Finally, the New Jersey Devils have won a hockey game. They should have won their third game of the season in Edmonton before blowing a massive lead in eight minutes. They could have snuck out wins in their second and fourth games, only to fall beyond regulation. They may have gotten a result in the fifth and sixth games with a better effort. Better goaltending in their seventh game could have yielded better tidings. It's never good for a team to start off their season with a big, fat zero in the win column for about two and a half weeks. But that's now over. That streak of ignominy is over. The Devils won. Better yet, they did it by a decisive score of 4-0. And it all came against Our Hated Rivals, the New York Rangers.
It is late in the evening as I type this and I'm still grinning ear-to-ear about tonight's game. I almost can cackle about it. The Devils won their first game of the season with an emphatic score. The performance itself wasn't deserving glitter and gold in motion. The two teams combined for only 42 shots on net. The Rangers out-attempted the Devils 37-27 overall, which speaks to how much of a low-event game this was. More opportunities for offense by either team were prevented by way of a bad pass, pressure, and/or both. Very good for the Devils as they led throughout the evening. Very bad for the Rangers as they didn't look like a team that really minded that they were losing. It wasn't until the final ten minutes of the game (7:31 or so to be more exact) that the Rangers even matched the Devils in shots on net, in fact. The Devils went up early and made it hard for the Rangers to even come close to the net. When they did, Cory Schneider was more than up to the task as he stopped everything calmly. He was simply great and only furthered the obvious case that he's now the #1 goalie in New Jersey.
I'm sure Rangers fans wished the same for Henrik Lundqvist and their defense. Normally, allowing only 19 shots on net is a good thing. Not when the goalie allows four goals among the first twelve of them. But that alone doesn't give the, um, credit some of the skaters deserve. Let's quickly go over them: John Moore got caught as Andrei Loktionov potted home a rebound created by a shot from Anton Volchenkov to open the game's scoring. Dan Girardi and Darroll Powe were beaten by Adam Henrique's speed when Rostislav Olesz sprung him into space in the neutral zone. Before Marc Staal could get close, Henrique slammed the puck past Lundqvist. On a power play, Michael Ryder got set up for a blast from distance. Lundqvist never saw it as Olesz set a great screen just in time, getting away from behind Girardi. The fourth and final goal was another rebound goal. As Anton Stralman was tied up with Travis Zajac, Mats Zuccarello didn't (couldn't?) keep with Dainius Zubrus. When the big rebound off Bryce Salvador's shot came, Zubrus got to a spot to backhand it back into the net.
While I wouldn't fault a goalie on rebounds per se - though the one off Salvador's shot was pretty bad - and definitely not on a screened shot, it wasn't his best night. Their defensive effort got exposed at points; Moore and Girardi at least aren't going to look good on tape at the next video session. Had the Devils not been up by so much, they could have really wrecked some havoc for all sixty minutes. But the offense did enough glorious damage that it's OK. Four goals on twelve shots against King Nothing and his Round Table of Soft Coverage was great on it's own.
Ultimately, while it wasn't a straight up dominating performance, there's little to really complain about from this game. Beggars can't be choosers but they got a generous donation this evening. They got four goals, including a power play goal. Schneider stopped everything and the team's defensive effort didn't give up many threatening chances. They did all this against a hated rival, who are now behind the Devils in the standings believe it or not. One could almost end the recap right here with a .GIF of, say, Snoopy doing a happy dance (suggested by my brother). But as you know, it wouldn't be a recap on this site can't leave well enough alone.
The Opposition Perspective: Bryan Winters' short recap at Blueshirt Banter called the Rangers' effort "lifeless." I can agree with that.
The Game Highlights: Four goals! Some saves - even a few by Lundqvist! Here's the video from NHL.com:
One Note on the Fenwick Chart at Extra Skater: You know you're doing really well that the team down by two goals after one period and four goals after fourteen-and-a-half minutes into the second only out-attempts the leading team without blocks sometime in the third period. When Winters' calls his team's effort "lifeless," that backs it up. Oh, and the final result in Fenwick in 5-on-5 play was only 28-23 in favor of the losing team. Again, this was some low event hockey.
A Few Scares: There were a few shifts where the Rangers were able to catch the Devils chasing the puck around in their own end, unaware of a player on the flank. Fortunately, Schneider was great going lateral tonight and it was all stopped. There was one moment where Schneider was bailed out by some good fortune. It didn't end up on the highlight reel so I'll do my best to explain it. Early in the second period, two Devils collided at the blueline while trying to carry the puck out. I think it was Marek Zidlicky running into Mattias Tedenby. Just an accident. Taylor Pyatt picked up the loose puck, broke ahead of the two, and fired a shot that hit the left goal post. Pyatt picked up his own rebound and tried to go far post, but he narrowly missed. Had Pyatt scored there, the game obviously would have turned out much differently. He didn't, the play continued, and the Devils went on to add to their lead in the second period.
