Devils Look Good At First, But Fall to Lightning

Tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning started out with a Devils team that appeared to have really thought about their loss from Game 1 – they were attentive, sharp, and it didn’t hurt that they scored two goals in the first five minutes of play.

Goal one for the Devils came at 52 seconds in from a laser of a shot by John Moore.  Moore wasn’t credited with the goal, however, as it deflected off of the stick of Kyle Palmieri ever so slightly – but it was enough to make the puck change direction a bit and in to the net past Tampa Bay net minder Andrei Vasilevskiy.

They quickly made the score 2-0 when Travis Zajac received a cross-ice pass from P.A. Parenteau.  The shot actually was deflected in front by Tampa Bay Anton Stralman.  Again, it changed direction of the shot ever so slightly, but was enough to make the puck slide through the five-hole of Vasilevski.

The ice seemed to level off for the remainder of the first.  Unfortunately for the Devils that seemed to end their dominance of the game.

The second period continued that same level play until mid-way through when Steve Stamkos and Alex Killorn scored to tie the game up.

With the game tied, the Devils managed to score two more times.  Unfortunately for them, the first goal didn’t count because a delayed penalty call on Tampa Bay was whistled when the Lightning ever so slightly touched the puck.  The second goal, a great shot from Andy Green from the point, went in cleanly – however the Lightning challenged the goal stating that the Devils were actually offside.  Upon review, the officials agreed with Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

Tampa Bay’s Valitteri Filppula took advantage of the Devils misfortune and managed to score a goal just under 6 minutes in to the third – a goal that upon further review may have gone off of a high stick of Vladislav Namestnikov, but was never reviewed by the officials or challenged by Devils coach John Hynes.

Late in the third the Devils appeared to have a golden opportunity to tie the game up after Tampa Bay’s Andrej Sustr hooked Devante Smith-Pelly.  Devils power-play units unfortunately were unable to convert this chance in to a goal, and in fact Devils net minder Corey Schneider had to make a couple of short handed saves.

With 1:06 left to play, Schneider was pulled and the Devils made nearly a half dozen good scoring opportunities but were unable to convert, leading to their second loss of the season, their first regulation loss.

Devils Lightning
34 Shots 34
27 Hits 27
12 Blocks 11
0/3 Power Plays 0/3
27 Face-Offs 29
7 Takeaways 11

You can see by the above stats that the game was in fact very close.  In actuality both teams struggled at one point or another, and dominated at one point or another.  But the Devils caught some unlucky breaks and Tampa Bay capitalized when the Devils found themselves on their heels.

The team will try to regroup and prepare for their home-opener on Tuesday, October 18 against the Anaheim Ducks.  Game time is at 7pm and will be aired on MSG.

Opening Night for 2016-17 – Knee Jerk Reaction

As I sit and watch opening night in Florida, I… have some concerns.  They are not playing badly, but just not too sharp.  It is opening night, though, so I’ll give them some slack.

I’ll start with the good:

Their offense which has consistently struggled post Parise and Kovi, has some real potential.  And the “new” style of fast paced hockey I think will really serve the new lineup well.

And Corey Schneider looks sharp.  In fact (well the score is tied 1-1 right now) but he’s the reason why the Panthers haven’t scored more is solely because of him.

And that brings me to the bad:

The game wasn’t chock full of penalties, but I feel like they were on their heels a little too often leading to some situations that they could have had better control of.

They haven’t spent a great deal of time in the offensive zone like the once were able to.  Keeping the puck in the Florida end is the best way to keep the pressure on and keep the chances going.  The best defense is a good offense, right?

The third period has just ended and they showed some life.  As Jen said while sitting next to me, “They woke up.”  She also noted that it took them four games last year to get a point, and we’ve done that game one tonight.  So that’s looking at the silver lining.

Now we go in to OT – I’m still not settled in to three on three overtime.  Something about it just makes me feel like this is part of some type of all-star competition, much like the shootout.  But I lived with it all last year and clearly the feedback wasn’t all that bad because here it still is this season.

Pavel Zacha make an incredible defensive play, stopping a shot attempt from point blank range in front of Schneider which probably saved the game as the OT clock ticked down.  But no more than a minute later we lost.  Schneider went to poke the puck away from Florida Panther Mike Matheson who came around the net and, unfortunately, Matheson passed it to Aleksander Barkov – instead of shooting it.  Schneider didn’t even see the pass and, with his head still turned, Barkov had the puck, shot the puck, and the puck hit the back of the net.

So game 1 ends up in the Regulation Overtime Loss column.  It wasn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination.  There’s some work that needs to be done.  The stats from tonights game:

Devils Panthers
24 Shots 34
18 Hits 19
16 Blocks 4
0/2 Power Plays 0/3
26 Face-Offs 30
8 Takeaways 10

This solidifies a bit what I was saying – their shots are indicative of the fact they didn’t spend as much time in the offensive zone as they should have or would have liked to see, and we spent more time defending as seen by the shots blocked category.  In total, Panthers made 50 attempts that either hit Schneider or another Devil.  Devils only had 28 – nearly half.  That needs to be addressed.

