It was best put by Steve Cangialosi in the waning moments of the Devils’ 2-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena tonight. He said (paraphrasing): “this proud franchise that has won the Stanley Cup three times has never had a 9-2 start until the 2017-18 edition!”
The Devils really battled tonight in a game that the Canucks really dominated a lot of, with goaltender Cory Schneider coming up big time and time again. But the Devils also had a secret inspirational weapon on their side. Brian Boyle, after going through training camp and the Leukemia diagnosis, was back in the New Jersey lineup tonight. He was playing in his first game as a Devil and his first game of the season. It was his first game since last season’s playoffs, when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Congratulations to Brian Boyle for making his great comeback.
Boyle had a great game in his return, but the Devils were without a few other key parts. Kyle Palmieri was missing his second straight game with a lower body injury. He was placed on the injured reserve retroactive to mid-October. In addition, Marcus Johansson, just 28 seconds into his first shift of the game, fell awkwardly, face-first, into the end boards in the Vancouver zone and did not return for the game. We will find out more on his condition in the coming days.
One place you knew that Boyle would really help the Devils was in the faceoff department. The Devils had largely been lacking in that part of their game missing Travis Zajac and Boyle, both of whom are key faceoff guys. Sure enough, with the veteran back in, the Devils won 57-percent of their draws with Boyle personally winning 67-percent of his.
In addition to the injuries mentioned, the Devils moved Dalton Prout and Ben Lovejoy out of the lineup on defense and Stefan Noesen was a healthy scratch up front.
Cory Schneider was the real story of this game, though, as he was named the game’s first star. In getting the shutout, he made 37 saves (including six on the power play). In fact, the Devils shut down Vancouver’s power play (they went 0-for-4) while they themselves were stymied (going 0-for-1, but with three shots on goal with the man advantage). But getting back to Cory, he made some key saves including an amazing series with about three minutes left in the second period that allowed New Jersey to weather the storm on a Canucks barrage and keep the game 1-0 Devils.
That goal had come at 10:09 of the second when Jimmy Hayes scored. That developed when Taylor Hall took a breakout pass and skated up the near wing and fired a shot. The rebound came out to Jimmy Hayes at the top of the far faceoff circle. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom did seem to have a chance to reset himself, as Ken Daneyko noted on commentary, but could not and Hayes’ shot ripped past him to make it 1-0 Devils.
And that, for all intents and purposes, was it. The Devils added an empty netter with sixteen seconds left in the game by Drew Stafford. Hall also had the assist on that one, as he had a two point night and was named the game’s third star. The empty net goal was reviewed by Toronto for a possible offside, but was called a good goal and your final was 2-0 Devils.
The second star of the game was Vancouver goalie Markstrom. He made 24 saves on 25 shots faced, the Devils finished the game with 26 shots on goal. Aside from that one goal, he also played a good game. But the resilient Devils were the ones coming away with the two points against a tough team to get points out of (Vancouver was also off to a good start at 6-3-2 coming into tonight’s action).
The next stop for the Devils on their Western Canadian tour is Edmonton where they take on a struggling Oiler team that will be desperate. We will be with you here when that game goes down on Friday.