3/31/17 Game Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders

The New Jersey Devils (27-35-14) will face off with the New York Islanders (35-29-12) for their third of four meetings this season. The Isles are still in the hunt for that final wildcard spot in the East while the Devils were officially eliminated about a week ago. They are six points behind Boston with both Tampa Bay and Carolina ahead of them (and the same number of games). Tonight will be a fun game (especially because the Devils only seem to show up for rivalry games) but both games thus far have been fast and chippy, and tonight should be no exception.

New Jersey is 1-1-0 in the season series, their lone win coming in a 3-2 bout at home, and their single loss, a 6-4 rout at the Barclays Centre. The Devils were outshot 42-21 in their first meeting, and got goals from Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Zajac (shorthanded), and Pavel Zacha (a power play game-winning goal). Andrew Ladd and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Isles. Cory Schneider was excellent in net, making 40 saves on 42 shots against (.952 save percentage). Thomas Greiss made 18 saves on 21 shots faced (.857 save %).

They met again the following night in the back end of a home-and-home, back-to-back series. Again, the Devils were outshot but not by much (32-30). Miles Wood scored first (a power play goal) but goals from Ryan Strome (2), Casey Cizikas, and Ladd put New York on top 4-1. Kyle Palmieri and Joe Blandisi (first goal of the season) scored goals to cut the lead to 4-3 but John Tavares and Jason Chimera both scored just a minute into the third to put the Isles up 6-3. Taylor Hall gave the Devils some hope with a PPG (6-4 Isles) but the Devils offense could not find the back of the net after that. Keith Kinkaid had an assist on Hall’s goal, his first career NHL point; he stopped 26 of 32 shots against (.812 save %). Jay Berube made 26 saves on 30 shots, posting an .867 save %.

Kinkaid will get the start in net tonight for the Devils; Cory Schneider will start tomorrow night against Philadelphia. Greiss did start last night against the Flyers and was pulled after allowing  three goals on eight shots against (.625 save %). Jaroslav Halak 19 saves on 21 shots against in his relief appearance. The Islanders fell by a score of 6-3 despite outshooting the Flyers 41-30; they did allow five goals in the first period.

Michael Cammalleri will return to the lineup and defenseman Michael Kapla will make his official Devils debut tonight. Personally, I’d like to see him paired up with Steven Santini; I think they’d definitely play well and complement each other, and they could be a future D-pairing. Jacob Josefson did skate again but Smith-Pelly has not and likely won’t return with just six games left.

Johnny Boychuk did return to the lineup for New York last night and will remain there. The Isles have dropped three straight games, which has hurt their playoff push. Another loss tonight to the Devils could be what officially eliminates them from playoff contention, especially with more than one team ahead of them.

The Devils are 3/7 on the man advantage in the season series and have a shorthanded goal as well; they are 18th overall at 18.3%. New York sits 26th at 15.0%. They have killed all but one of New York’s four power play opportunities; their penalty kill is 21st at 80.1% while New York sits at 14th at 81.0%. New Jersey has also consistently been slightly better in the faceoff circle and should use that to their advantage tonight. However, they have dropped 16 of their last 18 games, and have lost four straight since their overtime win against the Rangers.

Both teams are desperate for a win; puck drops at 7:30PM.

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Thank You, Patty: Patrik Elias Announces His Official Retirement

The New Jersey Devils’ all-time leading scorer Patrik Elias officially announced his retirement from the National Hockey League at 8AM this morning. It was not unexpected but still heartbreaking to say the least. He has missed this entire season to rehab his long-term knee injury.

Elias was selected 51st overall by the Devils in 1994, and has spent his entire 19-year career in New Jersey. Playing an entire career with a single team is a feat in itself. He is also a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, and leads the Devils all-time in goals (408), assists (617), and points (1,025) in 1,240 games played. He also holds the records for most points in a season (96), most career game-winning goals (80), and most hat tricks (8). He also leads in even-strength goals (279) and power play goals (113). And while those numbers are already impressive, his numbers would have been better had the Devils been more of an offensive-minded team rather than defensive-minded one in front of Martin Brodeur. He made four All-Star Game appearances in 2000, 2002, 2011, and 2015. He also made the NHL All-Rookie team in 1998.

