Happy 2017 everyone! The Devils certainly did not finish the 2016 calendar year the way they wanted, with a 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. They knew they would need to put in a better effort to defeat their first opponent of 2017, the Boston Bruins, who came into the game in a playoff position. A tough opponent, but the Devils showed they could get the job done with a 3-0 win over the B’s at Prudential Center tonight. It was the Devils’ first shutout of the Bruins since February of 2009.
It was a busy two days of hockey with the Centennial Classic on Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto and the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis earlier today. The NHL also kicked off their 100th anniversary with each team wearing a special patch below the number on the right sleeve, a curious place to put the patch for sure.
The Devils made a ton of roster moves, mostly due to necessity. Defenseman Steve Santini was called up from Albany to replace John Moore (who was placed on injured reserve due to the concussion he suffered against the Caps). Santini actually had made the Devils out of training camp, but did not play for the team in October. He was injured in Albany in November, so he is just hitting his stride now.
Speaking of the Moore play, the Capitals’ Tom Wilson did not receive supplementary discipline for his hit on the Devils defenseman. It was borderline, but it was not dirty as deemed by the league. No penalty was called on the play on the ice.
Yohann Auvitu was also sent back to the A-Devils while Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson were out of the lineup due to illness. The Devils also (re)claimed Reid Boucher off of waivers from the Nashville Predators. Boucher had been placed on waivers by the Devils last month and was claimed by the Preds. Now he is back in the Devils fold, although he played the majority of his time with the Predators’ system in Milwaukee of the AHL, so he had not traveled to New Jersey yet. Vernon Fiddler was also still out for New Jersey, as was David Backes for Boston – who is also suffering from a concussion.
Missing Zajac and Fiddler in particular would seem to hurt the Devils in the faceoff department. But the Devils were okay against the Bruins, winning 53 percent of their draws on the night. Devante Smith-Pelly was moved to the center position for this game and he was a big part of that.
The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider making his 200th appearance in goal for the Devils tonight. He was equal to all 22 Bruins shots in authoring his second shutout of the season. Cory worked with goaltending coach Chris Terreri during his two game stint off and it paid dividends for his confidence. Boston countered with Tuukka Rask in their only trip to New Jersey this season. He made 23 saves on 25 Devils shots.
This game was only one of three being played in the NHL today (one of which was the Blues’ 4-1 win over the Blackhawks in the Winter Classic). Boston has played the most games in the NHL to this point with 40. The Devils are 2-1-1 in their last four at home against the Bruins coming into tonight, so they will try to keep the momentum going there.
The Devils got the scoring kicked off just 4:12 into the first period. Santini fired the puck from the blue line and the rebound came out to Taylor Hall (who was back in the lineup as well). Hall’s shot hit the post and the puck bounced out to PA Parenteau who buried it behind Rask. For Santini, the assist was his first NHL point in just his second NHL game. It was also Parenteau’s 11th goal of the game, seven of those have been the first goal of the game, including this one.
Miles Wood had a spirited scrap with the Bruins’ Colin Miller when Miller took exception to a big hit by Wood on one of his teammates. Wood got up off of the ice after the fight and raised his arms, pumping up the enthusiastic crowd. Boston would wind up with the extra penalty (a roughing call on Miller) to give the Devils a power play. New Jersey went 0-for-6 with the man advantage – including a 5-on-3 in the first period, but they also killed off two Bruins power plays.
Pavel Zacha had hit the post with a shot right before that fight and, in fact; the Devils would not score again until the third period. Boston nearly tied it with about four seconds remaining in the first. Cory made a great save on a puck that seemed to be squeaking by him. The call on the ice was no goal, as the officials said that it never crossed the goal line fully. The replay from the situation room in Toronto showed that a very fraction of the puck was still on the red line, which meant that the call could not be overturned. The call on the ice stood and it was still 1-0 Devils.
Ben Lovejoy nearly doubled the Devils’ lead in the just seconds into the second frame. His shot was tipped in front by Michael Cammalleri and got by Rask, but was cleared from the Boston crease. That was the Devils’ best chance in the second period.
In the third, the Devils finally broke through with their second goal when Miles Wood grabbed the puck in his own zone and flew down the wing. He cut towards the Boston net and fed a trailing Sergey Kalinin, who put it behind Rask to make it 2-0 Devils.
The Bruins would pull Rask with 2:15 left in the game, and Taylor Hall would notch his second point of the night, an empty net goal with an assist to Kalinin. Kalinin had two points on the night as well. It was Hall’s first goal in ten games.
The Devils seemed to do everything right in this game. They spent the night getting sticks in the passing and shooting lanes, making life difficult for the Bruins. John MacLean of MSG also pointed out that this was the first time this season that the Devils have been able to get all of their defensive pairings righty/lefty, with guys on their natural shooting side. This does a lot, allowing the defensemen to be on their forehand and get the breakout going through the neutral zone faster, allowing for more speed in their game.
New Jersey played well and were rewarded for their efforts. The inclusion of youth and speed has done a lot for the team, as Santini and Wood have been bright spots in particular.
Next up, the Devils head south to Raleigh tomorrow to play the Hurricanes. The Canes are a good team at home, so we will see if the Devils can continue the momentum they have gained tonight.
Here’s hoping everyone reading has a happy and healthy New Year!