With the first games of the Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament set to begin on Wednesday, it’s time to break down the competitive field.
The Devils sent four players to Sochi, with Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky representing the Czech Republic and Damien Brunner representing the Swiss.
While the host country, Russia, s one of the favorites, the Canadian team is loaded. Of the 12 teams in the field, there are at least six teams that can make a pretty good case as to why they’ll take home the gold medal.
(Bold teams receive byes)
Group A -
USA 2-1-0-0 7 pts
Russia 1-1-1-0 6 pts
Slovakia 1-0-1-1 4 pts
Slovenia 0-0-0-3 0 pts
Group B –
Finland 3-0-0-0 9 pts
Canada 2-0-0-1 6 pts
Norway 1-0-0-2 3 pts
Austria 0-0-0-3 0 pts
Group C –
Czech Republic 2-1-0- 7 pts
Sweden 2-0-1-0 7 pts
Switzerland 1-0-1-1 4 pts
Latvia 0-0-0-3 0 pts
Bronze Medal Game
USA over Russia
Gold Medal Game
Czech Republic over Finland
Group A -
Russia 2-1-0-0 8 pts
USA 2-0-1-0 7 pts
Slovakia 1-0-0-2 3 pts
Slovenia 0-0-0-3 0 pts
Group B –
Canada 3-0-0-0 9 pts
Finland 2-0-0-1 6 pts
Norway 1-0-0-2 3 pts
Austria 0-0-0-3 0 pts
Group C –
Sweden 3-0-0-0 9 pts
Czech Republic 1-1-0-1 6 pts
Switzerland 1-0-1-1 4 pts
Latvia 0-0-0-3 0 pts
Bronze Medal Game
Russia over Finland
Gold Medal Game
Sweden over Canada
The Outlook for Team USA –
It seems to most everyone that Team USA is not as good as the 2010 version. We’ll see. The forward pool is mostly the same although I do fear about the defense. There’s a lot of new faces on that backline and a lot of young guys too. Reading between the lines of what head coach Dan Bylsma has been saying, it sounds like this is going to be a one-goalie team. I think that one guy is going to be Ryan Miller
, although I’d like to see Jonathan Quick
in there. We know Quick is great and he’s had a great team in front of him for a few years now. Can Miller jump back to that same level he did four years ago, now that he’s surrounded by Olympians and not the slug players on the Buffalo Sabres? To a degree yes, but I’m not sure how much is left. Yes, USA does not have as much talent as others, but I think they are a well-built TEAM. There’s scorers, playmakers as well as your glue and grit guys who can also put the puck in the net. It seems like they are being written off already, but nothing would surprise me with this team.
This is a different Team USA in 2014, but a team that certainly has enough talent to get it done. Offensively, they can score with the best. Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, the list goes on. Defensively, that’s what should have you worried. Are guys like Cam Fowler and John Carlson ready to step up? Can Dan Bylsma products Brooks Oprik and Paul Martin contribute? Perhaps an even bigger question is in goal. I believe that Ryan Miller deserves the first start and should be allowed to take the job and run with it. Should he falter, then it’s Quick’s turn. Miller’s performance in Vancouver should at least give him the benefit of a fair chance to play. This squad is different than some of the other Olympic teams because they went for a team-first mentality. Canada has an all-star team and even Sweden and Russia leaned that way. Team USA is built like a team that’s ready to scratch and claw it’s way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Whether or not that translates into success remains to be seen, but they had a clear top-six, bottom-six in mind when they created this roster. I had them off the podium mostly because of the question mark in net, but if they get strong goaltending, this team will have every chance to compete for a gold.
St. Louis gets a small measure of revenge on their home ice with a shutout over a snakebitten Devils team, who could not find an answer to the perfect play of Jaroslav Halak. This one drops the Devils’ record to 22-21-11 on the season.
- Alex Steen
is having the season of a lifetime. Tonight he netted his 27th of the year on a wrister from Jaden Schwartz
and David Backes
in the first. As it would turn out, that goal was also the game winner.