He was undoubtedly the best forward to ever play for the Devils organization, but is it enough to get him into the Hall of Fame? It’s debatable, but this biased Devils fan says yes. Regardless, he’s had an incredibly illustrious career and will go down as one of the best to ever wear that red and black jersey, and to play the game.

He will drop the ceremonial puck at Monday’s game against the Flyers. He will participate in Friday’s open practice with the rest of the team. He will take his final warm-up skate on Saturday against the Islanders, in his final appearance as a New Jersey Devil at The Rock.

His last official game came agains the Maple Leafs last season at home, when he played with fellow Czech Pavel Zacha, a passing of the torch of sorts. He had an assist and a goal, one which I will never, ever forget. I was unable to get to the game but I watched from home and it was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced. He scored with 19 seconds left in regulation and witnessing him score one last time was incredible. The reception from the crowd was unparalleled, and I have to admit that I cried, just like I did this morning.

Patrik Elias. It has been an honor to watch you play in all the years that I’ve been a fan of the game and the organization. You made the Devils fun to watch, and you put them on the map. Your career has been matched by so few to have ever played the game, and your presence in the Devils locker room and on the team will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you.

Thank you for all of the little moments and the big ones, like setting up Jason Arnott’s game-winning and Stanley Cup-winning goal back in 2000 in double overtime against Dallas. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for this team, for this organization, for this sport, and most importantly, for the fans. You are so incredibly gracious and kind and humble, and you played the game like no other. I will miss watching you play just as every other Devils fan and hockey fan will. Thank you for everything.

And so a new era begins in New Jersey. Thank you, Patty.

Approaching the End of the 2016-17 Regular Season: Expectations Galore

What should we expect from the New Jersey Devils for the remainder of the 2016-17 regular season? A whole lot. The last few weeks have been especially challenging and frustrating to watch but it hasn’t been all bad and the last six or so games have more than just pride on the line.

1) The Emergence of the Hall-Zajac-Palmieri line: the three didn’t start the season on the same line but Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, and Kyle Palmieri have become a dynamic trio of sorts when they’re on the ice. They’re rarely outchanced or outattempted, and have combined for 58 goals and 86 assists (144 points) on the season, despite not being on the same line for all 82 games. Both Hall and Palmieri are having 50-point seasons and Zajac is having a really great year. He doesn’t get on the scoreboard too often but has had a solid year all-around and is doing all of the little things right. Hall has said he’s been playing injured so it might be beneficial to sit him out the rest of the way. However, this line better stick together next season.

2) The Rookies: what else do I need to say? We’re watching this team’s future. We’re watching them grow and fight and play and score and collect NHL firsts night in and night out, and they are fun to watch. They are young, they are fast, and they’re not afraid to drop the gloves (see: Miles Wood with six fighting majors this season).

3) Winning games (and more than just one at a time): the Devils have put together losing streaks but have been virtually unable to put together a decent winning streak here and there. They haven’t won back-to-back games since the beginning of February. Winning two games in a row would be a nice change of pace but because the Devils have lost 16 of their last 18 games, I’d settle for a single win. Forget draft position for a moment (because New Jersey is all but guaranteed a Top 5 pick): a win (or two) would be huge in terms of momentum and team confidence. 

4) Schneider/Kinkaid splitting starts: Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid will likely split goaltending duties through the rest of the season. There have been rumors that the Devils might look to trade Schneider (which, in all honesty, is a completely ludicrous notion) but those are baseless. However, upper management does have to take a long, hard look at their goaltending situation. Schneider will continue to carry the team. Is Kinkaid a good backup? Will he be exposed in the offseason in the Vegas expansion draft in favor of protecting a younger goalie in Scott Wedgewood?

