What happened: The New Jersey Devils got out to a quick lead against the Ottawa Senators, then wilted the rest of the way. The Senators had ample opportunities to score in the first and finally netted the tying goal when Daniel Alfredsson scored in the third period. This was a very troubling game for New Jersey as they had a lot to prove after being demolished against the Islanders on Saturday.
Star of the Game: Ben Bishop, Senators Goalie. Bishop, who is 6’7”, frustrated the Devils all day, en-route to making 30 saves in the game. I’ve seen this guy play a few games and I believe he can be a starter. His size makes him tough to score on and he can take away angles easily. Today, he stymied the Devils completely after giving up an early goal to Stephen Gionta.
Goat of the Game: The entire Devils offense. It was hard to pick out one player here, so I’m going with the entire offense. They scored a goal in the first two minutes and then nothing after that. This was a game that the Devils could have put away and they never did. Ottawa is an offensively-challenged team right now and if you get a two or three-goal lead, they’d be hard pressed to.
Turning Point: Daniel Alfredsson’s goal. The Devils appeared that they might be able to hang on for a 1-0 win, but when Alfredsson scored, it resulted in an eventual loss of a point for New Jersey. You can make the case that Andrei Loktionov could have cleared the zone and that Marek Zidlicky needed to make a play to stop the pass that allowed Alfredsson to get open down low, but the fact is, giving up one goal isn’t so bad, except when you can’t score.
Offense: D – They had some chances, but their inability to score a goal in the remaining 58 minutes of the game was abysmal. Sure, Bishop was good and he was excellent last year against them as well, but in a game where you’re looking to put a bad performance behind you, it’s unacceptable to not find the back of the net at least one more time.
Defense: B-plus- I thought as a whole, the defense was pretty good today. The Senators had a lot of shots, but didn’t have that many great scoring chances. Though the Senators are really struggling to score, they can still play and I don’t think a game in which you give up one goal can really be put on the defensive side for the mishap.
Goaltending: A-minus- Martin Brodeur was sharp early on and he continued it throughout the game. This was a game where Marty put the team on his back. He stopped 29 shots and really kept them in the game when the offense wasn’t there. The only goal was a great pass in front and an even better finish by Alfredsson.
Special Teams: C- The power play, which has been improved lately had some good moments, especially in the first period. The Devils had a major chance when they got two consecutive power plays, including 23 seconds of five-on-three, to blow the game open, but they didn’t. The penalty kill didn’t hemorrhage goals like they had been in current games either, so that’s an improvement at least.
Instant Analysis: This game was frustrating, but I don’t think you can just discredit the Senators as if they’re an inept team, regardless of their injuries. The Senators are a good defensive team and the Devils ran into a goaltender that played very well today.
I think part of the issue with the Devils is that after last year’s run and this season’s hot start, everyone expects this team to win night-in and night-out. That’s not going to happen, but what must happen is a good effort every night.
It’s definitely not panic mode time; hell, they’re still tied for first place in the Eastern Conference (Though Pittsburgh gets the tiebreaker for the moment by way of two more regulation wins), but this team needs to be more consistent moving forward. They do get four straight games against teams that are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with two against Washington later this week, followed by two with Winnipeg.
I don’t think it’s time to be extremely worried quite yet. Losing three out of four is definitely a time to be concerned, but a nice stretch will not only have the Devils back on the winning path, but right up there atop the conference. Every team goes through these and in fact, a lot of them did so to start the year. Really, if they’re going to slump, it’s better to be now than at the end of the season. I’m sure this team will be focused and ready to play when they head to Washington on Thursday.