- The dominant Blues power play that the Devils stoned last time came through in a big way tonight, with Brendan Morrow deflecting a shot from Jay Bouwmeester to break the Devils midway through the third period. On the other side of the ice, the Devils went 0/4 on their power play opportunities.
- With all the talk of Corey Schneider’s play coming into tonight, (which was still fantastic, even in a loss) it was Jaroslav Halak who who made a very strong push to be his team’s starter tonight with a 23 save shutout.
After crashing back down to Earth in the Bronx on Sunday, New Jersey took another hit via a shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues.
On Tuesday night, the Devils were left flustered, frustrated, and finally — for five periods and counting — scoreless. The Blues brought everything they had for their rematch with the Devils. Unlike the fatigued team that showed up in Newark to play on January 21, tonight St. Louis was fast and physical, and showed why they are considered among the league’s elite teams. The Blues didn’t overwhelm the Devils. For the most part the game was 1-0 until a deflected power play goal and an empty-netter changed the look of the scoresheet. Yet, somehow, the game was never really in doubt for St. Louis. The stat lines were pretty even, and might have even favored New Jersey. But, in the end, St. Louis played relentless coverage against their top scorers, pushed the Devils to the outside, and made sure that the vast majority of the Devils chances were no real threat.
For the Devils, it was a game that they’ll have trouble seeing the bright side of. Corey Schneider put together one of those games that he’s starting to become known for, but, true to their own reputation, the Devils offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain. This was more to the credit of the Blues. Whenever Jaromir Jagr got the puck, Barret Jackman was all over him, taking him off his game. The same could be said of Patrik Elias, Ryan Clowe, Ryan Carter, Michael Ryder and plenty others. While they didn’t necessarily play poorly, they were constantly prevented from hitting the top of their games. Every shot was contested, and every pass had two men in the way.
New Jersey’s defense, despite what the final score might have you think, played fairly well. They held the Blues to two very difficult goals, the empty-netter aside, and made sure that the team was in the game all the way. Eric Gelinas and Andy Greene played their part in the offensive zone, and, in general, the D did what they could to help push the team up the ice. In terms of intensity, however, they failed to match what St. Louis brought to the table. The Devils shooters had to work for every opportunity they had against Halak, and usually got a little roughed up for their trouble. The Blues, on the other hand, seemed to have plenty of time to work with against a very cautious Devils’ team. This is something that they must change if they want to right the ship Thursday in Dallas.
New Jersey earned an impressive win against an elite team in the St. Louis Blues. The Devs pulled out all the stops, finding a big reserve of goals for Cory, and treated the fans that braved the elements to a 7-1 victory. This win brings the Devils’ record to 21-19-11 on the season.
Normally a slow starting team, the Devils manufactured two goals in the first three minutes from Mark Fayne
and Ryan Carter
. Jaromir Jagr
would add one off the skate at the midway point to make it three in the first.
The dominant Blues power play was blanked on all three opportunities, while New Jersey caught fire and went 3/4.
In his first game back Damien Brunner was named the first star, wracking up a goal and a pair of assists in his return. Also earning 1G and 2A was Eric Gelinas.
Any chances that the Blues might have had for a comeback were snuffed out by Corey Schneider who stopped 26/27 shots from St. Louis.
What a night! And, what a response from a team that was pretty down on itself after last Saturday’s loss to Phoenix. Against the St. Louis Blues, the Devils showed what they can really do when they are healthy and this whole roster can take the ice.
Offensively, what can I really say that the seven-goal headline doesn’t? After the game at Phoenix, Coach Pete DeBoer voiced concerns about the team’s ability to score even strength goals, which only compounded the fears of fans who have long worried about the team’s struggles on the power play. Tonight was a great exhibition of both elements of their offensive game. With tallies from seven different skaters, three of them on the power play, it felt like New Jersey couldn’t be stopped, no matter who was shooting. Mark Fayne scored his first goal since November 29, Ryan Carter and Damien Brunner scored their first goals since coming back from their respective injuries, and the team’s recent top players, Jagr, Clowe, and Adam Henrique continue to produce. Add in multi-point nights from Eric Gelinas and Patrik Elias, and there’s a lot to be excited about following this effort.
