The Devils visited Columbus, having won their last five road games in a row. Columbus, a very good team, played better than the 5-1 score showed, but were unable to beat a very tenacious Devils team.
The first very good chance actually went to Columbus. Columbus was able to get a 2-on-1 opportunity, and Nick Foligno opted to make it into a one on one against Schneider. He wristed it, and Schneider saved it. His first of many good saves on the night.
The Devils then scored a lucky goal, in the sense that Zach Werenski lost his stick. Because of this, Travis Zajac took advantage, and played the puck comfortably, as Werenski could not sweep the puck away. As Werenski was forced to man Zajac, Zajac was easily able to deposit a between the legs pass to Hall, who snuck a backhand by Bobrovsky for a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Jacob Josefson took a tripping penalty against the NHL’s best power-play. After having given up a power-play goal in each of the last four, the Devils surprised by not giving up a power-play goal against Columbus. The Devils then proceeded to do it again on a Ben Lovejoy penalty, and didn’t allow Columbus any good chances either.
After the penalties were killed, the Devils continued battling it out against Columbus, Stefan Noesen drove the net, and batted at the puck multiple times before Bobrovsky stopped it. A Columbus giveaway then lead to a Travis Zajac one-timer, which was again saved by Bobrovsky. The last good Devils chance of the period came off of a Taylor Hall backhand, in which he went through Ryan Murray’s legs and nearly stuffed the puck past Bobrovsky. To end the period, Nick Foligno found himself alone at the side of the net, and shot it right at Schneider for an easy save.
In the second, the Devils continued the pressure. Under two minutes in, Jacob Josefson won a faceoff cleanly to Greene. Greene then took a simple shot, which deflected off Josefson and past Bobrovsky to make a 2-0 lead, and Josefson’s first of the year. The Devils didn’t hold back after this, and continued applying pressure. Henrique attempted to pull a similar move to Hall’s first goal, but was stopped by Bobrovsky. Kyle Palmieri was then stopped by Bobrovsky on a shot in the slot. Cory Schneider was there to match Bobrovsky shot-for-shot, and stopped a Cam Atkinson shot. Hall then had a really good chance in the front of the net, and a scrum then emerged. Joseph Blandisi, who strives to play the role of a pest, fulfilled his role well by drawing a roughing penalty on Boone Jenner. After some good cycling, PA Parenteau took a simple wrist shot from the left side of Bobrovsky, which bounced loose in the front of the net and was easily deposited by Zajac for a 3-0 lead.
To start the third, it looked like the Blue Jackets had scored to come back into the game. Cam Atkinson, who dominated the Devils all night, shot a puck across the crease, which deflected off a couple bodies and eventually Boone Jenner into the net. However, Hynes challenged for goalie interference, and after some discussion the referees determined that Jenner’s skate impeded Schneider’s progress across the net, and Schneider held his shutout. Boone Jenner was then called for tripping 11 minutes in, and Dubinsky was given a 10 minute misconduct. Unfortunately for the Devils, this seemed to awaken the Devils, and William Karlsson was able to strip the puck off Kyle Quincey, and deliver a pass to a wide open Matt Calvert to bring the score to 3-1. Columbus then threatened to score a couple more times, but Taylor Hall was able to get an empty net goal to ice it at 4-1, before Seth Helgeson scored his first career NHL to make it a 5-1 game.
The Opposition Opinion: Pale Dragon has this recap
The End of Some Goalless Droughts: Today was a very weird game in terms of the Devils goal scorers. Taylor Hall had his first goal in seven games. Zajac in ten games. Jacob Josefson had his first goal of the 2016-2017 season, and his first goal in 29 games. Seth Helgeson had his first career NHL goal. Josefson has been playing really well as of late, so this goal was going to happen eventually. Helgeson, it was a surprise that he even scored at all. What a night Helgeson had also. He fought against Hartnell, and got him to tap out. He got his first career NHL goal. He didn’t play as badly as Quincey did. While I’m hesitant on Helgeson as a consistent top-6 defenseman, his performance today helped with that.
