For the first time this season, the New Jersey Devils did not allow a goal to enter their net. That’s right, Cory Schneider picked up his first shutout of the year as the Devils were able to win a very tough 1-0 game that could have gone either way. Schneider led the way with 30 saves to move the Devils back above NHL .500 with a record of 8-7-2. Schneider didn’t have to make any highlight reel saves as he did on Tuesday night vs. Minnesota, but he was extremely solid in every aspect of the game. He was positionally sound and didn’t allow any juicy rebounds the Caps could feast on. Perhaps the most important thing that Schneider avoided was playing the puck, something that has plagued him his entire career. There were only a handful of times that Schneider ventured outside the crease. He was very careful with the puck, covering it up on numerous occassions rather than risking a turnover. Schneider has found his game and will probably be in net tomorrow against Colorado.
The Devils were only able to score on goal tonight and it was a fortuitous one. Braden Holtby, the Caps netminder, went behind the net to play the puck and threw it away to Mike Cammalleri who was able to put it home. This goal was funny because it’s usually the Devils and Cory Schneider who are on the wrong end of plays like that. However, tonight the Devils were able to force Holtby into a mistake and capitalized on it. Cammalleri deserves a ton of credit on the goal even thought he had a wide open net to shoot into. The angle Cammy had was a very sharp one and the puck was bouncing on him. To be able to one-time a bouncing puck into that difficult angle takes an incredible amount of skill.
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Stay Away Sal
It might just be a coincidence, but the Devils are a perfect 8-8 on the penalty kill in the two games Bryce Salvador has missed due to injury. However, it’s probably not a coincidence. The Devils’ PK in the last two games has been superb in all aspects. The forwards and defensemen are working together to take away all the passing lanes and making sure they get to loose pucks and clear them. Tonight, the Devils’ PK unit was 4-4 against the second ranked PP in the league which is awesome. The reason for this success was their positioning. Washington’s power play wants to do two things: get it to Alex Ovechkin at the left point or find Troy Brouwer in the slot. The Devils were able to use their forwards to take away those options and thus shut down a lethal attack. Andy Greene and co. were fantastic tonight and there is no reason Salvador should return and spoil the party.
Young Defense Stepping Up
For the second straight game, the Devils dressed a defense corps that featured four players under the age of 25. Damon Severson has been fantastic all season and has done nothing to hint that he’s not the real deal. Seth Helgeson was called up from Albany prior to last game and has done everything expected of him. He’s been physical in his own zone and looks like the kind of powerful defensive D-man that every team needs. The two players that have been under heavy scrutiny thusfar this season have been Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson; both of them played well tonight. Gelinas was composed in his own zone, however he needs to find his offensive game again. Then there’s Larsson who has been one of the best Devils in recent games. Just like fellow Swede Jacob Josefson, he’s finally seizing his opportunity and running with it. Peter DeBoer is trusting Larsson on the top PK unit with Andy Greene and it’s paying off. Larsson has been a rock in the defensive zone and just overall been fantastic. When Jon Merrill returns, it’s going to be tough to take any one of these four out of the lineup.
Patty is Close
Patrik Elias still hasn’t been able to score a goal since opening night in Philadelphia. He was in a rut when Martin Havlat went down, but in the last few games that Havlat has been healthy Elias has found his game. He looks energized with the puck and created some dangerous scoring chances tonight. It won’t be long before Patty finds the twine and gets on a roll. The Devils need their most decorated scorer in franchise history to chip in some offense and take some of the weight off of the top line. There’s no doubt that Elias will return to proper form and help lead this team throughout the winter.
The Devils have been able to put a pair of complete games together and look to make it three when they take on the Avalanche tomorrow at the Rock. Colorado is coming off a shootout win against the Rangers on Thursday night, but overall they’ve been a disappointment this season. The Devils need to pick up another win at home before they head out on a tough Western Canadian road trip on Tuesday.