Andy Greene played the role of game-winning goal-scorer on Saturday night, as the New Jersey Devils rallied past the Boston Bruins for their first road win of the quickly aging season. A pair of last-minute goals secured the Devils’ 4-3 comeback victory.
Marek Zidlicky and Andy Greene both contributed their first goals of the season within the last minute and a half of play during their team’s well-earned win. After excitedly shouting two names that I do not often find myself shouting, I started to notice the increasingly important role of the Devils’ blue line when it comes to offensive production. This realization, coupled with the hype that newcomer Eric Gelinas has been generating (and the ensuing moves that must be made upon Bryce Salvador‘s return if he is to stay in the lineup) has prompted me to take a closer look at the New Jersey Devils defensemen.
Marek Zidlicky (1G, 8A)
Anyone that watches Marek Zidlicky over the course of a couple of games will realize that his defensive skills are complemented by offenseman-like stickhandling, shooting, and skating abilities. This is evidenced by the fact that Jaromir Jagr is the only Devil with as many points – they both have nine. His offensive-minded defensive play makes him the ideal candidate for an anchor on the top powerplay unit, where he scored his first goal of the season on Saturday. As of now, Zidlicky is arguably one of the Devils’ most important players.
Andy Greene (1G, 2A)
Saturday’s game saw Andy Greene notch his first goal; this matches his goal total for the last full season. His first goal came off of his 17th shot of the season, making him the defensive leader in shots on goal.
Anton Volchenkov (3A)
Although most of the pucks that leave Anton Volchenkov’s stick don’t end up directly hitting the net, Volchenkov’s value is shown in his ability to barrel into the zone and launch a shot in the general direction of the netminder, where it can be tipped-in or rebounded for a goal. This type of play accounts for his position alongside Zidlicky as the second defensive pairing. His value off of the score sheet is just as important; the A-Train is an aggressive player, and his size and strength make him well-equipped to take on some of the toughest opponents in the league.
Eric Gelinas (1G, 1A)
When Bryce Salvador had family matters to address and could not play with the team, Eric Gelinas saw his chance to prove himself, and prove himself he did. Gelinas got himself on the score sheet with a powerplay goal less than ten minutes into his first game of the season. He followed this performance with an assist in his next game, which has him on a current two-game point streak. The team’s powerplay has gone 5-for-9 since Gelinas entered the lineup, after going 3-for-28 to start the season.
Bryce Salvador (2A)
Captain Bryce Salvador has been out of the lineup for two games; this was initially due to a death in his family, but a foot injury has him seated on the injured reserve. In his captain’s absence, many believe that Eric Gelinas has proved himself worthy of a lineup spot; however, this means someone else will have to lose theirs. Salvador may have an easier time adding to his two assists if he returns to a team with positive momentum for the first time this season.
Mark Fayne, Peter Harrold, and Adam Larsson (0 Points)
Now that we’ve discussed five defensemen that have proven their ability to produce, there are three players leftover who have not scored a point this season; these are the players that will be in jeopardy of being moved in order to make room for Salvador’s return. Since Peter Harrold has been the blue line’s healthy scratch since Gelinas’ insertion into the lineup, it wouldn’t be surprising for his spot to be the one that is forfeited. In his last outing, a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Harrold earned a -2 rating, with one shot and one block. If the big comeback victory on Saturday was the beginning of a Devils upswing, Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson may be presented with more opportunities to increase their offensive output.
The Devils D-men will look to continue their production when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. With Cory Schneider being placed on injured reserve, “third defenseman” Martin Brodeur seeks his first win of the season on home ice.