Post-game Summary…The Devils lifted a huge weight off their shoulders in last night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Reid Boucher and Devante Smith-Pelley were New Jersey’s goal-scorers, who helped the team split a weekend home-and-home against their divisional adversaries. In his NHL debut, rookie goaltender Scott Wedgewood made 27 saves in what was also the 23-year old net minder’s first career victory. I wouldn’t say that the team necessarily rallied around Wedgewood, however they played their part and were able to hang on for the win. The Devils were outshot 28-22, and spent a lot of time in their own end. Special teams were effectively ineffective for both squads, who each went 0/3 on the power play. Right wing Tyler Kennedy suffered a lower-body injury about halfway through the game that kept him from returning. His status is unknown, however he has more than half the week to recover.
Hollow Victory…There are plenty of positives to be taken from yesterday’s 2-1 over Columbus. The Devils avoided a five-game season sweep against their divisional rivals, and kept their playoff hopes with the range of mathematical conceivability. Looking at the big picture, yesterday’s win was merely an isolated instance, whose two points are no (perhaps less) valuable than the pair the Devils collected in last Thursday’s exhilarating 7-4 win over the Minnesota Wild. With nine games remaining, the Devils still lie six points out of the playoffs. The three teams above them in the standings (Philadelphia, Detroit, NY Islanders) are within 3-8 points above the Devils with a combined seven games in hand. All three teams will play in four of those games before New Jersey plays again on Thursday. The playoffs are still an unlikely reach, in which the Blue Jackets played an instrumental role. If the Devils could have taken just half of the ten possible points on the table in their season series against Columbus, they’d be one point behind the Red Wings right now. The purpose of a team like Columbus at this time of year is specifically aimed at sabotaging or complicating teams in or contending for the playoffs. They certainly left their mark on the Devils this year.
Young B’s are buzzing…Young forwards Reid Boucher and Joe Blandisi have left their mark on the 2015-2016 Devils season. Having capitalized on roster injuries and a lackluster offense in need of a spark, both players were called up around mid-January and stuck with the team since. They’ve appeared in a combined 59 contests, during which they collectively averaged .54 points per game. While Blandisi hasn’t scored in 16 games, he’s collected five assists over that span, and has had only one stretch of three or more games (seven) where he failed to register a point. Boucher’s had a steadier goal output, but has been less consistent in terms of points per game. He’s had two respective stretches of four and seven games since his call-up where he failed to register a point. To give a little more perspective on the impact both players have when they fail to get on the score sheet, the Devils went 4-5-2 in the 11 combined games that made up Boucher’s two longest point droughts of the season, while going 2-5-0 during Blandisi’s seven-game pointless streak.