But I remain optimistic that the team on the ice has the potential to gel and become something special.  After all, that’s what being a fan is all about, right?  Unfettered optimism that your team will be great!

And then there were Two

I will not gloat about the Eastern Conference Finals Championship. Fact is both the Devils and the Rangers were two teams well matched for each other. And the Rangers made the Devils work hard and pay for their mistakes.

The Rangers have a good team, and a style that is tough to score against (a la games one and three). Unlike many Devils and Rangers fans, I don’t have a strong dislike for the opposition. And I didn’t feel as if one deserved moving on more than the other. But I of course felt that the Devils were capable as long as they continued their level of play. And, for more or less, they did just that.

For my dear Ranger fans, my condolences. The Devils have experienced the shock that you find yourself in just like the Rangers in the locker room are feeling. With one little scramble of the puck, a bounce, and a tap in, everything comes to a halt.

And then there were two…

P.S. For all of you Ranger fans who called the Devils a rookie team… ha. For all of you Ranger fans who point and chant “Maaaaaaartieeeeeeeeeee,” thank you – were quite fond of him too. And for all of you Ranger fans that had a chip on your shoulder feeling entitled to the Stanley Cup, Lord Stanley takes no pity on you. Enjoy the next round of golf.

Oh, and Torts, I think you got in to your players heads just a little to much. Something about you seems arrogant. I feel that may have lead to your eventual demise this post season.

Devils Come Alive in Game 4

My wife and I had the pleasure of joining those in section 122, the Diablose… Granted we were in row 2 so we were able to sit and enjoy must of the game. But by far this was perhaps the most fun I had in a very long time at a Devils game.

First, I have to give props to the Devils team that creates the visual effects and video on the jumbotron and LED ribbons around the rink. They created an audio/video experience which was, in principal, simple: red pulsating on every screen in the rink, a near black environment outside of that, and this industrial dark music which, all together, gave me the chills. It was awesome. In fact I’m looking forward to attending another game, partly because I want to experience it again. It set a tone throughout the fans in the arena that this is a different type of game. This is something much deeper, much more important. This is the playoffs. And we were about to see Hell on ice. About halfway through we started to wonder if this was some form of brain washing… But all in all it was a spectacular light and sound experience.

Second, I’ll admit that the game started out with me being unhappy with their level of play. They seemed a little disconnected, and things like passes weren’t connecting. They we also having trouble it seemed to keep any kind of offensive pressure.

But the best thing to come out of the first was that it was a 0-0 tie. No one was ahead, no one was down. In fact even shots on goal were tied at 10 apiece. Now we enter the second period, and the Devils have some more life to them and little step up in their game. And their hard work pays off as the score the first goal. We finally scored against Scott Clemmensen, which has seemed to prove difficult since he left the Devils.

The third period proved to be successful as the Devils were able to get more pucks on net, more pressure and consistent pressure in Florida’s end, and subsequently more goals on the board.

Marty Brodeur ended up with a shutout, breaking yet another record in the NHL. One thing to note is that because Marty has played for so long and played well for so long, I figure about every 4-6 months he will break some form of record. It is just inevitable.

Marty ended up as the first star of the game.

As I mentioned before this was perhaps the best game I’ve seen in a very long time. The Devils played well, the fans were really loud and in to the action on the ice. The place was just rocking.

Now the key: the Devils need to keep this up. They must continue to put consistent pressure on Florida and whoever they decide to throw in net. They need to play like they have the edge. In my mind they do; with the talent they have on the ice, they really do.

Comeback Kids, Devs Top Caps

Our three stars of the game, Hedberg, Fayne and Tallinder.

First, Johan Hedberg. The Devils got themselves in trouble early on on the game going down by two goals before the first period horn sounded. Devils commentator Steve Cangelosi commented that it looked like he was busier than the shots on goal tally indicated; the reason for that was simply because most of the shots were huge saves. A any point the Devils could have found themselves in a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.

Next up, Mark Fayne. Mark looked like he was given Ovechkin duty, as he seemed to tail the Caps captain most of the night. In fact during the second and third periods, I would credit him for keeping Ovechkin off the scoresheet. That alone means the Devils had a shot to win tonight.

Lastly, Henrik Tallinder. His persistence, energy, and drive is the sole reason the second goal was scored. He drove hard into the corner, wasn’t phased by a Caps hand under his arm, and actually pulled the Caps defender’s stick and glove off his hand using his armpit. That distraction, gave the Devils the slight edge they needed to get the puck back to Bryce Salvidor, who made a hard pass to Ryan Carter that he deflected in to the net to tie things up.

