A new year and a new focus in net for the New Jersey Devils. Those that wanted Cory Schneider to finally be given the majority of games got what they wanted in January. Not at first, but ultimately, Schneider was the main man minding the crease in the first month of 2014. He made eleven appearances and ten starts. He played in consecutive games in back-to-backs. At the time, #35 was getting more minutes.
What's more is that he deserved it. Schneider was cold in December, but he rebounded excellently in January. Schneider posted an overall save percentage of 94.2% over the eleven games he was in net. That's just a bit (0.01%) better than his excellent play in November. He also managed to concede fewer goals in more games compared to December. Schneider was beaten just sixteen times in ten non-shutout games; fifteen if you only include those scored during the run of play. Of course, did the Devils thrive with Schneider stopping so many shots? From a record standpoint, sort-of given a record of 5-2-3. Given the high save percentage, the goalie surely did his job. Let's take a closer look at the goals that did get past him.
About the Review
For those of you who are unaware of what I'm doing, this is part of my annual month-by-month review of the goals against each Devils goaltender in each game - no shootouts - they played in.
I am focusing on identifying the "soft goals." Those goals against that should have been stopped by the goaltender. Here's how I am defining a soft goal: The goalie must have seen the shot coming; the shot was not deflected or change otherwise in motion; the goalie was in position to actually make the stop; and/or the goaltender made an uncharacteristic mistake that led to the goal. If the goal allowed qualifies, then I deemed the goal as "soft." In fact, the very last trait alone can make the difference in what is and is not a soft goal. Breakaways are done on a case-by-case basis; there I usually look to see whether the goalie has at least made an effort.
In addition to that, I look for other events on the goal allowed. I identify where Schneider was beaten on the goal, relative to Schneider's location. I note the game situation: even strength, power play, and shorthanded. I record whether the goal-scoring shot was a scoring chance. Any shot - not a deflection - from the crease out to the dots up to the top of the circles counts as a chance; anything outside of that does not. If I'm not certain, I will go against calling it a chance. Lastly, I denote any particular skater errors by a Devil on the goal allowed. I assign a skater error by name under "Errors" if the player did something significantly wrong that led to the goal such as a turnover or not covering their man. It's arguable that all goals allowed have an error or some kind; these are for the egregious mistakes that are made. I'm going to be more strict in calling them out. It also doesn't absolve the goaltender for a soft goal against.
Lastly, I have provided links to the video I looked at for each goal from NHL.com. This way if you want to see these for yourself and come to your own conclusion, then you can. These links will auto-play the video, so be forewarned when you click on them.
The 16 Goals Against Cory Schneider in January 2014
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video||S.E.||SC?||Sit.|
|1/4||40||Off the blocker||Ennis goes for a wraparound that gets stopped. Rebound comes out in front for Moulson to put it off the blocker and in.||No||Link||
|1/4||41||Past left shoulder||Ott curls the puck by the left post. Rebound comes out past Ott, D'Agostini backhands the rebound high into the net.||No||Link||--||Yes||PP|
|1/11||42||Past the glove||Bjugstad gains the zone and passes it left to Fleischmann. Fleischmann passes it back to Bjugstad, who re-directs the puck to the top right corner.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/12||43||Past the left side||Kessel misses on a shot, Van Reimsdyk's jam goes through Schneider's right pad out to slot. Bozak slides puck into right side of net.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/12||44||Past the blocker||Franson's long shot from the point is stopped. Van Reimsdyk picks up short rebound and puts it past Schneider's right.||No||Link||--||Yes||PP|
|1/16||45||Above right shoulder||Bordealeau wins puck behind the net. Passes it to slot to an open O'Reilly. One-timer hits back of the net.||No||Link||Gionta||Yes||ES|
|1/21||46||Above the blocker||Steen's one-timer is blocked in the slot by Greene. Puck bounces left for Steen to one-time his rebound above the blocker.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/24||47||Through the legs||Erskine fires a wrister from the right point. The rising shot is tipped down by Chimera; bounces through the 5-hole.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/26||48||Past the left shoulder||Stepan is awarded a penalty shot. He goes in and beats Schneider high straight up.||Yes||Link||Zajac||No||PS|
|1/28||49||Above the right shoulder||Schwartz finds Steen above the slot. Steen fires a high shot past Volchenkov and Schneider.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/28||50||Between glove and pad||Bouwmeester fires a snap shot from left point. Morrow tips it down enough to go below the glove and into the net.||No||Link||--||No||PP|
|1/30||51||Through the legs||Nichushkin uses the ref as a pick and passes it to Seguin for a one-timer. Shot is blocked; Benn buries the loose puck with a backhander.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/30||52||Over a down Schneider||Chaos in front of the net, puck squirts out right to an open Seguin. Rifles it over a down Schneider.||No||Link||--||Yes||45|
|1/31||53||Over left shoulder||Schneider loses puck behind net, but recovers. Puck gets out to Weber at right point and fires a rocket just under crossbar.||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/31||54||On Schneider's left flank||Josi's shot from the left point is blocked and deflects across the slot to the right. It goes right to an open Legwand, who puts it into the empty net.||No||Link||--||No||56|
|1/31||55||Over the glove||Wilson drives the puck to slot, loses it but it bounces back to the trailing Weber. Weber settles and fires a high shot to top left corner.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||ES|
There are two new situations for this month. The first is 45, which stands for 4-on-5. The end of the 1/30 game in Dallas had matching minors handed out. As Dallas was down a goal late, they pulled their goalie. So it was even strength, but the Devils were down four skaters to five. The second is PS, which stands for penalty shot. That was the lone mark against Schneider's relief effort in that horrid Stadium Series game in the Bronx. That was the one goal against that wasn't in the run of play. I didn't think much of it, more on that in a bit.
