Cory Schneider

Devils / EA Sports

Devils giving fans as true a simulated game-day experience as possible

It’s been nearly two weeks without hockey, but some NHL teams are trying to fill that void. You might have seen a few teams doing sims of their 2019-20 schedule via the NHL 20 video game. There was even an alumni game sim between the Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques.

But there’s just broadcasting a sim of a game and there’s what the Devils are doing for their fans.

Devils fans are getting a full game-day experience with help of not only their content team, but also the players.

New Jersey’s March 19 game against the Flames was postponed, but the Devils ended up with 6-4 simulation win. But before the victory and Cory Schneider’s 98-save(!) performance, there was a morning skate to take care of.

As with any morning skate, fans got the line combinations via team reporter Amanda Stein’s wonderful penmanship:

As the game went on that night goals were clipped and Tweeted out to the team’s 83,000-plus followers. Following the final horn, a full postgame recap was posted on their website and a highlights package was created.

“When the season was paused we got together to think about how we can continue to engage our fanbase in a unique way but also keep the same cadence the fans are used to throughout the season,” Stein told NBC Sports. 

“When the idea of the sim game came about, there was plenty of brainstorming on how we could incorporate some of our regular game-day coverage in this new and simulated world. As a team, we produce a ton on a regular real game-day, so there was a lot to work with.”

Getting players on board

Setting the Devils’ sim game experience apart from others is the inclusion of players. After Schneider’s 98-save night, Stein video chatted with him for post-game reaction, and he played along with it perfectly.

The buy-in from players to participate has created a more realistic game-day sim experience, even as we all isolate.

“Teams have all tried to engage their fans in different ways, but this felt like something unique to what we wanted to do,” Stein said. “Turns out, players were very into it.”

“They’re having fun with each other too,” she added, “whether it’s Cory saying his teammates need to be better defensively or Travis Zajac saying he hopes [Islanders defenseman and former Devils captain] Andy Greene turns into a pylon — they’re having fun with it and going along this ride with us. It makes my job easier and more fun too.

“Cory started the trend — he was the perfect guy for it. He really played into the idea and gave a straight-faced interview with some cheekiness after the first game and that just set the tone for the next couple of interviews. I haven’t had to explain to the players what we’re doing. When I connected with Miles Wood he was like, ‘Oh, yup, I’ve seen Schneids and Trav’s.’ So the guys are paying attention too, which is great.”

The Devils’ next sim featured a Wood hat trick against the Islanders. Fans responded as you’d expect by sharing videos of hats being tossed in their homes, adding to the experience.

“The response from fans has been fantastic,” Stein said. “It’s really heartwarming for us as a team to see people send messages through social media saying it put a smile on their face, or they laughed a lot, and even some people just saying it was great to hear from a player — even if it was about a simulated game.”

With hockey not returning anytime soon, the Devils’ content team has been using videoconferencing to brainstorm new ideas. It’s a time to get creative as fans are eager for their fix. 

“The world is a different place these days, but that doesn’t change that our fans are still fans and are missing the game as much as we are,” Stein said. “So it’s up to us as a content team to maintain that connection and have that interaction.

“We didn’t want to ‘go dark,’ we wanted to get as creative as possible and give our fans a distraction and a sense of normalcy during these odd times, and so far I think we’ve accomplished that.”

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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.

NHL Power Rankings: Alex Ovechkin’s top 10 goals

GR8NESS: OVI’S CHASE FOR 700: As Alex Ovechkin approaches 700 career NHL goals, PHT is going to examine all aspects of his goal-scoring prowess. We’ll break down and provide context for his amazing stats, project if he can top Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, and take a look at his most important goals.

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we keep the focus on Washington Capitals forward and his pursuit of 700 NHL goals.

We will be taking a look at the top-10 goals of his career (so far) with a focus on the brilliant and the important.

We are also not limiting this to just regular season goals. Playoff goals are also included, even though they do not technically count toward his pursuit of 700 goals.

Which goals do we like the best?

To the rankings!

SIMPLY THE BEST

1. “The Goal.” Even before he played a game in the NHL everyone that followed the sport had an idea as to what he could be capable of. He was one of the most anticipated prospects since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, and was so sought after that the Florida Panthers attempted to draft him a year early arguing that because of leap years he should have been eligible for the 2003 NHL draft (obviously it did not work). He wasted no time in making his presence felt in the NHL, scoring 50 goals and 100 points in his rookie season. That rookie season was highlighted by the signature goal of Ovechkin’s career when he did this against the Arizona Coyotes.

