As not only a New Jersey Devils fan, but also a Devils blogger, I usually don’t react too quickly to the news of acquiring a new player. I like to look at numbers, and get some feedback. However, when I heard that the Devils had acquired Matt D’Agostini, I was pretty excited even before getting some feedback.
I’ve heard the name Matt D’Agostini for a while now, not because he’s exactly a high-scoring sniper, but there are certain guys on some teams that stand out. Guys that fans seem to love when they watch them play every game, even if they’re not lighting the lamp that often.
Of course, when a trade is made, one of the first things people are going to look at are the numbers. D’Agostini’s numbers, at least this season, are not that impressive.
However, let me take you back just to just short time ago… to the time when Steve Bernier was signed after being invited to camp.
(headline by @Jeremy1026)
All good things must come to an end. Such was the case for the Devils’ season-high 5-game winning streak. They played well for the most part tonight, but bounces just didn’t go their way and they couldn’t come up with a goal in the shootout. Well, that and the fact that Johan Hedberg had a pretty tough game. The Devils let another third period lead slip away, although it was a controversial call (because what Devils game wouldn’t be complete without some controversy?!), and the Devils dropped one to St. Louis, 4-3 in the shootout in Jamie Langenbrunner’s first visit back to New Jersey since being traded to Dallas last winter.
After a slow and very defensive-minded first ten minutes of the game, the Devils started to generate some scoring chances. After an extended shift in the offensive zone, St. Louis’ Barret Jackman threw the puck over the glass and gave the Devils their first power play. Kurtis Foster found Ilya Kovalchuk below the left circle, and Kovy sent a perfect pass across to the right circle, where Zach Parise buried his 21st goal of the season. The Devils lead lasted just 117 seconds. Matt Taormina and Kurtis Foster failed to clear the puck from the slot, and they blew coverage on Chris Porter, who backhanded the puck between Johan Hedberg’s pads to tie the game. Aside from those two goals, and Anton Volchenkov nearly injuring himself after colliding with teammate Dainius Zubrus, the first period ended.
The Blues outshot the Devils in the second period, but the Devils got the majority of the high-quality scoring chances in the period. It seemed that every time the Parise-Elias-Kovalchuk line stepped on the ice, one or more of them made a tremendous play. Still, it was St. Louis who struck first in the second period. After Anton Volchenkov apparently tripped T.J. Oshie, the Blues pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, and David Perron beat Hedberg from the right circle. It deflected off of someone in front of the net, but was still a rather weak goal to allow. Less than a minute later, Alexei Ponikarovsky sent the puck to the point where Andy Greene found Adam Henrique at the left circle. Henrique threw one on net that may have been a pass, but it bounced off of a St. Louis defender and past Jaroslav Halak to tie the game. Minutes after that, Petr Sykora sent Elias and Kovalchuk on a 2-on-1. Elias fed Kovy, who shocked the Blues by not shooting, and Elias tapped the puck into the net. It was Elias’ 19th of the season and forced Halak to be pulled from the game.
Later in the period, David Clarkson sent a backhander on net that nearly took its own crazy bounce and beat Halak’s replacement in net, Brian Elliott. Then, in my opinion, the game took its turn against the Devils. Mark Fayne found Dainius Zubrus in the slot, and Zubrus fed a wipe open Kovalchuk at the left side, but the puck deflected off of a Blues’ stick, so Kovy couldn’t handle the pass cleanly. He fired the shot off the post on what looked to be a sure goal. Instead of 4-2 Devils, they kept a 3-2 lead after two periods. The post by Kovalchuk, along with some saves by Elliott seemed to turn the game in the Blues’ favor.
The Devils actually outshot the Blues, 9-6 in the third period, but St. Louis made the most of their chances. First of all, the period started out with a tough break. Kurtis Foster was called for a 5-minute boarding major and was ejected from the game after he hit Chris Porter from behind. Whether or not Foster deserved the major can be debated, but the Devils killed it off unharmed. In fact, it was the Devils who had the better scoring chances. Kovalchuk had a chance from the right circle and Adam Henrique couldn’t backhand one past Elliott on a shorthanded breakaway. With over a minute to go in the major penalty to Foster, David Perron took a penalty which ended the Blues’ extended power play. Following the penalties, the Devils started to get trapped in their zone for longer shifts. They never really broke down defensively, but one unfortunate bounce cost them the lead.