Here's the usual summary of the location data, not included in the big chart, here's the location of all goals allowed from Schneider in December. Again, these are all relative to Schneider's location; his left is left and his right is right.
It was a month where goals came up from up high; a remarkable ten out of sixteen. Plenty of put backs or just hammered shots that hit the upper part of the net.
As one would expect from a 94.2% save percentage performance in a month, there weren't many soft goals allowed. I counted three and it's arguable that it should be two. The first one was the penalty shot, GA #48. Allow me to delve into that for a bit. First, the video included the play that led to the penalty shot call. I felt it was a bit weak, but I tagged Travis Zajac for the error for creating the situation. Second, I wavered on whether to include this goal at all. I don't look at shootouts and a penalty shot is essentially a shootout situation in regulation. However, it counted in regulation, it counted against Schneider's standard stats, and so I counted it. Derek Stepan really didn't make much of a move, Schneider was too late, and so I termed it "soft." He could have done better. That said, the game was already 3-6 bad guys so as far as goals allowed go, it was just a poor consolation.
The other two came in the final game of the month, the only one where Schneider would concede more than two goals all month, 1/31 at Nashville. GA #51 was an easy call. Schneider lost the puck behind the net. The puck got flung back to Shea Weber. While Schneider got back into the crease, he was low the whole way and not set at all. Weber saw the upper part of the net and drilled one in. Even if Schneider was prepared for it, a long blast that was initially created by one's own turnover should be a mark against the goalie. GA #53, the overtime winner, featured a poorly defended 2-on-2 and Weber getting the shot off a bounce. Seriously, Colin Wilson didn't drop it back, it came off Marek Zidlicky's skate while trying to go forward. But it was a clean shot and Schneider just guessed wrong on it. I thought about GA #49, but decided against it as it appeared Anton Volchenkov was somewhat in the way.
Nevertheless, only three soft goals out of sixteen is a pretty good result. Nothing bad really bad went in until the end of the month and two of the three was limited to only one game - a game where Schneider really was good save for the goals. The end of the month also featured what would be a really annoying time of the season for the New Jersey Devils fans: the last minute equalizer. Back to back games featured an extra-man situation where the opposition would steal a point. The final results were split, but still a let down. Neither - GAs #52 and #54 - could be pinned on Schneider. The former was the result of a loose puck spitting out of chaos to an open man. The latter was on the flank, which came out of the result of a blocked shot. The lesson then is the same as now: get that extra goal to avoid having to hope a bad bounce doesn't wreck a one-goal win. I'll continue to monitor it for the rest of this year's review; but I do think it's only happened to Schneider three times now.
Speaking of events, I noted far fewer skater errors in this month. Oh, sure, there's evidence of lax coverage on these goals. Like James van Reimsdyk being totally open on GA #44. Or Tyler Bozak on GA #43. Or Matt D`Agostini on GA #41. But the purpose of the skater error is to highlight someone who made an egregious mistake; one that if it wasn't done, it would've prevented the goal. I only counted three other non-penalty-shot-inducing errors. I gave one each to Bryce Salvador and Adam Henrique for both doing little on GA #40. Yes, the goal came off a rebound but had either did anything to Matt Moulson camping out in front, then I doubt that goal would have happened. The other one was to Stephen Gionta on GA #45. While Reid Boucher was the closest to the goal scorer, Ryan O`Reilly, who was hanging out open in the slot, he was several feet away. Whenever the defense are behind the goal line, usually the center picks up that area or communicates to a winger to cover the slot. Gionta just followed the puck instead of his responsibilities and didn't make that communication as evidenced by no one doing anything in front. Hence, I tagged him there. Elsewhere, I didn't see anyone doing anything really wrong; but I defer to you all in case I miss something.
In January, a majority of the goals against came from that scoring chance area: 11 out of 16. Technically it's 11 out of 15 since I didn't count the penalty shot as a scoring chance. Plenty of the shots that did get past Schneider did come from second efforts and loose pucks from attempts gone awry. For example, GA #46 featured a hard-looking one-timer by Alex Steen blocked only for it to go to a place where Steen could get it and one-time it in. While no one likes giving up goals, these were far preferable to just guessing wrong on a shot. If the numbers weren't stark enough, the kinds of goals conceded also show that Schneider was clearly the best goaltender on the New Jersey Devils. Hence, he got more minutes than he did in prior months and that would continue into February. No question that this was a big rebound from December.
In the meantime, I want to know your take. What do you think of Schneider's performance in January? Would you agree that he was very good throughout the month? Were there any skater errors I missed, or were they truly better in January? Which of the goals allowed did you like the least? Should Stepan really been awarded a penalty shot? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the goalie's performance in January in the comments. Thank you for reading.