have a great first game back, often focusing more on bodychecking than trying to gain possession of and clear the puck from his own zone.  Mark Fayne looked awful on both ends, to say the least, and Anton Volchenkov did not have his sharpest game, either.  In his first game in the league, Adam Larsson was decent, to put it best, taking some nice shots from the point and playing sufficiently behind his own blue line.  The only clear positive out of these six was Henrik Tallinder’s play, as the former Sabre looked fairly strong.  Last year, it was he who needed Fayne; this season, however, it might be the opposite.


Honestly, there’s not too much to say here.  For 42 minutes, Martin Brodeur was extremely sharp, and somehow kept the Devils in this game despite a terrible effort in front of him.  During the next three, he finally did let up a couple goals, the latter of which came on a netmouth scramble and was almost unavoidable.  Overall, it was nice to see Marty playing well; however, he can only do so much, and the rest of his team has to do a much better job of handling the puck, denying their opposition a surplus of scoring opportunities as the Flyers had last night.

Special Teams:

Like I’ve said in the past, Adam Oates is on the hot seat coming into this season after the Devils finished 28th in PP% last year.  Besides the first minute of their first powerplay, and the last minute of their final one, this unit looked awful last night.  Not only did they fail to move the puck around effectively in the zone for much of their time with the man advantage, but the even greater problem was even gaining possession inside of their opponents’ blue line, as dumping the puck created many quick Flyer clears.  The powerplay has really become a huge concern, and Oates will need to turn it around quickly if he wants to have a job for much of this season.


Although I did mention that he looked fairly strong on the forecheck last night, David Clarkson flat-out lost his temper in the third period.  After a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty was called on him after he attempted to draw an opponent into fighting, Clarkson eventually did lose a fight to Wayne Simmonds and was handed yet another unsportsmanline. After it was determined to give Clarkie a ten-minute misconduct, he barked repeatedly at both the refs and Simmonds, and had to be dragged off the ice by a linesman.  These penalties effectively took away what little chance the Devils had at getting back into the game; we have seen some of this in the past from the Ontario native, and, quite simply, it cannot continue.  Overall, the Devils took 11 penalties last night, and while a whopping eight of these occured in the third period, this is still far too large a number.

Interestingly, the Devils seem really committed to featuring Larsson on the powerplay, as he received much time out there tonight, as well as many shots early on.  Obviously, Larsson should continue to receive chances on this unit, but it was surprising to see just how much the coaching staff feels he should be their number one defenseman with the man advantage, over the likes of Mark Fayne and Andy Greene, the latter of whom did not see any time on the powerplay last night.

Finally, for anyone watching this game late in the third period, it is unlikely that Brad Mills will face discipline for his boarding call last night, in which he drove Jakub Voracek hard into the boards.  Mills was glad to hear Voracek wasn’t hurt, and went on to say that the Flyer changed his position at the last second, thus increasing the impact of the hit.

Up Next:

The Devils will stay home for a Monday matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes, who lost to the Capitals last night in overtime.  The puck drops just after 1PM from the Rock, and the Devils will be looking for their first win, as well as goal, for that matter, of the season.


PS: I am not sure how many game recaps I will be able to do throughout this season, but I plan on doing as many as possible.  As the season moves along, this should be a slightly easier task, as my workload should decrease a bit.

PPS: I know we’re all a little down after last night, but keep in mind that there are still 81 games to go in this season.  Overall, we should all be thrilled that hockey is finally back, and hopefully the Devils will improve in the early going, as they were unable to do last year.