That brings us to the shootout. After a nail biting overtime, the Devils were fortunate to pass five minutes still tied, and even get a couple of scoring chances. In the shootout, Zach Parise made an excellent fake then shot to give the Devils the initial advantage. You would expect the Capitals Alex Ovechkin to score, but Hedberg stopped the other attempts leaving the teams tied at one goal a piece after the initial three rounds.

Nicklas Backstrom was next up for the Caps and could not get his shot past Hedberg, giving the Devils a chance to win it. The Devils choice was David Clarkson, and it was a good choice. Clarkson faked out Capitals net minder Michal Neuvirth and his backhand shot reached the back of the net. The Capitals were dealt only their second loss at home so far this season, and the Devils won their eighth game of the season, five of which now have been generated in overtime.

Of course the Devils aren’t coming out of this matchup unscathed. Their Penalty Killing unit kept the Capitals off the board when they were short a man, getting the Devils a 93% PK rate, second only to Pittsburgh Penguins who have a 94% rate. But their Power Play continues to struggle. To be fair, the Devils PP ability has struggled for quite some time, but they now sit dead last in the league’s Power Play percentage with 10%. If the Devils really want to come out of their mediocre haze, this must be addressed immediately.

Welcome Back Hockey! Devils Not Dominant in Preseason Game 1

In an effort not to sound too “glass half empty,” the Devils took on the Rangers for their first preseason game. Truth be told, it looked like a typical mid-season grind away type game with relatively low score, not great offense on either team’s part, and on the plus side for the Devils, low shot count for the Rangers.

Overall I’d rate the team at a B. They did not show any form of dominance, which is to be expected in the first game of the preseason. But in the same vein, I was hoping to see more from the team as a whole. Energy was their from guys like Zach Parise and second time Devil Petr Sykora, but I still find myself wanting more from players like Ilya Kovalchuk.

Again, this was the first game of the preseason, so I will not harp on this.

My thoughts on the new coach – for the first time since… Pat Burns? the Devils have a new coach to the organization that has actual NHL coaching experience. Truth be told, I’m hopeful that this works out for the team. The Devils dearly need consistency behind the bench, and lord knows we haven’t seen that in a very long time. With consistency comes familiarity and a level of comfort that will hopefully make the players think less and play better.

The team last year had one of their worst first halves to a season in franchise history, and it could be chalked up to over thinking and gripping their sticks too tight.

We’ll see what the next game will bring, which will take place on Friday night at the Prudential Center. That game will also be televised on MSG with new Devils Play by Play guy Steve Cangelosi behind the mic.

Sour Return for Zach; Devils Out of Playoff Race

Zach Parise returned tonight to the Devils lineup after missing 65 games due to a torn meniscus.  The injury forced him to have surgery and miss a majority of the season.

But on his comeback night, the Devils lackluster performance ended their chance to make the playoffs.  Coach Jacques Lemair juggled lines all night long – something that actually may have hurt the team more than helped – but was trying to find the right combination with Parise back in the lineup.  At some point, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk played with Parise, at other times Parise would be with paired with Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson.

Zach would play about 5 minutes each period and looked more and more comfortable each shift.  Zach would later admit that he was surprised at how quickly the opposition was on top of him each time he touched the puck, but by the end of the game he felt much more comfortable and looked to be back in his typical mindset.

Parise’s return, however, was marred by the Devils truly poor performance.  I cannot discredit Montreal’s play, all goals they scored were good goals, ones that any team would have trouble defending against.

But the Devils were sluggish on getting to the puck, they couldn’t complete a pass, and they were severely limited in the true number of scoring opportunities.

It’s a shame.  At the beginning of the season if someone mentioned to me that the devils would be fighting for a playoff spot with only five games left in the season, I would have laughed.  The Devils didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs at that time, sitting comfortably in the cellar of the NHL standings.  But then passed the halfway point, captain Jamie Langenbrunner sent back to his former team in Dallas, and a coaching change from John MacLean to Lemair, the Devils showed life.  And this wasn’t just a turn around from bad to not as bad, they went from bad to hot, going on a near franchise record winning streak.

But now, alas, with only a handful of games left, they sat in a do-or-die situation.  Truthfully, even if the Devils did no wrong, their chances of making it into the playoffs was slim.  Either the Rangers or the Sabres would need to lose every game in regulation.  And Buffalo just got an Overtime Loss, so they would be out of reach of the Devils even if they had won.

Nevertheless, the Devils season will end on April 10th against the Boston Bruins with no possibility of post-season action.  It is the first time the Devils have not made the playoffs since 1995-96, the season after the Devils won their first Stanley Cup.

