Cory Schneider made his debut in a New Jersey Devils uniform tonight in the team's first preseason game. The opponent was Our Hated Rivals, the New York Rangers. As meaningless as tonight's game was and will become, you still want to get a result over a rival. Especially when it's in your building and the crowd has plenty of people in clad in blue. Schneider gave them a reason to keep them quiet as those in red chanted his name.
Schneider started the game, played through the second period, stopped 22 shots, and kept the scoreboard blank for the visitors. He was named the game's first star and fully deserved it. You can't ask for much more from a goalie than perfection. His best save came early in the second period as he absolutely robbed Brad Richards. It was a Rangers power play and Richards had the whole left of the net wide open. Schneider stretched out his stick to prevent the easy score. He went from strength to strength in terms of holding onto the puck when needed and getting in front of it without leaving a juicy rebound. I'd say his only notably errors were in one or two occasions in playing the puck. This performance, as well as Keith Kinkaid's in the third period, was important as the Devils' defensive effort left something to be desired.
The Devils did allow 34 shots on net, at least ten per period. It's true that the Rangers chased the game. It's arguable they had a stronger lineup on the ice, and it showed as Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and Chris Kreider combined for ten shots total. They weren't all dangerous as quite a few of those shots came from distance as the Rangers defense collectively put up fifteen shots on net; John Moore and Marc Staal combined had ten. Still, it's indicative that defense is a team effort. While I didn't think any of the Devils defensemen had a bad game, the Devils forwards weren't all that helpful in their own end. This shouldn't be much of a surprise as NHL players were mixed with non-NHL players plus a line of Krys Barch, Darcy Zajac, and Cam Janssen was pretty much death on arrival from a performance standpoint. Peter DeBoer didn't shorten the bench - something I can understand for a preseason game - but it did mean that forwards who weren't all about the D kept having to play D. The Rangers, to their credit, picked up on that. Fortunately, Schneider was great and Kinkaid had a good period of his own. The one goal that beat Kinkaid was off a rebound in the slot by Dominic Moore against that pitiful Barch-Zajac-Janssen unit. Again, defense is a team effort and tonight proved that to be the case. At least they held very strong near the end of the game as the Rangers put out their top players hoping for an equalizer. They shut it down quite well.
Offense wasn't totally lacking, it just went away for awhile for stretches in the second period. I liked the tempo brought out by the forwards and they did get 27 shots on net. They didn't just sit back entirely with a 2-0 or 2-1 lead in the third period. New Jersey nearly added a third goal as a few forwards were able to get one-on-ones against Cam Talbot late in the game. I always appreciate that sort of effort and it's something to continue. The goals themselves were also appreciable. Mattias Tedenby scored the game's first goal off a bang-bang play in front of the net to beat Henrik Lundqvist. Tedenby, Andrei Loktinov, and Rostislav Olesz looked the best among all the lines tonight, and that goal finished off a strong offensive shift from them. The second goal came shortly after a Rangers penalty ended early in the third period from Eric Gelinas. Yes, a Devils defenseman scored a goal and it was from distance. Peter Harrold played it back to the right point, Gelinas unleashed a hard shot that just bombed the net. It was a lovely shot and further evidence that he has one. I liked what he did tonight, he was quite calm in his own end, and the goal was a nice highlight.
Overall, I'm fine with tonight's performance by the Devils. Outside of that middle stretch of the second period when the ice was tilted and Schneider had to be big, they played up to their opponent and with some aggression. The next game will surely have different players in the lineup to get them minutes and we'll see how that goes.
The Opposition Opinion: Bryan Winters has a recap of this game over at Blueshirt Banter.
Day After Highlights: The team's official website put a highlight package of this win on Tuesday.
Other Notable Points: Since this is a preseason game and performances are more important than necessarily the stats or total plays, I think it's best just to run through some thoughts from my vantage point in Section 1.
I liked the attempts by Loktionov and Tedenby to just charge ahead if they had a chance. Henrique had a really good one during a second period power play. They got through and even though they didn't end in goals, the shots were at least threatening.
I would say Tedenby was the best forward out there. With Damien Brunner arriving on a try out basis plus the roster was already loaded, he really needs to do what he can to stick out. Tedenby didn't just have one or two good moments, he was noticeable all game long. He looked good alongside Rostislav Olesz and Loktionov and he came close to scoring a second goal a few times. He even drew a hooking call which was simply laughable in that Nash literally hooked him down with his entire stick. Tedenby just earned himself some more time in preseason, that's for sure.
