Last season, it took four games for the New Jersey Devils to enter their first shootout of the season. It took eight games into the 2015-16 season for the Devils to win their first shootout. Tonight was the twelfth game of the 2016-17 season for the Devils and they participated and won their first shootout of the season. Is this is symbolic of any kind of progress from one season to the next? Not really. But it’s nice to know. Just as it was nice for the New Jersey Devils to pick up the shootout win to make it a 3-2 result over the Carolina Hurricanes.
In my preview for this game and the preview Devin did for Sunday’s game, I wanted the Devils to challenge the Carolina goaltenders. They have been leaky all season long. On Sunday, they did not quite do this with only 20 shots on net against a goaltender. But Michael Cammalleri dropped a natural hat trick on them, so it was all good and they won. Tonight, the Devils absolutely brought the offense. They took a season-high 41 shots on net in 65 minutes. After a disjointed start, the Devils resembled an efficient possession machine, constantly making Cam Ward work and the Canes defenders react to all of the action in their own end. They put up 19 shots on net and P.A. Parenteau scored one beautiful goal. The second and third periods were not as dominant but the Devils managed to put up 19 shots in all situations across those two periods. In total, the Devils took 65 attempts and that most of them were on target was excellent to see. Job done in that regard. Unfortunately for New Jersey, Cam Ward played rather well and so he was only beaten twice before a shootout decided the game. He was Carolina’s best player and made me look silly for thinking he’d be vulnerable to a large volume of shots. Not tonight.
The two goals that did beat him, well, they were nice in their own way. For the first one, Taylor Hall broke the puck out and passed it up to Travis Zajac. Zajac made an excellent pass to P.A. Parenteau, which allowed him to get a step ahead of the defense. He went bar down to make it 1-0 and reward the Devils for their excellent attack in the first period. In the third period, down 1-2, the fourth line had its apex moment. The Devils’ fourth line of Sergey Kalinin, Vernon Fiddler, and Nick Lappin had a very good night of their own. Lappin’s entry pass to Kalinin was not clean, but Kalinin recovered the bouncing puck and put it in front. Fiddler crashed the net but held up before touching Ward. Lappin went behind Fiddler and slammed in the loose puck to make it 2-2. I guess you could call it a “garbage goal.” I call it an equalizer and a fine first goal for Lappin’s young career in pro hockey. The play yielded the first assist of the season for Kalinin and Fiddler’s first point as a Devil. Good ones all around. Alas, the Devils could not beat Ward again although they came close numerous times with rebounded pucks a-plenty and a few other glorious shots.
What was not so glorious was how the Devils performed in the second period. Carolina got bodied for all intents and purposes. They responded by being more aggressive on the forecheck and in New Jersey’s end. The pressure worked as the Devils struggled to make zone exits, nevermind get the puck in transition for an offensive attack. Combined with miscues when they were able to go forward and the Canes had plenty of opportunities to get back into the game. They did with a power play goal on the only power play they would get all night (hey, discipline was good at least). Jaccob Slavin beat Andy Greene, turned Ben Lovejoy into a pylon, and then a mis-hit shot became a pass that Jordan Staal slammed into the net on Cory Schneider’s right. Later in the period, the Canes kept an attack alive and Krys Dhalbeck fired a wrister from distance. With Jeff Skinner in the way, Schneider did not see it and it was 1-2 in favor of the visitors. All the while, the Devils’ offense seemingly faded from their confident and effective first period. The Devils managed to get some of their proverbial “groove” back in the third period. Lappin’s goal was a big lift and the Devils did take more attempts, 21-14. The Devils unfortunately played with fire by the end of the period with a series of icings and miscues in their own end. But Schneider held on for overtime.
Overtime itself was a good summation with how the game went after the first period. There were a few great chances and Taylor Hall charging hard onto pucks to make plays. There were moments of big concern when the Devils struggled for seemingly over a minute to get the puck out of their own end. The fans and hopefully the coaches got a long look at John Moore and Ben Lovejoy not succeeding in overtime. The goaltenders ensured that neither team would score a third goal in the run of play. So there was a shootout.
My expectations for the shootout were low if only because I did not know what to expect. I should have expected more in retrospect. The shootout team of P.A. Parenteau, Jacob Josefson, and Taylor Hall was a good choice on paper. One guy who was solid last season and two newer faces who are, if nothing else, very good at shooting the puck. All Schneider had to do was stop the shots and he did so on Skinner and Slavin. Parenteau and Hall scored to seal the win. It’s only one shootout but I now have a little more hope for future shootouts in this season. Hopefully it’ll take a little longer before the next one.
While the game was closer and there were some real issues on defense, I prefer this performance to Sunday’s performance. With all due respect to Cammalleri, the Devils’ offense was much more robust and productive. Generating shots on net was absolutely not a problem, which is refreshing after so many seasons of the Devils proving why they’re dead last in shots and attempts taken. It took Cam Ward playing like a good goaltender to keep Carolina in this game. I’ll take that kind of performance over a few shots and hoping for a few goals out of it; they’ll yield goals against other goalies on other nights.
The Opposition Opinion: Justin Lape has this recap at Canes Country.
The Positive Players: There were plenty of standout performances on the Devils tonight. The Devils’ top line of Hall, Zajac, and Parenteau contributed one lovely goal and gave the Canes plenty of headaches on offense. Hall was especially noticeable with how he just went hard after seemingly every loose puck and how he tried to make stickhandling moves to beat a defender or get space for a shot. It largely worked. It was a shame he did not get a goal in even strength, but he did clinch a shootout win. One can add that to his growing list the can justify Taylor Hall as a Devils Hero. But all three forwards were effective as they combined for eleven of the Devils’ 41 shots on net. Well done.
