Alright, so before we jump on the referees and talk about a game that was not fun to watch (and I watched on mute for most of the time), the team is only two years into a rebuild. It’ll take time. It’s fine. Enjoy the positives but don’t hyperfixate on the negatives. Let’s begin.
The New Jersey Devils (26-33-12) narrowly avoid being shut out by Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets (46-18-6) for the third straight time this season with a goal that probably shouldn’t have been a good goal. Lukas Sedlak, Boone Jenner (2), and Brandon Dubinsky all scored goals for the Jackets; Sedlak and Jenner both had shorthanded goals (Sedlak’s was a penalty shot), Dubinsky’s was also a penalty shot, and Jenner’s second goal of the night was an empty-netter. Columbus has punched a ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2014 and only the third time in franchise history so congrats to them. With 11 games to play, they’ve already exceeded their point total from last year by 24.
Bobrovsky has been nothing but excellent for Columbus all season long and made 35 saves (.972 save percentage) today. Cory Schneider, making his first start since being pulled against Arizona last Saturday, stopped 23 shots on 26 against (.885 save %). He had a bit of a rough game but the loss doesn’t fall entirely on his shoulders; the Devils did dress seven defensemen today.
The Devils did outshoot the Jackets 36-27 but didn’t have much to show for it; taking 36 shots on goal, however, is a huge positive from today’s game. Not scoring enough because of excellent goaltending is one issue; not scoring because you’re not shooting the puck is another issue entirely. New Jersey’s only goal came from Adam Henrique, who now has 19 on the season. He did play left wing today on a line with Joseph Blandisi and Beau Bennett, who both had several good looks at the net today as well. Taylor Hall led the team in shots on goal with five, John Quenneville (!) had four, and a handful of others had three. The team did have a very good night at 5-on-5.
I’m done discussing the atrocious refereeing in the NHL so you won’t see any more of that from now until the end of the season. We can talk about those penalty shots all you want but that won’t change the outcome. There are some fun facts, however. This is the third time in NHL history that a team has scored two penalty shot goals in the same game; last time came in 2015 (Philadelphia, I believe). New Jersey is also only the second team in NHL history to face three penalty shots in a two-game span; the first team was the New York Americans, back on December 11th and 13th, 1934. Yes, you read that correctly. But it is what it is.
The kids looked good again tonight, which is all that really matters at this point. Quenneville had four SOG, three hits, and a blocked shot. Blake Coleman had two shots and three hits. Blandisi and Stefan Noesen had a pair of shots and a hit. Damon Severson had a shot; Steven Santini had a hit in his first game back. Miles Wood and Nick Lappin were both out today with injuries. But overall, the kids looked more comfortable (and Quenneville talked about that postgame). The end of the season is just about them getting valuable NHL experience. The team really has nothing to lose.
But the Devils will be back in action against the Rangers Tuesday night; puck drops at 7PM.