Roman Polak’s shot was deflected past Hedberg by Patrick Berglund with six minutes remaining in the third period. The controversy surrounding the play was that Berglund’s stick may have touched the puck from above the crossbar, which then should have negated the goal. I personally don’t think the puck was tipped with a high stick, and the call was confirmed as a good goal. The Devils actually had a chance to win it late in regulation, but Elliott’s goaltending sent the game to overtime. It looked as if both teams simply wanted a shootout for most of overtime. Well, they got it.
Ilya Kovalchuk, who was previously 8-for-9 in the shootout entering tonight, plus a penalty shot goal, fanned on his shot as the first shooter. Considering how “automatic” Kovy has been in the shootout this year, it was almost shocking to see him not score. St. Louis’ first shooter, T.J. Oshie, beat Hedberg 5-hole to give the Blues the advantage. Patrik Elias shot second for the Devils, but Elliott stopped his shot. Hedberg then stopped former Devils teammate Jamie Langenbrunner, but Zach Parise, who has struggled in shootouts and penalty shots of late, missed his shot and the Devils’ winning streak ended at five.
On the bright side, the Devils have still recorded at least a point in all six games since the All-Star break. Their schedule lightens up a bit coming up, so they’ll need to take advantage and beat the “inferior” teams to maintain a spot in the playoffs. They really didn’t play poorly tonight. They had rather unfortunate things happen to them. Kovy’s shot that hit the post changed the game, Henrique couldn’t get his backhander up on the shorthanded breakaway, there were a few questionable penalty calls (or non-calls) and, of course, the Berglund goal that may or may not have been deflected above the crossbar. Hedberg also looked extremely shaky when he played the puck, which hurt the Devils as well. They’ll have to rebound on Saturday afternoon against the Panthers.
Game notes: Zach Parise’s goal gives him points in every game since the All-Star break and seven straight games overall. He’s at 21 goals now, which is tied with David Clarkson for one goal behind the team leader in goals: Ilya Kovalchuk. Speaking of Kovalchuk, he recorded his fourth multi-point game in the six games since the All-Star break, assisting on Parise and Elias’ goals. Patrik Elias, meanwhile, has also had points in seven straight games. David Clarkson’s five game point streak was snapped tonight, although he, Henrique and Parise each had five shots on goal tonight. It’s interesting to note that despite Devils’ defensemen scoring more recently, Anton Volchenkov, who had two shots tonight, was the only Devils defenseman to have any shots in the game. Finally, the Devils continue to be one of the worst face-off teams in the league, after losing 30 of 51 draws tonight.
After missing all of last season with a concussion, sustained after a couple rough pre-season matches with the Flyers and Rangers last year, I am super excited to announce that Bryce Salvador is expected to take the ice in tonight’s first home pre-season game!
Our veteran defensemen was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1994 entry draft. He would then play for the St. Louis Blues until 2008 when he would be traded to us in exchange for Cam Janssen (who we welcome back to New Jersey this year, but I digress!).
Since then, Salvador has been a strong presence on our defensive line. Aside from being fast and fearless when defending the net, Salvador isn’t shy when it comes to sticking up for his team mates in the event that a scrum breaks out.
I’ve had the chance to meet Salvador a few times and he is one of the nicest people you could ever encounter. At the Team BBQ last year, he was sporting a pretty large slash across his forehead (which he got in the game the night before). My mother, always concerned about our players, blurted out, “OH! That’s a big Boo-Boo you got! Are you OK?” My family, our season ticket representative (who was accompanying Salvador) and Salvador all broke out into laughter. My mom, realizing she just asked a professional hockey player about his “boo-boo” as if he were her son, stood there blushing as Salvador kindly told her he was doing just fine, and not to worry. Since then, each time we’ve seen him at an event, we’ve asked about his “boo-boo” and how his recovery has been going. He hadn’t fully recovered when we saw him at the player skate and my mother admonished him saying, “You told me your boo-boo wasn’t bad! But you haven’t played all season!” He again laughed and assured her he was doing well, while Zubrus laughed and teased him. Finally, we saw him again at the awards ceremony and got to have him sign the photos we took earlier in the season. The gash on his forehead was fully healed and he was a good sport about checking out our photos and laughing at the situation again.
And so, it is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Bryce Salvador back to the ice. I’m looking forward to his finesse, speed and defensive expertise… just, please stay healthy. No more boo-boos! We fans missed you as much as your team mates did!
If you’ve met Salvador, please share your story!