My post from earlier today was about tanking and the very first reason as to why I don't think this team is bad enough to tank is Cory Schneider. I wrote that he was one of the biggest pluses on the team. Any doubters, skeptics, or haters of that reality only need to see tonight's game as to why. The New Jersey Devils beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 and the biggest reason why was #35.
The Devils were simply outplayed by the Hurricanes in every period. They got out-attempted and out-shot in the first and second period. Carolina scored first when their pressure yielded Justin Faulk firing a strong shot past two bodies and the goalie for the game's first goal. The Devils got two in response and against the run of play. A turnover by Carolina allowed Scott Gomez to get the puck into their corner. He looked up, flung a perfect pass to Jaromir Jagr, who one-timed it past Cam Ward. The Devils got an abbreviated power play late in the second because the Canes had six men on the ice during a power play. In the dying seconds of the period, Jagr wrapped the puck around and Adam Henrique popped in the rebound. Other than the scores, it was an ugly forty minutes featuring bad zone exits, several icings, and a myriad of dumb decisions in their own end of the rink, never mind in the neutral or offensive zones. With the Canes down one and with a whole period left to play, there was a real concern that it was going to get worse for New Jersey.
To call it a miserable third period would be putting it lightly. The Devils got only one shot on net in the third period; a backhander that was no issue for Cam Ward. That happened with 3:36 left to play. The Devils only attempted three shots on net all period and Tuomo Ruutu even took a dangerous boarding call in one of the rare moments the play was beyond the red line. Carolina absolutely shredded the Devils' skaters. They put up 46 attempts on net. 46! They had 48 in the first two periods combined! Carolina may rue their accuracy, but there's no shame in putting up 17 shots on net. New Jersey played it like a penalty kill, which only exacerbated the pressure as the Canes kept coming at them over and over - whenever they didn't just straight up ice the puck.
Oh, and adding to the degree of difficulty, the Devils shortened the bench. Dainius Zubrus apparently got hurt while Jordin Tootoo and Eric Gelinas were stapled to the bench. Not that one would have wanted Tootoo or even Gelinas (he was terrible tonight) out there but that's a lot of tired Devils doing very little and contributing to their hideously bad zone exit attempts tonight. That's also why defensive non-stalwarts like Jagr, Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, and Scott Gomez kept getting shifts, almost entirely in their own end in the third. Only so many guys can be kept off the ice.
Only Cory Schneider came to play all three periods. He stopped 39 out of 40, he had to react to over 80 attempts, and the one he didn't get, he didn't really see. Schneider was somehow not named one of the three stars of the night by [looks up Game Summary] 99.9 The Fan. Anyone who would deny that did not see this game. They did not see the Devils skaters look like boys among men save for the titan in the net bailing them out, over and over. Schneider doesn't score the goals but without his stupendous play tonight, the Devils would have been blown out of PNC Arena by the Hurricanes. Again, he's the reason why this team isn't abjectly terrible night-in, night-out.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Log | The Natural Stat Trick Corsi Charts
The Opposition Opinion: Please visit Canes Country for their viewpoint on this game. One where Carolina arguably deserved at least a point from how they played.
The Game Highlights: Jagr got a milestone, Schneider stopped nearly everything, here's the video from NHL.com:
Fifth: Jaromir Jagr put up a lot of what little offense the Devils generated tonight. He had five shots on net out of eight attempts. He scored his 710th career goal. He is now seven behind Phil Esposito for fifth all-time. His wraparound that created the rebound Henrique put in was his 1,772nd career point. That put him past Marcel Dionne and he's now the fifth all-time leading scorer in NHL history. And he did it all in his 1,500th career game. He sure had himself one. He was admittedly sore for any eyes with sight on defense, but he provided the plays that made the difference on the scoreboard. That deserves something.
First Points: Scott Gomez contributed his first two points since joining the Devils. His pass to Jagr was excellent. His secondary assist was, well, a secondary assist. Still, the points help justify the decision to sign him. He was doing OK tonight until the third happened. That can be said for all of the skaters, really.
I will say this: I loved it that he actually and specifically called out being unable to make the first pass out of their own zone as one of the things they were struggling with in his post-second-period interview. Someone on the team finally said. Unfortunately, he and the rest of the team didn't do anything about it as evidenced by the third period where they got out attempted 48-3.
Players Coming in Squalls: It would be shorter for me to note which Canes didn't bring it right to the Devils over and over again tonight. So I will. Defenseman Michal Jordan was the only Cane without a shot on net. Chris Terry didn't do much. And that's really that.
Seriously, Jiri Tlusty was in New Jersey's end of the rink so much, I half expected him to be like a coach in practice just giving out directions. He was superb along with Andrej Nestrasil and Victor Rask. Jeff Skinner put a ton of rubber on Schneider; five shots out of 12 attempts is something akin to what Ovechkin does. Nathan Gerbe played big. Faulk, the lone goal scorer for the home team, just brought it from everywhere. Their whole defense was exceptional at keeping the Devils' mostly-soft zone exits in play. John-Michael Liles, Jay Harrison, and Andrej Sekera were studs at it. Even Ron Hainsey, somehow the only Cane to not be positive in Corsi at evens tonight, has two shots and five attempts. And I didn't even bring up their ace, Eric Staal - who had himself a nice game.
The Devils cannot have nights like this where they have been so thoroughly dominated. I admittedly feel a little bad for the Canes, they absolutely deserved something out of tonight's game. Thankfully for fans like me and the Devils, Schneider's greatness was on full display tonight.
Sit: Gelinas was hideously poor in his own end in what little ice time he got tonight. Therefore, DeBoer chose to play Peter Harrold and Jon Merrill more in the third. Do not be surprised if Seth Helgeson draws in for him tomorrow.
C'mon Son: Martin Havlat played 16 minutes and not a single second with Patrik Elias. Of course, Elias was hurt so that wasn't possible. But given how bad those two have been together, maybe he would be better with other linemates. He eventually moved up to fill in for Zubrus with Gomez and Jagr. Before then (and during), Havlat showed that he is - still not at all smart in his own end of the rink and doesn't create all that much going forward. In a night full of abysmal attempts at clearing the puck (and when they did, icing it and/or giving it right back to the Canes was the common result), he managed to have the most memorably bad. He attempted a spin-o-rama backhander in his own zone. It went right to the Cane at the blueline. That was one crummy moment out of an otherwise ineffective night. Sigh.
Schneider Deserves A Night Off: 94 total attempts against, 40 shots against, and getting a barrage for large stretches at a time before nearly twenty straight minutes in the third period. He needs a night off just as a reward.
Your Take: The Devils got a win they did not deserve thanks to Cory Schneider. What was your reaction when the final whistle blew? What in the world can they do to be anywhere close to better against Chicago tomorrow night? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thank you for reading.