In the final tune-up game before the regular season, Cory Schneider stopped everything that came his way and helped the devils to a 3-0 win at home. The Devils finished the season 4-1-1 (not that that means anything) and look conservatively encouraging as they head into the games that mean something. Here you will find the recap and helpful links for the farewell to meaningless hockey.
Devils top Rangers 3-0
The Devils only modestly won the shot differential and it the game didn't feel like the Devils really pulled away much. It felt like most Devils games do with one exception: we finished on our chances. There were two deflections that most Devils fans are used to seeing soar wide that found their way into the back of the net. The other goal was one that was resting on the crease in front of the man with the 7th most goals in the history of the NHL.
As a short disclaimer, the Rangers did not play a wealth of starters. St Louis, Zuccarello, Staal, Mcdonaugh, Nash, Brassard, and Stepan all had the day off as the blueshirts try to make their final roster decisions. That being the case, the Devils didn't dominate possession the way one might have hoped, but did have their fair share of chances. The Devils scored one goal in every period and that was how the game felt. Both goalies played well each making multiple breakaway stops, the Devils slightly outplayed the Rangers in each period, and Schneider outplayed Cam Talbot.
The Opposition Opinion: Nothing right now, but you can read Blueshirt Banter's Gamethread if you want to know the enemy.
The Game Highlights: Nothing as of yet. NHL.com just as photos posted. I'll update this when I (or you guys) find the highlight package.
What did the goals look like?: I figure this section is necessary until I find highlights, though you can find the goal highlights next to the goals on NHL.com's Recap page linked above.
On the first one, Gionta took a shot that banked of the boards and came back to the blueline to Larsson. Larsson took a shot that Ruutu tipped at the faceoff circle and then it bounced around in Talbot's pads before sliding in ever-so-slowly. That wouldn't be the last we saw of Larsson or Gionta.
On the second goal, our first line finally rewarded for its puck movement. Cammalleri slid a pass to Larsson along the boards. Larsson made something out of nothing as he ripped one towards the net. It was blocked and the rebound dropped right in front of Jagr who calmly but quickly got the puck on his backhand and put it top shelf past the diving Talbot.
On the last goal, the Devils won the puck back to the point for an innocent wrist shot from Severson that Zubrus reached back across his body to deflect and he got just the right amount of the puck to disorient Talbot and bounce it past him into the net. It was almost exactly what a deflection is supposed to look like.
Did anyone stake a claim to a roster spot?: I thought Stephen Gionta played very well. I counted at least 4 scoring chances for the 4th line and he was directly involved in all of them. He continues to moxie his way into opportunities that he is unfortunately not athletic enough to cash in on. He also "drew" two penalties. One was with 0:46 left in the game though and the other was a bizarre play in which he attempted to jump over the 6'1'' Marek Hrvik. I don't know that Gomez sitting out today's game meant, but I think that with Boucher being sent down, it's clear that either Gio or Gomez will be centering the last line. The wingers will be be Damien Brunner and Tuomo Ruutu who most likely solidified his spot with his deflection goal and a solid game tonight.
Tootoo was once again mostly unnoticeable. Dano at one point said that he is about doing the little things right. If DeBoer has an extremely keen little-thing-eye then maybe Jordin Tootoo can help this team. I doubt it though and expect him to be first on the chopping block as we thin the heard.
Did Severson do enough to get regular season time?: I actually thought Severson played an awful defensive game today. He was way out of position on at least two Rangers passes that lead to shots, he got beaten by Chris Mueller for a bad breakaway, and I've got 4 places in my game notes that say a shot happened because Severson failed to either by break up a pass, block a shot, or just be in the right position. It felt like every time the Rags had a chance, Severson was out there. Offensively he played well and got a nice assist, but as evidenced with Gelinas last year, that's not gonna be enough to get a regular role on this team. I think you'll see him this year, but he's defender #8 behind Harrold. Harrold is solidified as the #7 defender in my opinion, in part due to a great game from Larsson tonight.
Discipline / Special Teams?: John mentioned looking out for this in his preview so I figured I'd address it. Andy Greene committed a disappointingly boneheaded high-sticking penalty that made us kill off a double-minor. Salvador, Merrill and Larsson led the charge on our penalty kill along with Henrique and Elias. Ryan Clowe, in addition to continuing to look slow, at times dragging down Ryder/Henrique, got called for cross-checking and also almost got into a fight which is especially stupid since he had a concussion literally 1 week ago. The Zajac-Jagr-Cam line got a lot of powerplay time with Gelinas, Merill, and Severson and they look good. Jagr's creativity will finally go to some good use with trigger-happy Cammalleri (that's really fun to say out loud) on the line.
Speaking of which, how are the top 3 lines looking?: Unlike the Rangers, the Devils played all three of their top lines tonight. Though DeBoer made numerous references to the top line still dating, I thought today they looked really intimidating. Travis Zajac whiffed on a wide open shot again at one point, but they showed better chemistry than they have all preseason.
The second line I don't remember seeing at all to be perfectly honest other than the gorgeous ... GORGEOUS Dainius Zubrus deflection. Martin Havlat has been a non-factor to me thus far.
On the third line, Michael Ryder was regularly creating shots, leading the team in Corsi differential (an absurd 15-4, CF-CA line), Adam Henrique had a couple scoring chances I would have liked to see him put home, and Ryan Clowe hasn't done a thing. He looked slow, made bad decisions, and won't stop instigating. The last 2 games have very slightly (it is still preseason) tempered my expectations for Clowe this year.
How good was Schneider?: Good. It was a shutout and it wouldn't have been if plenty of other NHL goalies had been between the pipes. One thing I've always loved about Schneider is how he is the absolute antithesis of Marty. He makes difficult saves look easy with his exceptional positioning. Today he was hung out to dry on a couple occasions and answered the call every time. Granted, the only clear NHL-caliber forward to get a shot on net was Chris Kreider. I probably would have been much angrier about Severson's play tonight if Schneider hadn't kept bailing him out.
Any clarity on the defensive pairings?: Nah, not really. Greene played with Damon Severson so we still don't know who will replace Fayne. If we replaced Severson with Marek Zidlicky like we will against the Flyers on Thursday, then we would have our two best defensemen from last year playing on the top line together. I would like to see Merrill with Greene on the top pairing. I don't care what that does to the rest of our pairings because I've seen very developed and promising 2nd-year blue-liner who can handle some serious minutes. According to Hockey Analysis, last year Gelinas was Larsson's most common partner. The leaves the odd couple of Zidlicky and Salvador. Okay nevermind I still have no idea what's going to happen and I've just wasted a paragraph of all of your lives.
Three Stars?: Their three stars were Severson, Larsson, and Schneider. I guess this makes sense since Severson's mistakes didn't amount to any goals against us, but he still shouldn't be making them. I would switch him out for Jagr who generated about three lethal opportunities and put one home. But Jagr will have plenty of chances and this may be the last we see of Severson for a while so I uderstand.
Your thoughts?: What did you think about the Devil's final game? Any last minute predictions for out boys in red? Who made a case for themselves tonight and what changes do you think will be made by Tuesday as we get our roster down to 23 players. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.