5) Patrik Elias’s official retirement announcement: we know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of time. Elias has skated on his own this season and still has his stall in the locker room but has not publicly discussed what his future entails. He attended Sunday’s game at The Rock but has made no indication of making a return. He deserves to go out on his own terms, and if he does indeed retire, his jersey will be flying from the rafters soon enough. 

Did I miss anything? Let me know down below. Take a deep breath, the season’s almost over. 

3/28/17 Game Recap: Winnipeg Jets vs. New Jersey Devils

I genuinely don’t know what to say. Tonight’s game definitely should not have ended the way it did for multiple reasons. The New Jersey Devils (27-35-14) fall in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets (35-35-7) and get swept in the season series (0-1-1). Patrik Laine went five-hole and scored the lone goal in the shootout, giving him 34 on the season. Cory Schneider stopped 33 shots on 36 against (.917 save percentage); Connor Hellebuyck stopped 20 of 23 (.870 save %).

Time to get a little sciency. The multiverse theory introduces the concept of a multiverse, which consists of a hypothetical set of parallel universes. For every decision that we make, there is another version of ourselves that makes the opposite decision and there exists an infinite number of parallel universes. The reason I bring it up is because tonight’s game could have gone in several directions but did not. Every decision made on the ice affected the outcome.

Let’s start with a simple possibility: the Devils were outshot 36-23. Any time a team manages a measly 23 shots on goal, they probably don’t deserve to win, especially getting outshot by 13 by a team that isn’t that different from their own. The final score could have easily, easily been much more lopsided than it was, especially with the sharp shooters that Winnipeg has. In an alternate universe, the Jets win maybe 5-1, or 5-2, a score along those lines.

Another possibility: the Devils miraculously hold on to a 3-1 lead entering the third period. The Devils got a goal from Beau Bennett (his 6th) to tie things up at 1 in the first, a goal from Taylor Hall (his 19th) to take the lead, and a goal from Stefan Noesen (his 7th) to extend it. Nikolaj Ehlers had the lone Jets goal just 52 seconds into the first. The Devils should have been able to protect a 3-1 lead (and I already made my “the Devils blew a 3-1 lead” joke on Twitter) but could not; this has been a recurring theme this season. In another universe, the Devils actually did protect the lead and won the game 3-1.

A third possibility: the Devils’ main guys actually produce. Hall had a single shot on goal tonight and made it count (and I’ll discuss the big thing later because that honestly needs a post of its own) but he, along with his linemates Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri, didn’t have a great night. They were playing more defensively than offensively, which is fine, but for a line that has produced as much as they have together, I was expecting a little more. They combined for five shots on goal (three were Palmieri’s) and Zajac had the lone assist on Hall’s goal. John Moore actually led the team in SOG with four; John Quenneville and Beau Bennett, along with Palmieri, had three. But someone like Adam Henrique has been practically invisible for weeks and it really showed tonight; he had no shots on goal and the worst plus-minus differential out of the forward corps. He has just four points in his last 15 games and is going to end with the worst (!) season of his career (point-wise). He’s had a disappointing season and it doesn’t show signs of stopping any time soon. So imagine a universe in which the Devils’ main forwards actually produce or is that too unrealistic?

A fourth possibility: the Devils stop taking penalties, they just completely stop taking penalties, which isn’t very likely (or is it?). There’s a universe out there in which New Jersey has the best PIM in the league every season. The Devils did manage to kill all three Jets power play opportunities tonight but those shift the momentum, especially if you then proceed to give up a shorthanded goal on your own power play. The late-period penalties lately certainly haven’t done the team any favors so think of a universe in which the Devils don’t take penalties or have bad ones called against them, which brings me to my next point.

