The Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 3-1 in Raleigh, North Carolina last night. It was the second win in two nights for New Jersey, who have started 2017 with four desperately needed points. It is a new year and a new start. But let’s not get too excited yet. Both the Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins (whom the Devils shut out on Monday) are generally low scoring teams (each has only 95 goals this season). Let’s see what happens this coming weekend–when on Friday, the surging Toronto, and then on Saturday, Edmonton, come to the Prudential Center. Both of those teams have scored more than 110 goals this season. New Jersey thus far has 92.
Cory Schneider is good, very good. But, it will be hard to contain the firepower of the Leafs and Oilers this weekend. What it will take is an enormous defensive effort, even more than the excellent effort shown by the blueline last night. In the game against Carolina, New Jersey played a very solid D after captain Andy Greene went down on a Jordan Staal shot in the first period and did not return. No foolish chances were taken by Jon Merrill or Damon Severson (who usually are looking more for offensive opportunities), and newcomer Steve Santini fit very well into the system. Because of the loss of Greene, Santini was on the ice for 23 shifts (his TOI was 14:51) in his second game of the season. He showed excellent defensive positioning and, although the rookie is only with the team because of the injury to John Moore (concussion), Santini may just be better than Moore at what the Devils need right now–a more of a stay-at-home blueliner who is very responsible in his own end.
It is looking more and more like what will work for New Jersey this season is a lunch pail approach to the game. Yes, the team has some talent up front, however, there is not enough of it yet to make this a top end team. So, as we approach the second half of the season, it should be a Miles Wood type game that should be stressed. Hard work, high energy. Give him more minutes.
The top line of Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri looked to have good chemistry. Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha, and PA Parenteau (the “second line”), not so much. Travis Zajac has some of the best numbers on the team, and he should be centering Hall and Parenteau at this point. That leaves Zacha as the man out–he has enough talent to be a top six forward, but the team does not yet have the depth to complement him.
But the trade deadline is coming up, and the Devils will likely be sellers. Maybe it will open a spot for Zacha among the top six. It will really do wonders for his development, and, over the long run, for the Devils quest for the Stanley Cup.