It is not just the absurdity of the goal that puts it at the top of the list. It’s the fact that this is the goal and the play that really started to put him on the NHL’s map as the next great superstar.

The opposing coach in Arizona that night? None other than Wayne Gretzky, the player whose all-time goals record Ovechkin is chasing down.

2. Starting the postseason comeback. This one checks both boxes for brilliance and importance. April 24, 2009, Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New York Rangers. The Capitals entered the game trailing the series 3-1 and facing elimination. They would go on to win the next three games to advance. During that important Game 5 win, Ovechkin did this.

This turned out to be the Capitals’ first postseason series win with Ovechkin.

3. Spin-o-rama pass to himself. This goal does not get enough attention, and I almost thought about putting it at the very top. Ovechkin passes the puck to himself off the boards while doing a spin-o-rama, then beats Canadiens goalie Carey Price while getting hauled down and falling to the ice.

4. Dangling the Devils during the 2014 season. A random mid-December game against the New Jersey Devils provided one of the most electrifying goals of Ovechkin’s career. After picking up a loose puck at his own blue line, Ovechkin went 1-on-2 against Jon Merril and Travis Zajac, split them ease, and then effortlessly beat Cory Schneider on the back hand.

Watch it here

[NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin’s chase for 700th goal continues Monday at 7 p.m. ET]

5. The Hot Stick Goal. The goal itself isn’t anything out of the ordinary for Ovechkin. Of the 698 goals he has scored in his career probably probably 150 of them (or more) have looked just like this: A quick shot off the rush the just flat out beats an opposing goal. But what makes this one such a top goal is that it was his 50th goal of the season (third time for him) and was followed with his famous “hot stick” celebration.

Watch it here.

THE IMPORTANT AND MILESTONE GOALS

6. Starting the championship run. During the 2017-18 playoffs Ovechkin and the Capitals finally cleared the biggest postseason hurdle: Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s Game 6 overtime series-clincher is the one that Capitals fans will remember, this is the goal that helped set the stage for it. Game 3, in Pittsburgh, with series tied 1-1, Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal with 67 seconds to play in regulation to give the Capitals the series lead and help swing the series in their favor. It was a pretty awesome goal, too, as he batted the puck in out of mid-air after the initial shot hit the post. He has never scored an overtime playoff goal, but this is just as good.

7. Setting the tone in Game 7. Beating the Penguins seemed to lift the weight of the world off the Capitals’ shoulders and gave them an opportunity to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning (by overcoming a 3-2 series deficit) in the Eastern Conference Final. They won Game 7, on the road, with Ovechkin setting the tone just one minute into the game with a signature goal from his office.

Watch it here

8. Dueling hat tricks. The best and most memorable head-to-head game of the Ovechkin-Crosby era came during the second round of the 2009 playoffs when both players recorded hat tricks in a 4-3 Capitals win. Ovechkin completed his hat trick (with the eventual game-winning goal) on this shot.

9. 500th goal. One of his big milestone goals scored in the most fitting way for him: On the power play, from the circle, standing there all by himself. The way it is meant to be.

Watch it here.

10. 1,000th point. Ovechkin entered the 1,000 point club in style with a goal against Pittsburgh, scoring just 35 seconds into the game.

Watch it here.

MORE:
By the Numbers: Ovechkin’s 698 NHL goals
Stunning Numbers as Alex Ovechkin closes in on 700 goals 

Can Alex Ovechkin break Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals?
My Favorite Goal: Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Metro deadline preview; Should Sharks trade Thornton?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Craig Berube is looking forward to taking part in his first All-Star game. (NHL.com)

• Which coach will be the next one to get the axe? (The Hockey News)

• Here’s a trade deadline preview for the Metropolitan Division. (Nova Caps Fans)

• Sportsnet takes a deeper look at the relationship between defensemen in the NHL. (Sportsnet)

• Find out how Zach Hyman‘s father bankrolled a hockey empire. (Toronto Star)

Cory Schneider might be on his last legs with the New Jersey Devils. (All About the Jersey)

• Has Ryan Dzingel been a good pick up for the Carolina Hurricanes? (Cardiac Cane)

• The Rangers will probably be sellers at the deadline, but how trade-able are all their players? (Blue Line Station)

Bo Horvat had a really good month of January. (Canucks Army)

• The San Jose Sharks may have to give Joe Thornton his Ray Bourque moment. (Fear the Fin)

• The Ducks need to make some moves if they’re going to improve, but who should they get rid of? (Anaheim Calling)

• B.C. police officer Meghan Agosta will be participating in this weekend’s All-Star Game. (Kelowna Now)

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.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Olofsson, Schwartz among this week’s best adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Jared Spurgeon, Wild – D: Spurgeon might not be the best of the best when it comes to offensive production from defensemen, but he has been rather good and reliable in recent years. He’s recorded between 37-43 points in each of his previous three seasons and he’s well on his way to doing at least that well in 2019-20 with three goals and 15 points in 26 games. His production has come in waves this season, but right now he’s riding one with a goal and six points in his last five contests. If you want to grab a hot defensemen who wouldn’t look out of place on most teams throughout the year then Spurgeon should be on your shortlist. Presently he’s only owned in 25% of Yahoo leagues.