A fifth possibility: Hall rightfully gets awarded a penalty shot. The Devils have been the ones with penalty shots against and should occasionally have a call go their way. Here is the official rule:

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 10.36.11 PM

Tell me that the rule isn’t applicable in this case. If the refs have something against Hall, they need to make it look less obvious. If they have something against the Devils, well… I think we already know that they do. The refs have been atrocious overall this season but it feels like every call goes against New Jersey, for whatever reason. Hall should have had a penalty shot (he did crash into the boards but he’s okay!) so will the refs ever award Hallsy with a penalty shot? Signs point to no. Whether or not he would’ve scored remains to be seen but if he had, the game would have been over and the Devils would have won in OT and the shootout needn’t have happened.

But we live in the universe in which it did and the Devils have now lost 16 of their last 18 games. They do all the right things to win and keep games close but can’t actually find a way to win. With six games left, it’s hard to see the Devils finishing with any kind of momentum going into the offseason and carrying that into next season.

They’ll have two days off and will be back in action Friday night against the Islanders at Barclays Center; puck drops at 7:30PM.

3/28/17 Game Preview: Winnipeg Jets vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (27-35-13) and Winnipeg Jets (34-35-7) will finally face off in their second and final meeting this season, initially postponed due to snowstorm Stella exactly two weeks ago. They first met all the way back in November, a 3-2 Devils loss at the MTS Centre. The Jets outshot the Devils 29-25 and got goals from Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Patrik Laine, while Miles Wood and Nick Lappin scored for the Devils. Cory Schneider made 26 saves on 29 shots faced (.897 percentage); Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of 25 shots against (.920 save %). They went a combined 0/9 on the man advantage.

Both Schneider (20-24-10, 2.71 GAA, .911 save %) and Hellebuyck (23-19-4, 2.95 GAA, .906 save %) will likely be in net for their respective teams tonight. Keith Kinkaid did start for New Jersey on Sunday but he and Schneider will split starts down the stretch.

New Jersey had an off day yesterday and did not practice so any lineup notes will be announced when Coach Hynes speaks to the media. Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson both participated in full morning skate this morning but will likely remain out of the lineup again; Devante Smith-Pelly is nowhere near returning. Both Patrik Laine and Dustin Byfuglien will return to Winnipeg’s lineup.

The Devils announced this morning that they did sign UMass-Lowell senior defenseman Michael Kaplan to a two-year, entry-level contract. He had three goals and 30 points in 40 games played this season, a career high; he has 17 goals and 92 points in his four-year career. He will join the Devils and will probably get some playing time down the stretch.

Kyle Palmieri is two goals and two assists away from 100 in his career. Both he and Taylor Hall are the only Devils with 50 or more points this season. The Jets do have plenty of good scorers, especially in 18 year-old Calder Trophy-contender Patrik Laine. He did miss Sunday’s game against Vancouver but should be good to go tonight. Scheifele, Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and even defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are not to be overlooked either. The Jets have five skaters with more than 20 goals this season, and seven with more than 10.

The Devils did not have a single power play opportunity against Dallas but have an 18.6% success rate, good for 18th in the league; Winnipeg sits just below at 18.5%. New Jersey’s penalty kill sits 21st at 79.8% while the Jets are next-to-last in penalty kill percentage at 76.5%.

The Devils have dropped 15 of their last 17 games, including their seven of their last nine at home. They dropped both games in a back-to-back set this weekend: 3-1 against Carolina on Saturday, 3-2 in overtime against Dallas on Sunday. Texas native Blake Coleman scored his first NHL goal against his hometown team on Sunday while Travis Zajac scored the lone Devils goal on Saturday, his 14th of the season.

The Jets have won three of their last five, and eight of their last 13. They have also lost three of their last four on the road. They did win 2-1 on Sunday against the Canucks; Mathieu Perreault (game-tying goal) and Adam Lowry (game-winner) both scored. Michael Hutchinson stopped 28 of 29 shots against (.966 save %) to earn the win.

