Final Score: Devils 2, Islanders 1

The New Jersey Devils went to Long Island looking to right the ship after a shootout loss in Newark last night. In a battle between two goalies playing at the top of their games, it was Corey Schneider and the New Jersey Devils that came out on top, 2-1.  This one pushes the Devils’ record to 16-16-8 on the season.

- Adam Henrique continued a streak of excellent play with a backhander off of some great passing from Reid Boucher and Michael Ryder at 11:37 into the first.  This gave Henrique his second goal in as many games, and eight on the season.

- Frans Nielsen and line mates Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek were relentless in their pressure of the Devils’ D, and were rewarded for their gritty play with the tying goal at 10:31 in the third.  The goal was Nielsen’s 13th of the year.

- Travis Zajac was the unintentional recipient of the Devils’ go-ahead goal as Marek Zidlicky bounced a shot off of Frans Nielsen, and off Zajac’s upper-chest, and in.  A scary moment for the team as Zajac went down after the high shot, but he was back on the ice moments later.  Travis paid a heavy price for it, but the deflection gave him his 7th goal of the season.

Ryan Jahnke

New Jersey went into the Nassau Coliseum and came out winning by the skin of their teeth.  The Devils were tired out after last night’s overtime effort and could have given this one away several times.  You’ve gotta believe that things could have been different had John Tavares been on the ice for the Islanders.  But, in the end a little bit of luck and an outstanding performance by Corey Schneider brings home points 39 and 40 and brings the team back to NHL .500.

You really can’t say enough about the performance of Corey Schneider tonight.  Again, the Devils failed to post a great offensive night in front of him, and didn’t put together their best defensive showing either.  Your typical goalie could have been beaten up by the 31 shot effort that the Islanders put together tonight, but obviously Schneider is anything but typical.  Stopping everything but a deflected shot, Schneider had the answer for everything that the Isles threw his way.  Some credit has to go to Evgeni Nabokov as well, as for a while he seemed every bit a match for the Devils.  But tonight, Schneider was special, and put together one heck of an audition tape as he makes his case to be the starter for team USA in Sochi, Russia.

Coming into the game, all the focus was on the returning Bryce Salvador, and, for the most part, the Captain did not disappoint.  I stated in the Primer that coach Pete DeBoer would be cautious and use the veteran defender sparingly in first game back, and I could not have been more wrong.  Sal logged over 23 minutes of ice-time with partner Marek Zidlicky and looked strong and comfortable for 99% of it.  He’ll catch some flak for the turnover that lead to the tying goal from Frans Nielsen, but that’s not giving enough credit to the skill Thomas Vanek displayed snatching that puck out of the air and starting that scoring play.  That wasn’t Sal giving one away, but Vanek making something happen.

Offensively, the heroes of this game for New Jersey were Adam Henrique and Jaromir Jagr.  Adam Henrique has been one of the better players in red for a while now, but has had no puck-luck at all.  It got so bad that his Christmas present from his family was a horseshoe for good luck.  Seems like it might have helped as the young forward has two goals in the two games since the holiday break.  Of course, it could also be that he’s been playing at center for those two games, where he seems far more comfortable.  And then there’s #68 who continues to do everything right.  A lot will be said about how lucky the Devils’ second goal was, and it’s hard to completely disagree, but that doesn’t take into account the fantastic effort by Jagr to maintain possession and create time and space for the eventual shooter and scorer, Marek Zidlicky and Travis Zajac, to get into position.  Lucky bounce?  Maybe, but that goal doesn’t happen at all without Jaromir Jagr.  And, of course, let’s give a little bit of credit to Travis Zajac, who took a blast from Marek Zidlicky to put in that last goal.  That shot was so hard that it deflected off Nielsen first, before sending Zajac to the ice and still finding it’s way into the net.  Travis took one for the team and will feel that one for a while, but I’m sure the victory makes it easier to take.

Instant Insight: Game Two- Islanders 4, Devils 3 (SO)

Evgeni_Nabakov_2013-05-09

Dave Turner

What Happened: The New Jersey Devils dropped their home opener to the New York Islanders 4-3 in a shootout. The Islanders twice battled back from one goal deficits, behind two goals by Michael Grabner, before Frans Nielsen tied the game up at three, only 1:01 into the third period. The Devils battled back with a third period goal by Damien Brunner to force overtime and the subsequent shootout.

