The Devils have kicked off the 2014-15 season in style, going 3-0-0 in their first games through Wednesday, October 15. In the wins over Philadelphia on opening night, Florida and Tampa Bay, the Devils have out-scored their opponents 13 to 6 and have yet to trail in any game so far. They are tied for the lead in the Metropolitan Division with the Islanders and the Penguins (who have played one less game than both the Devils and New York) in this very, very young season.
Things are looking good for the Devils, as they get set for Washington this Thursday, October 16 and Saturday’s home opener against the San Jose Sharks. The Devils also have their first meeting of the season against the Rangers coming up on Tuesday, October 21. Special teams wise, the team is 3 for 12 on the power play so far this year, or about a 25% clip, while on the penalty kill, the team has given up 3 goals in 17 opportunities, or an 82.4 percentage, including blanking a strong power play unit in Tampa, 0-for-4. Though the team has shown moments where they have been undisciplined and taken some bad penalties, they have shown that they have been able to rise to the occasion on the PK and keep the team in the game.
The first game against the Flyers was a total shootout. The Devils jumped out to a three goal lead, getting the first goal of the season from Michael Ryder (assists from Ryane Clowe and Andy Greene) at 12:05 of the first. Adam Henrique (from Ryder) scored at 2:20 of the second and Mike Cammalleri (from Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky) got his first as a Devil at 5:33 of the second. Philly retaliated, getting two goals from Wayne Simmonds about 50 seconds apart, including a power play goal with 0.5 seconds left in the second period. Claude Giroux had broken through four minutes before Simmonds’ pair and the game was knotted at three going into the third. Patrik Elias (from Zidlicky and Martin Havlat) got the Devils the lead back 4:16 into the third, but the Flyers came right back as Vincent Lecavalier tied it again twenty seconds later. Dainius Zubrus (from Henrique and Ryder) would break the tie and score the game winner, giving the Devils their first win of 2014-15, at 7:13. Mike Cammalleri (from Jagr) would add an empty netter at the 19:00 mark of the third.
If the game in Philadelphia was a nail-biter, then the Devils next game in Florida was the exact opposite. Heading down to the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers, the Devils jumped out to a very fast 1-0 lead when Tuomo Ruutu (assists from Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill) scored 2:37 into the first. Martin Havlat (from Gelinas and Patrik Elias) got his first goal as a Devil (and the game winner) on the power play at 8:46 of the first. Mike Cammalleri (from Marek Zidlicky and Damon Severson) continued his prolific scoring as he also scored on the power play at 13:13 of the first. Rookie defenseman Damon Severson scored his first career NHL goal unassisted with 28 seconds left in the first stanza, giving the Devils a 4-0 lead heading into the intermission. The Devils would add one more at 2:59 of the second, when Ryane Clowe (from Michael Ryder and Adam Henrique) would break through to give the Devils a 5-0 lead. Florida’s Derek MacKenzie broke the shutout when he scored a power play goal at 16:31 of the second, ending the scoring for the night.
The Devils traveled across Florida to Tampa on Tuesday, October 14 to the newly-named Amalie Arena to take on the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning, who had just dispatched the Montreal Canadiens 7 to 1 on Monday. This one was more of a defensive battle, as neither team got on the board until Travis Zajac broke through at 7:38 of the second with assists from Andy Greene and Mike Cammalleri. Tampa would tie it at 8:59 of the third as Alex Killlorn (from Tyler Johnson and Anton Stralman) scored against Cory Schneider. The Devils secured a sweep of the Florida roadtrip when Mike Cammalleri scored his fourth from Patrik Elias and Martin Havlat at 11:19 on the power play.
The Devils now look ahead to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in D.C. as they try to wrap up the first week of the season undefeated. Certainly, beating a Stanley Cup contender like Tampa should get the Devils’ confidence up and hopefully can give them a boost against both the Capitals and the Sharks. The Sharks game is the home opener, so the adrenaline should be pumping to get the team up for that game. San Jose is unbeaten too, however, and are always a tough game. The perennial Cup contenders from out west coming into town will also mark Martin Havlat’s first game against his last team. He will be ready to go and will want to show that he still has it in him to be a scoring threat in this league.
If a player cannot get up for the Rangers game, one of the premier rivalries in the NHL, then they have no business playing in the league. The Rangers might be down right now, but all they need is that up-tempo rivalry game against a lackluster Devils team to turn it around. In my opinion, though, the Caps game is the real test. The Devils will go in feeling good, Washington will need a win and Ovechkin is always a threat. The Capitals may be in a bit of a rebuilding phase, but they are certainly not down and out, that is for sure. Barry Trotz’s team is no pushover and the Devils will hopefully come in ready to go. This is a classic “trap game” to use a football term and the Devils need to come out and play well defensively, jump on opportunities offensively, as well as try to force them when they can and Cory Schneider needs to remain sharp (which he has been with a 2.00 goals against average and a .937 save percentage).
Remember, if you are able to get out to the home opener, the Devils will have a fan fest in Championship Plaza starting at 3 PM on Saturday. So get out, have fun, enjoy the festivities and the game with friends and family and most importantly, Let’s Go Devils!
By the way, in last week’s post, I failed to mention in my section about the Devils promotional schedule that they will be honoring the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Cup winning team at a date to-be-determined later this season. It has not been announced yet, but one can assume that it will be sometime in 2015, probably towards the end of the season, so keep an eye out for that.