New Jersey was officially eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and Winnipeg is a whopping 13 points behind Calgary for the final wildcard spot in the West so tonight’s game doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of playoff picture. Both teams, however, will be hungry for a win and will be playing for pride. The weather will also be slightly nicer than what it would have been for the original Devils/Jets game but who’s complaining? Puck drops at 7PM.

3/26/17 Game Recap: Dallas Stars vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (27-35-13) drop their third straight game and split the season series with the Dallas Stars (31-33-11) as they fall in overtime. Tyler Seguin had the overtime winner just 20 seconds in, a power play goal and his 25th of the season. The Devils had a 1-0 lead heading into the third but were unable to build on it and protect it. Blake Coleman scored his first career NHL goal to get New Jersey on the board, and as an added bonus, it was against his hometown town (he was born in Plano, Texas). Ales Hemsky tied things up in the third with a power play goal (Adam Henrique went off for tripping) and that’s that.

The shot total was 32-21 in favor of the Stars and the score could have, and should have, been much more lopsided than it was but Keith Kinkaid stood on his head, made some huge saves, and kept his team in the game the entire night. He stopped 30 of 32 shots against, posting a .938 save percentage, and would have gotten the win if he had goal support. Kari Lehtonen also had an excellent night, stopping 20 of 21 shots (.952 save %).

Coleman had a few good chances as did rookies Miles Wood and Blake Pietila. They had a total of five shots on goal, and Pietila was 100% in the faceoff circle. Damon Severson had himself quite the physical night; he was more aggressive than he usually is and even got into a scrap with Curtis McKenzie. Steven Santini was also pretty aggressive tonight, totaling five hits. He did get called for slashing with 54 seconds left in regulation, a power play for Dallas that carried into overtime and allowed them to score. It was a simple mistake and he’s learning, it happens.

Captain Andy Greene did skate in his 700th NHL game, all of them with the Devils. His first NHL game was actually against the Atlanta Thrashers, who had Lehtonen in net that night.

The Devils only managed 21 shots on goal and no one had more than three (Wood, Santini, and Taylor Hall).

The Stars took advantage of their power play opportunities, scoring on half of them (2/4) while the Devils did not have a single opportunity tonight. Hemsky’s goal was unfortunate in the sense that Kinkaid would have stopped it had he not been screened by his own team (which seems to be a recurring theme this season, unfortunately).

But all in all, they played well in a game that was essentially meaningless against a team that’s been hot recently. New Jersey will be back in action Tuesday night in their rescheduled game against Winnipeg; puck drops at 7PM.

3/26/17 Game Preview: Dallas Stars vs. New Jersey Devils

Today’s your last day to visit the NHL Centennial Fan Arena in Championship Plaza before puck drops at 5PM as the New Jersey Devils (27-35-12) meet the Dallas Stars (30-33-11) for the final time this season. Both teams are no longer in playoff contention (the Devils were officially eliminated after their loss to Carolina last night) so the only thing they have left to play for is pride, and New Jersey desperately needs to get back in the win column. Forget the first round draft pick at this point; this season has to end on a good note.

Based on Dallas’ 9AM morning skate, Kari Lehtonen (19-22-7, 2.82 GAA, .904 save percentage) will be in net for them tonight. Because Cory Schneider played yesterday, Keith Kinkaid (7-11-2, 2.77 GAA, .913 save %) will likely get the start in net for the Devils. He last played Thursday night against the Leafs (saved 26/29 shots against, .897 save %), while Lehtonen had an excellent night against the Sharks on Friday.

The Stars won a 6-1 thrashing against San Jose and Adam Cracknell had the first hat trick of his career. Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg also had goals, while Lehtonen made 20 saves on 21 shots against (.952 save %). Dallas has won two of their last three overall (both wins coming against San Jose and the loss coming in a shootout to Chicago) and three of their last five.