I liked Jacob Josefson winning pucks along the boards and firing at will. He actually led the team in shots with four. Like Henrique, I think he suffered from not meshing with his linemates. In this case, that was Mike Sislo and Reid Boucher. Had he been centering Harri Pesonen and Steve Bernier, who were Henrique's linemates, I think he'd have a stronger game.
I didn't like some of the penalties taken by the Devils. I can defend Mark Fayne hooking Darroll Powe to prevent a shorthanded breakaway. I was a little surprised it was just a minor and not a penalty shot since I thought Powe had a breakaway; I guess not. I wasn't a fan of Adam Henrique high-sticking Danny Kristo; it wasn't a necessary play since Volchenkov already checked him at the time. I can't defend Reid Boucher tagging Justin Falk in the hands during the Devils' first power play of the game as it was a needless play. I also can't defend Peter Harrold hooking Rick Nash during a power play. Or rather, attempting to hook Nash as the big forward just powered on through to the slot and got a shot on net. The Boucher penalty killed a power play. The Harrold penalty got the Rock to not only see Adam Larsson, Anton Volchenkov, and Josefson defender a 3-on-5 but help the Rangers keep charging on offense in the second period. Bad penalties will happen but they're still something to work on.
I didn't think much of Boucher's debut. His penalty early in the game wasn't a good one and I didn't notice him again until the third period. He was calmer then and contributed more on offense, most notably playing Sislo in for a one-on-one against Talbot. He did get two shots on net and that second one certainly had some heat on it. It's clear he's very much a work in progress.
I really didn't like Barch-D. Zajac-Janssen. Janssen and Barch got picked on a lot, as expected, and in the rare cases they were in the offensive zone, the play quickly left it. They were also on the ice for the one lone goal against. The requisite fight came in the second and Janssen didn't even win that. DeBoer kept cycling through the lines and pairings so this unit got roughly ten minutes of ice time. I can understand wanting to give guys regular minutes when the games don't count. I still don't get that match up. If you must have a goon, then split them up; limit the damage, so to speak.
I'm non-committal about the power play since two of them were shortened by Devils penalties. Each unit had two defensemen and they had some other cross-ice plays beyond getting the puck to one point. Without a full roster, it's going to be hard to judge whether they're going in the right direction. They got four shots on net across three power plays; Gelinas' goal came shortly after the third one - the only full power play - ended. At least they didn't give up much shorthanded, thanks to Fayne's foul.
The penalty kill looked a bit stronger at times, giving up six shots out of four attempts. Though Richards really should've converted the Rangers' second power play. Alas, Schneider's stick said no. I did like how they clamped down on a 3-on-5 situation for a half-minute. There's hope that this PK could be good under Mike Foligno. Again, I'd like to see it with a full roster, of course.
As much as I don't like saying nice things about the opponent, I do think that the Rangers fans should be pleased that their NHL players played like them. The Devils didn't get too much going against Staal and Michael Del Zotto, which could be their second pairing in two weeks. As stated earlier, the line of Nash, Richards, and Kreider put up a bulk of the offense among their forwards. That could also be a forward line in the regular season. That the Devils prevailed against them despite having a sensible five-man unit that could very well be on the ice from October or onward is a nice touch.
I really had a good time at the Rock. It was good to see the Diablos actually standing and cheering all game long. It was good to be back in my seat in Section 1. It was good to be around fans, both familiar and unfamiliar, that also enjoy the game. It was good to see a hockey game and enjoy it for what it was: an up-tempo game that didn't get too heated but the players gave an effort from start to finish. It was good to see Earl's Dance Party in the second period. It was even...well, there Dainius Zubrus' tunes at warm up. That was still there. And at the end, the Rangers faithful went home quietly; the Devils supporters chanted "Cory!" when Schneider came out to center ice for the post-game interview; and the good guys gave the home fans a reason to smile. The Rock is good, the Devils were good, and the evening was good.
That's my take on tonight's preseason game. The next one will be interesting to follow here as it will be a home game but not on TV. We'll see. What did you like and did not like about the Devils performance? Would you agree that Tedenby was the team's best forward tonight? How about the defensemen, what are your thoughts on them? Lastly, what do you want to see from the Devils based on what they did tonight? Please leave your answers and thoughts about the game in the comments. Thank you for reading.