There was some concern about Adam Henrique who left the game in the third period after being hit with a slap shot on his surgically repaired left thumb. Hopes are that this was just precautionary, as the game was already well out of St. Louis’ reach by the third. It should be noted that Henrique’s goal came after the injury occurred, so it didn’t seem to slow down his play too much. We’ll keep you updated with any information on his status whenever we get it.
A big part of tonight’s victory for New Jersey was receiving contributions from all four lines, which coach DeBoer admitted after the game is a team goal. But, it wasn’t just the tallies on the scoring sheet that had the team’s manager so excited. He made a point to mention that there were big contributions down the line on both ends of the ice. The Devils laid down to block 14 shots for their goaltender, as opposed to St. Louis’ four. And in the first two periods, before the game was out of hand, the Devils’ suffocating defensive play held the Blues to a mere 13 shots on goal. This was a complete reversal from the 25 SOG they allowed Phoenix in the same amount of time.
With Schneider putting together another stellar performance, turning away 26 out of 27 shots, it’s hard to think of a single aspect of the Devils’ game that didn’t click tonight. That’s not to say that all their woes are behind them. There are still questions to be answered, acquisitions to be made, and a few too many streaky scorers to ever be completely comfortable. What this night was, was great sign of things going forward. When the Devils can play the four-line game that Pete DeBoer wants, and can showcase that depth that had everyone so excited before the season, they are a different team, and a strong threat to make a run for a playoff spot in the tightly contested Metropolitan division.
New Jersey finished their four game road trip with a visit to Phoenix, and the Jobing.com Arena for a tough matchup with the Coyotes. The Devils and goalie Martin Brodeur struggled early and couldn’t quite complete the comeback, as they fell 3-2. This loss drops the Devils’ record to 20-19-11 on the season.
- The Coyotes struck first with a quick wrist shot from Jordan Szwarz at 2:35 into the first period.
- Another 4th liner found the back of the net for Phoenix. Jeff Halpern beat Brodeur high to the glove side at 13:13 to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
- Ryan Clowe scored a power play goal off the rebound at 18:44. The goal was Clowe’s second of the season, and his eighth point in his last seven games.
- Phoenix finally broke through the Devils’ PK on their third attempt as Martin Hanzal poked the puck free of Brodeur’s grasp and into the net at 14:22 in the second.
- With the goalie pulled, Jaromir Jagr redirected a Ryan Clowe pass past Mike Smith at 17:46 in the third to bring the Devils within one.
Tonight was an example of what happens when the vaunted Devils’ defensive game isn’t at the top of its game, and it’s not pretty. Two soft goals let in by Martin Brodeur and some sloppy defense all-around lead to an easy 2-0 lead from which the Devils never really recovered. The Devils were thoroughly outplayed and outright pushed around in the first, as they were outhit by Phoenix 17-4. Had it not been for a couple big saves from Brodeur and a late PP goal from Ryan Clowe, this game could have gotten out of hand quickly.
The rest of the game was actually pretty solid for the Devils. Brodeur found his game and stood on his head to keep the Devils in it, and the Devils offense, Clowe and Jagr in particular, was all over Mike Smith with 34 shots and some legitimate scoring chances. The defense eventually found their game, holding the Coyotes to a mere two shots in the third period, but overall, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Coyotes who blocked 25 shots in front of Mike Smith and ensured that the Devils would not be able to complete yet another comeback.
This has to be particularly discouraging for the red and black, as their scoring woes continue. After the game, Coach Pete DeBoer expressed some pleasure with his team’s late effort, but admitted that an early deficit like tonight’s is something that the Devils can’t afford, saying “we can’t spot anybody two goals. That’s the bottom line”. Jaromir Jagr also showed great disappointment with tonight’s loss. When asked why the Devils have had such trouble scoring five on five, a visibly frustrated Jagr said, “maybe we’re just not good enough”, and when asked for his opinion about the road trip as a whole, 1-1-2 in those four games, Jagr replied, “it was a lot better before tonight”. With the Devils falling another two points behind Philly and the Rangers, both victorious earlier tonight, and the team having fewer goals scored than all but one other team in playoff contention, his frustrations are understandable.
