Final Score: Capitals 3 Devils 0

The New Jersey Devils fell 3-0 to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at Verizon Center, dropping their record to 24-22-13.

The Devils were shut out for the sixth time while Cory Schneider has been in net.  He’s held opponents to two-goals-or-less in 13 of his last 14 starts.

Dainius Zubrus led the Devils will five shots on goal tonight.

Julien Brouillette scored his first NHL goal for Washington midway through the third period, as the Caps added a pair of empty netters late in the game to ice the victory.

With the Olympic break ahead, the Devils are off until February 27 when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Prudential Center.

 

Final Score: Devils 2, Capitals 1

In their final game before Sunday’s outdoor game at Yankee Stadium, the Devils got out to a lead and held on for a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals from Prudential Center. The win moves the Devils 22-19-11 on the season.

- The Devils got out to a 1-0 lead on a 2-on-1 goal by Stephen Gionta in the first period.

- In the second stanza, it was Adam Henrique who lit the lamp off of a beautiful feed from Jaromir Jagr.

- Playing without their superstar, Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals struggled to get sustained pressure on the Devils, though they did manage 31 shots on the evening.

- The difference on Friday night was Cory Schneider, who has been superb lately. The only blemish was a third period tally by Jason Chimera.

Dave Turner

It might be freezing cold on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, but the Devils are starting to bring the heat at the right time.

Cory Schneider might not start on Sunday, nor is he a member of the 2014 US Olympic team, but his numbers are reaching an entirely different stratosphere. With the win, the former Boston College Eagle evened up his record at 9-9-7, while lowering his goals against average to a minuscule 1.84 and brought his save percentage to .928%.

Not to be overlooked is the play of the defense in front of him. Much maligned players in the offseason, Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador are bringing strength and grit to the lineup. Since Salvador’s return on December 28th, the team is 7-3-3. Bryce Salvador

While there are plenty of Salvador detractors, the captain has been a stabilizing force in the lineup. No. 24 is a plus-one since returning to the lineup.

The seven-goal outburst against the Blues is far from the norm. If this team hopes to make the playoffs, they’re going to have to win these kind of hard-fought 2-1 games. With the power play looking better of late and players like Ryane Clowe and Adam Henrique starting to sizzle, it’s going to come down to the ability to win one-goal games. Considering that the Devils do not have a regulation loss when leading after two periods, they are going to have to rely on that lock-down prowess during the stretch run.

This was a game that the Devils had to have and they got it done. Washington, who seemed like a lock at one point to make the playoffs out of the Metropolitan Division are suddenly struggling. For the Devils to take two points against the Caps without them gaining at least a point is a big plus.

With an assist on both goals, Jaromir Jagr moved into a tie for the 10th most assists in NHL history. He’s tied with former teammate Mario Lemieux, with 1,033 helpers.

Up next is the big one. The Devils will skate at noon from Yankee Stadium on Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Rangers. Speaking of the Rangers, with the Devils win against the Capitals, a regulation win by New Jersey would bring the Devils into a tie with New York at 57 points.

Every Devils-Rangers game is big, but with 40,000-plus watching and a two huge points in the standings at stake, this has the makings of a classic.

For the Devils, this matchup is coming at the right time, as the team has notched points in eight of their last nine games.

(Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

Pregame Primer: Game Fifty Two – Devils vs. Capitals

New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals – 7:00 pm EST

Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey

TV: MSG+  Radio: WCBS 880-AM

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Joe Whitney – Travis Zajac – Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe – Adam Henrique – Michael Ryder
Dainius Zubrus – Patrik Elias – Damien Brunner
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier

Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill – Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov – Bryce Salvador 

 

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

Some thoughts on tonight’s game:  

1. No Ovi.  That’s right…no Alex Ovechkin tonight for the Capitals.  With the season starting to grind down, every game feels like a must-win for NJ.  With the news that No. 8 will be missing the game, it becomes even more imperative that the Devils walk away with two points tonight.  After his 35 goals, the scoring drops off big time with Joel Ward leading the way with 13 tallies.  Yes, the Caps are still a solid squad without Ovi, but the Devils absolutely need to get this game.  

2. Bad Defense.  The Washington Capitals defense is really bad.     They allow 33.9 shots per game, which is second-worst in the league.  They also allow the 7th most goals per game in the league, at nearly three goals a contest.  The Ovechkin Effect will definitely sway in the Devils favor…one or two goals might be enough tonight.   

3. Beware Neuvirth.  Michal Neuvirth is 4-1-3 with 1 ShO, a 2.06 GAA &  .927 save % in 8 games against New Jersey all-time.  Sometimes goaltenders that the Devils only see every once and a while are the trickiest ones to solve.  

