On Thursday night, the Ottawa Senators invaded the Prudential Center in a game that nobody was excited by. Just when you thought the New Jersey Devils were bad, there’s always the Senators, who are worse and have pretty much been the gold standard of how not to run a hockey team in the NHL. Imagine a dumpster fire on skates and that’s been the Senators the past few seasons.
The matchup wasn’t great, the lineups were depleted, and it looked like the best part of the night would be the Wyclef Jean concert the Devils arranged for the first intermission. Instead, the Devils stunned the Senators to a 4-0 shutout victory. It was their most decisive win since the home opener against Washington that ended in a 6-0 score.
Last Minute Lineup Changes
From before the game even began, it looked like it was going to be a race to the bottom of which team could out-tank the other. As if that wasn’t bad enough, both teams announced roster changes shortly before the game. For the Devils, Marcus Johansson, who spent the last 12 games on a scoring tear, and defenseman Ben Lovejoy were replaced by Brett Seney and Steve Santini for “precautionary reasons”. Translation, Hynes and Shero don’t want them getting hurt in a way that could affect a trade. Sounds pessimistic, but it’s the harsh reality of the situation the team is in leading up to the trade deadline.
On the Ottawa side, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel were told they’d be watching from the press box, as was Matt Duchene. Johansson and Duchene are regarded to be the two most advertised trade chips heading toward the deadline. Duchene needed to be moved with urgency by Ottawa to salvage any part of the disastrous trade that brought him to the Senators. Less than a day later, he was shipped off to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of a trade package.
Between all the players taken out of the lineup, I’d say this game had the talent of an AHL roster, but that’d be offensive to the AHL.
Schneider’s Return to Glory
Ottawa didn’t put up much of a fight early on, being outshot 14 to 4 in the first period. They would eventually break even and finish the game with 30 shots on goal compared to the Devils 31.
None of those 30 shots found a way past Cory Schneider, however. After a year and a half of being the laughing stock of the NHL goaltending community, Schneider has begun winning games again. And he’s been winning them in the dominant fashion we saw from him in years like 2014 and 2015. As was the case with his entire Devils’ tenure, Schneider’s best career-defining hockey never matches up with overall team success. The victory against Ottawa was his third straight win and first shutout of the season. Even though it might not have been against an offensive firepower team like the Tampa Bay Lightning, after all Schneider has been through the past year and a half with on-ice struggles and surgery, it’s an accomplishment to celebrate nonetheless.
A Few Firsts On the Scoresheet
The Devils score sheet also saw a few new faces, with goals scored by Kurtis Gabriel, his first career NHL goal, and Steve Santini, with his first of the season. The score sheet also saw a few familiar faces in Travis Zajac, who celebrated his 900th career NHL game with a loss against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and Miles Wood. Miles Wood has been on a mini hot streak, with three goals and four points in the last three games, although he was hurt in the second period and did not return. Jesper Bratt also added a primary assist on Santini’s goal, his 11th point in 12 games.
Neither team scored with the man advantage, with the Devils having four power play chances compared to the Senators two. The Devils lack of success on the power play comes with their success on the penalty kill, where they’re currently ranked third in the NHL with an 84.1% success rate.
Thursday’s game meant nothing in the midst of a lost season. A win put them no closer to the playoffs and didn’t take them any further away from a high draft pick at this point. But there’s an underrated silver lining in a confidence-building team win for Cory Schneider, and unlike many games this season, the home fans being able to leave happy.