It wasn’t quite the result that the Devils had hoped for in their season opener, but there are still some positives to take out of the 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh.
The first thing to realize about opening night, is that everyone tends to overreact. Had the Devils won, it would have been the same thing, except the other way. It’s one game and they played on the road against a very good team. The Devils won’t be panicking, they’ll be getting ready for another important division tilt against the Islanders tomorrow night.
What Happened: The Devils surrendered two first period goals to the Penguins and despite playing strong hockey for the remaining 40 minutes, were unable to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins iced it with a goal by Craig Adams at the 11:42 mark of the third period. New Jersey was plagued by turnovers in the first period and couldn’t respond to the early Penguin goals. Despite some good chances, the Devils were unable to find the back of the net. Adam Henrique was stoned by Fleury on a penalty shot late in the third, it was that kind of night.
Star of the Game: Marc-Andre Fleury. Was he spectacular? Not so much. He did keep the Devils off the board and made some key saves late in the third period. A good start to the season for a goaltender who looked so bad in last year’s playoffs.
Goat of the Game: Marek Zidlicky. You have to bury that shot in the second period. Fleury was down on the ice at the other side of the net and he got caught between passing and shooting. With that much of the net wide open and the game still 2-0, that could have been a huge boost. Now, missing a shot isn’t really grounds for being named the goat, but Zidlicky wasn’t great in the defensive zone either. He was out of position on numerous occasions and even tried to jump into a play at neutral ice, only to pull himself completely out of position and allow the Penguins a scoring chance. The Czech d-man also took the lone Devils minor penalty of the game.
Turning Point: It’s tough to pick out a single point where this game turned, but it might have been the first two minutes of the third period. The Devils had a solid second period and looked like they were on their way to making this a one-goal game. The minute that the Penguins were able to stop the Devils from getting a quick goal, the Devils seemed a bit deflated and the Pens were able to net another goal to put it away.
Offense- C-minus - Did they have some chances to score? Yes. Did they capitalize on any of those? No. You have to finish. Scoring chances are great, but they mean nothing if you can’t even find a way to score one goal on the night. Props to Fleury, who did his job, but he wasn’t really tested much until late in the third period.
Defense- B-plus - Not a terrible night by the defense. Peter Harrold was lost on the 2-on-1 that led to the second Penguins goal, but as a whole the d-corps played well enough that if they Devils could have scored a few, they would have kept them in the game. Anton Volchenkov was very good at times. He seems to have regained a little speed, which allowed him to use his big frame to muscle players off the puck. Adam Larsson had a decent night as well, with no glaring mistakes in his own end, and a couple of strong plays in the offensive zone. Holding the Penguins to 21 total shots is an impressive feat.
Special Teams – B - The power play is going to be a work in progress. Any time you bring in that many new bodies, it’s going to take time for everyone to get comfortable and begin to work as a cohesive unit. The power play didn’t have a ton of opportunities, a credit to the Penguins for staying out of the box. There is room for improvement and with more time, they will begin to move the puck better and create opportunities. As for the penalty kill, that was a bright spot. In their one opportunity, they stymied the Penguins on the man-advantage. They’ll definitely be tested tomorrow night by an Islanders power play that gave the team fits last season.
Goaltending- C-minus - Cory Schneider gave up three goals on 21 shots. While he wasn’t awful, he certainly wasn’t as sharp as he was in the preseason. It’s a tough task to keep the Penguins at bay and though he made some nice saves, the Chuck Kobasew goal was the result of a bad rebound in front, and the Adams goal in the third had to be saved. You can’t get beat glove side on a shot like that.
Instant Insight: It certainly wasn’t the kind of opening night that the Devils were hoping for, but there were positives to take away. Though the offense didn’t score, you saw glimpses from players like Damien Brunner and Andrei Loktionov. With so many new line combinations, it’s going to take time for Pete DeBoer to find combinations that work. Defensively, they really limited the Penguins scoring chances after the first period and kept the Devils in the game long enough for them to make a comeback attempt.
The Devils will be right back in action tomorrow against the Islanders for their home opener. We’ll have more reaction and analysis from this loss, as well as our pregame primer for tomorrow night’s game.
Today we finally lay to rest an offseason of trials and tribulations. No longer can we lament about the losses of old number 17 and 23. It’s about the future, and it’s about Devils hockey.
The wait is over. In just a few short hours, it begins anew.
Lines for tonight’s game:
Defense: Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, Peter Harrold, Marek Zidlicky
Goaltender: Cory Schneider
(Note: Patrik Elias has been activated off of IR and will play tonight.)
Here are some thoughts on tonight’s game
1. The first look at Cory Schneider- The newly acquired goaltender was sensation in the preseason, but, it was the preseason. He gets an extremely tough task tonight for his first real game in net for the Devils, having to face the high powered Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Pens make even the best goaltenders look bad, so it’ll be up to Schneider to be at the top of his game tonight. His rebound control is usually sensation, and that’s perhaps the most important part of negating the Penguins. They’re a team that thrives on getting quality second chance opportunities. For the Devils to win, those have to be few and far between.
2. NJ has been successful against the Penguins when they slow them down- The Devils and Penguins play almost polar-opposite styles. While the Devils are content to work the puck in, grind in the corners and possess the puck, The Penguins are all about speed and capitalizing on turnovers. The Devils aggressive forecheck has negated the type of speed that the Pens like to have through neutral ice. That is a major reason why New Jersey has had a lot of success against Pittsburgh over the last two seasons. Pittsburgh is not built for a grind-it-out type of hockey game, just look at what the Boston Bruins did to them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
3. What will the power play do? It’s be a very different look for the man-advantage this season, and it may take some time to see some results. Marek Zidlicky is finally in his wheelhouse, as a power play quarterback who can distribute the puck. With Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Ryane Clowe and Jaromir Jagr all added to the mix, there are quite a few different skill sets that the Devils can unleash on the power play. There’s a good chance that we’ll see quite a few different units, as Pete Deboer begins to figure out what works.