On the brighter side for the Devils, there were two standout offensive performances, from Ryan Clowe and Jaromir Jagr, that the team can draw from going forward. Clowe continues to impress since returning to the lineup. His goal scoring drought seems to be a thing of the past, with two in four games. His overall point totals are even more impressive, as eight of his season total of 11 have come in his past seven games. While Clowe’s play was encouraging, Jagr’s is inspirational. #68, who now has 15 goals on the season, continues to lead by example on the ice, playing a strong and smart game that is just as deadly in the final seconds as it is in the first few minutes.
The New Jersey Devils dropped their record to 20-18-11 on Thursday night as they fell to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.
The Devils fell to 0-8 in the shootout and 1-for-25 in shootout attempts as Adam Henrique
and Patrik Elias
were denied, as Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly beat Cory Schneider
The Devils have earned points in their last six games. They are 3-0-3 during that time.
Reid Boucher scored the lone goal for the Devils, his second career tally.
Put it on both sides. Yes, the Devils can’t score in the shootout, but the Devils goaltenders are getting burned just as equally. It’s not even worth going over at this point.
As far as the game, the first 40 minutes were tough to watch. Colorado’s speed was very apparent and when the Devils did have possession of the puck, the Avalanche defensemen did not hesitate and sit back at all. They beat up and bruised any Devil forward that had the puck below the harsh marks. It took the Devils a while to adjust but they finally found their game in the third period. 20 strong minutes earned them a point. That’s the sign of a team that’s coming along.
Devils fans shouldn’t sweat this that much. Colorado plays a West Conference style of offense that is tough to keep up with. They struggled with Chicago. They couldn’t keep pace in Los Angeles, despite a victory. They’ve played really well against the East this year and that’s the important note to keep in mind.
This team needs to still look at the bigger picture. If the Devils win on Saturday, they’ll take 6 out of 8 points for the road trip. That’s a darn good swing across the country. Elias will regain his old form and Damien Brunner is on the way back. Keep collecting points and avoid the long stretches of losses.
The New Jersey Devils bounced back tonight with an important, shutout win over a struggling Dallas Stars team at the Prudential Center. This one pushes the Devils’ record to 18-18-9 on the season.
- Michael Ryder made the most of a perfect play and pass from Travis Zajac, snapping it past Kari Lehtonen to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead midway through the second. This was Ryder’s 15th goal of the season, and his third straight game lighting the lamp.
- Corey Schneider stops all 26 for his 3rd shutout of the season. This was the first time all-year that Dallas had been held scoreless.
New Jersey snapped their skid, coming out ahead in a low-scoring duel between two struggling teams. With talks of the playoffs beginning to gain more traction, both the Devils and the Stars came in desperate to tally a “W”. Dallas arrived at the Prudential Center as the losers of three-straight allowing a total of 18 goals across those defeats. The Devs weren’t looking much better, having blown two-straight leads before tonight, and losing a total of three in-a-row themselves.
As we’ve seen so many times this season, it was the stoppers for the Devils that lead them to the victory. Between netminder Corey Schneider stopping 26 shots and the exceptional play of the defenders in front who blocked another 18, the Stars were kept off the scoreboard for the first time this year. Tonight was a big test for the New Jersey defense, facing some dynamic, young scorers in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. After stumbling in their last three efforts, the Devils rose to the challenge Dallas provided, even strength and on the penalty kill.
There wasn’t much offense to speak of from New Jersey tonight, but all the credit for that goes to Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen. The Devils created more than their share of offense, firing 34 shots on net. Mike Sislo showed surprising speed, and Adam Henrique continues to impress. But, tonight the offensive stars were Travis Zajac and the red-hot Michael Ryder. Travis Zajac is showing exactly why the Devils have so much faith in him as their number one center. Tonight he was a rock, playing the Stars strong at both ends of the ice, and keeping the puck in attacking zone. This effort turned out to be the key to the game, as Zajac protected the puck and made enough room for a perfect pass to, and shot from, Michael Ryder. Since coming together with Adam Henrique, and now Ryan Clowe, Michael Ryder has been electric with points in all but one of those games, and goals in the last three. Tonight though, it was Zajac, and not Henrique, that set Ryder up to continue his impressive play.
