Cory Schneider rules. While goaltenders don't score goals and Cory Schneider didn't score any of the three the New Jersey Devils put into the net, Schneider was easily the most important player on the ice. Yes, Mike Cammalleri scored two goals on his only shots of the game to create a 2-0 lead in the first period. Yes, Erik Karlsson was seemingly ever-present with thirty-three minutes of ice time and swallowing up clearance attempts to keep the attack going for the Ottawa Senators. Yes, other players were notable for good and bad reasons. Tonight, the Devils' 3-0 victory over the Senators was largely the responsibility of Cory Schneider.
Here are a few numbers to know. The Senators took 36 shots on net. The Senators attempted 76 shots on net, with 24 blocked and 16 missing the net. At even strength play alone, the Senators put up 58 attempts and 26 shots. That's a large volume of work for any goaltender. It may have felt larger than that given how little the Devils put up in response. The Devils put up a mere 32 attempts on net and 21 shots on net - only 17 attempts and 11 shots in the second and third periods. It's even uglier at even strength with 22 attempts total and 15 of those getting on net. Score effects are real, but there's a fine line between giving up plenty due to being up two goals and being dominated. For many stretches of this game, Ottawa was in full control. In short, Ottawa successfully threw everything and the kitchen sink at Schneider for the better part of forty minutes on top of a decent first period. Schneider denied it all.
Ottawa was just fantastic at moving the puck around New Jersey's end of the rink. It made some of their 5-on-5 shifts look like power plays at times as the Senators moved all around above the circles. A good number of their shots and shooting attempts came from distance with the hope of either A) getting one through traffic, B) getting a deflection or a bounce, or C) creating a rebound. C happened many times, resulting in plenty of scrambling Devils and Senators to find the loose puck by the crease. The Devils were partially good and partially fortunate they kept picking them up to deny Ottawa an easy chance at goal. Schneider was completely good at stopping the ones he faced straight up and followed the play very well. I don't think he was really caught out of position. That meant he was able to stop all of what Ottawa threw at him. That was clear to me as it was a sharp contrast to the rest of the Devils tonight.
The rest of the Devils, well, they suffered and then they continued to suffer. The first period was pretty good. They attacked, they drew three calls, and Mike Cammalleri put up a brace with two great shots. The first was off a breakaway - created by Kyle Palmieri forcing Erik Karlsson to turn it over - to close out their second power play. The second was just a beautifully placed high shot that beat Andrew Hammond clean. Then Ottawa tilted the ice and didn't look back all that much. Every unit had their own long shifts on defense with plenty of denied zone exits, chasing of the play, and the occasional player standing around, presumably lost amid all of the action. As you'd expect in a game where the team got out-attempted 22-58 at evens and 32-76 overall, most of the team was deep into the red from a possession standpoint. They didn't do a whole lot to really help themselves out. Selling out for blocks and trying to clear loose pucks are good, but it isn't when the Senators kept coming at waves.
Ultimately, score effects and poor play meant that the game really came down to whether Ottawa could beat Schneider. Could they get one past him. Obviously, they did not. The goalie was under a lot of pressure and he came out perfect. He should've been the first star of the game by tonight's attending media. Per the Game Summary, that's TSN1200. You should feel shame for not doing so. And for not naming Schneider the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and so forth. Schneider absolutely ruled tonight. As pleased as I was to see Lee Stempniak clear the puck, for one, and have that clearance go into the empty net, for another, I wanted the shutout by the end. I wanted Schneider to get what he absolutely earned. And he did. What a way to end 2015. May the Devils' resolve to support #35 better than they did.
The Opposition Opinion: Trevor Shackles at Silver Seven has this recap, noting that this was the second time the Senators got shutout this season. Heh.
The Game Highlights: Two lovely goals by Cammalleri and a whole lot of #35 putting in very good work. See it all in these highlights at NHL.com:
Let's Get Something Straight, Hockey Media & Fans: This may be it's own post in the future, but this game made this thought I have really come to the forefront of my mind. The claim is that the Devils trap opposing teams into a slow, offensive-less crawl. That maybe what the old Devils teams did. This season's team couldn't come close to what they did. This game was a perfect example. The trap is a neutral zone trap. The neutral zone was absolutely free all night long. Ottawa took full advantage of it to more than double-up the Devils in shooting attempts and out-shot them by fifteen.
A trap would have been fantastic for the Devils tonight. It would have provided some relief for Schneider. It would have provided some help for the defense instead of getting steamrolled. And when it really works, it helps create offense for the Devils. That thing the Devils only had spurts here and there of in the second and third periods. Yet, there was no trap. There cannot be a functional trap in place and then have the trapping team get steamrolled in the run of play as the Devils did for a majority of this game. If you or a reporter or a broadcaster or someone who just espouses that the Devils trapped Ottawa, then honestly ask them if they saw this game. Because I saw this game and the claim really makes no sense to me. Not in a game like tonight's and not for a team that been sitting on the wrong end of possession all season. Nothing's more boring than just repeating a cliche in the face of evidence stating or suggesting otherwise.
Now if the claim was that the Devils tried to trap tonight and failed, then I'd be more receptive to that.
A Quarter's Worth of Special Teams: Tonight's game featured 7:52 of ice time for the Devils' power play and 7:12 for the Senators' power play. Most of the Devils' power plays came in the first period. Chris Wideman tripped Kyle Palmieri. The Devils didn't do much. Shortly thereafter, Kyle Turris held Bobby Farnham. The Devils got a several shots on net and just before it ended, Palmieri forced a turnover by Karlsson after a defensive faceoff win, and Cammalleri broke away and beat Hammond blocker side. About a minute later, Chris Neil went into Chris Neil Mode and jumped at least a foot in the air to body check Sergey Kalinin. That was called and the Devils didn't do much with that power play. While the Devils got a goal, the lack of offense generated left something to be desired. Fortunately, Cammalleri was able to double the Devils' lead later in the first.
