AP Images

Taylor Hall’s shorthanded winner puts Devils on verge of playoffs

3 Comments

The score was tied 1-1 and the Montreal Canadiens had themselves a 5-on-3 power play late in the third period vs. the New Jersey Devils Sunday night. That’s the kind of good fortune you want to have when trying to win a game, right?

Well, the Habs failed to score as the first power play expired, which let loose Taylor Hall from the penalty box. Adding to Montreal’s troubles was that Jeff Petry‘s one-timer from up top was blocked by Travis Zajac, who then proceeded to send an unmarked Hall in on Carey Price for a game-changing opportunity.

Oh, what a Hart Trophy conversation we’ll be having over the next few weeks…

A huge, huge win for the Devils as they moved one step closer to clinching a playoff spot. With three games to go in their regular season, New Jersey sits in the Eastern Conference’s final wild card spot with 93 points, seven points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who have five games remaining.

The Devils’ magic number now sits at four. So, yeah, you can put that “x” next to their name in the standings because it’s only a matter of time before it’s written in pen.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The win, by the way, was the eighth time this season the Devils have taken two points after entering the third period trailing.

The Devils, who own a top-10 penalty kill, now lead the NHL in shorthanded goals for with 12. That goal was also Hall’s first shorty of his 527-game NHL career. He now has six goals and 13 points during an eight-game point streak.

New Jersey could punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a victory Tuesday against the New York Rangers.

————

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

Marcus Johansson on Brad Marchand elbow: ‘There was no point in doing that’

42 Comments

It’s been two months since Marcus Johansson last played for the New Jersey Devils. On Jan. 23, he suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the head from Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.

In that time Marchand has attended the NHL All-Star Game and recorded 30 points in 22 games while helping the Bruins move up the Eastern Conference standings. Johansson didn’t begin skating again until March 6 when he took the ice on his own.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Marchand was suspended five games and Johansson suffered a second concussion of the season. The Devils forward still isn’t medically cleared to play and has a few more hurdles to clear, according to head coach John Hynes.

Johansson has missed 28 games and on Monday he expressed his disappointment with the hit and Marchand’s suspension.

“It was stupid. There’s nothing else to say about it. I think there was no point in doing that,” he told reporters after Monday’s practice. “There was no hockey play whatsoever there. It’s sad to see that there are still guys out there trying to hurt other guys… It’s sad. It’s stupid. I hope it doesn’t come to him ending someone else’s career before it’s enough. It’s not why we play the game.

“I think there are always situations where you try to hit someone, you try to make a hockey play and things go wrong. Then there are plays like this where I think it’s got nothing to do with hockey. It’s sad to see. I guess I’m unfortunate to be on the receiving end of that.”

The five-game suspension wasn’t enough, added Johansson, who referenced Marchand’s long history with the Department of Player Safety. But that’s all in the past now and there are more important matters to focus on.

“[I’m] trying to put that behind me,” he said. “I just want to get back to feeling normal again. That’s all I can do.”

More: Why Brad Marchand is NHL’s most frustrating player

Stick-tap Amanda Stein for the audio

————

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.

Cory Schneider continues to struggle after return from injury

Getty Images

Most people in the hockey world were caught up in Taylor Hall‘s incredible 26-game point streak, which came to an end on Thursday night. But there’s another long streak that might make Devils fans a little nervous going forward.

Between mediocre play and injuries, it’s been a tough year for netminder Cory Schneider. The 31-year-old missed 16 games because of a groin injury between Jan. 25 and Feb. 27. He’s dropped all three decisions since returning, including a 3-2 loss to the Jets on Thursday night.

Schneider hasn’t come away with a victory since Dec. 27. He’s also dropped 10 consecutive decisions (0-8-2) since then.

“They deserve better from me. It’s not fair to my teammates to have other goalies come in here and outplay me on a regular basis lately,” Schneider told NJ.com after the loss to Winnipeg. “So it’s just not good enough by me by any means.

“They did about everything you could ask and deserved better. At least a point. It’s on me to dig deep and find a way to execute better and just be better all around for them. It’s not a fun feeling, but it’s not something you can wallow in or feel bad for yourself. There’s no time or energy for that. It’s about me putting my head down, working hard and just executing better. It’s as simple as that.”

Backup Keith Kinkaid has filled in admirably while Schneider’s been injured, but the Devils need their No. 1 goalie to play like he can if they want to make the playoffs. New Jersey is currently sitting in the first wild card slot, but Columbus, who is in the final playoff spot, is just one point behind them and the Panthers, who are on the outside looking in, are three points back with three games in hand.

Sure, injuries could be a reason for his sluggish play, but this is his second underwhelming season in a row. Schneider posted a 20-27-11 record with a 2.82 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage in 2016-17. Even though the Devils were bad, they still expected more from their franchise goaltender.

This is a young hockey team that needs their goalie to find his game in a hurry. As positive as this season has been for them, narrowly missing out on the playoffs would be a huge disappointment after the year they’ve had.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Taylor Hall’s remarkable point streak ends at 26 games

Getty Images
10 Comments

As the old saying goes, Hall good things must come to an end.

(I’ll see myself out).

Taylor Hall‘s very long point streak was stopped at 26 games in the New Jersey Devils 3-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Hall had 18 goals and 38 points during the run, which began on Jan. 2. There wasn’t a game he played in so far in 2018 that he didn’t factor on the scoresheet.

Hall missed three games late in that month with a hand injury, but it despite the hiccup, the former Edmonton Oilers star never seemed to be deterred.

Hall recorded 11 multi-point games during the streak and put up some historic numbers along the way.