It’s almost groundhog day for the Devils. It seems that every time they get to or above .500, they slip right back.
One step forward, one step back.
At some point, the Devils will need to make a move up the standings in the Metropolitan Division. Hanging around all season and perpetuating a pattern of wins and losses while gaining no ground.
Second place in the division is just four points away. At this point though, with four other teams ahead of them for that second spot, it’s not as easy as just putting a few wins together.
Tuesday’s game against the Flyers may be the most important game of the season so far. It’s a four-point game, which will either bring the Devils to within two points of second place Philadelphia, or drop them six points behind. After a completely uninspiring loss to the Sabres, the Devils will need to play a great game to beat the streaking Flyers.
The Eric Gelinas situation resolved itself quickly, after he was called up once again from Albany with Patrik Elias placed on IR. If anything, the recall to Albany served as a wake up call to the young defenseman. Though he started out strong, his last few games in New Jersey left a lot to be desired. Turnovers and no points to show for it, he was in a bit of a slump. Perhaps the short stint being sent down will clear his mind.
Moving forward, it’s more of the same formula that has worked at times for the Devils this season. They’ll need to continue the strong defense and will have to rely on the goaltending. Of course, the most important aspect is offense. Jaromir Jagr has cooled off lately, with only one point in his last six games.
Michael Ryder and Adam Henrique have emerged as quality options lately, but those two will need to continue to produce. If Jagr has hit a wall, or is just going through a natural slump, the goals will need to come from somewhere. With Damien Brunner and Elias out, the Devils are a much weaker offensive club.
The loss of Elias is huge. He has played ten less games than just about every other player in the top five on the team in scoring, yet he’s still second on the club with 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists). The impact of Elias on this club is immense. Whether its 5-on-5, or on the power play, the Devils are a much better team with him in the lineup. With his injury now being touted as something “not minor,” he may not be back for any of the three games this week.
The Flyers, Stars and Panthers, all from home this week. No back-to-backs, just six huge points on the line. No longer is the excuse of “it’s still early” or “this team is still coming together” going to fly. Either this team has to start ripping off multiple wins in order to stay above NHL-.500, or they will eventually be passed.
With the Flyers and Rangers playing better hockey and teams like the Capitals, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes still in the mix, ordinary isn’t going to cut it moving forward.
It’s time for this team to show their true colors. 3 games, all at home. Now is where they have to make their move.
2013 may go down as one of the most challenging years in the history of the New Jersey Devils. To recap some of the events:
- There was the season that started not in late 2012, but 2013, after the NHL lockout. The Devils did so without their captain from the previous season, after Zach Parise departed for Minnesota. The 48-game slate was none to kind to the Devils, as they failed to reach the playoffs just one season after making the Stanley Cup Finals.
- Then, the shocking “retirement” of Ilya Kovalchuk shook the franchise as they were tasked with quickly rebuilding in the wake of losing their best player.
- David Clarkson also left, signing a big contact with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- While hosting the draft, the Devils made a major trade that may shape the franchise for years to come, when they acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks in front of a shocked Prudential Center crowd.
- In the wake of those major departures, Lou Lamoriello was tasked with rebuilding the roster. In came Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Ryane Clowe and Jaromir Jagr. All three have proven to be integral aspects of the team. Jagr has been an ageless wonder so far and his leadership on and off the ice has been a valuable asset. While Brunner hit a lull after starting fast, up until his knee injury, he was playing some of his best hockey. Michael Ryder had his struggles as well, but as the calender turns, he sits only one goal behind Jagr for the team lead in goals scored. As for Clowe, he’s finally starting to find his way after missing substantial time with a concussion.
