NY Sports Day
Leslie Treff

Treff: Team Effort Helps Devils Defeat Anaheim

Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire

As you probably already know, we here at NY Sports Day do not write straight game reviews. We analyze what we see. And last night, at the Prudential Center, there certainly was a lot to see. It was the Devils 2016-17 home opener against the Anaheim Ducks, and the sold out arena was electric. Rarely have I seen the Rock rocking like this–a sea of red jerseys with names ranging from current players (the most popular being Adam Henrique) to oldie but goodies (Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko). Loud and exuberant, the fans were not only excited for the start of the season, but they were also there to see for themselves whether the team’s new acquisition was the real deal or just another young player who will never live up to his potential.

Taylor Hall answered their questions quickly last night, and with each of his two goals, the Pru got louder and louder. After Hall’s mostly quiet preseason and first few games, one (okay, me) had to wonder whether his style of game would thrive in the Devils’ system. But watching him play last night, in the Devils 2-1 victory over the Ducks, it is clear that Hall will be a difference maker for the team. He was all over the ice, using his speed and his stick to make things happen. But most importantly, Hall was in front of the net–not afraid to take whatever punishment that was meted out to stay there and be effective. And with his great hands and hand eye coordination, Hall showed that he will do whatever it takes to get the puck past the opposing netminder. On his second goal last night (deflecting a shot by defenseman Damon Severson), showed just these skills. And when those abilities are combined with his speed, Hall certainly appears to be one of the best acquisitions that New Jersey has made in a very long time.

But Hall did not win this game alone. Had it not been for the defense’s ability to keep Anaheim’s high powered offense from scoring more than one goal, the game might have easily been lost. New Jersey has always focused on its defensive system, and this year is no different. Blocking shots, getting in the lanes, excellent gap control — all have traditionally been the hallmarks of a Devil’s team. This team defense is a little more offensively built, but they still do the basics very well, as they showed last night.

And one of the newer members of the defensive corps, Yohann Auvitu, was very impressive last night. An undrafted free agent signed by the Devils last May, Auvitu had been the Finnish SM-Liiga’s best defenseman last year. It was easy to see why during the game with the Ducks. That is not to say that the 27-year old Auvitu is at his NHL peak yet–he is still adjusting to playing in the NHL. But both his shot (he had a goal taken away by a questionable penalty call) and his efforts were very noticeable.

But, alas, it is still all about the goalie. And in the third period, it was Cory Schneider who took over the game. It was disappointing that Schneider did not get a game star last night, as he certainly should have. Of the nine shots that Anaheim got through to the net in the final period of the game, at least four could have been considered good scoring chances. Schneider stopped them all. And with less than two minutes left in the game, while the Ducks were on the power play, Schneider made an outstanding game-saving stop, keeping Ryan Kesler from the scoresheet.

Even with all the excitement over the acquisition of Hall, it should be remembered that without Schneider between the pipes, the Devils have a very hard time winning games against good teams.

And so, while everyone is focusing on Hall’s performance in last night’s game, we say this win for the Devils was about the entire team–and that it will be a team effort that will be New Jersey’s path to a successful season. It is clear that all the pieces of the puzzle to make this team a Cup contender are not quite there yet. But there is enough there to make for a competitive team on any given night. And that is why all those fans were screaming and singing in the streets outside the Prudential Center after the game last night. They can feel it, and so can we.


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