Of course, three straight power plays were bound to be answered by whistles against the Devils and they were. Andy Greene tripped up Zach Smith and lost his stick near the end of the first period. Shortly thereafter, Damon Severson had a poor shift and hooked Alex Chiasson before hitting him into the end boards. The Devils withstood a storm of attempts but survived. Later in the second period, Karlsson got frustrated. He attempted a punch on Stephen Gionta. Bobby Farnham tried to regain the zone, he dumped it in, and he jumped to dodge Karlsson sticking out his butt for a hit. Karlsson's rear clipped Farnham, he took a tumble, and Farnham got whistled for embellishment. I think that was a dubious call, especially since Farnham was clipped. The Devils still had to spend most of those two minutes in their end, hoping the Sens wouldn't crack Schneider somehow. They didn't. It was still hold-your-breath hockey to watch at times.
The whistles were quiet for most of the third period until the final five minutes. Hammond took a whack at Palmieri coming around the net. The Devils got a late power play. Considering they were getting pounded in possession and often not able to attack the Sens consistently, this would have been a great opportunity to hit back. Do some things to force Ottawa to play in their own end for a bit. That didn't happen. Whether the Devils were concerned about Ottawa trying to strike back shorthanded or if they just wanted two minutes to just hang onto the puck, I do not know. They went conservative in a bad way and did nothing. As the Senators were up a man due to pulling Hammond, John Moore gave the refs a reason to put the Devils down one. Moore just hugged Mika Zibanejad down in full view of the ref. Holding was clearly called and the Devils had to endure a 4-on-6 situation. Of course, it ended favorably: the Devils kept the Sens at bay and Stempniak got a ENG to seal the game. Still, it was a great situation for Ottawa to really make it a nail-biter at the end. As it was for this night, they were close at doing so but it didn't happen largely thanks to 35.
The extended summary of the special teams should highlight that most of the eight calls tonight were legitimate ones. I'm still skeptical of the Farnham embellishment call, but what was done was done. Plus, they played a big role how the game went. As poor as New Jersey's power plays were, Cammalleri made it a success. As contentious as their penalty kill looked, they weren't broken. Schneider was big then too. Even that last one where it was essentially a two man disadvantage, Andy Greene got one clearance that nearly hit the net and Stempniak got one shortly after that did.
The Return of Sislo: Jacob Josefson was put on injured reserve today and the Devils called up Mike Sislo to play tonight. He had an odd game. He ended up with more shots on net than any other Devils with five. Yet, he seemed to be really out of sync with the other Devils. Like he was in the wrong place or just made the wrong read on defense. I think another game or a practice with New Jersey would help fit him in better. Still, the line of Sislo, Stefan Matteau, and Sergey Kalinin was not a disaster. They were a much better line than the fourth line - which was just hammered at times. The line was comparably not getting demolished in possession.
Ugh: Defensively, some Devils were decent among the onslaught and others were just bad. Damon Severson and John Moore had really rough nights. Adam Larsson and David Schlemko were much better after getting blown away by Carolina last night. Jon Merrill actually had a drama-less game, which is a positive for him. The bigger concern to me was Moore. For the amount of minutes and the level of competition he played against, he needs to establish himself much better in his own end. While he saw a lot of Karlsson (who didn't?), Mark Stone, Turris, and Mike Hoffman, they all just ate his collective lunch. Patrick Wiercioch had a field day with his matchup opposite 2-6. Even Neil and Curtis Lazar give him fits at time. Given how well Greene and Larsson performed when reunited on the penalty kill, I'm wondering how long Moore-Greene is a thing. Especially after a game where their Corsi could be represented with an emoticon like ":(". After two games, I'm not convinced it should be. And Severson's performance tonight certainly doesn't mandate more minutes anytime soon.
A Thought Question: Cammalleri scored two lovely goals. But they were his only two goals of the night and he spent most of it trying to defend. Emphasis is on trying, which is a bit more than Palmieri, who appeared to get lost a few times. Was this a good game for him? Does two goals outweigh the fact that he only had the two shots, he had nothing in the second and third period, and spent most of his 12:32 at even strength in his own end of the rink instead of leading the offense? Goals are important - and they held up tonight for the win - so it's not an easy answer.
One Final Thought: I'd like to thank Kyle Turris, who really was one of Ottawa's go-to attackers tonight, for not finishing some glorious opportunities. He came the closest to scoring on plays that weren't just scrambles in front of the net. Turris would get one shot on net. The Senators caught the Devils on a line change when the Zajac unit all sold out for one after getting dominated for a second period shift. Turris was all alone, he fired, and Schneider just robbed him with the glove. A total bailout save and he made it look easy. Just one of the moments where it was clear that Cory Schneider ruled tonight and rules for New Jersey.
Your Take: 2015 ends with a shutout win, largely on the back of the man responsible for much of the good things that happened to the Devils in this calendar year: Cory Schneider. I want to know what you think. What did you think of tonight's performance by the Devils? Other than Schneider and Cammalleri's two goals, did any of the Devils skaters really have a good game? How much were those second and third periods due to Ottawa just beating on the Devils and how much were really driven by score effects? What was Schneider's best save? How pleased were you when they got the shutout? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the win in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented about the game in the Gamethread and/or followed the site's account, @AATJerseyBlog, along on Twitter. Thank you for reading. Have a happy new year. Month in review should be soon.