The New Jersey Devils (28-40-14) drop their season finale to the Detroit Red Wings (33-36-13) in the last ever game at Joe Louis Arena. This is the first time they finish with 40 regulation losses since 1988-89 when they had 41 (27 wins, 12 ties). They have 70 points, tied with Arizona for third last in the league; Colorado sits at the bottom with 48, Vancouver has 69 points but plays Edmonton tonight. If they win, New Jersey would sit second last because Arizona has two more regulation wins (and losses).
The Devils were outscored 4-1 and outshot 35-25. Cory Schneider picked up his 27th regulation loss of the season (he had 31 in 2014-15 with nine more games played); he stopped just 31 of 35 shots against (.896 save %) while Jimmy Howard stopped all but one of 25 shots faced (.960 save %) to earn the win. Riley Sheahan scored two goals, his first since exactly a year ago today, and Tomas Tatar and Henrik Zetterberg, in his 1,000th NHL game, tallied goals as well. John Moore ruined Howard’s shutout bid in the third with his 12th goal of the season, a career high for him. Taylor Hall did score but the goal was disallowed because the referees dictated that there was a “distinct kicking motion”, which I didn’t see but whatever. It’s not surprising that yet another call goes against New Jersey, especially on the road in a game that means a lot to the home team.
The Devils were abysmal in the faceoff circle, winning just 38% of them. They failed to score on any of their three power play opportunities, and killed all but one of Detroit’s three power plays. They had a rough first period but seemed to find their footing for the most part. Michael Cammalleri (surprise, surprise) led the team in shots on goal with five; he picked up his first point in nearly two months with an assist on Moore’s goal. There were a ton of defensive lapses (Damon Severson was a healthy scratch!).
Severson and Pavel Zacha won’t be sent down to Albany (AHL) for the rest of the regular seasons and (hopefully) the playoffs but Miles Wood, Blake Coleman, Ben Thomson, and Joe Blandisi will either get sent down tonight or tomorrow morning. The Albany Devils don’t play until Wednesday but if it’s playoff hockey you’re looking for, watch Albany if you can and get a glimpse into the team’s future. Any playoff experience is better than none! The OHL playoffs have also started if you’re paying attention to those!
But going off of that point, the kids looked good as they have all season long. There are mistakes (and a ton of huge mistakes) but this is a learning experience. I really liked what I saw from Michael Kapla in the few games that he played, and from Ben Thomson as well. Thomson, in particular, has a strong physical presence and he makes it felt on the ice.
And with that, the 2016-17 season comes to a close. It was a rough one but it was fun while it lasted. I would rather watch bad hockey than no hockey, and I hate the offseason but this year’s brings some excitement. There will plenty to talk about. The Devils have eight free agents (both restricted and unrestricted) that they’ll have to at least consider bringing back, and most of them are crucial parts of the team going forward. They have 11 (!) picks in this year’s draft; whether they use all of them or use them as trade chips remains to be seen. GM Ray Shero might make another Palmieri or Hall-type trade if the past two offseasons are any indication. Oh, and then there’s the little thing called the Vegas Expansion Draft. So stick around. There will be a few recap posts these next couple of weeks (and maybe a look at my playoff bracket(s)!), as well as a ton of material going forward. I have expansion draft predictions (as in, who teams will protect) for every single NHL team in progress. It’ll be fun.
P.S. tonight’s octopi count ended at 31, I believe.