The fourth line also had some very strong shifts. In addition to Lappin’s goal, the line gave the team quite a bit of spark to help keep the offense going - especially in the first period. Sergey Kalinin played like he had a point to prove to the coaches. Given that he was benched for Reid Boucher on Sunday, I think he wanted to show that he deserves to stay in the lineup. From what I saw, he certainly did. He was physical in a good way, he battled hard for pucks, he played clean, and he did not make too many errors with them in either end. Well done for #51. And Fiddler and Lappin were solid in their contributions. Tonight showed what good fourth line play can do.
The Andy Greene-Damon Severson pairing drew the matchup against Carolina’s top line of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, and Elias Lindholm. They did well against them from an attempts standpoint. I’m defining well as a slight advantage since they are defending against the Canes’ most prominent unit of forwards. The past few games have gone well for 6-28 and this was another one. Fears that this first pairing would not work out should be fading away; tonight helped that out.
Lastly, Cory Schneider was forced to be great as time went on. The Canes did not get much going in the first period. From then on, the Canes had traditional build-up play, extended shifts in their own end, and even some plays off the rush. Schneider was especially important by the end of the game with three icings by the Devils within the last three minutes. Carolina had some of their best shots on net in that timeframe, including a banger from Sebastian Aho that led to a Brodeurian glove-save from #35. Carolina’s offense absolutely got going and put up 33 shots on net; Schneider did his best to limit the damage and came up big in the shootout. He did well.
The Not-So-Positive Players: I was not a fan of how John Moore and Kyle Quincey played tonight. Sure, Ben Lovejoy gets plenty of grief and he should for what happened before Staal’s goal. Plus, he appears to struggle with forechecks seemingly worse than any other Devils defenseman. I could be wrong on that, though; I stand to see what Ryan will show about that in time. But Lovejoy was far and away better than Moore and Quincey. Quincey had issues handling and moving the puck seemingly all night long. Moore didn’t play smart. When leading a breakout on the power play, it often went awry. He struggled to make the right decisions on defense. It should not surprise you that both were out-shot in 5-on-5 and Moore was one of the few Devils below 50% Corsi in a game where the team had a Corsi For% over 57%.
One play in the third involving both really stuck out to me with how their night went. Carolina ices the puck. Moore and Quincey give chase as they’re coming from the neutral zone and Skinner is trying to negate the icing. Moore had more ground to cover and Quincey is slow, so Skinner does so. Skinner and Quincey both manage to miss the puck. Moore collects the puck, turns, has time to make a decision, and then flings it up off the boards where it is stopped at the blueline by (I think) Dahlbeck. Quincey got beat, the Devils had a chance to take possession, Moore -with time - throws it away and did not even succeed at clearing the zone. I hope Jon Merrill is feeling good soon because someone needs a break on D.
Among forwards, I did not think much of how Michael Cammalleri and Kyle Palmieri played. Cammalleri may have scored a hat trick on Sunday, but with only two shots, one hooking penalty taken on defense, and playing less than 14 minutes, he is not back. Not yet, at least. Palmieri had a more active game on offense with three shots out of five attempts. He even got to unleash his one-timer from the left circle twice on the Devils’ third power play of the night. He missed, but he got the shot away. Unfortunately, when Palmieri was on the ice, the play was often in New Jersey’s end where Palmieri really did not make much of a difference on defense. I wish he’ll be back. Or at least bust out a hat trick or something in a game soon.
Lastly, I was not a fan of the entire power play until their third of the night. The first two were just wastes of time where nearly every breakout attempt just failed to function. Carry in? Puck gets lost and then cleared. A short chip off the boards? Carolina recovers and clears it. A dump-and-chase? Carolina recovers and fires it away too. All they did was have one man up in the neutral zone or on a forecheck and three on the blueline as the Devils tried to come in. Somehow, it did not work until the third of the night. At least there was that.
Aside: Speaking of defensemen, Yohann Auvitu only played 13:51 tonight with less than a minute on power plays. Impressively, he put up four shots on net. Did something happen to him? I hope that didn’t lead to the additional minutes for Moore (23:14, over two minutes on the PP). I would have liked to have seen him play more minutes.
Seriously: Moore-Lovejoy in OT? No. Never again.
BZZZZZZZZZ and Other Delays: The game ended at around 9:57 PM. Yes, it went to a shootout, but there were multiple delays. First and second, the buzzer went off twice in the first period. While the Devils had the puck, at 5:03 and 10:04, the sound for the ends of periods and goals went off. The players were confused and so the ref stopped play each time. In both cases, the Devils had the puck and were about to go on offense. Fortunately, after the second delay, the issue was fixed (albiet, no horn on Parenteau’s goal).
Later, Lappin’s goal was challenged for goaltender interference. The replay clearly showed that Ward was not touched on the play. Yet, the review process had to go to Toronto and the process did take time. There was clearly some kind of deliberation going on. The goal thankfully stood amid that time being taken up.
Lastly, the Devils took a timeout after their first of three icings within the last three minutes. Given that Carolina was in control in those last three minutes, whatever was discussed in the timeout did not really work. It gave the Devils on the ice a chance to catch their breaths though, and that was its main purpose.
All of that just added to the gametime. Thankfully, it ended well for a decent crowd given the day (Tuesday night in November) and the opponent (Carolina isn’t exactly a draw).
One Last Thought: Seriously, the Devils got this goalscorer off waivers.
Sorry Lee Stempniak, but Parenteau is the new hotness.
Your Take: The Devils swept the home-and-home with Carolina. They won the first in regulation with a hat trick, an ENG, and few shots. They won the second in a shootout with a lot of shots on net. Still two wins. What did you think of this win? Who was the best Devil on the ice in your view? Who had the most struggles? What should the Devils take from this win as they prepare for a back-to-back set with Buffalo at the end of this week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
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