It’s sad, as the Devils have spent the past 15 years becoming one of the most competitive teams in the NHL, making it into the playoffs and winning another two Stanley Cups.  The past handful of seasons the Devils have struggled and even when they made it in to the playoffs, they didn’t spend much time there, but fact was they were a threat. Always.

I’ll end with this: the Devils didn’t end their chance to make the playoffs tonight against the Canadiens.  They ended their chance back in October and November.  The team had a near miraculous comeback, but in the end they could not correct the substantially poor first half of the season.

“Snowball’s Chance” Still Frozen after Pat’s Hat

Brian Rolston’s ability to find Patrik Elias was impeccable during last night’s Devils – Flyers match-up.  Three times, including one short-handed, Patrik Elias would score to get his eighth career hat trick and give the Devils another win in their attempt to stay alive, by a sliver of a chance, in the playoff run.

In order for the Devils to actually make it in the playoffs, as they are not mathematically eliminated, they must win every game from here-on out.  In addition, either the Rangers or Sabres must lose every game from here on out – in regulation!  One single point by both teams will push them out of reach for the Devils to make it.

The million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk also had a strong game last night, making a number of good efforts and finding Nick Palmieri at the front of the net who, without a distinct kicking motion, deflected the puck off of his skate to go in past Philly net-minder Brian Boucher.

Johan Hedberg, the Devils #2, made a total of 34 saves to keep the Devils in the game.  A strong outing for him kept the Flyers from scoring on a number of opportunities as the Devils defense was unable to keep Flyer forwards from making some great scoring chances.

The Devils will try to continue their defiance of all odds in tonight’s match-up against the Montreal Canadians – reeling from their last game, a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, by a score of 6 – 2.

Devils try to Extend Life

The Devils will faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.  Every matchup is do-or-die for the Devils from this point forward.  They are not mathematically eliminated, but there is no margin for error.  In addition to needing to win every game, Buffalo and/or the Rangers must lose every game – in regulation.  An OTL would give both teams the necessary 88 points needed to prevent the Devils from being able to catch up to them.

To be honest with one’s self, you must realize this is an impossible feat.  But miracels are known to happen…

Perhaps the best way to phrase the situation was from Wife who posted this:

You know you’re a fan when…
You look at the upcoming games around the NHL and get excited that Buffalo and the Rangers aren’t playing tonight. The Rangers also aren’t playing tomorrow.  Buffalo plays against the Captials tomorrow.
And because of that, you still feel that there’s a chance (ever so slightly) that the Devils can actually pull this off. 
However, all of that can end with a Devils loss tonight.

Devs Playoffs Hopes Grow Dim

In order for the Devils to make the playoffs, everyone was predicting that in their last ten games they could only lose one more game. And even then there was no guarantee.

Tonight the Devils dropped to the Boston Bruins. They did not have a good game at all. Nerves were part of it, that’s certain. The Devils took five consecutive penalties, one of which gave the Bruins the go-ahead goal.

Things started well for the Devils who came out strong and positing Boston on their heals. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the first goal of the game at around the halfway point. But not more than five minutes later Boston’s Shawn Thornton tied things up and Boston appeared to have a leg up on the Devils. Prior to the goal being scored Boston only had three shots on goal and the Devils had over a dozen – a trend that has been going on for the Devils’past three games. But everything changed after that tying goal was made.

The second period had the Devils on their heals for the entire twenty minutes. If it had not been for Devils net minder Martin Brodeur, the score could have easily been much higher. The Devils defense could not gain control of the action, nor could they get a simple clear. This lead to some sloppy plays and four penalties taken by Mark Fayne, Nick Palmieri, Dainius Zubrus and David Steckle.

Nick Palmieri sat in the penalty box for only nine seconds until Boston’s Zdeno Chara put the puck past Brodeur; Chara’s goal would be credited as the game wining goal. By the end of the second period the shot disparity had shrunk and the Devils sat one shot ahead of Boston, 24 – 23.

Goal number three hurt the most, however, as the play began with a near game-tying goal by Ilya Kovalchuk. After the attempt, Boston was able to get the puck down the ice and immediately score a goal off the stick of Milan Lucic.

So where do the Devils stand at this juncture. Without even looking at the out-of-town scoreboard, since really the Devils have even less control over that than there own game play, the Devils playoffs chances have gone from “Believe in the Devils” to “Believe in a Miracle.”

Truth be told, the Devils play was not that of a playoff team. There was an over-abundance of bad penalties, there was a lack of scoring, and there was a significant drop in playing ability after the first 15 minutes of the first period. At that point the Devils never really recovered.

The only possible way the Devils can hope to get in to the playoff is to get a nine game winning streak. Possible, yes. Especially with the Devils miraculous streak that got them in to striking range of making the playoffs in the first place. The Devils need to be solid defensively, stick to simple, keep offensive pressure up and tight, and play with confidence. They can’t take bad penalties, and they can’t think past the current 60 minutes.