Mackenzie Blackwood

Devils recall Schneider
Getty Images

Chance at redemption? Devils recall Cory Schneider

With Mackenzie Blackwood injured, the New Jersey Devils opted to recall Cory Schneider on Sunday.

Consider this the latest chapter in a trying time for both the goalie and the team.

To put things mildly, much has changed with the Devils since Schneider’s last NHL appearance on Nov. 8. The Devils fired John Hynes and bumped Alain Nasreddine up to head coach. Recognizing the reality of this 2019-20 season, the Devils also traded Taylor Hall.

In some ways, this feels like a lost team calling up a lost goalie. Schneider’s struggles are profound, while the Devils are tied for the second-least standings points in the East (16-21-7 for 39 points). Yet, the Devils and Schneider have a chance to rebuild some confidence. In the case of the Devils, they can also gather more intel on who should remain in the fold, and who should go during this prolonged rebuild.

New Jersey upset the Capitals 5-1 on Saturday, and they close a back-to-back set with the red-hot Lightning on Sunday. Those count as some nice temperature checks for a team that sorely wants to improve, even by baby steps.

Let us recall recent ups and downs for Schneider

Schneider, 33, saw a precipitous drop in his game starting in 2016-17. After three strong seasons with the Devils (no lower than a .921 save percentage from 2013-14 to 2015-16), Schneider hasn’t topped .908.

The goalie’s 2019-20 appearances haven’t been inspiring, either. Schneider hasn’t won yet with the Devils this season (0-4-1) and suffered with a terrible .852 save percentage.

If you squint, you can find some hope — albeit mild. Schneider generated a four-game winning streak during his stint with the AHL’s Binghamton Devils, allowing one goal during three of those victories and two in his other.

Similarly, squinting at the right split stats could keep things from getting too dour. After enduring terrible work before last season’s All-Star break (.852 save percentage in nine games), Schneider improved to a .921 save percentage over 17 games after that break.

That improved work didn’t carry over from late 2018-19 to early 2019-20, but maybe Schneider can restore some confidence with this run? Considering his $6 million AAV through 2021-22, the Devils will take whatever hope they can get as far as Schneider is concerned.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Subban, Hischier help Devils win third in a row

For the first time this season the New Jersey Devils have won three games in a row.

They extended their winning streak on Thursday night with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders thanks to goals from P.K. Subban and Nico Hischier, as well as a 29-save effort from Mackenzie Blackwood in net.

It was a mostly quiet night for the Devils offense with the exception of a three-minute stretch of clock time between the second and third periods.

Trailing by 1-0 with less than two minutes to play in the second, Subban blasted a one-timer from the blue line for his fourth goal of the season.

Hischier broke the tie just one minute into the third period with this slick goal.

It is his ninth goal of the season and extended his current point streak to four consecutive games.

The Devils played this game without No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes due to an upper-body injury.

It may be too late to salvage their season when it comes to making the playoffs, but the Devils have been finding a bit more success over the past few weeks following a dreadful start. After winning just nine of their first 31 games, the Devils are now 6-2-1 in their past nine games.

They are still facing a double-digit point deficit in the race for a Wild Card spot, while only the Detroit Red Wings sit below them in the standings. Even so, given where they started the season, going through a coaching change, and then trading Taylor Hall it is pretty clear they have not packed it in on this season and still have some fight.

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.

Jack Hughes’ first OT goal lifts Devils

The New Jersey Devils invested a lot in Jack Hughes when they made him the top overall pick of the 2019 NHL draft this past June. Every time he takes the ice this season, the hope is he continues to improve.

On Sunday, Hughes took another important step when he scored his first game-winning goal in overtime to propel the Devils to a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Kyle Palmieri sent a floating pass down the middle of the ice that allowed Hughes to turn on the jets and create a breakaway for himself. The 18-year-old forward wisely kept the puck in front of him and to the right in order to prevent Jean-Gabriel Pageau from disrupting the play. Hughes then made a subtle move to his forehand and flipped the puck over the glove of Craig Anderson before celebrating with teammates.

Hughes was not the only positive from the victory as Nikita Gusev scored for the second time in as many games and Sami Vatanen boosted his trade value by recording three assists. Mackenzie Blackwood made 20 saves to help New Jersey extend its point streak to three games.

Hughes recorded his first game-winning goal in regulation earlier this season when the Devils defeated Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks in the middle of October. Hughes also recorded the secondary assist on Gusev’s goal, giving him his first multi-point game since November 7th and third NHL game with two or more points.

The Devils were expected to compete for a playoff spot this season but find themselves near the bottom of the NHL standings through 35 games. While bigger things were anticipated in New Jersey this season, the best thing that could happen for the franchise is Hughes continues his development and forms a dynamic duo with Nico Hischier for years to come.

His first overtime goal is another step in the right direction.

