Have psychologists invented a way to remove memories yet? Because I would like to forget that entire game. The New Jersey Devils (20-20-9) lose yet another game at home against the Los Angeles Kings (23-21-4) by a score of 3-1. The Kings had a few quick goals at the beginning of the first period (two goals within the first two minutes and a power play goal to follow) and the Devils were never able to recover. They played better as the game went on and Kyle Quincey scored a goal (his fourth) to end Peter Budaj’s shutout bid but were unable to complete the comeback. The Devils went 0-for-4 on the power play, a step back after scoring two power play goals on Saturday night at Philly. The two teams had 25 shots apiece.
Cory Schneider started the game and stopped nine of 12 shots faced (.750 save percentage) but Keith Kinkaid was in net to start the second. Kinkaid stopped all 13 shots he saw. There is speculation as to whether or not Schneider felt completely better going into tonight’s game after missing the last two with a stomach bug. Maybe he took a step back and wasn’t on top of his game tonight because he hasn’t started in a week. Whatever the case may be, Kinkaid is making a strong case for getting more starts and I wouldn’t mind.
There were a few moments worth noting. The game started on a scary note with Adam Henrique taking a bad hit and falling awkwardly onto the ice. He looked like he was in a ton of pain and had to go into the locker room but he was back on the bench soon enough. The Devils had nearly two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play in the first period as well but were not able to convert. They are now 1-for-7 on the two-man advantage this season (which is definitely not a great statistic). There was also no call on Budaj when he dragged his stick across Miles Wood’s face while he was defenseless on the ground. Wood did lead the team in shots on goal with five. And then there was the no-goal call in the second period that could have, very well, changed the momentum of the game. The puck would have gone into the back of the net behind Budaj had Jordan Nolan not “intentionally” knocked the net. I put intentionally in quotation marks because I think it looked intentional. He couldn’t get the puck out of the crease and resolved to just move the net so the goal would not count.
But the Devils had plenty of chances to score and could not. We can blame the officiating. We can blame the goaltending or the defense or the offense’s inability to score goals or a number of other things but it all comes down to the team. They came out slow in the first period and that killed them. Had the Devils kept it 2-0 and not given up the power play goal, and maybe managed to score a goal or two, this game could have ended differently. But could have, should have, would have doesn’t really matter when the Devils lose the opportunity to pick up two points and move up on the wildcard ladder.
(I won’t bother looking at the playoff picture because it doesn’t matter and nothing’s changed much in a day. Most of the teams in the East that are in the wildcard hunt are only a few points within each other.)
This team has done a complete 180 in the span of the 2016-17 season. They had an almost perfect record at home to start the season and played worse on the road. Now, they’re playing much, much better on the road but are absolutely abysmal at home. They have won their last four road games but they have won just twice in their last nine games at home and both of those games were shutouts. They’ll play Washington again at home on Thursday before heading into the All-Star Break. If the Devils can pick up (at least) a point on Thursday and get to 50 on the season, this could still work but they won’t be going anywhere if they can’t win at home (they play all but two games at home in February). Here’s to hoping the Devils play much better on Thursday; puck drops at 7PM.
P.S. if you need a postgame pick-me-up, Devils prospect Michael McLeod had a hat trick tonight en route to a 6-1 Mississauga Steelheads win. The future looks bright.