Rebounds can be critical in hockey. After a goalie makes a save, physics often dictates that the puck has to go somewhere. It is very difficult for a goaltender to stop a second effort in less than a second after making a save. Especially if the rebound goes to where the goalie wasn't. As a result, it's a role of the skaters to try and clean up those loose pucks. To get to them before the other team does. In a larger sense, a rebound can also describe a team playing better after getting outplayed for a stretch in the game. It can even describe a team getting a good result after some recent bad results. Each of these applied to the New Jersey Devils' 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
Let's start with the bigger picture. This road trip wasn't going well. The Devils got wrecked by Minnesota and were out-played for more time than not in Colorado. It didn't look like it would end well. Arizona controlled the puck more often than the Devils and heavily out-shot them for stretches in the first half of the game. At one point, around the halfway mark of the second period, Arizona was up 21-9 in shots. And these weren't 21 shots from distance. The Coyotes crashed Cory Schneider's crease. They kept shifts alive. They took advantage of turnovers and created a few, even during penalty kills, to get some wide open opportunities. The third-worst team in hockey were making the Devils look like scrubs. Only Cory Schneider was keeping the score blank to keep the Devils in it. It was, yet again, a depressing display by nearly all of the Devils' skaters.
However, the tide began to turn. There was no big play or a big hit or a big shift that turned everything around. The Devils just started to do a few things better. They got a few more stops on defense before Schneider had to make a play. They made a few more passes. Arizona wasn't as clean with theirs. And so opportunities came to shoot. Before one knows it, the Devils end the second period in a 10-1 run in shots and they're up 1-0 on a surprising goal. The power play got a surprising conversion when Travis Zajac's shot rises high above the net, goes off the glass, and Adam Henrique bats it in mid-air to beat Mike Smith. Hardly the sort of play one draws up for a man advantage, but any goals are good goals.
The rebound within the game really came in the third period. The Devils got off to a good start and got an early goal. After Arizona cut the lead to one, they immediately responded with a goal. The Devils never abandoned the offense and they got rewarded with another goal. Even as time ticked off, the Devils didn't just let Arizona do as they wished. They provided some resistance in the neutral zone and ensured there would be little chance of a miracle comeback. The Devils played far better in the second half of regulation, they scored four, and so they got a win to end their road trip on a high note. That's a macro-level rebound.
By the way, those three third period goals all came from rebounds. Henrique's was a rebound off the glass, the other three were off of Mike Smith. Jordin Tootoo's hard shot off a rush was kicked out to Smith's right and a wide-open Stephen Gionta got on it to put it home. Shortly after Shane Doan tipped in a puck past Schneider, Tootoo sprung Zajac and Mike Cammalleri off on a odd-man rush. Zajac fed Cammalleri with a great pass, but Smith stopped Cammalleri's shot. But Tootoo skated hard to follow his linemates and therefore got in the slot to backhand the rebound past Smith. Lastly, Andy Greene took a long shot, Smith kicked it out to his left, and Cammalleri was in the right spot to slam it past him. In each of these three goals, the scorers were open. While one could argue Smith was punished for not controlling his rebounds well enough, his defense did him no favors. In any case, not only did the Devils rebound from two road losses and a bad first half performance, they did it with goals off rebounds. Rebounds can be critical in hockey. They certainly were tonight.
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 War on Ice Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Five for Howling for a recap from a Coyotes' perspective.
The Game Highlights: From NHL.com, here's a highlight video featuring plenty of Schneider and four goals off some kind of rebound:
Relief: I felt relief as the game ended in Arizona. From the first period and the first ten minutes or so of the second period, I was beside myself that the Devils were getting out-worked, out-hustled, out-smarted, and out-played by the third-worst team in hockey. By the halfway mark, I was lamenting that the Devils defense wasn't good and the coaching was poor. The offense was just as lame, with the power play being especially horrid. So to see the Devils play their way out of it was very pleasing. They didn't rely on one moment that changed everything or one shift. Such a comeback requires one step at a time and the Devils eventually did so. Fortunately, the Coyotes struggled with any kind of response - not exactly a surprise given their record - and the Devils were able to keep on going. I was happy to not only see three third period goals to take the game, but also to see the Devils end the third out-shooting the Coyotes 11-7. After a 6-13 first period and the second starting with a big deficit like 2-9, that's big. It's also how a game should be closed out. Keep them honest, keep going forward, and keep scoring when the opportunities come. How can I not feel good from watching this win considering the circumstances?