The Devils fell 3-1 to the Canes last night, officially eliminating them from playoff contention (although we’ve all seen that coming for a while). Travis Zajac scored the lone goal on an assist for Taylor Hall, who reached the 50-point milestone this season (joining linemate Kyle Palmieri as the only two Devils with 50). They had plenty of scoring chances but could not find a way to actually score.

Michael Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson both skated with the team yesterday but won’t return to the lineup any time soon; Devante Smith-Pelly has not yet resumed skating. The Devils did dress 11 forwards and 7 defensemen last night so they may or may not do the same thing again this evening. Patrick Sharp will undergo season-ending hip surgery this Tuesday and will not be in the lineup; the Stars recalled center Jason Dickinson to take his place.

The two teams have not met since November 15th, a 2-1 overtime win for the Devils when they were on their Western Conference road trip. They outshot the Stars 33-24 and got a regulation goal from Damon Severson; Adam Henrique (!) had the overtime winner. Patrick Eaves scored for Dallas but is now with the Anaheim Ducks. Schneider made 23 saveson 24 shots against (.958 save %) en route to a win; Antti Niemi made 31 saves on 33 shots against (.939 save %), a good game for him.

Come out early if you’re going to the game to take part in the festivities; puck drops at 5PM.

3/25/17 Game Recap: Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils

Well, the New Jersey Devils are now 1-4 in games that I’ve attended so I’m either a bad luck charm or I pick bad games (or the better, more obvious answer: they’re just not that good?). The Devils (27-35-12) fall to the Carolina Hurricanes (33-27-13), who now sit just five points behind Boston for the final wildcard spot in the East (they defeated the Islanders 2-1 as well tonight). Tampa Bay and New York are both still ahead of them and the spot will likely come down to the wire at the very end of the season. But we do know that the Devils will watch the postseason from home for the fifth straight season: they were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their loss tonight.

It was a slow-moving, unaggressive game (unsurprisingly); the shot total was 28-27 in favor of Carolina. Sebastian Aho opened up the scoring in the second with his 22nd of the season. He is easily my favorite rookie this year and he’s a lot of fun to watch. Most of the rookie discussion centers around the Calder Trophy and guys like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Mitch Marner but there are many, many underrated and underappreciated rookies in the league, and Aho is one of them. The goal looked like it came off of a bad bounce (from where I was sitting) but the Devils got one back with three minutes to go in the second. Travis Zajac scored his 14th goal of the season and Taylor Hall had the lone assist. He’s having himself quite the season and has played really well in the past several weeks so it was nice to see him get rewarded on the score sheet. The third period rolled around and Aho and Jeff Skinner (game-winner) both scored goals to seal the win for the Canes.

Cory Schneider had a bit of a rough night and it showed. He was frustrated at the end when he was pulled for the extra skater and he banged his stick against the boards. He then went back out on the ice for a faceoff but then went right back to the bench. I haven’t seen his postgame interview yet but I heard it was brutal. He always completely blames himself for losses and I don’t think that’s fair. Yes, he can always make a few more saves but his team has to find ways to bail him out and actually give him some goal support. He’s had really good nights too and still loses because the team in front of him can’t send pucks into the net.

And I get that it’s not that simple but the Devils only managed 27 shots on goal. They had all of six SOG in the first period and it was a really rough start for them. Kyle Palmieri led the team in shots on goal with four, Hall and Steven Santini had three apiece. The score could have easily been much more lopsided had it not been for Schneider.

But the Devils also failed to score on either of their two power play opportunities (they did kill both of Carolina’s, including a 39-second 5-on-3). They did have a pretty good night in the faceoff circle, winning 58.8% of them. Zajac won 70.8% (!) of his, Blake Coleman and Joe Blandisi won 60% of theirs, and Adam Henrique won 50%.

I don’t know really know what to say other than what a disappointment. I wanted to see a good game; the wins and losses don’t really matter to me anymore and they haven’t mattered for a while. I want to see what the team is made of. I want to see the young kids get more minutes. I want to see an excited team, a passionate team, a fun team but I don’t and they’re exasperating to watch.