Star of the Game: Michael Grabner is quickly becoming a big-time Devil killer. The speedy winger had the first two Islanders goals, then assisted on the Nielsen goal. His tremendous speed has plagued New Jersey in the past and tonight was no different.  Also, a nod to Evgeni Nabakov for stopping six Devils shots in the shootout.

Goat of the Game: The Devils shooters during the shootout get the dubious honor tonight. Six shooters up, no goals scored. Considering how important that the extra point may be throughout the season, coming away without a single goal was tough. Also, Martin Brodeur stood on his head in the shootout and with any help, the Devils would have won.

Turning Point: Matt Moulson of the Islanders scored in the 6th round of the shootout to give New York the win. Until that point, it was a dead heat from the 7:34 mark of the third.

Grades:

Offense- B – As a whole, the forwards were better last night. They created chances and they finished, something they weren’t able to do against Pittsburgh. In the neutral zone, the team seemed to be a bit off. The Devils allowed far too many odd-man rushes. Those kinds of things happen because of breakdowns at neutral ice and with time, those mistakes will be corrected.  They passed the puck well and had a plethora of scoring chances late in the third that could have won the game in regulation. Damien Brunner is starting to quickly show why the Devils brought him in. He has a relentless motor and has a knack for making plays.

Defense- B – Again, not a terrible night for the d-corps, but not quite a stellar effort, either. Adam Larsson, who looked like he was on his way towards taking a big step forward during the preseason, had his second tough game in a row. He failed to pick up Grabner on his first period goal. Anton Volchenkov was decent once again and you have to give the defense credit for the two big penalty kills as well.

Special Teams – B-plus – The power play moved the puck, but was unable to score. At some point the power play will begin to click, as the new faces begin to work well together. As for the penalty kill, they were able to kill of two huge Islanders power plays, including one in the third period once the game was tied. If the PK can be a strength like it was two years ago, that will go a long way towards winning some games

Goaltending- B-plus – Martin Brodeur was solid in his return to the net for New Jersey. Though he would have liked to have had the first Grabner goal back after it slid under his pads, Brodeur was sensational when it mattered. The veteran netminder came up with some key saves late in regulation and in overtime. Normally, making five straight saves in a shootout would be plenty enough to get a win. Brodeur was great in the shootout as well. He gave the Devils a chance to win by keeping the game close down the stretch.

Instant Insight: The Devils certainly would have liked the second point tonight, but it wasn’t in the cards. When Pete Deboer was asked if he thought the team played better in Pittsburgh on Thursday, he agreed with that statement. There are some things to clean up on either end, but this team will get a chance to work out the kinks during their five-game Canadian road trip.

Two games in and there are definitely some positives to take away. Now, it’s about developing chemistry throughout the lineup.

Pregame Primer – Game Two: Devils vs. Islanders

Martin Brodeur

By Jeff O’Connor

The New Jersey Devils fell in Pittsburgh last night 3-0.  The offense didn’t put any pucks in the net and the defense was pretty good, overall, despite a key breakdown or two.

Tonight, they have a chance to bounce back in their home opener as they host the New York Islanders.  The Isles had a strong 2013 season and are hoping to take the next step.  The Devils need to prove that they’re ready  to bounce back from a dismal campaign last year.

Lines for tonight’s game:

Clowe-Elias-Brunner

Henrique-Zajac-Jagr

Zubrus-Loktionov-Ryder

Carter-Gionta-Bernier

Defense:

Greene-Larsson

Salvador-Zidlicky

Volchenkov-Harrold

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur

Here are some thoughts on tonight’s game

1. The first look at Martin Brodeur- He’s back.  No. 30 will make his season debut for the Devils tonight.  Originally slated to start the season opener, he was pushed back to tonight’s contest due to the recent passing of his father.  In Marty’s first action in preseason, he saw these same Islanders and gave up four goals on 13 shots in 40 minutes.  Hopefully, that was just him shaking off the rust.  He looked better in Montreal but still allowed three goals.  Also, another topic of discussion is him playing the puck.  We’ll get to see firsthand how hybrid icing and the extra space behind the net allow him to handle the biscuit.

