After a wonderful performance in Calgary, which resulted in a 2-1 victory, the Devils responded with another energetic, good performance against the Vancouver Canucks. Similar to the Flames game, the Devils never felt overwhelmed for prolonged periods of time. Similar to the Flames game, the Devils won this game 2-1, albeit in the overtime, and have gotten five out of a possible six points on the Canada trip. I’ll admit, I was still hesitant with this team after the performance against Calgary. Was that good play just an outlier in the recent string of bad performances? This game has helped reinforce the idea that this Devils team might have started to pick up the slack. We’ll see if this is true against a great team in Minnesota.
Many individuals impressed me tonight. The line of Josefson - Zacha - Bennett played well, although only Bennett had a point to show for it. Devante Smith-Pelly impressed when he was forced to play defense, diffusing a one-on-one situation. Ben Lovejoy and Jon Merrill, although not perfect, played solid in their 24+ minutes each. Cory Schneider played magnificently, and the only goal he gave up was bad luck on the part of A) A perfect shot by Eriksson and B) Henrique lost his stick. His save against Luca Sbisa’s slap-shot was particularly impressive, as he himself had lost his stick on that shot.
The Devils didn’t have that many scoring chances, but they didn’t play with the lethargic nature shown in December. The goal by Quincey showed what he can provide that the other defensemen can’t — a hard slapshot. His slapshot, which deflected off a Canuck stick, and by Jakob Markstrom. This came after a series of Devils chances, including a Miles Wood chance which almost trickled over the line.
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 Natural Stat Trick | The HockeyStats.ca Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: vancitydan had this recap. They have highlights for this game from the Canucks perspective, if anyone is interested.
Defense was the strength: The only defensive pairing with a Corsi percentage under 50 was Merrill and Lovejoy, but overall I thought they played well. The other defensemen had Even-strength Corsi’s around 70, with the pair of Santini and Stollery impressing again with Corsi’s of 71.43 each. Schneider played well, but wasn’t particularly challenged because of the defensive strength of this game. Kyle Quincey also scored the game-tying goal which further helps the opinion of the defense in this game.
Oh so close Blake: Blake Coleman nearly had his first NHL goal on a shot from behind the net, which banked off Markstrom and in. Unfortunately, the Canucks challenged the goal for offsides. In a close but probably offside play, the goal was overturned. Coleman has had scoring chances in the past few games, and he should get one eventually. Other than the near-goal, this game wasn’t as strong as his previous games. He, Wood and Smith-Pelly were the only line with even-strength Corsi’s under 50, albeit with much less opportunities.
Power Play Woes: Yet again, the Devils couldn’t score on the Power play. Yes, they only had one opportunity, but this puts them at 2-23 in the month of January, and 3-45 overall. Some people have been complaining about Geoff Ward because of this. I can’t say I disagree with their statements. I haven’t noticed any noticeable changes, aside from the fact that the Devils didn’t try to dump the puck as much today. The struggles were still there, the passes were still easy to read. Something more needs to change.
Perhaps it would’ve worked this game, if the Devils had more opportunities. The Canucks defense isn’t exactly the Flames defense, however, so it wouldn’t have been a good indicator regardless. Only Edler and Stechler had Even strength Corsi’s over 50, and the other Canucks defensemen (Tanev, Biega, Sbisa, Tryamkin) aren’t threatening offensively or defensively (Although Biega did hit the post in the first). The game against the Wild on the 17th would be a better test.
Defensive forwards: The Devils fowards had two particularly good moments playing defense. First was Devante Smith-Pelly. When watching the play, I assumed the Canucks would get a great scoring chance, as it was a Canucks forward going forward on Smith-Pelly, who was forced to play the role of the defenseman. However, to my surprise, Smith-Pelly effectively bodied the man, getting the puck out of harms way. The second defensive play, which I’m sure we all loved, originally came off of Sven Baertschi stripping Taylor Hall of the puck and driving for a 2-on-1. However, Travis Zajac was able to speed back, and cleverly swipe the puck away from Baertschi and back to Hall again. Hall wouldn’t mess-up this time, using Severson as a decoy on the 2-on-1 and shooting the puck past Markstrom for the game winning goal.
As an aside, Adam Henrique didn’t have himself a good night today. When he lost his stick on the Canucks goal, he should have still tried to mark Loui Eriksson. Instead, he kept himself in empty space, and actually let Eriksson skate to a dangerous zone. Sedin realized this, and easily set up Eriksson for the goal. I like Adam Henrique as a player, even though he’s having himself a rough year. He had a breakaway opportunity saved by Markstrom, and other than that he was quiet all game.
One Last Thought: Schneider’s back, and better than ever. After a horrendous November and December, where he found himself with save percentages of .893 and .887 respectably, he now finds himself with a save percentage of around .940 on the month. He had found himself replaced by Kinkaid in the prior months, but aside from the Toronto game, has been fantastic. Kinkaid himself has been very good this year — he recently dominated Calgary. With Schneider hopefully back to being himself, the Devils can rest assured knowing that whatever goalie they send out will be a reliable option.
Your Take: What did you guys think of this game? How would you like to see the power play changed? Who in particular did you like tonight? Who not so much? Should they make any changes against Minnesota? Thank you for reading.
P.S.: Four out of the playoffs! One can pray.