Game #7 Klein’s Improbable Overtime Winner Stuns Devils

Of all the crazy scenarios, this one was almost unthinkable. Meeting for the first time in this unique Hudson rivalry, the Rangers and Devils battled past regulation. A game that featured the two teams combining for an unlikely five power play goals had one final surprise in store. Kevin Klein’s improbable overtime winner lifted the Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Devils at The Prudential Center. The unlikely candidate became the first Blueshirt defenseman to score this season.

By far their best win so far, the Rangers rallied back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to post their third straight victory. It was made possible thanks to Rick Nash, who continued his torrid pace by scoring his league-leading eighth of the season with 5:28 left in regulation. The much ballyhooed finisher is on fire. He’s looked on a mission so far. His tying marker was made possible due to an awful turnover from veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky. His errant clear was easily intercepted by Kevin Hayes, whose shot rebounded off Cory Schneider right to a streaking Nash who buried it. He’s not missing those because he’s hungry. Nash has gone to the dirty areas and is getting rewarded.

Early in the third period, it looked like the Devils would take the first installment of four regular season matches. Already having scored twice on the man-advantage, they made it three when second-year defenseman Jon Merrill took a Damien Brunner pass and put a low shot past Henrik Lundqvist with Jaromir Jagr in front. The goal came just 36 seconds in and increased their lead to 3-1.

Discipline was a problem for both teams. Special teams dominated with the Devils scoring all three of their goals on the power play. It took the Rangers seven games to convert on the power play. Chris Kreider and Chris Mueller each tallied power play goals. In the first period, Kreider put the Rangers ahead 1-0 with both Ryan McDonagh and Marty St. Louis assisting. Most notably, McDonagh finally hit the score sheet tallying two assists including a key one on Mueller’s PPG that allowed his team to come back.

After falling behind early, the Devils responded with three consecutive goals. First, Jagr tied it with his first set up by Brunner and Travis Zajac. You had to figure Jagr would finally get one facing one of his former teams. He finished with a goal and assist also setting up Adam Henrique’s power play goal that put New Jersey ahead 2-1 with 5:05 remaining in the second. Impressive rookie defenseman Damon Severson picked up a secondary helper for his fifth point in six games. Henrique’s one-timer looked to be heading wide but deflected off Klein past a perturbed Lundqvist. Perhaps it was fitting that Klein played the OT hero.

A Kreider interference minor in the final minute allowed the Devils to have another power play. After failing during the first part, they connected for a third time when Henrique recovered a loose puck and helped set up Merrill’s first to put the Newark hosts up 3-1. Pressing for more, they were unable to increase the margin. Lundqvist made some key stops to give his side a chance. That included getting a piece of a dangerous Mike Cammalleri point blank chance pushing the puck off the crossbar. He finished with 28 saves.

Ironically, the game turned on a Cammalleri penalty. He accidentally got a piece of a John Moore shot with his stick sending the puck out of play which led to a delay of game minor. It only took the Rangers 23 seconds to get back in it. Alain Vigneault sent Mueller out to take the offensive draw. Even though he didn’t win it cleanly, he helped retrieve the puck getting it to the point. McDonagh made a diagonal pass to Derick Brassard, who faked shot before threading the needle for a Mueller one-time blast short side for his first goal (point) as a Ranger. That cut the deficit to 3-2 with 10:54 left.

Afterwards, the Rangers attacked with vigor. Dangerous virtually every shift, they came close a couple of times. The closest was when Kreider had a loose puck bounce over his stick in front. Eventually, it was a costly mistake by Zidlicky which allowed them to tie it. His turnover led directly to Nash finishing off a low Hayes shot that caromed off Schneider for the equalizer.

Undeterred, the Devils went for it. They kept attacking and nearly had the go-ahead goal a couple of times. However, Lundqvist made some crucial stops on dangerous opportunities. He also had some good fortune when he stopped Ryane Clowe and then had Dominic Moore and Marc Staal push a loose puck underneath him for a whistle. Conversely, Lee Stempniak nearly had the winner when on a rush his snapshot went off the crossbar with over two minutes to go.

