12/31/16 Game Recap: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

Any team that goes 0-9 on their power play in a single game deserves to lose that game. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing or how capable (or in the New Jersey Devils case, incapable) they are of scoring, you cannot expect to win games or even stay in games without scoring power play goals, or goals for that matter.

The Devils managed to score two goals in a brutal 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in a Saturday afternoon showdown. The first came from Kyle Palmieri at 6:53 in the second period, to cut the Capitals’ lead in half. The Capitals lead 2-1 with goals from Connolly and Beagle. Palmieri’s goal was his seventh of the season and his third in five games. Oshie, Ovechkin, and Williams all scored to extend the Capitals’ lead to 5-1. Beau Bennett scored his second of the season at 14:52 in the third but (to sum up the season) too little, too late. And if the game wasn’t already a complete annihilation, Johansson scores to seal the win for the Capitals, who remain fourth in the Metropolitan division and hold the first wild card slot in the East. The Devils, on the other end, are back in last place in the Metro with the Islanders’ 6-2 win over Jets.

The Devils’ defensive woes continue. Keith Kinkaid has played admirably this season (a few of his losses have come from no goal support) and after his outing on Thursday against Washington, it was hard to argue against starting him today as well. He again had no (little) goal support from his teammates but many of the Capitals’ goals came off of deflections or the Devils’ defensemen being in the wrong place at the wrong time (which seems to be a recurring theme this season).

And while this team has been unbelievably frustrating and there are times when I question why I love this team or continue to support this team but my favorite thing (or one of my favorite things) has always been how everyone bands together. During today’s game, Wilson sent John Moore into the boards and Moore laid on the ice for several minutes while the medical staff helped him and brought in a stretcher. It was a clean hit (in my opinion); it may have just been a matter of unfortunate positioning and timing. Regardless of the circumstances of the hit, Luke Gazdic was ready to fight Wilson and it’s nice to see someone step up and defend his teammate like that (and I’m not saying that nobody else on the team wouldn’t). Yes, his role as the physical enforcer of the team implies that he would drop his gloves if the need raised. I hate seeing any NHLer take a scary hit but John is one of the good guys, on and off the ice. You can’t hate him. The team helped John off the ice and not even just this game, but in every game, the team is close.

This team is a team. You can visibly tell that they’re close, by the way they talk to each other, the way they interact with one another. There aren’t any problems in the locker room (that we know of) but it doesn’t seem like there are any. They truly do have each other’s backs, on and off the ice. And I love this team because of it. Many other teams have locker room problems and the team becomes disjointed and dysfunctional (the Devils are dysfunctional but they have other reasons behind it). The Devils are not like that. They have never been like that.

My thoughts: other than that whole spiel about the team being and playing like a team, I wish they had the energy that their fans do. They still show up in droves to watch games and support the team. A lot of them stay until the end, even if the team is losing (by a little or a lot). I have never left a game early and never will. It seems as if the team just doesn’t want to play. There’s still four months of hockey left to play and plenty of time to rack up points, and make a potential playoff push. I’m also still not part of the “Fire Hynes and the entire coaching staff” campaign; no coach in the world could lead this team to the playoffs with how they’re playing. I also wouldn’t object to calling up more of the Albany Devils. We’ve seen how well Wood and Lappin have been playing; I’d love to see Blandisi or Pietela come back up and be aggressive forwards. Helgeson also played well in his brief stint in the NHL and would like to see him get some more playing time too. But I will end on this note: hope 2017 brings more Devils wins and a potential Stanley Cup playoff berth. Have a Happy New Year.

12/31/16 Game Preview: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

Coming off his fourth win of the season and a truly spectacular performance on Thursday night, Keith Kinkaid is expected to start in net for the New Jersey Devils (14-15-7) as they finish up their home-and-home series against the Washington Capitals (20-9-5) at 1PM at The Rock. The Devils defeated the Capitals in their first meeting of the season in a shootout, 2-1, with P.A. Parenteau scoring the lone goal and both Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson scoring in the shootout. Parenteau has now scored in his last two games and leads the team in goals scored with 10. Adam Henrique and Cammalleri are right behind him with nine.

Taylor Hall did not practice again yesterday and will not play today. His injury isn’t serious and is unrelated to his knee surgery.

