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Devils Head Coach John Hynes showed his former organization, the Pittsburgh Penguins, what might have been on Saturday night.
It was a vintage Devils performance, as they dominated play throughout the game and limited the Penguins’ chances, while capitalizing at the right moments on the way to a 4-0 win.
Hynes was the Head Coach of the Penguins’ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton AHL team, and was passed over for the top job with the Penguins when they fired Dan Bylsma in 2014.
This past spring, when Ray Shero left the Penguins, where he served as Executive Vice President and General Manager, to become General Manager of the Devils, he brought Hynes with him to be his head coach.
With Hynes at the helm, the Devils have gotten off to a fast start under, with 10 wins in the past month, starting with a win over the Rangers on October 18. They are 10-6-1, with 21 points, and have wins beaten the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks twice in the past week.
Hynes said of the team having the identity he wants it to have, “Not yet, you know, it’s forming to where we want to get to, but still got a ways to go. It’s nice to see that we’ve been able to have success in the process of building the identity that we want, but we can still continue to get better.”
On the fan support the Devils have had, including a sellout on Saturday night, Hynes said, “One of the things that, I think Ray’s (Shero) talked about it quite a bit, that, and not to get caught up even in all the wins, but one of our objectives coming into the year was, we want to make the fans proud of the team that we have. We can’t guarantee what’s going to happen at the end of the year, and that’s not what our focus is, but the fan support has been fantastic. It’s really a combination, when you have players that are coming in every night and working as hard as they’re working and buying in, and doing the things that are necessary to put a good product on the ice, it’s nice that now the fans can come out and enjoy that. It’s a dual combination of great fan support and an excellent job by the players.”
Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said of what it is about Hynes that has spurred the team to this run, “He’s got us playing together, he’s got us playing as one unit, and I think really just believing in ourselves. I think a lot of people sort of counted us out, but from Day One, he sort of said, this is what we can do if we stick to it, and he’s realistic though, he’s not pumping us up artificially, you know, he’ll be honest when we’re not playing well and he’s honest when we’re doing thing well. He’s communicating everything we need to do to be successful, and we’re just trusting that.”
Devils right wing Jordin Tootoo said of playing for Hynes, “It’s been good, obviously change is good and guys think that the quicker you buy into the system, good thing will happen. I really see that coming a lot quicker than expected, but it’s a work in progress.”
Devils left wing Mike Cammalleri said of Hynes, “I think we all appreciate his commitment, his level of detail and how he prepares us. All good so far.”
Devils right wing Lee Stempniak said of playing for Hynes, “He’s been really good. I’ve been impressed since Day One, just his demeanor. I think the two things that stand out, he’s a very good tactician in terms of Xs ans Os, and then his conversational skills and just his ability to communicate with guys so guys know what’s expected of them. He’s great with using video to show what he wants in correcting things and I think guys have really responded well.”
Saturday night was possibly the Devils’ best win of the season, as they played a complete 60 minutes to get the 4-0 win at the Prudential Center.
Hynes said of the defense creating offense, “It was pretty solid in that area. One of the things we’ve look at, I think if you look at our puck execution tonight, the way we’re able to break out of the zone and come up the ice with possession of the puck, was something that we didn’t do a great job of against Chicago, and therefore we spent a lot of time in our D zone and had to defend more than we wanted to. One of our objections going into the game (vs. Pittsburgh) was, sometimes the best defense against skilled players is to be able to play with the puck, and I would credit our players’ execution of puck decisions tonight, more than defending, was a big factor in us being able to have a good game.”
Cammalleri had a goal and two assists, and he said of the Devils’ hustle, ” We talked a lot about our compete level and our level of intensity, and it’s something that we’d like to ingrain as part of our reputation. One way to do that is to do it consistently, so we’re working on it.”
A Cammalleri power-play goal 6:44 into the second period made it 2-0 Devils, and he said of the goal, “Good play by Tootoo to realize on a broken play on the power play maybe there was a dangerous opportunity to the net front, he made a good pass and I was able to collect it and beat the goalie, so I think when we’re working the right way and hard, it allows player’s skill to come out.”
Tootoo said of the team clicking and making crisp passes, “I think that comes down to communication. When you communicate with each other and talk out there, it makes the game a lot easier. Tonight, I thought we really executed on that and obviously playing north and south, using our speed and, when you do that, we look good.”
On sensing that the Devils are becoming accustomed to what they need to do to be successful, Cammalleri said, “I think results yield that level of comfort and confidence, undoubtedly. We’re working on it, we’re working on things that we think can help us play more in the offensive zone and create more when we’re there. Quite honestly, our last couple of games, there was a lot of things we would have liked to do better and we accomplished those things tonight.”
Schneider said of the Devils being more comfortable with what they need to do, “I think we’re continuously working on things that we can improve upon, you know, even though we won the game in Chicago (on Thursday), we felt our zone exits were a little sloppy, just getting out of our own end, and we worked on it. You could see tonight, I thought our exits were great, rarely turned pucks over, didn’t give them any time in our own end, went on the offense, so you can see the adjustments that we’re making game to game, and I think guys are buying in to what we’re being told and what we’re told to change. We’re given the game plan every night, if we can execute it, then I think we’ll have a good chance to win, so it kind of falls on us to execute.”
Schneider got the shutout, as he made 21 saves. He said of how big it an accomplishment that is against a team like the Penguins, “Shutouts are always nice, but I think tonight was about the 18 skaters in front of me, I thought they did an incredible job. I really wasn’t tested a whole lot, and we didn’t spend nearly any time in our own end, which against that team, is a real testament to how hard my teammates worked. They’re nice (shutouts), but I think the win’s nicer and, again, like I said, I wasn’t overly busy, but I made the saves I had to make.”
Bobby Farnham got a goal against his old team 2:09 into the third, on a feed from Stempniak and Adam Henrique. Hynes said of what that meant to Farnham, “For sure, he’s such a high-energy, competitive kid and he’s worked hard to get where he is and I’m sure it was good for him.”
Stempniak scored with 5:06 left in the fourth, and he said of the win, “I think, as a team, we looked at it as a very good test, a team with some really dynamic players, some guys who can break a game open and we really did a great job on that.”
Cammaleri said of the Devils being a playoff team, “I’ll say when we’re don on this road trip out west and let the results chase us. I think we’re enjoying each other, enjoying each other’s camaraderie and gamesmanship and we trust one another, building sort of a good team feeling in here, so it’s been enjoyable thus far.”
Tootoo said of the Devils being worthy of playoff conversation, “I can’t speculate, obviously just worried game in, game out, for us, it’s a one game at a time mentality. We want to prove to each other that we’re better than where they (The hockey News) put us. It’s about the belief factor and I see it in the dressing room.”