2. Stay off the PK- Last year, the Islanders ate the Devils alive on the power play, netting eight markers in five games.  They converted at a 34.7% rate against the Red and Black last season.  Last night, the Devils did a great job staying out of the box as they only took one penalty.

3. Take the zero off the board ASAP- They don’t have to score the first goal, but they need one relatively.  The last thing this team needs is to here about how they’ve gone 80 minutes, 100 minutes, 120 minutes, etc. without scoring a goal.  As soon as they get that first marker, they’ll loosen up and things should flow a little bit better.  The Islanders don’t have a lot of depth after the first D pairing; the Devils should be able to exploit some mismatches there.

4. More communication-   Last night, at both ends of the ice, the team looked like a new group playing together.  That’s fine for the offense, since there are so many new guys.  Jagr and Clowe, specifically, were often bunching up or bumping into their own players.  Hopefully that improves a bit tonight.  The defense had some miscommunication as well, more so on odd-man rushes.  On the first goal, Larsson wasn’t sure to commit to the shooter or the cutter and the Devs fell behind.  Again, hopefully that’s just the first game jitters.  When the Pens didn’t have speed through the neutral zone, the Devils defense was very stout.  With some older guys in the lineup on D, they’ll need help from the backchecking forwards to take away their rush from blue line to blue line.

Prediction- Devils 4 Islanders 2

I’m expecting a roller coaster type game on the scoreboard.  Devils fall behind early, but answer back to tie the game before the first period ends.  They’ll take the lead in the second but the Isles will tie it up early in the third.  They’ll get a clutch goal with under 10 minutes to go and pump in an empty netter to seal it.  Brodeur will look shaky early on, but will get better once the game goes along.  The offense will still look like a work in progress, but they’ll get a handful of garbage goals and play a more gritty, physical game in the offensive zone.

For those of you going, enjoy the experience of a home opener.

We’ll have our Instant Insight piece up after the conclusion of the game.

Metropolitan Division Picks

By Dave Turner and Jeff O’Connor

With the season upon us, it’s time to see how the Devils stack up with the rest of the Metropolitan Division. With plenty of talent across the board, the Metro division should be one of the most competitive in the league.

Dave’s Picks: 

800px-Crosby,_Sidney

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Goaltending/Defensive issues aside, this team is still the class of the division. The only way they won’t finish first is if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both miss a considerable amount of time. As long as Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t melt down, they’ll be just fine.

 2. Washington Capitals – The Caps struggled early on in 2013, but once they figured out Adam Oates’s system, they played excellent hockey down the stretch. Their X-factor is Braden Holtby. If he can take another step towards being a top-flight goalie, they’ll be fine. If not, they could easily slip.

3. New York Rangers – This team may struggle out of the gate with a new coach, but they’ll rebound in time to make a push for the top. With a better offensive system, look for Rick Nash and Derek Stepan to have an excellent season together. Things may get interesting if the team isn’t able to lock up Henrik Lundqvist during the season.

 4. New Jersey Devils – Picking the Devils to finish fourth almost seems sacrilegious, considering where they’re being picked everywhere else. They lack a big-time scorer, but they’re a much deeper team than they were last season. Cory Schneider will emerge as a top-ten caliber goalie.

Evgeni_Nabakov_2013-05-09

 5. New York Islanders – They took a huge step forward by making the playoffs last season, but over the course of an 82-game span, their goaltending and defensive deficiencies will show. That being said, they’ll score a lot of goals and be a fun team to watch. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if they finished in the top-four or even snuck in as the wildcard in the Atlantic Division.

800px-Vincent_Lecavalier_2007

 6. Philadelphia Flyers – I’m still searching for the answer as to how this team got that much better from last season. They replaced Danny Briere with Vincent Lecavalier, which is a minor upgrade. In net, they didn’t improve much. Though Ilya Bryzgalov was wildly inconsistent, he actually had some good moments. Ray Emery and Steve Mason are not going to cut it.

750px-R_J_Umberger

 7. Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets made a great run at the playoffs in 2013, but they’re still a year away. They can grind you and as long as Sergei Bobrovsky can put up somewhat similar numbers to the ones he posted last year, they’ll be competitive.

8. Carolina Hurricanes – If the Canes are able to get some consistent goalie play, they might finish a lot higher than the bottom. Cam Ward is coming off of a major injury, so it’s not out of the question to see a lot of Anton Khudobin. They won with the Alexander Semin gamble last season; can they win again with Mike Komisarek?