Just from how both teams played, it looked like someone would win in overtime. Severson had a great chance when he spun around a defender but fired a shot wide. Eventually, Mueller and Kreider started the other way. Mueller dropped for Kreider, who drew the Devils D before making a no look pass to Klein, who cut in and beat Schneider at 2:42 for the OT clincher.

NY Puck 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Chris Mueller, NYR (power play goal, assist in 12:21-might be a keeper)

2nd Star-Adam Henrique, NJD (power play goal, assist, 3 SOG in 20:51-dangerous throughout)

1st Star-Chris Kreider, NYR (power play goal, assist, 4 SOG in 16:18-brilliant rush and set up)

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Battle Of Hudson Preview: Rangers visit Devils In Newark

The first installment of the Battle Of Hudson commences tonight in Newark when the Rangers visit the Devils at The Rock. The close rivals separated by a Path ride begin a new journey. The Post Brodeur Era. With Martin Brodeur no longer a Devil hoping to catch on somewhere, Cory Schneider is their new number one goalie. With that comes plenty of expectations and pressure. After winning his first three starts, he’s allowed eight goals during the last two losses including getting pulled in Washington after permitting five. He’ll make his sixth straight start.

As usual, Henrik Lundqvist will man the net for the Blueshirts. After giving up an uncharacteristic 12 goals in consecutive defeats, he’s bounced back winning his last two starts while posting a 0.48 goals-against-average that included his 51st career shutout coming Sunday against San Jose. Lundqvist has stopped 62 of the last 63 shots. Facing a familiar foe he has fared well against posting a 30-14-6 record with a 1.87 GAA, .932 save percentage and eight shutouts, he’ll make his 51st career start in the regular season versus New Jersey.

The Rangers aim for a third consecutive win while the Devils try to avoid a three-game losing streak. Tonight’s game features two hot leading scorers. Rick Nash is off to a tremendous start with a league-leading seven goals and is tied with the Islanders’ Brock Nelson for third in scoring with eight points. Derick Brassard has rebounded from a slow start with three goals over the last four. Reunited with Mats Zuccarello and joined by Martin St. Louis, who got his first in their win over San Jose, Brassard anchors the top line while improving rookie Kevin Hayes centers Nash and Chris Kreider. With Carl Hagelin finally scoring and Chris Mueller doing a solid job on the fourth line, does Anthony Duclair sit again?

For the Devils, free agent addition Mike Cammalleri has been superb pacing them with five goals and seven points. Jaromir Jagr has three assists so far and is searching for his first goal. Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder each have five points and 20-year old rookie defenseman Damon Severson is out quickly with three goals. They’ll need more production from franchise scoring leader Patrik Elias. The noted Ranger killer usually steps it up in these games.

New Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh hasn’t recorded a point yet. He is coming off a strong game and could make an impact. Meanwhile, partner Dan Girardi is a “game-time decision” according to coach Alain Vigneault. He suffered a leg laceration Sunday after blocking a shot. If he cannot go, that means Michael Kostka which could spell doom. UPDATE: Scratch that. After taking the morning skate, Girardi declared himself ready to go.

The Devils could have a different look. Marty Havlat is questionable due to facial lacerations suffered against the Capitals. That could mean Damien Brunner again or Jacob Josefson. Defenseman Adam Larsson is expected to replace Eric Gelinas in the lineup. The former 2011 first round pick hasn’t been handled well by coach Pete DeBoer. Last year was a nightmare with the 21-year old Swede recording a goal and two assists in 26 games while spending most of the winter in Albany. After being beaten out by Severson, he expressed frustration. If he plays tonight, here’s a chance to prove he belongs.

Face off is at 7:07. With Game 1 of the World Series starting an hour later between the Giants and Royals, it should be interesting to see how they do. With Dad an avid Giants fan since the classic days of the Polo Grounds, there could be plenty of channel flipping. Either way, I’ll have a game review with Hasan taking the Devils.

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Game #6: Rangers Sink Sharks As Lundqvist Tosses Shutout

It took six games for the Rangers to put together their best effort of this new season. Taking full advantage of a tired opponent, they overwhelmed the Sharks winning by a score of 4-0 at MSG to get back to .500 (3-3-0). A couple of days off didn’t hurt the cause as they won a second consecutive game.

