The New Jersey Devils kicked off their difficult three game home stand in style Tuesday night with a dominant 7-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Mark Fayne and Ryan Carter each scored in the first three minutes of the game and the Devils maintained that early momentum for the rest of the game. Blues goaltender Brian Elliott was pulled from the game in the first period after Jaromir Jagr’s 16th goal of the year, which tied him with Michael Ryder for the team lead, made the score 3-1. Seven different Devils scored goals, and all but five skaters recorded at least a point in the win.
Cory Schneider was brilliant once again, stopping 26 of 27 shots that the St. Louis fired at him. He made a number of big stops to diffuse the initial push back from the Blues forwards after the two early goals. Schneider has been playing extremely consistent over the last month. He has not allowed more than two goals in a game in his last seven starts, and he has not lost in regulation in his last five games (3-0-2). If he can continue to play this well it appears that coach DeBoer may have found his clear cut number one goalie for the final months of the season.
This victory is the type of game that Devils fans, and I’m sure the players, have been desperately wanting to see from this team for quite some time now. Not only did they soundly defeat a Stanley Cup contender in the St. Louis Blues, the offense finally showed some signs of life. Obviously this does not mean that New Jersey is going to go out and score seven goals every night, but maybe this is the first display that the additions of healthy players returning to the lineup and the new line combinations are finally starting to click and will produce on a more consistent basis. If the Devils expect to make the playoffs they need to be able to score more than one or two goals a night and Tuesday night’s victory was certainly a step in the right direction.
Even though the Devils had tremendously satisfying win, it will mean nothing if they are not able to build on this in their upcoming games. Their next two games, against the Capitals on Friday and Sunday in Yankee Stadium versus the Rangers, will have major implications on the standings. With the divisional and wild card races in a virtual logjam, any contest against a team in the Metropolitan division takes on even more importance. But if tonight is any indication, the Devils are in great shape going forward in the season.
- Damien Brunner was activated of IR and played for the first time since suffering a sprained MCL on December 20th. Brunner showed no signs of rust, as he recorded a goal and two assists while playing on a line with Zubrus and Elias. The return of Brunner to the lineup may be just what the Devils needed to jumpstart their sluggish offense.
- Ryane Clowe continued his red hot play since returning from an early season concussion. He scored a power play goal in the second period, and he has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in his last eight games. Clowe’s strong play of late can also be credited to the chemistry he has shown with line mates Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder.
- Adam Henrique tallied a power play goal, his 13th of the season, in the second period. Unfortunately he left the game shortly after that when he blocked a shot off of his hand and did not return. Coach DeBoer said in his post game press conference that he wasn’t too concerned about it, but they would have more information tomorrow.
- New Jersey was an outstanding 3-4 on the power play tonight. They came into the night with the NHL’s 11th best powerlay (19.6%). The league’s 2nd best penalty killing team was also a perfect 3-3 on penalty kills.