According to NHL.com’s Rob Vollman, Hall’s streak was approaching the same stratosphere as Wayne Gretzky:

Gretzky had at least one point in the Edmonton Oilers’ first 51 games of the 1983-84 season. And though Hall’s personal streak is a little more than halfway to Gretzky’s streak, once scoring levels are factored in, it’s nearly as impressive.

Hall has been just as large a part of New Jersey’s offense during his streak as Gretzky was for Edmonton during his. Hall has either scored or assisted on 50.7 percent (38 of 75) of New Jersey’s goals during his streak, 0.5 percent less than Gretzky’s 51.2 percent (153 of 299).

Vollman gives a great historical look at Hall’s streak and is well worth the read.

Vollman also pointed out that Hall’s streak was the longest in the NHL since Patrick Kane achieved a streak spanning the same number of games during the 2015-16 season.

The carnage is over, for now. But the streak has put Hall’s name in the running for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, and deservedly so.

Of course, we’d be remiss not to ponder what Peter Chiarelli is thinking right now.

There’s probably a feeling of relief. The constant reminder of Hall’s brilliance over the past two months must be excruciating.

And there’s probably still that excruciating pain given how dismal the Oilers have been this season.

Either way, Hall is well for Taylor Hall.

(OK, OK. I’m done.)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Devils should never stop thanking Oilers for Taylor Hall

Getty
11 Comments

The New Jersey Devils have put themselves in a pretty good position when it comes to ending their playoff drought that goes all the way back to the 2011-12 season. After defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, 3-2, they sit nine points clear of the first non-playoff team in the Eastern Conference and are just two points out of one of the top-three spots in the Metropolitan Division.

Given how hard it is for teams to make up ground this late in the season, they should be feeling pretty good.

They still have the Edmonton Oilers to thank for being in this position.

It was less than two years ago that the Oilers sent Taylor Hall, one of the best left wingers in the sport, to New Jersey in a one-for-one swap for defenseman Adam Larsson.

At the time it was a stunning trade was widely panned outside of Edmonton.

Today, it is a pretty much an embarrassment.

On Tuesday, in a game that featured Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel, none of them were the best player on the ice. It was Hall, as he caused havoc every time he entered the game, forcing turnovers, disrupting the Penguins’ defense, adding to his points streak (now at 22 games) with a goal and an assist to help the Devils pretty much beat the Penguins at their own game.

It was a sight to behold, and every single time the puck touched his stick, or every single time he created a chance, the only thought that could go through your mind was “how did somebody in charge of an NHL hockey team think trading this guy was going to make their team better?”

With 68 points in 58 games this season his place in the MVP discussion has gone from, well maybe he has a pretty good argument, to he should probably be one of the three finalists.

He is sixth in the NHL in points per game and second to only Brad Marchand among left-wingers.

During his point streak, which started on the first day of the new year, he has recorded 32 points and had a hand (either scoring the goal or assisting the goal) in 49 percent of the Devils’ total goals during that stretch. That number on its own without any sort of context would be amazing.

When you consider that Hall did not play in three of the Devils’ games during that stretch due to injury it is absolutely incredible.

He has done for the Devils what the Oilers hoped he would do for them, and something they never really gave him an opportunity to do — give the team an identity and help change the fortunes of the franchise.

With Hall in place, and a few lucky bounces of the ping pong balls in the draft lottery, and a few shrewd additions by general manager Ray Shero, the Devils look like an entirely different team than the one that was taking the ice just two short years ago. With Hall, Michael Grabner, Miles Wood and five other players under the age of 24 the Devils are a young, fast team that looks like it is built to play in the NHL in 2018.

They can fly all over the ice. They can put pressure on opponents. They are actually — and I can’t believe this is something we can say about the New Jersey Devils — kind of fun to watch.

It’s definitely a career year for Hall, which is not surprising given that he is in his age 26 season, usually around the point where players are in their peak.

But it’s not like Hall hasn’t always been one of the most productive players in the NHL throughout his career.

From the time he entered the NHL as the top pick in 2010 through his trade out of Edmonton, he was 22nd in the NHL among all players in points per game (minimum 200 games played) and fourth among all left wingers. If you remove his rookie season when he was only 19 years old, he goes up to 13th and third respectively. The only two players on that list ahead of him to be traded at any point in their careers are Martin St. Louis and Tyler Seguin. St. Louis requested a trade. Seguin was traded by the guy that also traded Taylor Hall.

Hall was the only player in the top-15 that never played in the playoffs during that stretch. The 12 players ahead of him combined for only 10 missed playoff appearances during that stretch. It’s more of a damning statement about the Oilers’ inability to build a team around an elite player than it is about Hall. Edmonton’s inability to build a team around Connor McDavid on an entry-level contract only seems to confirm that.

Since being hired by the Devils Ray Shero has made some pretty bold trades to get the team headed back in the right direction.

Getting Kyle Palmieri from the Anaheim Ducks for a couple of draft picks was steller. Injuries have derailed his season, but the same could one day be said for getting Marcus Johansson in a trade with the Washington Capitals. He made some quality moves at the deadline to improve their depth for the stretch run by adding Grabner and Patrick Maroon without really giving up anything of significance. He got a little bit of good fortune in the draft lottery by having everything go his way to land Nico Hischier.

All of those moves working in unison have helped put the Devils in a position to where they could finally return to the playoffs.

But nothing compares to the good fortune, or has had the same impact, as happening to catch Edmonton feeling that it absolutely had to trade away one of the best players in the league in a one-for-one swap.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.