Yesterday’s practice lines:

Cammalleri-Zajac-Palmieri

Bennett-Henrique-Parenteau

Wood-Josefson-Smith-Pelly

Gazdic-Kalinin-Lappin

Greene-Severson

Auvitu-Lovejoy

Moore-Quincey

It’s also still too early to keep a close eye on the league standings but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. The Devils are currently 7th in the Metropolitan division and are four points behind Carolina, who defeated Chicago last night and have one game on the Devils. Philadelphia holds the final wild card spot for the Eastern Conference with 44 points, Washington holds the first with 45 points. Other than these two teams, New Jersey is still behind five other teams for a wild card spot (Tampa Bay, Toronto, Carolina, Florida, and Detroit). Columbus, Pittsburgh, and New York [Rangers] still hold the top three spots in the Metropolitan. New Jersey has played 36 games thus far and the league is slowly reaching the halfway mark. Every time in the Metro plays today/tonight except for Philadelphia.

It’s an exciting time for hockey. After the Capitals @ Devils game at 1PM, Team USA takes on Team Canada at 3:30PM in the World Juniors. Both teams are 3-0 in Round Robin play and if you’re watching Devils prospects, Michael McLeod, Blake Speers, and Joey Anderson will play. McLeod has a goal in each game in which he’s been on the ice for an extended amount of time. Yegor Rykov and Team Russia play Team Slovakia at 8PM but I think there’s another game you should try and watch instead.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, riding a 14-game win streak, take on the Minnesota Wild, on a 12-game win streak, at Minnesota at 6PM. According to NHL.com, these two teams will be the first teams in North American professional sports (hockey, American football, basketball, baseball) to play in a game in which both teams have won at least 12 games in a row. I wish that the NHL could find a way to nationally televise this game because it is definitely worth watching. And in case you were wondering, the longest win streak in league history belongs to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a 17-game win streak back in 1993 (Montreal won the Cup that year).

However, the only win streak I truly care about is the New Jersey Devils trying to win two in a row against the Washington Capitals at 1PM.

12/29/16 Game Recap: New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals

“Is there any word to describe Keith [Kinkaid] tonight other than brilliant?”

“No.”

Well, Coach Hynes just about summed it up. We call Keith Kinkaid “Blockaid” for a reason. He was absolutely lights-out tonight.

What. A. Game.

If Kinkaid isn’t the starting goaltender for Saturday’s home game against the Capitals, I am driving to the Prudential Center and shoving him in net myself. He stopped 43 of 44 shots on goal, including both T.J. Oshie’s and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s shootout attempts. He was appropriately named the game’s first star (and probably should have been all three) and earned the Hard Hat. He improves to 4-3-2 on the season and will hopefully get his second straight start on Saturday.

He didn’t receive much help from the Devils’ offense but their defense stepped it up a notch. P.A. Parenteau opened the scoring 1:05 into the second period for his 10th of the season; he is now the Devils’ leading goal-scorer (Adam Henrique and Michael Cammalleri trail him with nine goals apiece). Daniel Winnik scored 3:40 into the third period to tie the game at 1. The game remained scoreless through regulation and overtime. The Devils were 6-7 in OT and the Capitals were 5-4 prior to tonight’s game. Both teams had four SOG in overtime and Henrique was denied on a semi-breakaway towards the end of OT. Shootout recap: Kinkaid denied Oshie, Cammalleri scored, Kinkaid stopped Kuznetsov, Jacob Josefson scored to seal the win after being activated off of IR before the game.

There were a few missed calls, namely Kuznetsov jamming his stick into Parenteau’s face while he was on the bench but there’s nothing we can do about it now. (Is it just me or has the officiating been significantly worse this season?)

All that matters is that the Devils managed to obtain two meaningful points against a challenging Metropolitan division opponent in the Capitals. Their defense managed to shut down Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals’ offensive powerhouses. Hopefully this win can (potentially) be the start of something magical for the Devils if they have any hope of securing a wild card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And while they won tonight’s game and there were bright spots, many things have to change if they plan on turning this season around.

