Tonight’s game lived up to the hype, and then some. The New Jersey Devils (20-19-9) defeat the Philadelphia Flyers (22-19-6), 4-1, and played a hell of a game. Keith Kinkaid was undeniably tonight’s top performer, making 35 saves on 36 shots, and several spectacular ones. He kept the team in the game all night long and the offense was able to help him out. Pavel Zacha got the goal-scoring started tonight with his fourth of the season and his second in three games. Kyle Palmieri also scored tonight for his 11th of the season and his goal turned out to be the game-winning goal. Miles Wood had two goals tonight for the first multi-goal game of his career; he was one goal shy of a hat trick and one assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick. Michael Cammalleri had a pair of assists.
The Devils were outshot 36-29 and were 2/7 on the power play (which is better than 0/7, obviously). They killed all six Philadelphia power plays. They also had 32 blocks on the night, for the first time since December 8th, 2014 against the Carolina Hurricanes. For frame of reference, Jaromir Jagr had a goal and an assist, and Scott Gomez had a pair of assists. So it’s been a while.
The rivalry between the Devils and the Flyers is one of my personal favorites. Every game is exciting and this one was no exception. There were fewer penalties in minutes than their previous game back in December but they were major ones. The Devils had seven power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3. Wood, in particular, had a fight against Wayne Simmonds in the first period and while he held his own, didn’t come out on top; in the end, however, he had the last laugh. There was also a scrum in the second between Taylor Hall and Travis Konecny (I think), and Damon Severson and the rest of both teams on the ice got involved.
These two teams will meet again three times this season (3/16, 4/1, and 4/4) and those games will also be sure to entertain. Those last two games could also have huge playoff implications.
The Devils now have 49 points in 48 games and I know it’s not the All-Star Break yet BUT we can definitely take a look at the standings. They are still second-t0-last in the Metropolitan division; they are tied with Carolina in points but the Canes have played two fewer games. Philadelphia is just ahead with 50 and are coming off of their bye week; they’ve played 47 games thus far. Washington (68), Columbus (66), Pittsburgh (63), and maybe New York (Rangers) (59) are going to be difficult to catch especially with how those top three teams are playing.
Six teams sit within three points in the East for the final wildcard spot: Boston (52), Toronto (51), Philadelphia (50), Carolina (49), Florida (49), and New Jersey (49). Buffalo (47), Detroit, (47), Tampa Bay (47), and New York (Isles) (46) are all right behind. Every game during the rest of the season is going to matter. Every single point is going to matter; two points is better than one, one is better than none.
But here’s a good thing: the Devils will play 21 of their remaining 34 games at home. This could be huge for them, playing in front of their own crowd. They’re getting better on the road now, winning their last four road games. If they can consistently win at home and on the road, they still have a chance (even though it’s very small). New Jersey still has to see Columbus and New York (Isles) for the first time this year; they’ll play four games each against both teams. They’ll see Carolina once, Washington, Pittsburgh, and New York (Rangers) twice, and Philadelphia three more times. That’s 18 games against Metro division opponents and they’re going to be huge.
But the Devils can’t worry about other teams; they can only control themselves and they did tonight, taking two points from Philadelphia in regulation.