Adam Fox, Rangers – D: If you want someone who is a bigger gamble than Spurgeon, but with more upside, then you could consider Fox instead. The one thing the two of them have in common is that both of them have been producing lately. In Fox’s case, he has two goals and five points in his last five games. Fox has been flying a bit under the radar for a while now though. He had no points in his first seven games while averaging just 16:04 minutes, but more recently the rookie has settled in and become a major contributor for the Rangers. From Oct. 24th onward, he’s scored five goals and 14 points in 18 contests while averaging 18:50 minutes. A lot of people haven’t gravitated to him yet given that he’s still owned in just 27% of Yahoo leagues, but if he keeps playing like this then he’ll start getting scooped up at an exponential rate. In other words, there might not be a whole lot more time to grab the 21-year-old.

Ivan Barbashev, Blues – C/LW: Barbashev had just 14 goals and 26 points in 80 games last season, but that’s hardly surprising given that he was averaging a modest 11:31 minutes. The Blues are giving him 13:33 minutes per game this season and his production has ticked up to four goals and 13 points in 28 contests. He’s not a major offensive threat, but at this point he’s worth at least looking at as a short-term grab when he’s hot. Now is such a time given that he’s scored two goals and six points in his last three games.

Gustav Nyquist, Blue Jackets – LW/RW: The Blue Jackets had a rough summer to say the least, but the one significant player they did manage to sign was Nyquist. He was limited to a goal in his first four games with them, perhaps because he was still finding his groove with his new team, but since then he’s been a pretty reliable contributor. He has six goals and 17 points in his last 22 games. Over that span he hasn’t been held off the scoresheet for more than two games in a row. Along with his eligibility on both wings, he’s a nice player to help fill the void if you’re dealing with injury problems.

Blake Coleman, Devils – LW/RW: Coleman’s not a great long-term pickup, but he might be worth gambling on in the short-term. He’s been effectively lately with six goals and 10 points in his last nine games. That’s in stark contrast to his three goals and four points in 16 contests start to the campaign. Coleman’s long-term production will fall about in the middle of those extremes, but for the most at least he’s playing above his norm.

[For more fantasy sports analysis, check out Rotoworld]

Joonas Donskoi, Avalanche – LW/RW: Donskoi is having a pretty interesting season. He’s been held off the scoresheet of 15 of 26 games, but he still has 11 goals and 22 points. That’s because when he does have an offensive game, it tends to be a big one. He has six multi-point games this season and four contests where he’s recorded at least three points. To put that in perspective, teammate Nathan MacKinnon, who has nearly double Donskoi’s point total, has contributed just one more three or more points game. This is all to say that Donskoi has been a bumpy ride, but if you can stomach the droughts, he has averaged out to be a pretty good contributor.

Dustin Brown, Kings – RW: Brown has already endured some prolonged slumps this season, but he’s been better lately with two goals and five points in six contests. It’s entirely possible this is just a bit of a hot streak and that proves to be the case, you shouldn’t hesitate to drop him. That said, he was pretty effective in 2017-18 and 2018-19, so it’s entirely possible that he’s turned a corner and will be fairly solid going forward.

Victor Olofsson, Sabres – LW/RW: Offensive defensemen have been the highlight of this season’s rookie pool thus far, but in terms of rookie forwards, Olofsson has led the charge with 10 goals and 20 points in 27 games. He had a quiet stretch from Oct. 17-Nov. 2 where he was limited to just two assists in eight games, but he’s bounced back in a big way with four goals and 10 points over his last 12 contests.

Jaden Schwartz, Blues – LW: Schwartz was limited to 11 goals and 36 points in 69 games last season, which is the worst he’s done from a points-per-game perspective since his 2012-13 rookie campaign. He’s bounced back nicely in 2019-20 though. He has seven goals and 20 points in 28 contests, making him a pretty decent stopgap if you need an injury replacement.