They won 52.2% of face-offs and killed all four Capitals’ power plays but they went 0-4 on their own power play and allowed yet another shorthanded goal. They had a TOTAL of 27 shots on goal and while it’s the quality of the shots that truly matters, more shots on goal means more opportunities to score goals. The Devils are also now 0-4 on 5-on-3 power plays throughout the season. Tonight’s 5-on-3 only lasted 14 seconds but a lot can happen in that amount of time if you use it to your advantage.

Miles Wood did not, in fact, check Ovechkin because Alex did sign a card for Miles before the game and they met afterwards. (Side note: I could really use a robe like Ovi’s).

I’m starting to think the Devils Dads are good luck charms. They’ll have to start attending every game. The team is now 3-0 on Dads’ Trips and they’ll look to remain undefeated in front of their fathers on Saturday, when the Devils take on the Capitals at home at 1PM.

12/29/16 Game Preview: New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals

The New Jersey Devils (13-15-7) take on the Washington Capitals (20-9-4) Thursday night at 7PM at the Verizon Center in a home-and-home series. Keith Kinkaid (3-3-2) will get the start in net for the Devils and Braden Holtby (15-8-3) is expected in net for the Capitals. Kinkaid’s last start came against the Ottawa Senators on December 17th, a 3-1 regulation loss for the Devils. Both teams are coming off a loss: New Jersey lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, 5-2, and Washington fell to the New York Islanders 4-3. This is the first meeting of the season between both teams and they will play a total of four games in the next couple of months.

Coming into tonight’s game, Adam Henrique, Michael Cammalleri, and P.A. Parenteau are tied as the team’s goal-scoring leaders, with nine goals apiece. Henrique and Kyle Palmieri both have two goals and an assist in their last three games.

Taylor Hall, who has three assists in the same span and is now on a nine-game goal-scoring drought, will miss tonight’s game with an undisclosed lower body injury and is day-to-day. His injury is unrelated to his knee surgery earlier this season. Vern Fiddler is also out with a lower body injury and will miss approximately 3-4 weeks. Luke Gazdic was recalled from Albany (AHL) yesterday but no lineup announcements or other roster moves have been made yet.

In other news, the Devils’ dads are in town for their annual fathers’ trip so hopefully, the Devils can get them a win (or maybe two). The Devils went 2-0 against Carolina on their first Dads’ Trip last season. Randy Wood, Miles Wood’s father and former NHLer, told Julie Robenhymer during Devils All-Access that Miles once sent Alex Ovechkin an SASE to sign and if he (Alex) didn’t, Miles would check him the first time he saw him once he made it to the NHL. Well, Alex never returned the signed card and tonight is their first meeting.

And if you aren’t paying attention to the World Juniors, you probably should be. Devils’ prospects in the WJC include Mikey McLeod (CAN), Blake Speers (CAN), Joey Anderson (USA), and Igor Rykov (RUS). Rykov is having an exceptional tournament, and Team USA faces off against Team Russia today at 3:30PM EST; both teams are 2-0. Team Canada takes on Team Latvia at 7:30PM EST.

Tonight’s starting lineup:

Cammalleri-Zajac-Palmieri

Bennett-Henrique-Parenteau

Wood-Josefson-Smith-Pelly

Gazdic-Kalinin-Lappin

Greene-Severson

Auvitu-Lovejoy

Moore-Quincey

My thoughts: I have many of them. I would not look too much into those practice lines mainly because Josefson is still on IR and nothing has been set in stone. I would think Coach Hynes would continue to mix around lines, especially with Hallsy and Fiddler out. As a side note, I am definitely not on the “Fire Hynes” campaign. Keep in mind that the Devils are only in their second rebuilding year. Rebuilding takes time and I know that it isn’t an excuse for having only four wins in December but they are going to struggle and so are we. It’s to be expected. It might also be time to call up some of the younger guys, namely Santini, Blandisi, and Pietila, and I would be all for bringing Helgeson back up. I’d also love to see Keith Kinkaid get more starts in net. Additionally, I might have to drive up to the Prudential Center and bring Patrik Elias back myself.

The Devils desperately need to fix their power play; they had seven power play opportunities Tuesday night, including a double minor in the third period, and only scored on one of them. They also need to play a full 60 minutes and take more shots on goal. You can’t win games unless you score goals and you can’t score goals unless you take shots on net but at this point in the season, I feel like I just keep repeating myself.