Columbus’s strong-line: In the preview, Alex talked about how Columbus had two lines to fear. Today, only one line showed up, and it wasn’t the lines Alex mentioned. The line of Atkinson-Dubinsky-Jenner all showed up today, and all had Corsis over +10. Cam Atkinson in particular caused havoc to the Devils. Atkinson had five shots on goal, and at least three of them were genuine scoring chances. His constant pressure on the puck also directly led to Boone Jenner’s overturned goal. That line, before Dubinsky’s misconduct, was given the most ice-time tonight, and with good reason. They had the best chances to score, with Atkinson getting shots in from up-close, and missing the net on some wraparounds. Atkinson constantly cycled the puck, and shot the puck well. If it weren’t for Schneider, Atkinson could have had one or two goals on his own.
Quincey...: Although the Corsi stats grade him as positive (barely), Quincey was the defenseman who was the most thrown around by Columbus today. In the first, Lukas Sedlak knocked him down, but the Devils were lucky not to give up anything in that play. (I made a mistake, and saw the wrong bearded Kyle. It was actually Kyle Palmieri. Thanks to chrisf1 for pointing this out.)
Who Played Well On the Devils?: Many players played well today for the Devils. Taylor Hall had 8 (!) shots on net, and got two goals. Kyle Palmieri played with his usual tenacity, and caused trouble for Columbus. The Zacha-Josefson-Noesen line cycled the puck well again, and further reinforced the idea that they should stay together. Blandisi played his role as a pest, and drew a roughing call which led to a goal. Henrique had two assists. Zajac had a goal and an assist. Miles Wood used his speed and grittiness to his advantage again. Santini and Helgeson held their own, although Helgeson did get burnt by Hartnell, leading to a scoring chance.
Who Did Not Play Well?: According to Corsi Stats, Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy were horrendous. They were a -23 and a -17 respectably, and they both had trouble stopping the aforementioned Atkinson line. Ben Lovejoy has been particularly bad for the Devils this year, according to advanced stats, this season is his worst by far. He only has a Fenwick For% of 43.6%, and his GF% is a very low 42.9%. While it’s not always smart to look at advanced statistics when determining a players worth, watching Ben Lovejoy play doesn’t always leave the best impression. We’ve signed him for three more years, so hopefully he can improve.
Goaltending: Surprisingly enough, both teams played the same goalies as they did yesterday. It was a tale of two cities for this game, as Cory Schneider played magnificently, and Sergei Bobrovsky played not as well. Bobrovsky didn’t play bad, by any means, but Schneider was a stonewall today. He stopped 31/32 shots, and helped the Devils weather the storm titled the Third Period. Bobrovsky’s stats were a lot worse than his actual play, and he only really be blamed for Helgeson’s goal. He stopped only 25/29, but a couple of those were huge saves. Just as is the case with Schneider most games recently, this loss was not Bobrovsky’s fault
The Devils Are Sellers?: Less than an hour before the game, it was announced that Vernon Fiddler had been traded to the Predators for a 4th round pick. This trade surprised me for two reasons. The first: Fiddler is worth a 4th rounder? While he’s probably a better player than his three points in 39 games suggests, he’s also a fourth liner on one of the most offensively challenged NHL teams this year.
Secondly, if the Devils really are selling, then why is PA Parenteau playing on the fourth line? I had perhaps erroneously assumed that with Parenteau playing on the fourth line, it meant that the Devils were still pushing for a play-off spot. Perhaps the Devils viewed Fiddler as an unnecessary asset, but I doubt that. This moves signals, in my head, that Quincey and Parenteau are now officially up for sale. What can the Devils get for the two? Who knows at this point.
Lastly: After starting off the season playing incredibly well at home, and struggling on the road, it is now the opposite. With this pattern, it’ll appear as if a loss against Buffalo is coming. I’m kidding obviously. Maybe.
Your Take: What did you guys think of this game? Who did you think played well? Who did you think played poorly? Who was your best player on the ice today? What do you think of the Vernon Fiddler trade? Do you think it’s a sign that we’re rebuilding? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.