Are We Seeing the Same Thing?: I did notice among the deluge of shots that the Coyotes took in the first half of the game that Andy Greene and Adam Larsson were frequently scrambling in their own end more than the other pairings. This isn't to say that Jon Merrill and Damon Severson were perfect (they weren't) or that Eric Gelinas and Mark Fraser didn't have issues (they had some poor shifts). I can appreciate Larsson and Greene usually ending up heavily negative in shot and attempt differential on most nights because they're getting a lot of minutes and usually going up against the other team's best. But this Arizona team isn't very good; they don't have top tier players that can impose their will. As much as I can agree that Larsson has been playing better and that Greene is very good, I don't think this pairing had a good night.
Then there was the line led by Scott Gomez. With Gomez' big article at the Players' Tribune, I kept thinking about how he wrote that he doesn't fit into a dump-and-chase system. Early on, his linemates frequently dumped the puck in for one reason or another. Later, I noticed he spent more time in his own end than in the other's. It was almost impressive seeing most Coyotes players getting good shifts against Gomez, Steve Bernier, and Adam Henrique. Henrique scoring that power play goal was a small surprise because he did very little else all game long. During the broadcast, Ken Daneyko made a point of it to highlight how good Gomez was in his own zone. That may have been true in that particular case, but over the whole night, I'd struggle to say that anyone on that line was any close to good in their own end. Not that the lines led by Travis Zajac and Stephen Gionta were vastly superior, but 14-21-18 was more notably poor than the rest.
Dropping Hammers: The one skater outside of Cory Schneider who played something resembling a complete game was Mike Cammalleri. He had three shots on net in the first period, he hit the post early in the second, and he had three more shots - including a goal - in the third period. With the Devils short on offensive talent, it's imperative he's able to keep shooting. It also speaks to Jordin Tootoo and Travis Zajac as making plays where he ends up shooting. But I really liked what I saw out of Cammalleri tonight.
Change Something on the PP: The Arizona Coyotes do not have a good penalty kill. They managed to put up as many shots shorthanded as the Devils had across all three power plays. While the Devils did convert their third power play, that one began like the first one did: Eric Gelinas getting stripped / losing the puck on the breakout. The goal came when the Devils did get set up in their 1-3-1. While it certainly wasn't planned, but it speaks to how the Devils continue to be averse to carrying the puck in the zone and getting players on the same page to get set-up.
From what I saw tonight, here's what I think. Gelinas, with his heavy and hard shot, needs to be on a power play, but he cannot be leading breakouts. I would go as far to suggest the Devils run a 1-3-1 with one unit and then a more standard formation (e.g. an umbrella) with two defenders which includes Gelinas. He's not fast enough to man only one point, and so this gives the Devils more coverage at the blueline. In an umbrella, Gelinas can shoot to his heart's content. It's something to consider. These are the things I think when power plays are wasted in Saturday night games between two non-playoff teams.
No More Checks: It was a small, cute story on Saturday that Cory Schneider paid for his teammates' dinner. After the first thirty minutes tonight and for most of this season, I am convinced that Schneider should have his dinner check covered for about a year. More seriously, tonight was yet another game where it could have been far, far worse without #35 being excellent.
The Return of Ryder: Patrik Elias was held out of tonight's game with back spasms. Michael Ryder was brought back into action in his place next to Gionta and Dainius Zubrus. I was hoping that Ryder would play like he had a point to prove. While he had two shots on net, they weren't all that memorable. He didn't really do anything of note in the game. I can appreciate that his linemates aren't offensive-minded players, to put it nicely, but Ryder really didn't do much tonight. It's a disappointment because a more active performance could have led him back into the lineup. If Elias remains out or some other forward leaves the lineup, it wouldn't surprise me if Martin Havlat gets the next shot instead.
Lastly: Tootoo did get the famed Gordie Howe Hat Trick. That's a goal (his rebound goal right after Doan's tip-in), an assist (his shot that created the rebound Gionta put in), and a fight. The fight wasn't entirely pointless from an Arizona perspective. Tootoo contacted Smith outside of the net, Smith sold it like he was Dolph Ziggler, BJ Crombeen took exception, and so fists were thrown. Tootoo got the extra two minutes for hitting Smith, so the Devils had to deal with a surprisingly ferocious power play from the Coyotes. In any case, his two points were big in ensuring the rebound victory for the team. Can't complain too much about that.
Your Take: The Devils rebounded to win this game off rebounds. What did you make of the performance in either half of the game? Who do you think stood out the most in each half? Who on Arizona impressed you, if anyone? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's win in the comments.
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