- 2013 also saw the introduction of some promising rookies. Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill look like they may be a big part of the future on the blue line. Reid Boucher has shown glimpses of what he may become as well. Not to be forgotten is the stellar season that Keith Kinkaid is having for Albany, giving the Devils another option in goal for the future, or a trade asset.
To read more of this story, click here
The New Jersey Devils came to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. and fought off an offensive onslaught as they rallied back to beat the Capitals 5-4. This one pushes the Devils’ record to 15-15-7 on the season.
- Marek Zidlicky with a first period, power play goal that came together after some great puck movement from Andy Greene, Jaromir Jagr, and the rest of the power play line. That’s Zidlicky’s 4th of the season, all of them coming on the power play
- Jason Chimera scored at the midway point of period number 2 on a rebound off his own wrap-around to tie the game at 1.
- Mikhail Grabovski was left all-alone behind the Devils’ D to pop in the go ahead goal, his 10th goal of the season, off a nice pass from Eric Fehr.
- Joel Ward found his own rebound just before the end of the 2nd period off of a Mike Green slap shot to net his 11th of the year, and the Caps’ 3rd of the night.
- Jaromir Jagr netted a power play goal from Greene and Patrik Elias to breathe a little bit of life back into the Devs. This ties him with Mark Messier at 694 career goals, and counting.
- Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps took advantage of a turnover by Elias and took a little bit of wind out of the Devils sails making it a 4-2 game.
- Marek Zidlicky responded on a great feed from Travis Zajac, netting his second of the night, and his first even-strength goal of the year.
-Dainius Zubrus got the tip off another beautiful pass by Travis Zajac. New Jersey rallied back from the brink to tie it up at four.
- Andy Greene sealed the comeback victory after he chipped in a rebound off a shot by Jaromir Jagr.
The Devils gave their fans another collective heart-attack tonight. The Devils were winded and hurting, playing their third game in 4 days, and it almost came back to bite them. But, it was all worth it, as the comeback kids scored 3 unanswered goals to beat take down Washington and bring themselves to NHL .500.
We’ve talked a lot about the impressive youth movement that is exciting the fans in New Jersey, with the likes of Eric Gelinas and Reid Boucher playing important roles in the Devils’ starting lineup. Tonight was no different, the younger players looked good and hustled hard. But tonight was all about the vets. With goals from Zidlicky, Jagr and Zubrus, and Greene, the only man on the New Jersey scoresheet younger than 30 was Travis Zajac. Jagr, Elias, Greene, and Zajac also each had a pair of assists, meaning that every player on the Devils’ side of the scoresheet had a multi-point night.
And what more can be said about Jaromir Jagr? The man never ceases to amaze, playing like a number one forward at age 41, and making everyone around him better. Tonight #68 continued his climb towards history as he recorded his 694th NHL, regular season goal. This tied him with former Rangers teammate , Mark Messier, for 7th all time.
And, even on a night where they gave up 4 goals, there is something to be said for the Devils’ defense. Only a few games removed from fighting off top scoring tandems of Crosby and Malkin, and Getzlaf and Perry, tonight the Devils were faced with the task of holding off offensive superstars, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin, and hold them off they did. Backstrom, the league leader in assists coming into the game, was completely absent, and Ovechkin, was a non-factor until a Patrik Elias turnover in the zone gave the league’s top-scorer an open shot at Martin Brodeur.
It wasn’t a perfect effort, not by any means. I’m sure a fair amount of people were ready to give up after the second period. But in the end, they worked hard and earned themselves the 2 points that they desperately needed. Now they’re sitting at third in a very shaky division and starting to show that they’re a team that can do some damage going forward.
The New Jersey Devils rallied to put together a decent effort, but could not overcome early mistakes as they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA., by the score of 3-2. This one pushes the Devils’ record to 12-15-6 on the season.
- Pascal Dupuis got the final touch as he and Chris Kunitz rushed Corey Schneider who thought he had the puck covered. A mental lapse from the goaltender and the defense that should have been back supporting him put the Devils on the wrong-end of their earliest deficit on the season.
- Chris Conner scored off of a pretty pass from Brandon Sutter and a pretty awful defensive breakdown by both Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill.