Jeff’s Picks: 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Even with the losses of guys like Iginla, Morrow and Cooke, the Penguins have plenty of youth ready to contribute on the third and fourth lines.  Bringing back Rob Scuderi should provide a huge left to their D?  Winning the division won’t be the issue…will Marc-Andre Fleury show up for the postseason?

2. New York Islanders – Bouchard and Clutterbuck will add a bit more grit to this young squad.  Their young forwards will only get better.  Nabokov is a known commodity in goal but the bottom two pairings for the Isles defense leaves a lot to be desired.  If they want to go further than last year, they’ll need to pick up a blueliner at the deadline.

Rick_Nash_2013

3. New York Rangers – Alain Vigneault’s system will certainly open things up offensively.  How will the defensive side of things go?  Well, they’ll have the same six back on defense so expect them to be just as sturdy as they were on John Tortorella.  Their forwards are mostly the same as well.  Expect the Rangers to have a better season, solely because Brad Richards cannot be worse than he was last year.

Braden_Holtby_2013-02-03

4. Washington Capitals – The pickup of Mikhail Grabovski is going to make Caps fans quickly forget about Mike Ribeiro’s production.  Their roster mostly stayed intact and it appears their young goaltender is on the upward trend.  Braden Holtby showed flashes of being a top-notch goaltender.  One can only think he’ll take another step towards reaching that potential this year.

5. Philadelphia Flyers – Adding Mark Streit will immediately strengthen a weak Philly backline.  If Vincent Lecavalier can find the fountain of youth, the veteran absence Danny Briere won’t be felt as much.  As always for them…it comes down to goaltending.  Can Ray Emery come close to reproducing his magical start with the Blackhawks last season?  If so, they’re in good shape.

Martin Brodeur

6. New Jersey Devils – Given the hand GM Lou Lamoriello was dealt, he did a very solid job patching up the top few lines.  Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr won’t singularly be able to replace the productivity of Ilya Kovalchuk but that trio should make them a deeper squad.  Can Cory Schneider push Martin Brodeur to play at a high level?

7. Columbus Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets showed they are on the rise last year, but that was in a wide open West.  Welcome to the East.  Adding Nathan Horton will help, but he can’t carry a team.  They just don’t appear to have the depth right now at either end of the ice, and it’s highly likely that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky can’t repeat his 2013.

Alexander_Semin_2013-02-01_151_Wikipedia

8. Carolina Hurricanes – Their defense has a ton of question marks and their bottom two lines don’t appear reliable at this point.  Cam Ward will have to be much better than last year’s 2.84 GAA.

There’s no doubt that the first year of the new four-division format will make for some exciting playoff races. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if spots two through seven are separated by something like six to eight points. This division will be close and every game will be important.

Instant Insight: Preseason Game 2- Islanders 5, Devils 3

Dave Turner

Game two featured the debut of quite a few new faces for New Jersey. The Islanders jumped out to a 4-1 lead after one period, but the Devils hung tough in the 5-3 loss.

Some notes and observations from the game:

- There are some who are already grumbling about Martin Brodeur’s play in his first preseason action. There’s no need to make sweeping assessments about the play of both Brodeur and Cory Schneider after one preseason game. Brodeur has been through many preseasons, and he knows how to get himself ready for the regular season. If he’s giving up four goals in a period, ten games into the regular season, sure then there’s concern. As for right now, it’s still very early.

- Jon Merrill bounced back from a bad play of a two-on-one that resulted in a goal, to finish with two points on the night. He had the primary assist off of his shot from the point that was tipped in by Rostislav Olesz in the first period. He also added a goal in the second period on a great feed from Eric Gelinas. Merrill excels offensively, but he doesn’t seem like his defensive game is quite there yet.

- Speaking of Olesz, he has quietly gotten off to a strong start in the preseason. With the likes of Mattias Tedenby and Damien Brunner garnering much of the attention, the former Florida Panther draft pick has two points in two games, after scoring in the 2nd period against the Islanders.

- Eric Gelinas is once again showing showed once again why he belongs in New Jersey.  The young blueliner has shown the kind of offensive upside from the point that the Devils haven’t seen since Brian Rafalski left for Detroit. At this point, if the Ottawa, Ontario native is able to avoid any sort of major letdown, there’s a good chance that he’ll make this team.

