Treff: Devils Working to Put it All Together

The Devils lost their third straight game last night, falling to the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Unfortunately, the exciting pregame introductions (one of the best that I have seen across the NHL) and the mascots seen outside the Prudential Center that actually wore red contact lens were followed by a less than exciting performance on the ice. Although it is easy to see why the young team is 0-3-0, there also were glimmers of hope that the Devils will put it together as the season progresses.

As everyone already knows, there have been many changes in the Devils organization over the past five months–from the President and GM Lou Lamoriello departing for Toronto to the hiring of Ray Shero as Executive Vice President/GM, to the new head coach, John Hynes, to Hynes’s infusion of personnel from the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, to the naming of defenseman Andy Greene as the 11th captain in team history. When you add all the player changes that New Jersey has had to endure this season (seven), a certain amount of adjustment is expected.

Confusion is pretty much what we saw in the first period. Passes in players’ skates, dumping the puck before getting to the red line, easy giveaways, dropping the puck to linemates were nowhere in sight. It was not pretty, and it was enough to give any NHL coach nightmares.

But here is the very positive, hopeful thing–New Jersey cleaned it up for the second and third periods and looked like a decent NHL team. Although the cleaned up version did not yet look like playoff-bound team, it is a sign that the team will congeal over time and is moving in the right direction.

Luckily for the Devils, the Preds looked pretty bad themselves last night, which was surprising considering all the offensive (and defensive) talent on Nashville’s roster. Nashville only recorded one goal during the Devils’ terrible first period. At 9:51, the Devils winger Tuomo Ruutu took a tripping penalty and sent the Preds on the power play. Forty three seconds later, Nashville’s Roman Josi took a slap shot from the point that went through traffic in front of New Jersey’s netminder, Keith Kinkaid, and the Preds took a 1-0 lead.

The score remained 1-0 through more than two periods, when the Devils’ defenseman Jon Merrill drew a penalty at 17:02 of the third period and Nashville’s Cody Hodgson went to the box. Head Coach John Hynes pulled Kinkaid out of his net to make it a six on four power play. New Jersey won the face off, and Kyle Palmieri snapped a shot toward the Preds’ goalie Pekka Rinne. Nashville’s Josi recovered the rebound and snapped the puck 142 feet into the Devil’s empty net. Now the score was 2-0 with less than three minutes left in the game.

After New Jersey gained possession of the puck on the following face off, Hynes once again pulled Kinkaid. This time, the six on four move was successful, with Palmieri tipping the puck in at 18:20 of the third, his first power play goal as a Devil.

Finally, there was a buzz in the building, but it was short-lived. Nashville gained possession on the ensuing face off and, after New Jersey was able to recover the puck, Kinkaid went to the bench again. With an empty net down in his end, left wing Mike Cammalleri gave up the puck to Eric Nystrom in the offensive zone; Nystrom shot it down the ice and scored for Nashville at 19:08 for a final of 3-1.

Head Coach John Hynes commented after the game that he was happy with the team’s defensive play, but the Devils’ “chance generation was not where we wanted it to be and therefore we weren’t able to get on the board til late…. We have to be a more threatening team when we are either coming off the rush or are in the offensive zone.”

When asked about looking to win his first game with the team, Hynes stated that right now “the focus… is trying to get us to play well together as a team and understand the process of winning … how are we going to get ourselves to play a 60-minute game and then get on the board. That’s really the mindset.”

It should be the mindset. No team can win consistently with only 40 minutes of decent play, and without the ability to score on a regular basis.

Devils Notes

–Cory Schneider did not play in the game against Nashville, as he and his wife gave birth to a son yesterday. Kinkaid was in net, with emergency call-up Yann Denis backing him up.
–Also scratched last night were John Moore, who is day to day after being hit in the arm with an Alex Ovechkin shot over the weekend, and Sergey Kalinin, who is healthy.

About the Author

Leslie Treff

Leslie Treff is a contributor for NY Sports Day, covering NY NHL teams. She has been covering the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils for more than 15 seasons. Leslie is a recognized expert in hockey prospects and has served as a scout for several independent agencies. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, in her former life, Leslie was an attorney in the judiciary in New York City.

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