4. Limiting turnovers will be key- The Penguins are a team that thrives off of turnovers. There is no better team in the league at turning an opponent’s mistake into a goal the other way. How many times have we seen Sidney Crosby making a big play off a miscue by the other team? The Devils know that the Pens are dangerous in that regard. What New Jersey cannot do tonight is turn the puck over by trying to do too much. They have to make the safe pass at all times and not try to force the play, that’s not the Devils M.O anyways. If they let the game play out at their tempo, instead of trying to play at the Penguins speed, they will have every chance to emerge with two points.
Prediction- Penguins 3 Devils 2 (OT)
This is going to be a close game the whole way. The Penguins will come out strong, but Cory Schneider will keep it close early on. Look for the Devils to tie the game up in the third before ultimately falling in overtime.
Expect a strong effort all around, as the new faces look to make a positive first impression.
We’ll have our Instant Insight piece up after the conclusion of the game.
Who: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
When: 3:00 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Media: TV - NBC; (Channel listings); Radio – Bloomberg (1130 AM)
Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)
- The Devils enter tonight’s game 15-11-3 in their previous 29 season-closing games. The team is 7-0-1 in its past seven season-closers, and has not lost since April 4, 2004 vs. Boston (3-1). New Jersey is closing a season on the road for the first time since April 18, 2006 at Montreal (4-3 win).
- New Jersey closed-out the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule Thursday with a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. The Devils are now 19-8-3 in their previous 30 home finales. New Jersey is 7-0-1 in its last seven home-closers (last loss, April 4, 2004 vs. Boston, 3-1).
- The Devils finished with a 13-9-2=28pts mark at Prudential Center.
- New Jersey finished with a season-high (tie) three consecutive home victories.
- Thursday vs. Pittsburgh, the Devils improved to 5-17-6 on the year when allowing the first goal. New Jersey is 14-1-4 when scoring first this season.
- Johan Hedberg (16 saves) earned the win Thursday in his first start since March 19 vs. the New York Rangers. He is expected to start this afternoon, as well.
- Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game-winning goal and added an assist Thursday and now has points in three straight games (1g-3a-4pts). He is one assist shy of the 400-mark in his NHL career.
- David Clarkson scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season Thursday. It was his sixth on the power play, which also leads New Jersey.
Inactives: Barch, Bernier, Ponikarovsky, Urbom, D’Agostini, Gelinas, Pesonen, Sislo
Sidelined: Salvador (wrist), Fayne (nagging injury)
The End: Today is New Jersey’s 48th and final game of 2013. New Jersey’s won four of its last five games and, though it won’t make the playoffs, nor will it be able to keep the Rangers out of the playoffs, the Devils can resign New York to the East’s No. 8 seed if they can win in regulation.
The Rangers will clinch at least the No. 7 seed with a point.
Moose: Hedberg will start in net in Saturday afternoon’s game at Madison Square Garden. The 40-year-old goalie stopped 16 shots in Thursday night’s win over Pittsburgh and is 0-1 against the Rangers this year.
On the flipside, Martin Brodeur will not start on Saturday, sitting out his first game at MSG while healthy since 1993. Apparently it was Brodeur’s call.
Even though the Devils’ playoff chances are finished for 2013, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.
On April 25…
1993- Claude Lemieux scores two goals, and Chris Terreri stopped 30 of 31 shots as New Jersey staved off elimination with a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Patrick Division semifinals at Brendan Byrne Arena. The Devils lost 5-3 in game five and were eliminated by the Pens.
1994- Lemieux posts a four-point game, and John MacLean pots two goals as New Jersey beats the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 in game five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Meadowlands.
Johan Hedberg is starting in goal, the Devils don’t have anything to play for, so why not give a guy like defenseman Eric Gelinas a shot Thursday when Pittsburgh comes calling? Alexander Urbom made his season debut on Tuesday night against Montreal and did OK.
If Gelinas — who the Devils are awfully high on — wants to see what the NHL is really like, why not play him against an injury-riddled Penguins team with nothing to play for.
Now, if that Crosby guy returns, I might alter that opinion. But, give the kid– who will likely get the chance to make the team in camp next year– a shot. What’s the worst that can happen?
The Devils helped themselves on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for them and their fans, that’s the only help they got.
New Jersey remains six back of eighth place now with only five games remaining. The Devils’ 3-0 win in Philadelphia kept them alive in the playoff hunt with five games left but did them no other good.
The New York Rangers pummeled Florida, 6-1. The Winnipeg Jets blew a two-goal third-period lead, beating the Carolina Hurricanes.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders each stayed hot, winning their games.
The Devils are in a catch-22 tonight too. New Jersey simply must root for the Buffalo Sabres, who will host the Rangers tonight.
New Jersey roots for Buffalo tonight, because a Sabres win will keep the Devils six points behind the No. 8 seed with five games left. New Jersey will have one game in hand on the Rangers with two head-to-head meetings next week.
Meanwhile, the Devils would have two games in hand on Buffalo. Assuming New Jersey wins those two– no small assumption, but the Devils need to win out anyway– it would leap frog the Sabres.
Based on what is happening in Boston, it is unknown whether the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins will meet tonight. However, they’re scheduled to go at 7. A Pittsburgh win would seal it the East’s top seed.
The Bruins and Penguins have been postponed due to the manhunt in Boston. That game’s been rescheduled for Tuesday.
Here’s the full slate of Eastern Conference games for tonight:
N.Y. Rangers at Buffalo, 7
Pittsburgh at Boston, 7