The New Jersey Devils (23-21-10) sweep the season series against the Buffalo Sabres (21-21-10) in a tight 2-1 win. They snap their seven-game losing streak at home and are now 3-0-1 in their four games between the All-Star Break and the upcoming bye week. They outshot the Sabres 39(!)-23, including 19 in the second period, and Damon Severson led the team in shots on goal with six. Cory Schneider had a 22-save game and posted a .957 save percentage; he improves to 7-3-3 in the New Year.
Birthday boy Adam Henrique and Pavel Zacha scored the two New Jersey goals, both of them power play goals. Buffalo did challenge Zacha’s goal for goaltender interference (Henrique’s high stick) but the call on the ice was upheld; the call could have gone either way. The Devils haven’t had much puck luck this season but it was nice to see a call go their way for a change. Henrique now has 15 goals on the season, good for the team lead. He has four goals and three assists in his last five games and Zacha has the same point total and composition in nine games.
The team went 2/4 on the night with the man advantage and killed the lone Buffalo power play. The Devils had a few good shorthanded chances as well. The team was excellent in the face-off circle, winning 58.9% of those. Kyle Palmieri had a huge block at the end of the game to preserve the lead and the team had a total of 19 tonight.
It was a slow, low-scoring game, as to be expected but the Devils played as if they were on the road. They displayed a ton of confidence tonight and the lines are starting to click and show some consistency and chemistry. The young ones are getting a ton of valuable experience and ice time. Zacha and Miles Wood are both playing well offensively, making passes and controlling the puck. Steven Santini is going to develop into a really solid defenseman and is showing glimpses of it now. Joe Blandisi has not scored yet (he’s only been up for two games) but got several good chances and a puck will go in eventually. But my favorite thing about them is their speed.
The Devils knew that they needed to enter the bye week on a positive note and they did: they won at home. They’re taking steps in the right direction. They will lose some ground over the next five days (let’s hope they don’t lose too much) but all we can do is sit and watch. They’ll need to come out of the bye week even stronger. The only way for the Devils to re-insert themselves into the playoff picture was to pick up points and they have. They picked up seven of eight possible points in their last four games. They sit three points behind Philadelphia for the final wildcard spot with three teams ahead of them.
The Devils will get some time off to recuperate and step away from hockey for a little bit but frankly, I don’t know what I’m going to do without Devils hockey for five days. I guess I’ll be watching the rest of the NHL and paying very, very close attention to those playoff standings.