Since we last met in 10 Takeaways, the New Jersey Devils have found some stride. Perhaps, the Western Canada road trip two weeks ago was a catalyst, but there feels like an air of change for New Jersey.
Returning from their trip, the Devils had an underwhelming performance against the Ottawa Senators, which was when coach John Hynes offered up a challenge to his team: 'What team will we be? The one that played against Ottawa? Or the one that showed up against Vancouver?"
Your guess would have been as good as mine, but the challenge was accepted and the Devils are riding a two-game win streak on back-to-back nights.
Here are 10 Takeaways from the last week, presented by Ticketmaster:
The start of the season has certainly not gone the way the team would have hoped, but there's reason to believe that things are starting to turn the corner. Over the last weekend, the teams that New Jersey defeated (Pittsburgh and Montreal) had a combined record of 21-11-5 heading into each night's contest.
New Jersey picked up victories in both those games for back-to-back wins.
After the game in Montreal, Taylor Hall, who had some grade-A chances against his old teammate Keith Kinkaid (now with Montreal) had this to say:
"It's about stringing together, three, four, five games that we can be proud of." Hall said, "Tonight was a gritty effort, to come on the road, back-to-back, all that stuff… it might not sound like much but that's something that can really galvanize a team."
More evidence things are starting to turn for New Jersey: The Devils have won 3 of the last 4 games and 5 of last 8 overall. And perhaps it's the benefit of a longer road trip out to Western Canada that the seasons of change began with New Jersey winnings four of the last six road contests. With overall points in 7 of the last 10 and the team's record is 7-4-2 in the past 13.
There are often moments in a season where we are suddenly reminded that hockey is, although a game we all love, a business as well. Monday morning was one of those moments with the decision to place goaltender Cory Schneider on waivers. Schneider has long been one of the leaders in the Devils locker room, since he arrived back in 2015. His results this season have not been what Schneider would want from himself and the team saw it best to give Schneider the opportunity to regain his confidence in the AHL.
"When he came here, he was a top goaltender and playing really well. He played really well for us when we were struggling. It could have been a lot worse there a few of those years, and we just couldn't play well enough in front of him to reward him for those couple seasons," captain Andy Greene said. "It's just unfortunate, not that it's over, but that this is happening."
It's important to note, that the Devils have expressed their hope that Cory is able to rediscover what has made him an elite goaltender in the pass, never once saying this is the end of the road for Schneider and New Jersey.
"He had a very good World Championships, I was there with him, had a good training camp, good start to the year but unfortunately wasn't at a level consistent enough to find ways to win games," John Hynes said on Monday. "That's why we're going to give him the opportunity to do that and it's proven in the past that he has helped him."
"If he does clear waivers and go to Binghamton," he continued, "it's not the end of the road for us here."
Louis Domingue joined the club on Monday, his first call-up with the Devils organization. He'll wear number 70 for the club.
Since he was acquired on November 1st, the Quebec-native goaltender has been in Binghamton working with Devils goaltending development coach Scott Clemmensen.
"It's just establishing a game plan and once you go into games it doesn't matter what the results are, it's checking all your boxes," Domingue said. "What did you do after the game? Did you do everything that you were supposed to do? If you did then most of the time you'll be on the winning side and sometimes you're not, but at least you can feel confident that every day you can do something good."
He added that he feels that Clemmensen has helped him simplify his game.
Domingue has been looking for a fresh start with a new club, after several years in the Tampa Bay system. He now has that chance with New Jersey.
"I think I was due for a change, obviously not that it was a wanted one, but at some point it needed to be done and once it was done, I was glad to be in this organization where I could see myself for a long future," Domingue said after the Binghamton's 3-1 win over the Lehigh Valley on Nov. 15.
Just three days later he was on the ice with New Jersey.
Domingue started four games for Binghamton and went 2-1-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
As someone who was born and raised in Montreal and saw P.K. Subban drafted by the Canadiens in 2007 and covered the first seven years of the defenseman's career in La Belle Province, it was certainly weird, though not unsurprising, to hear Subban booed at the Bell Centre by a contingent of the Habs fanbase. But it's what happened to maybe players before him, almost as a sign of respect after their initial visit back with their new team.
One person we know was certainly not booing was Montreal Children's Hospital patient Sandrine. Subban paid a visit to the hospital on Saturday morning, a very early morning visit before team meetings at the hotel began. Subban and Sandrine connect several years ago and is currently not doing very well, so P.K. made the extra effort to see her. The team arrived in Montreal around 2:30 am, and P.K. was up early to visit the hospital which is about a 10-minute drive from the team hotel.
Talking to Subban about it prior to the game, you could see the emotion in his eyes as he talked about his young friend who is battling for her life.
"I don't know how much reaction they've gotten out of her of late, but there was some reaction when I walked in there. I spent some time with her father and brought her a jersey. She seemed really happy about that. The coolest part was her writing 'hockey tonight' on her iPad. It's unfortunate to see a child like that, but we're praying for her."
"She's not doing too well," Subban added. "Usually in these situations [back-to-backs], on a game day I usually spend most of my time at the hotel. […] I had an opportunity to head over there and you know… she's not doing too well but hopefully, we can get a big win for her tonight and make her feel a little better."
Win they did.
That was for you, Sandrine.
This past week saw the end of a couple point and scoring droughts. They couldn't have come at a more convenient time as well: Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman are on the board again.
Before the game against Pittsburgh, Zajac was riding a 10-game scoring drought, the longest of his NHL career, with one goal and three assists in 17 games.
"It's been up and down. Had some good games, had some games I want back," Zajac said. "Right now it's just still trying to find that spark. And that's when I look at my game, that's the biggest thing missing right now. So, it's just trying to go out there and have some fun. I think that's the most important thing. When I'm having fun out there, I'm playing well. So, trying to get that going and get the team going in the right direction."
That spark arrived just hours after that comment, against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zajac opened the scoring of a 2-1 final, just 6:59 into the game. Coleman capitalized on a forced turnover in the second period, to end his own drought with 4.1 seconds left in the second - it was Coleman's first goal since October 17, and only his second point in 11 games.
Early in November, I remember reading a stat that Kevin Rooney was the only player remaining in the NHL with over 100 minutes played that had not been on the ice for a conceded 5-on-5 goal. That streak came to an end with a Mark Borowiecki goal of the Senators at the 13:30 mark of the second period on November 13. Rooney had gone, up until that game 118:55 at 5-on-5 player without the other team scoring.
It was a good week for Devils Wayne Simmonds. He seems to have found his groove on the Devils in a fourth-line role, though I do hate numbering lines - everything is so situational. Simmonds has three goals in his last four games played.
The Devils game in Montreal looked to be going smoothly until we hit the third period. Through 40-minutes of play, not a single penalty was called. Then: the third period. NINE penalties between the two teams, creating what felt like a never-ending third period. And of course, the game went into overtime as well.
When the game was finally over, the game fell just short of the three-hour mark. If you include the pregame ceremony in Montreal, prior to the puck drop - the game was three hours and six minutes long. The actual playing time clocked in at two hours, 50 minutes. In the locker room after the game, Taylor Hall looked up at the 24-hour clock in the Montreal visitors' room. Perplexed, he looked at me and goes "was that game actually three hours?!"
Yes Taylor, yes it was.