That was one of the slowest games I’ve watched all season long (that’s saying something) and I would have preferred watching paint dry. The New Jersey Devils (24-23-10) drop this one to the Ottawa Senators (30-19-6), 3-0, and are now 2-2-0 on this five-game homestand. The two teams will meet again on Tuesday for the last time this season, also at the Prudential Center. The Devils were outshot 35-21 and Cory Schneider made 32 saves on 34 shots faced, posting a .941 save percentage.
The Devils had several good scoring chances in the first period and outshot the Senators, 8-7. They had a power play eight seconds into the game but could not convert. They started the second period off well and Beau Bennett, in his first game back, hit a shot off the post. I had mentioned earlier tonight to some friends as soon as it happened that that post was going to haunt me in my nightmares. Guess what? It’s going to. Dion Phaneuf was able to take advantage of a power play opportunity to open the scoring at 18:01 in the second. The game remained 1-0 until 16:02 in the third when Erik Karlsson took a shot on goal that trickled past Cory Schneider and across the goal line before Adam Henrique (or Schneider) could stop it. The last goal was an empty-netter from Kyle Turris that sealed the win for Ottawa.
And before Devils fans overreact (again), Cory Schneider isn’t the problem; the team in front of him is. He deserved a win tonight with how he played. He gave the team a chance to stay in the game all night long. He’s been the backbone of this team since the start of the new year but hasn’t had the support in front of him. Taylor Hall led the team in shots on goal tonight with three (yes, three). He created a couple good scoring chances but no puck was able to find the back of the net. Bennett hit the post. Henrique had a good chance right after they killed the second penalty. The team is just incapable of finding rebounds and putting themselves in a position to take shots and send those rebounds past goaltenders. You aren’t going to win games with perfect goaltending if you can’t find a way to score goals. Devils fans were complaining about bad goaltending earlier in the season but it has been solid since, both Schneider and Kinkaid, who will likely split the home-and-home series against the Islanders this weekend.
Speaking of the Islanders, they defeated the Rangers in the Battle of New York, 4-2, and they continue to move up in the standings, only one point behind Toronto (63) for the final wildcard spot. They have been on a roll since firing head coach Jack Capuano and promoting Doug Weight. Buffalo won 2-0 against Colorado and they move ahead of New Jersey. Philadelphia is currently down 2-0 to the Oilers. New Jersey lost an opportunity to pick up a crucial two points in a tight playoff race.
So what’s the problem? Is there just one problem? No, there are several but it’s February and even if the Devils can still make the playoffs on paper, are they really a playoff-caliber team? No. Realistically, are they going to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season? Yes. Listen, I am so exhausted. This team is exhausting. They are inconsistent and frustrating. I have been optimistic all season long, even during that abysmal stretch of games back in December. At the beginning of the season, I had hoped that they would at least make the playoffs this season. I didn’t care if they lost in the first round, 4-0. At least that meant that they took a step forward in this gruesome rebuilding process. It’s going to take time. I understand that, I really do, but it’s so unbelievably frustrating. I’d like to see passion and fire and enthusiasm but there isn’t any. They’re playing like the season is already lost and maybe it is but they shouldn’t play like it.
Watch the Devils take on the Islanders this weekend (or don’t, it’s up to you) at home on Saturday and in Brooklyn on Sunday; puck drops at 7PM.