— Anthony Felice was the Devils best player last night. Why? Because he’s the only guy who wore white who shouldn’t be embarrassed with how he played…because he didn’t play. That was a total and utter embarrassment from the drop of the puck, from the players to the coaching staff. Of all the games where I could have really paid attention to what they were doing and just taken notes, that wasn’t the one they wanted me doing that for.
— The news, of sorts, early on was that Ryan Ginand and Ryan Hayes were split up. I noticed them together once on a 4-on-4 late in the game, but that was it. Hayes actually seemed to be the floating tenth forward last night. He played with Dan Charleston and Tony Zancanaro, Kory Nagy and Myles Stoesz and Nagy and Jeremy Akeson at various times. I don’t get that at all. They’ve combined to score 29 of the team’s 104 goals this season. They’re all you had on quite a few occasions this season. I get the logic behind splitting them up — not being dependent on one line, etc. — but if you have one line, so be it.
They weren’t even together on the power play. Ginand-Zancanaro-Zajac/Charleston-Miller was the first unit, while Prough-Kell-Hayes/Akeson-Pender was the second.
— The D pairs to start out were Chase Watson-Andy Thomas, Taylor Vichorek-David Leaderer and Justin Pender-Brad Miller. None of them particularly played well. Maybe Miller or Vichorek were the least noticable, but they all had their moments. Pender and Trevor Kell had a bit of a miscommunication early in the game that led to a breakaway, where it seemed Kell wanted Pender to switch off to the last man back, who he had a better gap on. Pender’s passing skills aren’t usually a point of concern, but he clanked an easy one off an open Devil’s skates in the neutral zone that led to a turnover and whiffed on a clearing attempt as well. Watson got burned a few times, but most noticably on the second and third goals, where Ben Street whizzed right past him. On the second goal, Thomas was back, but overcommitted. On the fourth goal, Mikael Bedard was all alone in front of the net, and Leaderer finally noticed him. He got there, but then overskated Bedard, who had an easy goal. Poor coverage all across the board.
Yes, there are built-in excuses by not having six true D-men…but it was what it was.
— Wheeling’s very aggressive on the forecheck, sure. But why wouldn’t every team do that after seeing how much Trenton would just screw around with the puck in their own end. They didn’t know what to do. They’re a small team that played small. Wheeling absolutely controlled the perimeter last night, largely in part because nobody on that team is physical enough to check anyone off the puck or keep themselves from getting checked off the puck. Myles Stoesz thought it was time to finish a few checks midway through the third period on one shift, but it was way too little, way too late.
— The coaching staff does not go without blame here. Call your timeout. Even if you think what you’re saying to your team is just noise at this point, as Kevin Dean has said, call your timeout. That game was over at the start of the second period and everybody knew it, but they didn’t have to play like it. There was one particular shift maybe eight minutes into the second where Wheeling just absolutely dominated the play in Trenton’s end for a good 90 seconds, and the Devils were forced to ice the puck. Would be a great time for a timeout, no?
— Point about splitting Ginand and Hayes up aside, even Ginand looked lost last night. He had only three shots last night, and none of them were anything remotely close to good chances. He had a particularly soft and weak wrist shot from the high slot early in the game that just seemed uncharacteristic.
— Not a good game from Dave Leaderer. Or anyone, really. But Leaderer’s had a rough stretch for a while. This team needs him, especially now with the shortage of D. And Dave, if you’re going to bang your stick on the ice all the time, you’ve got to do something with it once you get it. Leaderer ended up with a few different D partners last night in an attempt to try to get him going. And that needs to happen soon.
— Last point…people paid money to see that. I can sit here all high and mighty behind my laptop and criticize (and praise, when it’s warranted) these guys, but the truth is that I didn’t pay to see that game. You guys did. That could have been somebody’s first hockey game. That could have been the only time somebody was going to see some of these guys play. The stands are largely empty most games — the latest attendance falsification was that there were 1,248 people there last night — and if I came to check out a game and saw that performance, I’d understand why.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com