This was a tough game to sit through. Even my coaching from above the ice in section 129 didn’t help to motivate the team. What’s even worse is that two consecutive losses puts a serious question mark on the Devils push to make it in to the playoffs. And to further compound the problem, Carolina and Toronto have both won a game since Thursday night to push ahead of the Devils and leave them behind in twelfth spot.
So what went wrong? Thankfully I can’t pin the blame on lack of trying. The Devils outshot the Capitals 33 to 12 – a season low for the Capitals. They threw a lot at the Capital net minder but the toughest shots they made on net were stopped.
The Devils then started to get a little flat-footed as they received a few power play opportunities and could not take advantage. In fact the past two games their power play has just looked dreadful – to the point where you wish they could decline the penalty like in football.
The loss put a damper on what has typically been a fun St. Patrick’s Day (or close enough) tradition for the past two seasons, Retro Night. The night was complete with old style graphics on the jumbotron, “hightlights” from the ’80s and early ’90s, and even former Devils Public Address announcer from the old Brendan Byrne/Continental Airlines arena, Bob Arsena (who was a lockout casualty and retired).
The arena was packed with energy at the start of the game, but by the end of the second period, two goals by the Capitals, and an unproductive 4 minute power play, the fans let out boos to let the team know they were not pleased with there play.
Signs held up by fans reading “I Believe” disappeared by the start of the third period, with the most excitement coming from NJ Devil throwing t-shirts to fans.
The only comment on the players that I will make is that there were a number of plays in which the team looked like they had reverted back to their old style of play before the mid-way point this season. They were falling down at key moments, making a perfect pass to the opposing team, or worse yet just putting the puck into an empty spot on the ice leaving it behind for a Capital to pick up.
It looked just like it did earlier on in the season – they just didn’t get any breaks tonight. They tried, but couldn’t get anything going, as if they were holding on to their sticks too tight. Kovalchuk was at the heart of issues. While coach Lemair said he was just covered well by the opposing team, it didn’t look like he had his best night missing the puck at key opportunities and dropping passes just ahead or behind teammates. Fans cheered for only a handful of plays, one in which the puck bounced out of play on to the Devils bench and backup net minder Johan Hedberg caught the puck, Fans began to chant “Mooooose” with many thinking perhaps he should have gotten the start tonight.
The Devils didn’t just play poorly to concede a loss; the Capitals also played very well, with Ovechkin getting two assists and a +3 on their three goals scored. His line was out each time the Capitals got one past Brodeur.
Again, three losses in the past two weeks will certainly hurt the Devils chances of making the playoffs, especially as teams in front of them collect wins. If the Devils wish to push themselves into playoff contention, they are going to need to string a lot of wins together between now and the end of the season in just three weeks, 11 games, from tonight. Speculation states that they can only lose once more in regulation between now and the end of the season to really put themselves in contention of making the playoffs. But no math can truly predict what the end result will be.
For now, continue to believe. And hope. And pray.