Shorthanded Devils Remain Winless on Season

0 wins, 2 regulation losses, and 1 overtime loss. Not quite the way things were drawn up for the Devils this season, but that’s exactly where they sit after today’s 3-1 loss to Sid the Kid and his Penguins. Flashes of brilliance have been there for this team, but they’ve been exactly that – flashes. They've had a harder time sustaining pressure this season than I've ever seen from them before.

In the loss today, there was a considerable amount of time spent on the penalty kill. Going down a man isn’t always a smart thing to do when your team is forced to dress only 15 skaters, which is exactly what the Devils were forced to do today. The well-publicized cap issues of the Devils forced the move after Brian Rolston and Anton Volchenkov went down with minor injuries. Volchenkov suffered a broken nose after taking a puck to the face in the game against Washington, and Rolston has been nursing a super-top-secret ‘lower body injury’ for a couple of days.

Pierre-Luc Leterneau-Leblond was ejected for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of that same game against Washington on Saturday, and received a one-game suspension for his actions. He did not get to serve that suspension today, as many thought he would. Instead, he was placed on waivers and will likely be sent to Albany of the AHL after he clears. Look for him to clear on Tuesday afternoon.

Being shorthanded wasn't as much of an issue as you would expect. Sure, it forced the Devils to roll all of their lines, but Travis Zajac's 23 minutes of ice time to lead all forwards wasn't completely out of the ordinary. The Devils looked exactly the same as they did in the previous two games. There were a lot of confused-looking, unorganized rushes up the ice which only led to mediocre scoring chances. A slapper right off the draw by Elias was the only notch on the scoreboard for the Devils, to break (a stellar) Brent Johnson’s shutout bid in his first start of the season. Johnson turned away 30 of the Devils’ 31 shots.

The penalty kill was a bright spot for the Devils, killing off five of the six they were faced with. They even generated a few scoring chances while down a man, most notably a Dainius Zubrus rush early in the third period which nearly led to a goal. The only goal that was surrendered while down a man came off the skate of the man whose popularity is growing by the second in New Jersey, Henrik Tallinder.

The officiating was also a bit suspect as Colin White was called for a borderline tripping penalty on Evgeni Malkin in the second period on a diving play. An identical play was made on Patrik Elias as the pressure started to mount in the third period, but alas, no call was made. The Devils could not make use of either of the two powerplay chances they received in the game.

Pittsburgh notched their first win of the season to pass the Devils in the Atlantic division by one point. Who says it’s too early to be scoreboard-watching? Here’s hoping the cap problems get cleared up really soon, and the team can finally get the first win out of the way Wednesday in Buffalo!

Greg Balloch
twitter.com/eggshmeg

2 Comments

George Prax's picture

I told you this would hurt them. Obviously their top players didn't slow down and as you said the ice time was pretty even across the board, but there's no way that icing 9 forwards vs. 12 could be a good thing for a team. The Devils made most of it but the Pens definitely capitalized. Kovalchuk's been great but the deal is hurting the team more than it's helping it, and Lou's going to have to do more than just play shorthanded to fix this.

If I was the league, I would say, screw ticket sales, if the Devils can't put forth a full team they'll have to forfeit the game. Might be the only way the Devils will learn. Frankly the deal shouldn't even have been expected, it's not much better than the other ones.