(Jim O’Brien of the Devils battles Boston’s Matt Beleskey – @NHLDevils)
The Devils have been one of the NHL’s surprises this season, but as the second half of the season has begun, they are facing their toughest part of the schedule and some adversity.
The Devils had a tough week, as they faced three perennial playoff contenders, and they lost to the Detroit Wings at home on Monday, 1-0, a 2-1 loss on the road to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, and a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins Friday night in Newark.
The Devils have been without their leading scorer, forward Mike Cammalleri (14 goals, 21 assists, 35 points), since last Saturday, when they beat the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in overtime, without him. Their offense has struggled without him, as it is lacking a spark at the moment.
For a young team like the Devils, the loss of their longest-tenured player, forward Patrik Elias, is being felt more than ever. Elias has been hampered by a knee injury and has played just 13 games this season, and is currently on injured reserve.
Other Devils that were out Friday night due to injuries were: forward Tuomo Ruutu, who is on injured reserve due to a lower-body injury; center Jacob Josefson, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury; center Tyler Kennedy, with an upper body injury; defenseman David Schlemko with a lower body injury; and defenseman John Moore with a lower body injury.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Devils lost right wing Jiri Tlusty in the first period against Boston. Devils Head Coach John Hynes said of Tlusty, “He’s hurt. I don’t know what’s wrong with him yet.”
Center Jim O’Brien, right wing Paul Thompson, and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani were called up from Albany and made their NHL debuts on Friday night.
Devils right winger Kyle Palmieri said of injuries being the reason for their three-game losing streak, “I don’t think so. I think if you look at it, we’ve spent a decent amount of time in the offensive zone. Getting to those second opportunities, it doesn’t take a 50-goal scorer to try and bang in a rebound. For whatever reason, it’s been bouncing the other way for us.
“You can call it a hurdle. You can call it whatever you want. It’s adversity. Every team goes through it. There are going to be ups and downs throughout the year. It’s up to us and the guys in this room, including those guys that haven’t been recalled (from Albany) and are getting an opportunity, to step up and accept a bigger role and help this team win,” said Palmieri.
On Friday night, the Bruins score just 2:02 into the game, as they kept the puck in the zone and Frank Vatrano came down the left side and blasted one to make it 1-0.
It stayed that way until the second period, when Ryan Spooner tipped in a shot from the blue line from Dennis Seidenberg 4;49 into the second to make it 2-0.
The Devils got one back, as “Wild Thing” Bobby Farnham, their biggest source of offense lately, scored on a wrist shot coming down the right side, with 8:03 left in the second.
Farhnam said of his goal, his sixth of the season, “I was just trying to look up and see what comes to me and take a shot. I don’t know if it was deflected or went right in. It doesn’t mean much when you lose 4-1, either…We gotta find ways to win and, just, you know, I thought, doing a better job of getting guys to the net and trying to get a few more greasy goals.”
With around two minutes left in the second, Travis Zajac came down the right side, and it looked like it could easily have been a holding penalty for Boston.
The Bruins came back to the other end and Zdeno Chara blasted one from the blue line that was tipped in by jimmy Hayes to make it 3-1 with just 1:25 left in the period.
Boston added one 6:33 into in the third, as Colin Miller took a point-blank shot away from traffic on the left side and went through the five-hole to beat Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
Schneider, who made 27 saves, said of the game, “We all can give more. I can give more. I can be better. I was not very good tonight and didn’t give my team a chance to stay in the game there. I think it starts with me and if anyone has to elevate their game when we’re shorthanded, it’s got to be me to keep us in games and give us a chance and tonight I didn’t do that for my teammates.”
Palmieri said of Schneider taking the blame for the loss, “I completely disagree with it. You look at the last three games and we were shut out once and one goal in the others. Anytime you put that much pressure on your goalie…He’s done an incredible job for us this year keeping us in games.”
Devils Head Coach John Hynes said of Schneider putting the loss on him, “It was really a team thing. It wasn’t Cory. As a collective group tonight, we just weren’t good enough.”
Hynes said of the game, “I think we have to analyze what our performance was, what our readiness for tonight’s game was, what our compete level was, where our mental toughness is and we’ve got to be a stronger group. That’s the bottom line. It’s not the lack of scoring. It’s not the lack of players in our lineup. We need to have some resolve here and we need to get ourselves back up and we need to play a lot better than we played tonight, period.”
Farnham said of the loss, “That’s a tough one. They came out, I thought, more prepared and ready to play, and they made us pay for it early on. A good team like that knows how to play with a lead and play with structure and things like that. Even the spurts, when we had things going, we just couldn’t generate enough to battle back.”
With the loss, the Devils fell to 20-17-5, 45 points, currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. With the win, Boston improved to 21-14-4, 46 points, and moved ahead of the Devils into seventh.
The Devils begin a tough four-game road trip on Sunday night in Minnesota against the Wild, followed by Tuesday night at the St. Louis Blues, Thursday at the Colorado Avalanche, and Saturday the 16th at the Arizona Coyotes.
Farnham said of it, “I think it’s a huge road trip. I think it’s on every guys’ mind now, especially now that that game’s in the past. It’s going to be a big road trip and a big test for us and, come out on the other side of the road trip, you could be in a great spot or you could be in a not-so-great spot. I think you have to approach it game-by-game and try to have a really good road trip.”