Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey
The New Jersey Devils came to The Rock last night looking to move on from a tough 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings and not exacting any real revenge on Ilya Kovalchuk, giving him the last laugh.
Ben Lovejoy returned from injury, with last night’s game being his first back since his injury and played pretty well, making all the right plays he had to make. Finally, the return of Cory Schneider had come last night and fans were not sure how it would go. He finished his conditioning stint in the AHL, and it’s no secret that while his time at the NHL level has been limited due to injuries and setbacks, he has not won a game in over a year.
Well, last night, Schneider was phenomenal and showed the level of play Devils’ fans became used to, and he even seemed to stand on his head at some points during the game, bailing out his teammates. Somehow, Cory could not get the win as the Devils scored in the first off the stick of Kevin Rooney, and the Islanders answered with a goal from Mathew Barzal, with no other scoring until the shootout when Josh Bailey ended the game in the 4th round. Schneider and the Devils left with a point but not a win.
The highlights from this game can be seen at the end of this article, but first a thank you to Brian Boyle that I believe the Devils crafted beautifully.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 7, 2019
Cory Schneider was phenomenal but consistency will be the next question. While he made a lot of big saves and flashed the glove a couple times, the next question will be if he is back to playing at this level consistently like he used to in the past. All signs and indicators point to the Devils being sellers, which means any player considered not a part of the long-term strategy for Shero is expendable. That means Keith Kinkaid could be dealt, which would leave a Blackwood and Schneider tandem in net.
If Schneider can come back to the level of play fans are used to, and Mackenzie Blackwood continues to progress and develop the way he has, the Devils could have quite a tandem in the future. Schneider playing at the level he did last night consistently will also help with moving Kinkaid, as there may be less of a will to hold onto him on the roster with him becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Defensive lapses were present but not for a majority of the game. The game last night really did go back and forth in terms of scoring chances, and Schneider and Greiss were also some big factors as to why the score was tied and the game went to a shootout. There were a couple times where the Devils did not pay attention to a player coming out of the penalty box and getting a stretch pass for a breakaway, such as Mathew Barzal on his goal. There were other times where the Devils had to take a penalty to save a goal. Schneider even bailed the Devils out a couple of times when the puck was stuck in the defensive zone. For the most part though, the game was back and forth, and the goaltenders were a big reason for why this game played out the way that it did.
Young players have continued to step up and improve their game. Kevin Rooney scored last night on a wicked wrist shot for the Devils, and players like Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier continued to be consistent offensive threats when they were on the ice. Bratt nearly won the game in overtime with a sweet move, but his shot hit the post then crossbar and then came out instead of going in the net.
Pavel Zacha has also continued to improve his play, even though there was the line change in overtime that was not smart and lead to a quality scoring chance for the Islanders that they, fortunately, did not capitalize on. What will be interesting to see is if Shero is able to move players such as Marcus Johansson, Drew Stafford, Kinkaid, and Lovejoy to let the young talent within the organization show what they have at the NHL level. By no means should Shero make the move for the sake of making a move and players who are clearly not ready for the NHL level should not be called up, as it could hinder their development. But the concept is still a fun idea to ponder over which with the current young core playing at a high level consistently offering these potential opportunities.
The Devils next game will be Saturday at 1PM ET against the Minnesota Wild at the Rock and can be seen on MSG.
Final Score and Stats
Score: Devils 1 Islanders 2
Shots: Devils 31 Islanders 28
Hits: Devils 31 Islanders 23
Faceoffs: Devils 29 Islanders 16
Power Plays: Devils 0 for 3 Islanders 0 for 4