A Complaint: If there's one thing I would have liked to have been better tonight, then it would have to be the zone exits. Especially in the first period, the Rangers managed to deny several attempted clearances by the Devils. It was good that the Devils followed up and prevent the Rangers from doing much with the extra pucks. But I can't help but think that the lack of possession coming out of their own end at times not only added some additional challenge but also undercut some potential offense for the Devils. It wasn't a big deal tonight since the defensive effort from most was pretty good, Schneider was great, and the offense scored four goals. It's something to work on for the next game.
Players I Wish Did a Bit Better: I wasn't a big fan of Peter Harrold tonight. He had some good shifts. He also had some shifts where he just lost the puck, conceding possession too easily. He wasn't bad at all - no one on defense truly was bad tonight - I just think he could have been more of a positive force.
I was initially surprised by Mattias Tedenby that he actually backchecked early on in the game. And that it worked. But he was a non-factor tonight. He put up no shots on net and he didn't take any attempts. I was surprised to see he played eleven minutes; I didn't think he did much.
Players I Was Very Pleased With Other Than the Goal Scorers & Cory Schneider: Andy Greene was great from what I saw. He played just over 23 minutes and made very few errors. Whether he was with Mark Fayne or Marek Zidlicky, I felt good about #6 making the right read and the right play. And he usually did. Of all of the pointless Devils tonight, I think he was the best. And better than most of the Devils who did get a point tonight.
Bryce Salvador actually had a good game. His shot in the second period yielded the team's fourth goal. He didn't get overly physical or beaten all that much. Salvador got hurt on a Benoit Pouliot hit - nothing dirty, just a bad fall - during a penalty kill and left the game for some time. He returned in the second period and it was like he wasn't missing a beat. (The injury concern was his hip as he told Gulitti after the game.) I know he has his detractors, but I felt he played a very good game.
Andrei Loktionov and Rostislav Olesz weren't initially going to be in the lineup. Patrik Elias getting sick and Damien Brunner being banged up necessitated their inclusion. Loktionov only got one shot on net, but it went in, so he made some mark on tonight's game. The rest was just OK from him. I enjoyed Olesz' play at both ends of the rink. His passes were good, he looked good on defense, and he played a role on the team's second and third goals.
Jacob Josefson was initially going to play in place of Loktionov but he ended up on his wing tonight. I liked his hustle, he got two shots on net, he drew an elbowing call from Justin Falk (Aside: I'm sure Alain Vigenault wished he played Michael Del Zotto in his place tonight. Falk was awful.) and he provided plenty of help from the back end out.
Travis Zajac didn't register any points but I liked how he performed on defense - sometimes as the only forward since he played mostly with Michael Ryder and Tedenby, hardly defensive stalwarts. He saw plenty of Brad Richards and held him and his unit to not much. That's worth something since Richards is now the Rangers' go-to guy for any offense.
Lastly, I liked Anton Volchenkov tonight. He beat out Derek Dorsett in a foot race to a puck early in the game. He didn't get caught out of position too badly. He created the rebound for Loktionov's goal. He drew a high-sticking call from Pouliot for the team's first power play. He wasn't an anchor out there. He only played 15:44 but it was a good 15:44 from A-Train.
I Checked the Boxscore & It's True: Derek Stepan did play tonight. I did not know that until I was writing this recap.
Ooooooh oh oh oh oh ohhhhhhhh-you suck: The Completely Legitimate Fan Submission Contest for a New Goal Song stated that "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes got the most submissions for this game. OK, then. On the PA, the chanting part was piped in, presumably to have fans sing along and to out-shout any booing/rebelling. Fans took it to by the third goal as they've figured out how to add a "You suck" to it. Given that it happened after the Devils scored a power play goal, it felt appropriate. I'm sure that's exactly what the management was going for with this tune. On to the next one on Thursday!
Speaking of the crowd, tonight's game defintiely wasn't a full house. A few empty seats here or there was one thing, but the Devils didn't even announce 17,625. I guess that's what you get when you start off the season 0-4-3 and jack up the prices for the few Devils-Rangers games this season. Oh well, the crowd was still very active with Rangers fans having little good to say.
Some Rain: I'm all kinds of smiles about a win like this. There's not much to complain about, many of the Devils had positive contributions, and they smacked their hated rivals in the mouth with a 4-0 win. All without Elias and Brunner. However, let's not start acting like everything will be OK. I don't want to chalk this victory up to playing at home after a miserable road trip. I don't want this win to end their woeful winless streak only to be followed by another one. I'm not saying I demand 4-0 wins for the next few games but it's paramount that the Devils get results in the coming week. They need to build off this win and that means not getting complacent. Yes, celebrate the win but hard work still lies ahead.
Your Take: While this was a rather positive take on tonight's game, I want to know what you think. The win was important, but how great was it from your perspective? Do you think the Devils could have done much better? If so, how? Who do you think was the best Devils skater was tonight? What was your favorite goal scored by the Devils? Were you also confused by the faceoff violation that sent Dominic Moore to the box? (I certainly was.) What do you think they need to do for their next game based on what you saw tonight? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this badly-needed win in the comments. Thank you to all those who commented in the Gamethread and thank you for reading.