Brick City Breakdown: New York Rangers 4, New Jersey Devils 3, F/OT


It can never be easy. The New Jersey Devils can never just have a lead in the third period and win the game the way they should. They always have to find a way to, not only lose, but actually hand the other team the game. That’s what happened last night when the Devils lost in overtime to the Rangers. The Rangers did not win the game… the Devils gave the game to them. I can deal with losing; I can’t deal with gifting teams games they have no business winning. The Devils were clearly the superior team for 50 minutes, but alas, they cannot put together a 60 minute effort. The Devils haven’t played a single 60 minute game yet this season.

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To start with the one positive that came from last night: the power play was incredible. The Devils were 3/5 with the man advantage and looked dangerous every time they were given a power play. Jaromir Jagr got the first PP goal after Damien Brunner’s point shot caromed hard off the back boards right out in front. Brunner was phenomenal on the PP all night and fits incredibly well at the point where his skills really shine. Even if he’s just playing a fourth line role, his value comes this way. The second goal was scored by Adam Henrique who, let’s face it, absolutely owns Henrik Lundqvist. Jagr camped out in the right corner and dished the puck to Henrique in the slot who ripped a shot that squeaked through Hank. Then the Devils jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the third when Jon Merrill took a point pass from Brunner and stepped into acres of space where he beat Lundqvist’s glove.

The Devils had a two goal lead halfway through the third and that’s when hell broke loose. Mike Cammalleri, who did not record a point for the first time as a Devil, was called for a questionable delay of game penalty. The puck seemed from where I was sitting to hit the top of the glass and then fall out of play; even the referees were unsure, yet they called in a two-minute penalty anyway. Delay of game is the worst penalty in hockey. It makes no sense why throwing the puck out of play warrants a penalty call. How is that any different than an icing where players throw the puck down the ice to relieve pressure? I’ll answer that for you: it isn’t. Delay of game shouldn’t be a penalty, but instead should follow the same rules of icing where the players on the ice cannot change. Too many times does a game get turned on its head because of a delay of game penalty that has no business being called.

Regardless, the Devils did go down a man for the third time on the evening and ended up surrendering their second PP goal against. The Devils statistically are tied with the Florida Panthers for third worst penalty killing percentage in the league (72.4%) and are also tied with Florida for the league lead with eight PP goals given up. This, remember, is the team that was the best PK unit in the NHL last season. What happened? The first obvious is that Bryce Salvador is lost out there and the entire team has to collapse to cover for him. They’re not nearly as aggressive as they’ve been in years past and it hurts. The Rangers scouted brilliantly because their entire PP was focused on operating in the left corner – where Salvador is stationed – and they worked two beautiful goals from it. The Devils sit in this tight little box and let teams pass them to death before finding the open man and getting the puck past Cory Schneider who has no chance half the time. It’s brutal and Peter DeBoer doesn’t do a thing to fix it.

Speaking of DeBoer, he has to take the majority of the blame for last night’s loss if not all of it. Okay that’s not fair, some does go to Marek Zidlicky for making one of the worst passes in NHL history where he passed the puck right to a Ranger in front of the net allowing Rick Nash to tie the game on a rebound. That’s obviously not on DeBoer, but what followed is. The Devils were now tied with five minutes left in the third thanks to a Zidlicky giveaway… so DeBoer benches Adam Larsson. Excuse me? That’s his go-to move: bench the Larsson. When everything else fails: bench the Larsson. When you don’t win a faceoff: bench the Larsson. I thought Larsson was phenomenal for his first game in a few weeks and had no right being benched at all. What’s amazing is that Zidlicky took his spot with Merrill on the remaining shifts.

The Devils squandered a third period lead again because they just sat back and let the other team back into the game. The Devils don’t have a killer instinct. DeBoer’s style is get a lead and try to defend it to death. That doesn’t work in today’s NHL; you need to keep scoring and put the other team away. Another thing is that Cammalleri needs to go back on the top line with Jagr and Travis Zajac. It’s not a coincidence that this was the first game he was held pointless as a Devil. I have no idea why DeBoer broke them up, but it needs to be changed back immediately.

New Jersey is off for the next two days and return back to action on Friday when they take on the Dallas Stars on Chico Resch night. Stay tuned to Pucks and Pitchforks for more Brick City Breakdown recaps and my review on the new-look Prudential Center coming up tomorrow.