In baseball there’s a saying that momentum’s only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. To a degree that’s true in the NHL as well with goaltending, but hockey also adds the travel element into things. To wit, the Devils’ trek to Nashville last night coming off what should have been a momentum-gathering finish Friday against Vegas was always supposed to be a travel loss – even with the Predators missing a handful of key players with P.K. Subban, Victor Arvidsson and Fillip Forsberg all shelved while goalie Pekka Rinne got the night off. Still, even without all of those players Nashville’s a deeper team, especially since we also had Taylor Hall miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Even taking everything into account, last night’s game wasn’t really decided on any of that in the end – but rather on our hideous power play, and almost as hideous shootout performance which dropped our extra-time record to 1-7 for the year. Opportunities were there to win last night’s game, but going 0 for 4 on the man-advantage and 1 for 6 in the eventual shootout ensured we only got one point instead of two. Although on the other hand we were fortunate to even get that one point, with Brian Boyle scoring our lone goal late in the third period – our fifth with the goalie pulled already this season! For as horrible as we are on the 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 power plays, we seem to be brilliant on the 6-on-5 empty net situation, someone’s going to have to explain that dichotomy to me.
Other than the late tying goal and shootout of doom there really weren’t a lot of highlights to go over, I’m almost surprised there were enough to fill the nine-minute condensed game clip. Then again I was only half into watching last night given it came right smack after watching the future of the football Jets (Sam Darnold) have another good game, though in a loss which helped draft position. Not to mention I’m starting to get that winter run-down feeling – i.e. being sick. And lastly I didn’t really expect the team to be able to carry over momentum, but to a degree they actually did – playing a mostly low-event game which suited the Preds just fine once they jumped out in front late in the first period with some dude named Freddy Gaudreau scoring a rebound goal. I did a double-take when I saw Gaudreau’s name, the only active one I know is Johnny Hockey in Calgary.
The only other memorable moments of regulation until Boyle’s tying goal came in the second period when (shocker!) the Preds actually had a goal disallowed after Keith Kinkaid had his glove interfered with by Colby Sissons when Roman Josi’s rocket from the blue line was initially called a good goal on the ice. So Toronto’s good for something after all, eh? Ironically that might have been a more ticky-tack reversal than many that have gone against us over the last year, but I’ll take any help this team can get right now, especially from the refs since we’re owed a few. At another moment in the second period right after one of our failed power plays, randomly there was some screaming over the PA system in Nashville I could hear over the TV during a stoppage, and I cracked to nobody in particular ‘whoever it was, must have been watching our power play’.
While the Devils outshot Nashville last night clearly the Preds had the better chances as evidenced by this in-game stat posted by Atlantic writer Corey Masisak during the second period:
Can’t say the third period looked much better in terms of us getting quality chances, although Marcus Johansson botched a beauty in the third period (about 4:30 or so on the highlight video) where he passed up a breakaway to try to find Nico Hischier trailing the play, but Nico lagged back looking for a rebound, expecting Johansson to shoot. That miscommunication resulted in our not even getting a shot from a momentary breakaway/quasi 2-on-0. Honestly I missed that play live but sounded bad so I had to look in the video to see if it was there, and it was. Not quite as bad as Hall and Hischier’s OT 2-on-0 a while back but close.
Of the two goalies, Kinkaid had the better saves throughout the night but Jusse Saros shutting us out for 58 minutes was still frustrating, given the poor year he had coming into last night. My buddy Rudy wryly noted during the pregame that right when announcer Steve Cangialosi was describing Saros as a quality backup, the production team posted his stats which included a GAA north of 3 and a save percentage south of .900. Granted, that is still quality goaltending compared to what we saw in the first period last night (sorry Cory). Finally we scored on Nashville’s XL-sized backup when again Johansson was involved in a 6-on-5 goal, this time getting the assist when his shot found Boyle – who went to the right spot in front to put home the rebound.
As bad as we are 5-on-4, we’re just that bad 3-on-3 this season as evidenced by our five OT losses. Last night’s OT really wasn’t any better than the others only this time Kinkaid did yeoman work to keep the puck out of the net, especially when Kyle Palmieri caused a two-on-one leading to a series of in-close chances. Johansson’s backhander that was easily stopped by Saros was probably the closest we came to scoring in OT. As it was I wasn’t too unhappy to go to a shootout, especially with SO ‘specialist’ Drew Stafford in the lineup this time.
However, the shootout was about as bad as almost all of our OT’s, although it got off to a good start when Palmieri of all people scored a wrister (he’s generally not good in the skills competition), but Ryan Ellis scored soon after then it became a goalie show with seven straight saves between the two goalies before Ryan Johnasen scored what proved to be the winning goal in the shootout. Somewhat contreversially John Quenneville got the final shot for the Devils and his failure was the worst of all. Why not Blake Coleman or Brett Seney at least? Those guys aren’t allergic to scoring like Quenneville (who missed the net a couple of times on glorious PP chances earlier in the game).
This is where I hate the shootout, overall it was a decent game for the team that probably deserved a tie but instead feels like a loss thanks to the skills competition and uncle Gary’s rules. Not to mention loser points really aren’t going to catch us up in the playoff race at this juncture. The three-point games all around the league make it twice as difficult to catch up from a deficit in the standings, when other teams get extra points from winning, loser points from getting to OT and when we give up extra points in OT.