The New Jersey Devils have been one of the NHL’s surprise teams this season, entering Thursday night squarely in the mix for one of the final playoff positions in the Eastern Conference.
A new GM in Ray Shero, a new head coach in John Hynes, a new system, structure and a handful of new players – the Devils had plenty of built-in excuses to label this a “retooling” year, but that has hardly been the case in Newark. The Devils are, to the surprise of no one, getting excellent goaltending from Cory Schneider, playing solid defensively and getting contributions up and down their lineup.
Take all those things into consideration and you have the recipe for a successful team.
New Jersey snapped a three-game losing skid with a convincing 5-2 win over their biggest rival, the New York Rangers, on Tuesday night at Prudential Center.
The Devils trailed 2-1 in the first period but rallied with four unanswered goals, led by Sergey Kalinin’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick, and his goal was a timely one; Kalinin beat Henrik Lundqvist with 2:44 left in regulation for a huge insurance goal to make it a 4-2 game.
A ways back on Nov. 25 at Prudential Center, the Blue Jackets got away with a 2-1 win. They did not play well and John Tortorella made that abundantly clear in his post game press conference, appearing visibly upset discussing his team’s performance in a game that was dominated by the Devils.
If not for two timely goals from William Karlsson and Matt Calvert coupled with terrific goaltending by Sergei Bobrovsky, the Devils might have walked away with two points.
Karlsson opened the scoring midway through the first period but the Devils tied it up in the second on an opportunistic goal from Adam Henrique. It was a 1-1 game for most of the second period, but Calvert capped off a rare offensive zone thrust by the Blue Jackets and tallied the game-winner at 18:36 of the middle frame.
Last summer was a weird one for veteran players looking for work, and Lee Stempniak was no exception.
Teams weren’t making an abundance of free agent signings, and Stempniak, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons, was out of a job until just prior to training camp. The Devils took a chance on him and it has paid off in a big way, with the 33-year-old New Yorker leading the team in scoring and giving their power play a boost.
Stempniak has scored 16 goals – third on the team behind Kyle Palmieri (23) and Henrique (19) – and has fit nicely into a top-six role for Hynes and provided quality leadership in the Devils room.