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Five observations from New Jersey vs Ottawa:
1. The Devils got what they deserved
Last night's performance was, in a word, pathetic. The Senators rank at or near the bottom of the league in almost every category and there is a ton of drama surrounding the team right now. Even in a back-to-back, you'd expect to beat them. That didn't happen. The Devils not only lost but were flat-out embarrassed.
After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the wheels fell off entirely. It was as if they stopped playing and expected the Sens to hand over two points on a platter. Their defensive zone coverage was bad. They lost a ton of battles down low. There were numerous missed assignments where defenders would leave their man expecting help and the forwards wouldn't be there. The urgency was non-existent, too. Generally pinning losses, or mistakes, on things like a lack of effort is a cop-out – there is no way to actually quantify it – but there are exceptions to everything. This is one of them. A lot of players were drifting around without purpose like beer leaguers who show up to games every week already half in the bag. It felt like very few were working and playing hard, which is probably why John Hynes looked ready to rip somebody's head off in his post-game availability. Hopefully this serves as a wakeup call.
2. The top line cooked
Certainly the biggest positive was the play of the top line. They generated a couple Grade A chances on their opening shift, scored on the second, and that set the tone for the rest of the night. They looked dominant almost every time out and the numbers suggest that to be the case.
They finished with a +8 high-danger chance differential (nine for, one against) and were the lone forwards to post a Corsi For above 50%. Led by Nico Hischier, their shot contribution numbers were very strong as well.
3. The bottom-9 was exposed again
If it felt like the ice was tilted in Ottawa's favor every time the top line was catching a breather, that's because it's true.
The Devils were out-attempted 53-34 (39 CF%) and out-chanced 20-12 (37.5 SCF%) at 5v5 when their bottom-9 was out there. Sure, the Devils are missing a couple bodies and were in a back-to-back situation. They were also playing a consensus bottom-3 team. The majority of the roster getting cratered as they did is not exactly a good look.
4. It's hard to blame the goaltending
I understand why people are quick to jump on Cory Schneider when things don't go well. He hasn't won a regular season game in almost a year and has looked bad in most of his appearances during that stretch. I just can't put the loss on him (or Keith Kinkaid), though. As Andy Greene said, the Devils didn't give their goaltenders a chance. There were way too many defensive lapses in front of them. Did Schneider help the cause? No, but not even John Gibson would have been able to bail the Devils out last night.
5. It was just one of those nights
Everything that could go wrong, did. The Devils generated 18 high-danger scoring chances yet potted just one goal around the net. They took some bad penalties. They couldn't draw any. One of the goals allowed was created by a puck hitting Sami Vatanen in the face. When John Hynes put Damon Severson and Will Butcher out for an offensive zone faceoff to try and create late in the 2nd period, they ended up getting hemmed in the defensive zone and almost conceding again. Nothing went right. Even smart decisions or promising plays ended up blowing up in the team's face.
Numbers from NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
Five observations from another disappointing effort in Detroit
On Johansson, Severson, and 5v5 play