The New Jersey Devils are off to their best start in 15 years. When you are as hot as they have been, very little affects you and you are able to overcome the odds at any and all opportunities. Last night against Ottawa, they got a little bit lucky in overtime when Sens coach Guy Boucher did not put Erik Karlsson out for the extra period and the three players on the ice could not change before the Devils’ John Moore potted the game winner.
That luck would not continue tonight as the Devils fell to the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in what was a monumental performance from Sharks goalie Martin Jones.
On the Devils’ goaltending front, Cory Schneider was placed on injured reserve for the week and will be eligible to come back next Friday when the Devils come off of their six day (non bye week) schedule quirk. Cory is out with a lower body injury. Keith Kinkaid, who was scheduled to start anyway for New Jersey, got the nod tonight with Scott Wedgewood being recalled from Binghamton to back him up. Schneider’s injury is said to not be too serious and the feeling behind putting him on IR was simply that he would have the break in the schedule to rest and should not be backing up tonight anyway. He will not practice with the team on Sunday when they get together for an official practice.
For the Sharks, this was their first road game of the 2017-18 season. They had played all of their previous five games at home and, in fact, had not played since last Tuesday when they defeated Montreal at SAP Center.
The Sharks had two New York/New Jersey metropoltian connections on their roster tonight: Joakim Ryan, a defenseman from Rumson, New Jersey who played high school hockey at Christian Brothers Academy and forward Kevin Labanc, who was born in Brooklyn, raised on Staten Island and played his youth hockey in New Jersey for the New Jersey Rockets.
The Devils scratched Dalton Prout and Steven Santini in favor of Mirco Mueller (who the staff wanted to get in, having been an original draft pick by San Jose) and Ben Lovejoy on defense. Sitting Santini seemed a little bit odd, but the coaching staff simply wanted to rest him since he has been playing a lot of minutes this year so far. Stefan Noesen sat up front.
Kinkaid was tested early, forced to make a big save on Mikkel Boedker in the first minute of the game. However, the Sharks would strike first when, at 14:11 of the first period, Melker Karlsson scored off assists to Tomas Hertl and Tim Heed. That goal was Karlsson’s first goal of the season, the game winner and made it 1-0 Sharks.
San Jose would double things up at the 5:49 mark of the second period when Joe Pavelski notched his second of the season from Justin Braun and Joe Thornton. They would make it 3-0 when Joonas Donskoi scored his first of the year on his own rebound, with an assist from Braun at 18:50 of the second.
Right before the Donskoi goal, Miles Wood took a double minor for high sticking Joe Thornton that resulted in one of the more positive moments of the game for the Devils. They did not give up a single San Jose shot in the four minute penalty kill. There is no doubt that the Devils have taken way too many penalties in this young season, but that is something that the coaching staff will address. Coach John Hynes said that the six days off will give him a chance to teach and they will try to cut down on a lot of that.
Individually, there was not a lot for the Devils tonight, but Will Butcher did lead the team with five shots on goal while Andy Greene was the time on ice leader with 22:29.
In net, Kinkaid stopped 30 of the Sharks’ 33 shots while Jones (who, again, it cannot be stressed enough, played a spectacular game) stopped all 28 Devils shots. New Jersey had nine shots on the power play and three shorthanded (including spending almost an entire penalty kill in the Sharks zone early in the first on Kyle Palmieri’s cross checking penalty). San Jose had four shots on the power play and one shorthanded.
Pavelski did get away with a bit of a dirty play midway through the third period when he speared Jesper Bratt in the groin on a play coming through neutral zone. He did not draw a penalty, however.
Next up, the Devils will sit for the next six days which, again, will not be their bye week. They will still be able to practice with each other, unlike their bye – which comes in January. They will reconvene at Prudential Center next Friday, October 27 against the Ottawa Senators. That will be the start of their third back-to-back of the month, as they will have the Arizona Coyotes the following day. Hopefully, the lack of games will not have an adverse effect on the team and they will be able to get the bad taste of this game out of their mouths and continue the hot run that they have been on.