Cory Schneider posts first win in 2018 as Devils claw back into series

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After allowing 10 goals in the first two games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New Jersey Devils needed another look between the pipes.

Enter an old friend.

Cory Schneider‘s season can best be summed up as forgettable.

His less than stellar 2016-17 campaign tagged along into the current season and Schneider eventually lost his starting role to Keith Kinkaid. Schneider missed the whole month of February due to a groin injury and before Monday, hadn’t won a start since Dec. 27, 2017, a span of 12 starts without a W.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

But after Keith Kinkaid was pulled 33 minutes into a 5-3 defeat on Saturday, Schneider settled in and stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief. With the Devils needing a spark after falling down 2-0 in the series as it was shifting back to Jersey, Schneider was given his chance to assume to the reigns he previously held.

Some timely extra saves were helpful — Schneider made 34 of them — as the Devils tightened up defensively in 5-2 win to pull themselves back into the series, which sits at 2-1 in favor of the Lightning.

Taylor Hall helped out on offense, scoring his second of the playoffs and adding two assists in the win.

The Devils also got a boost with the return of Marcus Johansson, who missed 37 games with a concussion after an elbow from Brad Marchand.


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

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

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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

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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.

Capitals’ biggest question: Is this finally the year?

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Of the 12 NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup, there may not be a more optimistic one heading into 2015-16 than the Washington Capitals. 

Here’s why:

— Alex Ovechkin just won his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy. At 29, he remains the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorer. On top of that, the Caps appear to have found the right coach for the Russian superstar in Barry Trotz.

— The Caps also appear to have found a second-line center in young Evgeny Kuznetsov. If the 23-year-old continues to progress — and there’s no good reason he shouldn’t — Washington could have quite the 1-2 combo at center in Nicklas Backstrom and Kuznetsov.

— Defenseman John Carlson is emerging as one of the top blue-liners in the NHL. And at 25, he may get even better.

— Goalie Braden Holtby continues to post strong numbers. His .923 save percentage last season was tied with Pekka Rinne and one point better than Tuukka Rask.

Now throw in the additions of veterans T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to go with youngsters Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson, and what emerges is a roster where a glaring weakness is pretty tough to find.

OK, sure, there are concerns. Like maybe the Caps will miss Mike Green more than they think. Ditto for Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and/or Eric Fehr. If Washington’s young players don’t step up next season, it’s hard to picture this team hoisting the Cup.

But that’s true of any team, really.

“I’d say the next three or four years is the window,” GM Brian MacLellan said in May.

Given how quickly the landscape of a young man’s league can change, it may turn out to be a shorter window than that.

The Caps have a real opportunity in 2015-16. Can they finally get it done?

Related: Green calls this year’s Caps ‘the best team we’ve had overall’

It’s Washington Capitals day at PHT

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For the most part, Washington’s ’14-15 campaign was a success.

Under new head coach Barry Trotz, the Caps had 45 wins, 101 points, got back into the playoffs and won a series for the first time in three years.

All good things.

But in the end, success was fleeting. Once again, Washington lost a Game 7 to the Rangers — for the third time in four seasons — and, once again, Washington failed to get past Round 2 (for the 17th straight year). That rekindled talk of the Caps’ inability to come through in the clutch and, subsequently, talk of Alex Ovechkin’s inability to come through in the clutch.

In the end, though, you’d have to say the positives in Washington outweighed the negatives, thanks in large part to quality individual efforts.

Ovechkin had his highest goalscoring season in six years, netting 53 en route to winning the Maurice Richard Trophy. No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby posted career-highs across the board and narrowly missed out on being a Vezina finalist. John Carlson finished fifth in the NHL in d-man scoring, and top-10 in Norris voting.

Combine those with the growth shown by youngsters Evgeni Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, and the year — even though it ended in disappointment — could be seen as a stepping stone to a brighter ’15-16.

Off-season recap

GM Brian MacLellan made some pretty aggressive moves this summer, specifically at wing. Former Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams was added in free agency and then, in a bit of a stunner, U.S. Olympic hero T.J. Oshie was acquired from St. Louis.

The team’s objective, MacLellan revealed early in the process, was to find right wingers capable of playing on the top line (next to Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) and the second unit (next to Kuznetsov and Burakovsky).

So, mission accomplished — though it didn’t come without a price.

Washington lost a trio of veteran forwards this summer: Troy Brouwer was sent to the Blues in the Oshie deal, Eric Fehr signed in Pittsburgh, and Joel Ward inked with the Sharks. Longtime blueliner Mike Green also left in free agency, as did trade deadline pickups Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross.

Those departures were partly due to the price of the aforementioned acquisitions, but also because MacLellan had some big-ticket players in house that needed new contracts.

Chief among those was Holtby, who was rewarded for his banner season with a big five-year, $30.5M extension. Significant money was also spent elsewhere: Kuznetsov was given $6M over two years, Marcus Johansson $3.75M over one (by way of arbitration), and checking forward Jay Beagle $5.25M over three.

At the draft, the Caps were relatively quiet with just four picks, though did raise some eyebrows by picking highly-touted Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov with their top selection, at No. 22 overall.

Sens want to see if Hoffman ‘can do it again’

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The Ottawa Senators got almost exactly what they wanted from Mike Hoffman’s arbitration ruling — and it could cost them.

Hoffman will earn $2 million next season, which is significantly less than what you would expect a player to make after scoring 27 goals and 48 points. But there’s a difference between Hoffman and Marcus Johansson, who had 47 points last season and was awarded nearly twice as much in arbitration: The sample size.

Hoffman only had 29 games worth of NHL experience going into the 2014-15 campaign so whether or not he can maintain or build upon his 48-point campaign is in question. Of course, the same could be said for Stone, who had 64 points in his first full NHL campaign and received a three-year, $10.5 million deal from Ottawa, but Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion feels there are some noteworthy differences between the two young forwards.

“Mike’s road to the NHL has been a bit longer than Mark Stone,” Dorion told the Ottawa Citizen. “Stone was one of our best players in the second half last year and his play never tailed off. Mike’s play tailed off a bit in the second half (two goals in the last 16 games) and we want to see if Mike can do it again … we have a lot of confidence and faith Mike can do that next year.”

If Hoffman does do it again though, then the sample size arguments will weaken. At that point he’ll be in line for a considerable raise and a mid or long-term deal would likely come with a higher price tag than it would have been this summer.