Maple Leafs get holiday gift thanks to Devils’ own goal in OT

Maple Leafs
NHL
1 Comment

The Toronto Maple Leafs won again on Friday night, picking up a 5-4 overtime victory in New Jersey to extend their winning streak to six games and improve their overall record to 12-4-0 under new coach Sheldon Keefe.

They have Devils defenseman Damon Severson to thank for the extra point in overtime.

It was there that Severson had the misfortune of accidentally scoring on his own net.

It all happened after he collected a loose puck between the circles and attempted to chip the puck behind the net. None of it went as planned as his chip ended up going on net and beating a stunned Mackenzie Blackwood.

Have a look.

William Nylander, the last Maple Leafs player to touch the puck, gets credit for the winning goal. It is already his 15th goal of the season, putting him on pace for 31 goals this season. He scored just seven goals in 54 games a year ago. His career-high is 22 goals.

Toronto still has its flaws — the play of backup goalie Michael Hutchinson was again an issue on Friday — but they still look like a completely different team under Keefe. They are more aggressive offensively, they are scoring more goals, and they are playing to their strengths.

They have scored at least four goals in all six of their wins on this streak.

The win on Friday keeps them in second place in the Atlantic Division, giving them a four-point lead over Montreal for that spot. They look to extend their winning streak to seven games on Saturday night when they return home to play the New York Rangers.

More Maple Leafs coverage

Ilya Mikheyev taken to hospital with ‘significant’ laceration to wrist
Maple Leafs are better, more dangerous team under Keefe 

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.

Shero: Hall trade ‘the right time and the right move for us’

Taylor Hall Trade Rumors
Getty Images
1 Comment

NEWARK, N.J. — Trading Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes roughly 18 months after the forward won the NHL MVP award for leading the Devils back to the playoffs was a simple hockey decision based on the team’s poor start and the strong likelihood the player was going to test the free-agent market next summer.

Devils general manager Ray Shero said Tuesday the trade of Hall to the Coyotes 24 hours earlier for two draft picks and three prospects was a hard day for him because of his feelings for the player. It was not a hard decision, he added.

Shero said numerous teams had called to inquire about acquiring the 28-year-old left wing, and the lines of communication remained opened with several of them until the deal with Arizona was finalized Monday.

Shero said trading Hall had nothing to do with the Devils realizing they would not be able to sign the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft before July 1. He also insisted Hall neither asked to be traded or nor said he wanted out of New Jersey, where he played the past three-plus seasons.

”From our standpoint, it was the right time and the right move for us and certainly for Taylor,” said Shero, noting Hall is going to a playoff contender.

Much was expected of the Devils this season. They drafted Jack Hughes with the No. 1 overall pick in June and he joined a lineup that included Hall and Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in 2017. New Jersey also acquired Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban from Nashville and signed Wayne Simmonds as a free agent.

Things went south quickly. The Devils lost their first six games (0-4-2) and won two of their first 11 (2-5-4). Coach John Hynes was fired earlier this month and Hall was traded Monday. New Jersey has a 10-17-5 record, second worst in the league.

”This was a decision we made that what’s best for us as to where we are,” Shero said. ”It may have been a harder decision if we were five or three points out of a playoff spot or at the (trading) deadline; then what do you do? I don’t think that was that hard a decision based on where we want to go and making sure we have assets coming to us that we like.”

In return for Hall and forward Blake Speers, the Devils got Arizona’s first-round pick in the 2020 draft (top-three protected), Arizona’s third-round selection (conditional) in 2021, defenseman Kevin Bahl and forwards Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr.

The deal has been anticipated for days. Hall was held out of the Devils’ games at Colorado and Arizona on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Shero said he spoke to Hall about a possible deal early last week.

Hall was leading the Devils in scoring with six goals and 19 assists for 25 points. He was limited to 33 games by a knee injury last season, finishing with 11 goals and 26 assists. His career year was in 2017-18 when he had 39 goals and 54 assists in getting New Jersey back to the playoffs for the first time since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

”Taylor Hall never asked for a trade. Never,” Shero said. ”He has never turned anything down. I didn’t turn anything down. I want to be clear about that. His legacy here in New Jersey is important and important to me. He was all-in with this team.”

Teammates knew a trade was imminent when Hall was scratched those two games last week.

Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was shopping for Christmas gifts Monday and he didn’t find out about the deal until four hours after it was announced.

”He knew it was coming. We knew it was coming,” Blackwood said. ”It was just a matter of time before it came together.”’

Veteran defenseman Andy Greene said Hall was popular and is going to be missed, but this is the business side of the game when a team struggles.

”Those things happen because of us in this locker room and how we played dictated that,” Greene said. ”’We still have what, 50 games left. We can’t sit there and say let’s play the rest of the year out. There’s way too much time.”

Kyle Palmieri, who was the right wing on the line with Hall, said the trade was a shock even though he knew it was coming.

”He was guy who was looked to as a leader and that was how he played and carried himself,” Palmieri said. ”It’s tough to see any teammate go but a guy who has been here for a while, and obviously one who had such a big impact on and off the ice.”