It’s New Jersey Devils day on PHT

22 Comments

It’s debatable that the New Jersey Devils were a normal shootout record away from making the playoffs in 2013-14, but the bottom line is that they were pretty close.

With a 35-29-18 record (including a stunning 0-12 mark in the shootout), the Devils finished with 88 standings points, leaving them tied for 10th in the East (although they would have taken the tiebreaker from Ottawa if that mattered). The Devils finished five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings for wild card spots.

That’s not to say that the Devils were a great team with awful luck. Instead, it might be better to describe them as a one-dimensional team that lacked the goaltending needed to make their defensive strengths pay off. New Jersey tied Calgary for the third-fewest shots per game (26.8) while limiting opponents to an NHL-low 25.5 per contest, so chances rarely happened for either side during their games.

While that doesn’t exactly sound fun, it could prove to be an effective formula if Cory Schneider backs up that mammoth extension he received this offseason and the team improves on offense.

It’s tough to imagine Jaromir Jagr replicating his astounding work from 2013-14, but the Devils are likely banking on improvements from within (maybe at least a sign of life from Ryane Clowe?) and nice outputs from Mike Cammalleri and injury-ravaged former star Martin Havlat. There are quite a few ifs at work for the offense – example: will Adam Henrique make another step in the right direction? – but it’s conceivable that things might be a little better next season.

Unfortunately, their defense doesn’t look as stout now that sorely underrated defenseman Mark Fayne is a member of the Edmonton Oilers. The Devils tend to make the most of their defensive groups, so don’t be surprised if they’re still stingy.

In broader terms, the Devils seem like they’ll make their living being “pesky,” at least if Schneider can carry a workload that will conjure up comparisons to departed icon Martin Brodeur. Much has been – fairly – made about the struggles Brodeur faced the last few seasons, yet if things don’t go well, the pressure could really start to wear on Schneider.

(Some might even call it a “be careful what you wish for” moment for a guy who’s faced a lot of roadblocks to becoming the No. 1 goalie.)

This team seems just as likely to be a bubble team as it could be a cellar dweller, but here’s one near-certainty: the Devils will probably have a better shootout record in 2014-15.

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

1 Comment

Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

Leave a comment

Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS: