I have to admit that I didn’t actually watch this one; I figured that studying for my calculus quiz tomorrow would be less painful and oh boy, was I right. The New Jersey Devils (20-21-9) fall to the Washington Capitals (33-10-6) at home for the second time this season, 5-2. The Devils have now lost two straight, three of the last four, and their past six home games heading into the All-Star Break. The Devils were outshot 36-29 and had a rough night all around.
Keith Kinkaid had a tough time in net tonight and so did the Devils defense (what else is new?); the offense didn’t do their job. Kinkaid stopped only 13 of 17 shots faced (.765 save %) and Cory Schneider came on in relief and looked sharp, stopping all 18 shots he faced and made some crucial saves to (sort of) keep his team in the game. The exact opposite happened Tuesday night when Schneider let in three goals early in the first period and Kinkaid replaced him (and stopped every shot he faced). Both of them seemed to find their footing within the last few weeks and have been one of the main reasons the Devils won the games they did. However, I would expect Schneider to start against Detroit next week.
Stefan Noeson, claimed off of waivers from Anaheim yesterday, scored his first goal as a Devil and his third of the season (and his career); he took one hell of a shot and hopefully there will be many more to come. Adam Henrique was credited with the other goal for New Jersey, after the puck went into the back of the net off of his stick. His goal was also a power play goal and is tied for the team lead in goals scored with P.A. Parenteau (12). Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri are close behind with 11; they also led the team tonight in shots on goal with four each.
Speaking of Kyle Palmieri, at 6:52 in the third period, he got into a scrum with Tom Wilson (yeah, remember him?) after Taylor Hall took a hit from Brooks Orpik. Hall was shaken up after the play and Kyle took matters into his own hands. This resulted in an instigator penalty and game misconduct so Palmieri was ejected from the game. Wilson received a game misconduct penalty as well and was sent to the locker room which came, as Devils Twitter so kindly pointed out, 27 days too late. And for those of you who don’t remember, Wilson boarded John Moore exactly 27 days ago and did not receive any penalty; Moore is still out with a concussion and has yet to return to practice with his teammates.
Every time this team takes a step forward, they take two steps back and it’s frustrating. They’re still in the second year of a rebuild and it takes time, yes, but you’d think they’d be a little further along than they are. They have pieces of a puzzle but can’t seem to fit them together. Maybe they’re missing pieces and if that’s the case, they need to find them. But they have solid pieces that you can build around so build around them. This team could be a lethal, Cup-contending team within the next few years. They show glimpses of coming together every now and then but they’re gone so fast, you start to question if you ever saw them in the first place.
Players like Henrique, Palmieri, Travis Zajac (who’s quietly have a good season), and Michael Cammalleri all need to step it up. Hall has been consistent. The young ones, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha, are still learning and they’re making mistakes but some experience is better than none. They’re going to develop into great players. New Jersey also has great goaltenders. You can count on Schneider and Kinkaid night in and night out (yes, they do have rough nights like tonight) but you have Scott Wedgewood (who played very well during his call-up last season), Mackenzie Blackwood, and Ken Appleby. Both Blackwood and Appleby have stepped up in Albany with Wedgewood’s injury. The defense is still struggling but is showing promise. The young defensemen can become solid defensemen: Damon Severson, Steven Santini, and Jon Merrill (I know, I know). Andy Greene will come back. Realistically, I don’t see the Devils keeping Kyle Quincey or Ben Lovejoy. John Moore’s future with the Devils could be up in the air (as could Merrill’s). And don’t forget about that dreaded expansion draft. All I’m trying to say is that the pieces are there. If GM Ray Shero can add a top defenseman (or two) during the offseason, this team could really turn things around next season.
But that’s next season. The Devils still have the rest of this season to play. Maybe the All-Star Break can help them sort things out.