- Jason Megna put the exclamation point on an awful period from the Devils with a wrist shot goal at 14:40 to put the Pens up 3-0 going into the first intermission.
- Patrik Elias brought the New Jersey back to life with a beautiful redirection of an Anton Volchenkov pass from the side boards to give the Devils their first goal at 3:24 into the second.
- Dainius Zubrus poked in goal number 2, less than a minute after the first, pushing a Jaromir Jagr shot across the line.
With the loss to Columbus still fresh in their minds, fans of the New Jersey Devils were hoping for the team to come out angry and looking to make up for lost points. What they got, however, was a mistake-ladened team that got overwhelmed all-too quickly, and almost let the game slip away without a fight.
The first period was one of the worst in recent memory. It only took 41 seconds to get this game going in the wrong direction for the Devils as Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz came barreling down on a loose puck that Corey Schneider thought he had covered up. A big mental mistake by Schneider, but even more so from the defense that let two Penguins come in unimpeded to take their shots at the Jersey goaltender.
Things would only get worse for the Jersey defense in the first, in particular their rookie defensemen, Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas. After Merrill mishandled an easy pass from Gelinas, turning it over to the Penguins, Eric Gelinas made a rookie mistake and left his post to cover for Merrill along the boards, leaving Conner open to score his second goal of the season, one-on-one over Schneider. Shortly after this, the Gelinas – Merrill pairing was separated. Jason Megna’s somewhat controversial goal towards the end of the third, his fourth of the season, the Devils headed down the tunnel for the first intermission with their heads hanging.
In the second period, however, things got turned upside-down. The Devils didn’t just play better, they thoroughly dominated the class of the Metro division, outshooting the Penguins 32-11, and outscoring them 2-0. All of the momentum was on the side of the Red and Black for the final 40 of the game, and had it not been for a few posts in their way, we could be talking about a different outcome here. But in the end, unfortunately for the Devils’ Army, New Jersey couldn’t find any more than those two quick second period goals, and dropped their second straight game.
In a rare turn, especially considering that we’re talking about a losing effort, the bright spots for the Devils came from the offense tonight. Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and Travis Zajac played superb games for the Devils at both ends of the ice, as did tonight’s fourth line of Jacob Josefson, Tim Sestito, and Cam Janssen. Three players in particular who had great games out there for New Jersey, but were left with nothing to show for it, were Adam Henrique, Steve Bernier and Damien Brunner. Brunner continued trending upward while playing alongside Elias, and was robbed of his third goal in his last two games by a fantastic save from Marc-Andre Fleury, a feeling that Steve Bernier can relate to tonight.
Henrique, on the other hand, beat Pittsbrugh’s goaltender to the glove side with a chance to tie the game, but couldn’t best the post. A similar situation occurred in the closing seconds of the game, but that time Henrique’s backhander sailed wide. It’s unfortunate that all that Adam Henrique can take away from this game are a couple of missed opportunities and a costly penalty for playing with a broken stick, because he had a good game tonight.
The defense didn’t have their best game tonight, although they weren’t terrible. In a game where defensive mistakes cost New Jersey at least 2, and maybe all three, goals, they were scored by Dupuis, Conner, and Megna. Pittsburgh’s high-scoring superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were shut down by the Devils’ D. Between them, the league’s top scorers managed just 2 shots and a lone secondary assist, which Crosby collected on Pittsburgh’s first, fluky goal.
In the crease, another good night by Schneider will be marred by the first goal. After all, defense or no, if he just drops his pad down on the ice, the whole thing never happens. After that he played about as well as any goalie could under the circumstances only surrendering the other goals on a bad breakaway and after some contact in the crease from Megna lead to a bad rebound and a goal. But tonight, regardless of how well Corey played, Marc-Andre Fleury was the star between the pipes.
Fleury has had a bad reputation in the years since the Penguins’ cup victory, and even briefly lost his job to veteran Tomáš Vokoun. But, he has responded with a grit that many didn’t know he had, and he showed that tonight. His 37 saves on the Devils 39 shots, especially those against Brunner and Bernier, were what kept Pittsburgh from giving this game away.