October 13 2013 09:54PM
Dustin Byfuglien is taking this $&!# seriously.
The score doesn't quite reflect the game, as the offence for both teams fizzled despite copious offensive zone time. A short-handed marker off the leg of a Devils' defenceman, an empty net goal, and a garbage-time shovel-in by Captain Andrew Ladd pad the stats for the good guys. But you have to be good to be lucky, and on this night, the Jets turned in their most complete, most structured game of the season.
Overshadowed by the relief at a winning effort tonight were some of the usual patterns: a slow first period that crescendos to an aggressive third; Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tobias Enstrom being about the only Jets capable of offence; a defensive transition game that is essentially a foot-race from the offensive end boards to the Jets' blue line. In spite of a dominating 3rd period by shot count, the Jets actually lost the shot attempt battle at even strength 44-37, and they gave a lot of space to a Devils attack that spent a lot of time in the Jets' end. Nevertheless, effort will be the buzz word due to the Devils being a slow transition team, making them available for the Jets to deliver 31 hits and get back in position to make 19 blocked shots.
We've talked about the Jets forecheck a lot, and I've been waiting for a positive example before running any more detailed post about it. Tonight we saw that positive example. The Devils don't reverse well, and are slow to get up the ice for the same reasons. The breakout designed by Deboer relies on each defensive pairing having a primary transition man, and their transition requires the team move up as a 5-man unit, thus at the maximum speed of their slowest player. On a team with Jagr, Ryder, Clowe, Bernier, Olesz... it's just going to take a while. The Jets finally earned some extended offensive zone time by having their third forward high on the strong side and two men on the puck. The Devils were too slow to move it away from pressure and exploit the open weak side.
That's not to take away from the Jets - the plan worked. The forwards were involved, traffic was constant, and shots plentiful, especially in the third period when they outshot the Devils 15-5. A plan well executed. Finally.
It's a night where we have more good than bad. That feels weird to write.
Olli Jokinen got his 700th point and 400th assist on Kane's empty net marker. Time flies for that 1997 draft class.
Speaking of Kane, how about 8 shots, 2 goals, and 5 recorded hits for the young man. I didn't notice if he had linemates, but his speed and physicality tore the Devils' defence wide open.
Andrew Ladd had a similar effect. It's almost like Zidlicky, Larsson, and Harrold is not a high quality right defence group. Ladd recorded a goal, 5 shots, and 2 hits in under 16 minutes of ice, plus showed his speed beating out an icing in the third.
Bryan Little looked like the #1 centre this team desperately needs - a 59% corsi rating on the evening, 58% at the faceoff dot, and heavy minutes in every situation in a shutout effort. He looked like the Little of old.
Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom continue to run this team's offence, driving the play in the right direction, creating scoring chances, and defending well at the same time. Another terrific performance for that duo. Byguglien tied Little for team-leading corsi% and was generally in beast mode.
Jim Slater was on for more shot attempts for than against. That's a plus corsi %. It doesn't happen often, and I'm quite hard on the man. So I thought I would celebrate his accomplishments. He was also 63% at the dot and spent almost 5 minutes killing penalties. I still think this team needs a better version of Jim Slater to take over his role, but he looked like a better version of himself tonight.
AL MONTOYA! One game after Noel drew criticism for playing over-worked netminder Ondrej Pavelec in both games of a back-to-back, he goes with Montoya for the start. As we talked about above, the Devils didn't have much offence to offer, and couldn't layer their attack to save their... well, season. But Montoya kept it all out. Some fumbled rebounds came out that a better offence might have buried. A few awkward moments. But for the most part, Montoya looked calm, he tracked the puck in traffic very well, and he moved most of his rebounds into quiet zones for his defenceman. He also communicated with his defencemen well, and we saw very few mix-ups in collecting the puck off the end boards. In games past, Jets defenders have been collecting and skating into danger instead out of it, and taking hits trying to find the next play. Montoya earned this shutout. Maybe he sees more than 7 games this year.
The Jets forecheck deserves some love in this section. We haven't seen the Jets possess the puck well at all to start the season, but they did a fine job of puck retrieval and pressure tonight. It meant a lot more time in the offensive end than we've seen to date (outside of garbage time in Dallas). It's encouraging to see the team culivate multiple offensive tools.
Happy Thanksgiving! Just not for, you know, Peter Harrold or whatever.
Holy moly James Wright and Matt Halischuk were awful. Oh my. At five on five - I realize they killed some penalties, we'll get to that - Wright was on for 2 shot attempts for and 11 against. Halischuk was better (!) as 2 for, 8 against. Both continued to get shifts in the third (in the 4-5 range each period), but they shouldn't have. Just a brutal game for that pair. Short-handed, the team went a perfect 5 for 5 and Wright in particular played heavy minutes there. The Devils are now 1 for 15 on the powerplay this season, and had three of their five powerplay shots on the 5-on-3. It was an anemic powerplay, but they did shut it out.
Speaking of the Jets lacking depth, Postma and Stuart each had fewer than 11 minutes of even strength ice time (which itself could go under 'The Good' for coaching excellence) and the third pairing remained putrid. Stuart fell below 30% corsi rating again this game. I hope we see Clitsome on Tuesday, though the team seems to love his work on the penalty kill.
I'm not going to win any friends for saying this, but Jacob Trouba was not very good to my eye tonight. The colour team compared him to Bobby Orr and Denis Savard, but he had several giveaways on weak, casual plays with the puck and was in the wrong end too often this game. He was on for 1 minute more than his partner, Zach Bogosian at even strength. Bogosian was on for 17 attempts for, 18 against. Trouba was on for 14 attempts for, 23 against - far and away the most of anyone on the club, and a 38% against a poor Devils club. I wasn't impressed. He's young - I'm not saying his career is over. It's just one game.
Quietly, Mark Scheifele got benched in the third when the game was close. He had just 4 shifts in the 3rd - the last of which was 1:37 long and ended with 7 minutes left in a 1-0 game. He didn't see the ice again, and ended the game with just 14 minutes played. He was on the ice for 4 shot attempts for and 15 against. That's Matt Halischuk bad. Tough night for the rookie.
Remember that shift when Tangradi blindly threw the puck behind him in the offensive zone, and then threw a dangerous pass across the front of his own net, narrowly past a Devils' player, while both his defencemen were behind him and in the corner? Yeesh.
Best Play by Play Quote
"This has been a big boy's game."
It certainly has, Brian. It certainly has.