Prediction – Devils 2 Caps 1

It certainly feels like the Devils have some good vibes going for them.  They’ve played really well for a long time now.  With a top player out for the opposition, I’d normally have the gut feeling that they would overlook their opponent and turn in a disappointing performance.  Not tonight.  I think the Devils keep do what they’ve been doing…finding some goals here and there, while limiting their opponents chances to the outside.

Enjoy the game, everyone!

Alexander Urbom claimed by Washington off waivers

Dave Turner

Devils Defenseman Alexander Urbom has been picked up by the Washington Capitals after the Devils placed the young defenseman on waivers yesterday.

This is a puzzling move for New Jersey, as there were certainly a few other options to be sent down with a far lesser risk of being picked up. Not to diminish the play of Stephen Gionta, but sending him down, even if it was just for a few games, might have been a smarter move than to expose Urbom to waivers.

To make it worse, the Swedish blueliner will be seeing the Devils quite a few times this year with the Capitals. He will have every opportunity to bolster a Caps d-corps that gave up six goals (one as an empty-netter) to the Blackhawks on Tuesday. One would have to assume that if the Capitals went out of the way to pick him up, they’re expecting him to be an instant contributor.

Though this move is puzzling at first look, it might speak to the fact that someone like Eric Gelinas is closer to being called up than first thought. Considering that Gelinas looked good enough in the preseason to warrant some attention, he may very well be the next player called up if the defense is struggling.

In regards to Urbom, he showed signs of becoming a reliable, bottom-pairing type, stay-at-home defenseman. Though he certainly lacks the NHL body of work, you could easily debate as to whether he as the potential to be as good or better than the likes of Mark Fayne or Peter Harrold.

Whatever the case may be, today is an abrupt end to the Devils career of Alexander Urbom.

We’ll have the Pregame Preview for tonight’s game up shortly, so keep checking back.

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: 

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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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

This Date In Devils History– April 30

Even though the Devils’ 2013 season is over, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.

On April 30…

1988-  Kirk Muller scores 14 seconds into the game, and John MacLean’s third-period redirection serves as the game-winning goal in New Jersey’s 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals in game 7 of the Patrick Division finals at the Cap Center.

New Jersey’s win clinches the franchise’s first trip to the Prince of Wales Finals against the Boston Bruins.

1998- Brian Rolston, Doug Gilmour and Lyle Odelein each pot goals, as New Jersey staves off elimination with a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Continental Airlines Arena.

2003- Scott Gomez records a goal and an assist, and Scott Stevens scores a goal just two days after being hit in the head with a slap shot, as the Devils pull within one game of the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Stevens’ goal:

Scoreboard Watching: Time To Help Yourself

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Down six points with just six games left, it’s time for the Devils to start helping themselves.

We can go over the scenarios every day, but without New Jersey wins it doesn’t matter. The Devils are 0-6-4 in their last 10 yet are still mathematically alive.

New Jersey has a game in hand on both the Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets– and two in hand on the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils also will meet the eighth-placed New York Rangers twice in their final six games, leaving a slim chance of postseason still alive.

But the Devils have to start winning games.

They can do that tonight in Philadelphia. If New Jersey beats the Flyers, it’ll hop them for 11th.

The Devils then must root for the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. The Canes will play in Winnipeg tonight and the, the Panthers trek to Madison Square Garden to meet the Rangers.

Should all that go New Jersey’s way, it’ll trail Winnipeg and New York by four points with a game in hand on the Jets and a crucial meeting with the Rangers Sunday.

That’s about all you can hope for as a Devils fan these days.

Should Winnipeg win, it’ll be rooting for its division-rival Florida, as well as the Ottawa Senators. The Senators will host the Washington Capitals tonight. Washington leads Winnipeg by four points for the Southeast Division lead, and the teams have both played 43 games.

The Senators still can catch the fifth-placed Toronto Maple Leafs, but they can still also be caught by the seventh-placed New York Islanders. The Isles and Leafs will meet tonight in Toronto.

A Toronto win, coupled with a Montreal Canadiens loss to Tampa Bay, will leave the Leafs two back of their divisional rival with just four games left.

The 10th-placed Sabres helped their cause last night with an enormous shootout win over the Boston Bruins. Buffalo is idle tonight but will root for Florida and Carolina.

The full slate of Eastern Conference games with playoff implications. As always, all times are eastern and p.m.

N.Y. Islanders at Toronto, 7

Florida at N.Y. Rangers, 7

Tampa Bay at Montreal, 7

Washington at Ottawa, 7:30

DEVILS at Philadelphia, 7:30

Carolina at Winnipeg, 8