But it’s not all bad. The Hall-Zajac-Palmieri line is one that has to stick around next season. They play so well together and have been a force to be reckoned with on the ice. The chemistry is there and it shows every game. Hall’s assist tonight put him at 50 points on the season, joining Palmieri as the only two Devils with 50 this season.

The Devils need to learn how to play a full 60 minutes (along with a bunch of others thing, like sustaining pressure in the offensive zone) but until then, all we can do is watch and wait for the offseason.

They will play again tomorrow in the second half of a back-to-back; puck drops against Dallas at 5PM.

3/25/17 Game Preview: Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils

The NHL Centennial Fan Arena is in town this weekend as the New Jersey Devils (27-34-12) open up a three-game home stand against the Carolina Hurricanes (32-27-13). This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams. The Canes are looking for an important two points to keep their playoff hopes alive while the Devils are trying to get back in the win column. Carolina is also closing out a four-game road trip.

The Devils won all three previous meetings: the first in Carolina by a score of 4-1, the second at home 3-2, the third in Carolina 3-1. They were outshot 34-21 in the first game but Michael Cammalleri had a hat trick, which ended his scoring drought; those three goals were his first of the season. Andy Greene tacked on a goal for New Jersey as well, and Andrej Nestrasil scored for Carolina. Keith Kinkaid made 33 saves on 34 shots against (.971 save percentage) while Eddie Lack made 17 saves on 20 shots faced (.850 save %).

New Jersey won the second game in a shootout at home. They outshot the Canes in the second game 41-33, and got regulation goals from P.A. Parenteau and Nick Lappin. Jordan Staal and Klas Dahlbeck scored for Carolina. Parenteau and Taylor Hall scored in the shootout. Cory Schneider started this game and made 31 saves on 33 shots against (.939 save %); Cam Ward made 39 shots on 41 faced (.951 save %).

Again, Carolina outshot New Jersey 30-18 in the third game but Cammalleri (game-winner), Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri (empty-netter) scored goals for New Jersey, and Sebastian Aho (!) scored for Carolina. Schneider made 29 saves on 30 shots against (.967 save %); Ward made 15 saves on 17 shots against (.882 save %).

The Devils do have a back-to-back this weekend and Kinkaid started on Thursday against the Leafs so Schneider will indeed get the start tonight and Kinkaid will likely start tomorrow. The Canes may decide to start Lack tonight because they don’t play again until Monday at home against Detroit.

The Canes are coming off of an impressive win in Montreal, outscoring them 4-1 and outshooting them 23-22. Elias Lindholm, Lee Stempniak (2), and Jeff Skinner. They also had a really good night in the faceoff circle, and Lack made 21 saves on 22 shots against (.955 save %). The Devils fell to Toronto on Thursday, 4-2; John Moore scored both goals and Kinkaid made 26 saves on 29 shots against (.897 save %).

Cammalleri, who has four goals against the Canes this year, is still out with an injury, as are Jacob Josefson and Devante Smith-Pelly. Pavel Zacha boasts a six-game point streak with six assists. Palmieri is two goals and two assists away from 100 in his career. Lappin may still be with out with an injury so Blake Pietila will remain in the lineup. Hopefully Steven Santini is in for Dalton Prout on the blue line.

The Devils have gone 0/7 on the man advantage in the season series; the Canes have gone 1/9. Overall, the Devils have been slightly better in the faceoff circle but they better be up for another challenge tonight.

Surprisingly enough, the Canes have gone 6-0-3 in their last 9 games and have found themselves back in the playoff conversation, only five points behind the Bruins for the final wildcard spot. They’ve had some impressive wins in Montreal, in Florida, in New York (both Barclays and MSG), and at home against Nashville and Minnesota. On the contrary, the Devils have just two wins in their last 15 games. They had a much-needed 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers on Tuesday but were unable to build off of that on Thursday. Maybe the home crowd can put a little pep in their step.