- Damien Brunner didn’t do much to stand out in this game. He’ll need some time to get used to the Devils system and get himself situated. With Mattias Tedenby and Olesz each with a goal and playing well, there’s definitely no guarantee that Brunner is a lock to make the team just because of what he did last season.

- On a side note, it was a funny moment to see Krys Barch and Brett Gallant of the Islanders remove each other’s helmets during their fight. A bit of chivalry? Not so much. The league implemented a new rule this week that forbids players from removing their helmets prior to a fight. The penalty for removing said headgear is an additional two minute minor. Well, Barch and Gallant found the loophole.

[/sny-editorial]

Pregame Preview: Preseason Game 2 – Devils vs. Islanders

By Jeff O’Connor

Another Devils hockey game tonight and they’ll take on the New York Islanders at home. The Devils will mix in some different players compared to Monday’s roster against the New York Rangers. Some old faces will appear for the first time this fall, like Martin Brodeur, while new faces like Damien Brunner and Jon Merrill will get their first experience of playing hockey in Newark.

Here are the lineups for tonight:

Olesz-Zajac-Brunner

Clowe-Loktionov-Ryder

Carter-Gionta-Zubrus

Barch-Josefson-Boucher

Salvador-Zidlicky

Greene-Severson

Gelinas-Merrill

Some thoughts for today’s game:

The First Look At Martin Brodeur

While it’s already been announced that Martin Brodeur will be the team’s opening night starter (shocker), I’m sure deep down in his soul he feels he has something to prove after the team went out and traded for Cory Schneider in the offseason.

Martin Brodeur

Marty is going to say all the right things to the media and he’s going to be very supportive towards Cory. It’s hard to believe, however, that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder all year to prove that he can still be the guy. This may turn into a goaltender “controversy” on a night-to-night basis, but it is going to push both guys to play their absolutel best.

Brodeur had his worst season in terms of save percentage last year, checking in at .901%. He’s already got a lot to live up to. Schneider was brilliant against the Rangers on Monday. Fans have quickly fallen in love with him. A good performance against the Islanders tonight would be a big boost for No. 30.

Damien Brunner

Signed to a player tryout contract a few days ago, Damien Brunner will jump right into the mix of things, likely playing on one of the top two lines. Brunner had a strong season for Detroit last year, his first campaign in the NHL despite his age of 27. Not only did Brunner post 26 points in 44 games, he was money in the playoffs as well. In 14 games he had five goals and four assists. If Brunner has a strong preseason, I don’t see how Lou Lamoriello could let him go, despite a logjam of forwards already.

Where Brunner may play the biggest role is on the power play. He had three goals and seven assists on the power play for Detroit last year, operating from the point. With very few pointman options for New Jersey, this could be where Brunner separates himself from other Devils fighting to make the roster. Keep an eye on him tonight; he already had a little bit of time in practice yesterday running the PP.

Jon Merrill

The future has never looked brighter for the New Jersey Devils defense. We saw what Eric Gelinas is capable of on Monday, now it’s Jon Merrill’s turn. It’s unlikely he’ll make the roster, but it’s a chance for him to showcase himself to the Devils organization and a couple thousand Devils fans. Don’t be surprised if he’s a bit overwhelmed; he played at Michigan last year and came to Albany late in the year and only logged 12 games. This will be a big step for him, even if it’s not a full list of NHL-caliber forwards he faces this evening.

Prediction

For some reason, I have a feeling we are going to see a shootout. The Devils excelled in the shootout two years ago, but faltered greatly in the end of game skills competition last year. I think we’ll get an early look at who some of Pete DeBoer’s candidates will be when the shootout occurs in the regular season. I’ll say the Devils win 3-2.

Stay tuned here after the game; we’ll have a game recap as well as postgame sound and columns over the next 24 hours.

NHL Officially Announces 2014 ‘Stadium Series’

Last month, we told you the NHL was planning a series of outdoor games in 2014 to capitalize on the first post-lockout season, the Olympic buildup and the Super Bowl that will be hosted by New York and New Jersey. Today, the news (kind of) became official):

The NHL will likely release the rest of the schedule, including the Yankee Stadium games, shortly.