Mark Borowiecki, Senators – D: If you’re picking up Borowiecki, it will be primarily for the hits. He ranks second in the league with 108 hits and leads all defensemen in that category by a decent margin. The next best blueliner is Brenden Dillon, who has 86 hits this season. Borowiecki has always been a great contributor in the hits category, but what makes this season a little different is that he’s chipping in a bit offensively too. Not a lot, but it’s enough to tip the scales a bit more in his favor. He has two goals and 10 points in 27 contests. It helps that he’s averaging 17:10 minutes, which will be a career-high if he maintains it. 

Players You May Want To Drop

Jakob Silfverberg, Ducks – RW: From Oct. 8-Nov. 14, Silfverberg was contributing like an elite forward with nine goals and 17 points in 18 contests. He’s gone cold though, recording just an assist in his last seven games. Silfverberg has traditionally been a solid secondary scorer, but no more than that. I do think he’s worth keeping a close eye on even if you do drop him, but you should still examine your other options.

Jack Hughes, Devils – C: Hughes is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but it sounds like that’s just a minor setback. The bigger issue is that Hughes is dealing with some growing pains in his rookie season. He has four goals and 11 points in 24 contests, which is hard to criticize given that he’s just 18-years-old, but it’s not the kind of production you’d hope for out of a first overall pick, even in their rookie season. If you’re in a keeper league then it’s still worth your while to hang onto Hughes as he should eventually be a great forward, but if you’re in a single season league then you’ll want to cut your losses. Even if he does heat up to an extent in the second half of the campaign, odds are it won’t be enough to warrant holding onto him given his center-only eligibility.

Kaapo Kakko, Rangers – RW: Those hoping this season’s Calder Trophy race would be a fight between Hughes and Kakko have been left disappointed. Like Hughes, Kakko hasn’t exactly excelled in his rookie season. The 2019 second overall pick has six goals and 11 points in 23 contests. He did seem to turn a corner from Oct. 29-Nov. 20 with five goals and eight points in eight games, but he fell right back with just an assist over his last six contests. It doesn’t help that he’s a huge plus/minus liability at minus-13.

Phil Kessel, Coyotes – RW: I’ll admit to being somewhat on the fence about this one. The Coyotes acquired Kessel to lead the charge for them offensively and he certainly has that ability, but so far this season he’s been fairly underwhelming. He has four goals and 14 points in 28 contests. He also has a minus-14 rating, which is terrible in general, but especially with Arizona this season. The Coyotes only have four minus players and Kessel’s rating is by far the worst. He is making a transition to a new team so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him have a better second half, but thus far he’s been a big disappointment.

Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils – G: Cory Schneider’s struggles and eventual demotion to the AHL has made Blackwood the clear number one goaltender in New Jersey, but he still leaves plenty to be desired. Blackwood has an 8-7-3 record, 3.12 GAA, and .898 save percentage in 18 contests this season. This has been a rough season for the Devils and their goaltending situation is one that’s best to avoid entirely.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

Devils place struggling Cory Schneider on waivers

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One of the main reasons why the New Jersey Devils are off to a 7-8-4 start and have failed to meet high expectations so far has been lackluster goaltending. On Monday, general manager Ray Shero didn’t make a trade, but instead chose to waive Cory Schneider, who has not won in nine starts dating back to last season.

Called up from AHL Binghamton to man the nets with Mackenzie Blackwood was Louis Domingue, who was acquired earlier this month after a strong season with the Lightning in 2018-19.

This season, the 33-year-old Schneider is winless in six starts with an .864 even strength save percentage. Once he clears waivers on Tuesday at noon, he’ll be reassigned to Binghamton in hopes of getting his game back. Schneider, who owns a no-trade clause, is signed through the 2021-22 season and carries a $6 million salary cap hit.

“The way the schedule comes now, we didn’t see him getting into a lot of games in the next few weeks,” said Devils head coach John Hynes. “If you’re not going to have an opportunity to play, it’s hard to get the game reps you need.”

Schneider has not been himself the last two seasons as he’s battled hip injuries. In 32 appearances since last season, he has only six wins and a .897 ESSV%, third-worst among goaltenders who have played at least 30 games over that stretch.

After being traded from the Canucks to the Devils at the 2013 NHL Draft, Schneider filled a hole as Martin Brodeur’s career wound down. In his first five seasons in New Jersey Schneider sported a .925 ESSV% and helped them end a five-season playoff drought in 2017-18.

Allowing Schneider to play games in the AHL will take the spotlight off him a little bit on the NHL level as he tries to get back to the level he played at earlier on in his Devils tenure.

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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.