I’ll be at the game tonight! The NHL Centennial Fan Arena opens at 2PM for season ticket holders and members, and at 4PM to the public but will close when puck drops at 7PM.

3/23/17 Game Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Well, that was Exhausting. I am currently drowning myself in ice cream. The New Jersey Devils (27-34-12) fall to the Toronto Maple Leafs (34-23-15) 3-2 in their season finale, going 1-2-0 this season against the Leafs. The Devils, surprisingly enough, outshot Toronto 32-30, including 14 shots in a very strong third period but their inability to play a complete 60 minutes has hurt them all season long and will continue to hurt them if they can’t find a way to play a whole game. It was a frustrating game to watch for the fans and undoubtedly a frustrating game to play for the team.

It was important for New Jersey to get on the board first and they did, with a goal from defenseman John Moore, who took a shot on net and didn’t expect it to go in (I didn’t either). Damon Severson and Kyle Palmieri had assists. Josh Leivo tied things up on the power play with assists from William Nylander and Auston Matthews, of course. He then scores to give Toronto the lead with his 21st of the season, assists going to Matthews, Nikita Zaitsev. James van Riemsdyk scores his 23rd to extend the Leafs’ lead on assists from Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak. Moore again gives the his team a fighting chance with his second goal of the night, Pavel Zacha and Taylor Hall getting assists on this one. Mike Babcock did challenge for goaltender interference but the call on the ice was upheld. The Devils put together a very strong third period but failed to score a goal, including on a 5-on-3 power play. Connor Brown sealed the win for the Leafs with an empty-netter. Nylander, Matthews, and Moore were rightfully the three stars of the night; Moore also led the team in shots on goal with five.

Both goaltenders got off to a rough start but in the end, Curtis McElhinney found his footing a little bit better than Keith Kinkaid did. Both of the first goals were ones that they probably wish they could take back. Kinkaid stopped 26 of 29 shots against (.897 save percentage); McElhinney stopped 30 of 32 shots faced (.938 save %).

Palmieri is the first player to reach 50 points this season; Hall is second at 48. In comparison, the Leafs have six players with at least 50 points but both teams are at different stages of a rebuild: the Devils at the beginning of one, the Leafs at the end. Zacha extends his point streak to six games with his assist tonight; he has six assists in that span. Nylander extends his point streak to 10 games, breaking a Leafs rookie record.

The Devils went 1/4 on the man advantage and failed to score on a lengthy 5-on-3; the Leafs went 1/2. They did have 40 hits and 13 blocked shots. They only won 40.7% of faceoffs, which hindered their offensive (and defensive) game tonight. Travis Zajac got into a scrum with Matt Hunwick, as did Palmieri and Miles Wood (shocker). He came to Palmieri’s defense, who took a high hit, and it was nice to see him step in like that.

The Leafs do hold on to third place in the Atlantic with 85 points on the season. Boston fell in regulation to the Lightning, 6-3, and stay in the second wildcard spot in the East with 82 points. The Devils move closer to official playoff elimination, although we all knew weeks ago that they weren’t making it anyway.

What bothers me is that they had such a strong game on Tuesday and in the few games before that (for the most part) but for every step forward, they take a step or two back. It was crucial to keep the momentum going and win some games down the stretch or at least play well but tonight was like watching a car crash in slow motion. As fans, we can complain all we want about bad refs and bad calls and missed calls but they don’t matter. If the team doesn’t play a full 60 minutes or if they don’t look like they want to play, they won’t win. It’s simple, really.

The Devils will get another shot on Saturday (I’ll be there!) when they take on the Canes, who only sit 5 points behind Boston with two games in hand. The NHL Centennial Fan Arena will be in town this weekend so come down and check it out; puck will drop at 7PM.