The highlight of this one were back-to-back goals by Marty St. Louis and Rick Nash only four seconds apart tying a franchise record. The difference being that both came at even strength. As Rick Carpinello noted in a tweet, the previous fastest two goals in team history were from Kris King and James Patrick, who scored an empty netter in four seconds. Essentially, that makes the new mark more impressive.

Carl Hagelin got off the snide finally scoring his first goal at 13:01 of the second period to break a scoreless game. Playing on a newly comprised third line with Dominic Moore and Lee Stempniak, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Hagelin had been pressing. It seems that whoever Stempniak plays with benefits. Prior to the Rangers seizing control midway through, Stempniak was their best forward. He had another strong game. Hagelin’s goal came off hustle and second effort. The combination of John Moore and Dom Moore sent him in. His routine shot was fumbled by San Jose backup Alex Stalock, whose blunder allowed Hagelin to steer home the rebound.

At the time, the Rangers were playing very well. Finally skating with purpose and controlling puck possession in the offensive zone for long stretches, they had come close previously with Stalock stifling Kevin Hayes and St. Louis hitting the crossbar. Nash also had a dominant shift where he basically pinned the Sharks in and had them at his mercy. It didn’t get the end result. Once Hagelin recorded his first point of the season, that changed.

With Henrik Lundqvist able to see every shot, he picked up his first shutout. He was busy in the second making 15 of 33 saves during the middle stanza. Most came during the first half when the Sharks still had enough of their skating legs to generate quality chances. For the most part, an improved defense did a solid job in front. Ryan McDonagh had his best defensive game and partner Dan Girardi was instrumental. The tandem of Marc Staal and Kevin Klein got better throughout after a couple of shaky moments from Klein. Matt Hunwick also shined saving a goal in the first period by just clearing the puck before it crossed the goal line. John Moore also picked up a key assist on Hagelin’s marker.

It was more reminiscent of last year. Better puck management. They even dominated faceoffs winning 41 of 62. Derick Brassard and Dominic Moore combined to go 29-and-6. Hartford call-up Chris Mueller went 8-for-9. Hayes was 5-for-14. No coincidence that their dominance in the faceoff circle contributed to strong puck possession. Exactly what coach Alain Vigneault had in mind when he sat out Anthony Duclair.

Aside from that, Hagelin and Hayes scored their first goals. Hayes was a great reward as he’d been getting chances. True enough, I tweeted to another fan at the game that I thought maybe he’d get it in the third. Not to toot my own horn but when Hayes got to his own rebound and roofed one past Stalock, that was pretty cool. It was created off some strong defensive work. He stole the puck and had a wraparound stopped before rebounding home his first to put the exclamation point on the victory.

As for the record St. Louis and Nash matched, it came out of nowhere. Still nursing a one-goal lead in the final minute, an aggressive Girardi pinch kept a cycle alive. A loose puck eventually came to an isolated St. Louis in front, who jammed away before stuffing it in on his third attempt. San Jose coach Todd McClellan questioned the referees because he felt they should’ve blown the whistle similar to an earlier goal the Rangers had correctly waved off. A new rule is that they can use replay to help avoid controversy. On St. Louis’, they clearly got it right.

What followed was stunning. Off a Moore faceoff win, Nash carried the puck in and took a routine shot which Stalock butchered allowing him to pounce for his NHL-leading seventh at 19:20. The odd sequence was identical to Hagelin’s tally. Stalock struggled handling the puck and the Blueshirts capitalized on two crucial miscues. It was a rough night for the San Jose backup, who allowed four goals on 29 shots. He started in place of number one Antti Niemi, who was in Saturday at New Jersey.

Encouraging is that it was by far the Rangers’ best performance. Even if it came at the expense of a road weary opponent who had already faced the Islanders and Devils on a New York/New Jersey invasion, it was imperative for them to cash in. As St. Louis said afterwards to Al Trautwig, those are the ones they have to get. It now sets up the first Battle Of Hudson Tuesday in Newark. To borrow a quote from Major League, “Win that and that’s three in a row. It’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.”

NY Puck 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (33 saves-1st shutout of season)

2nd Star-Dominic Moore, NYR (2 assists, +2 in 16:20-a beast on draws)

1st Star-Kevin Hayes, NYR (1st NHL goal/point, 4 SOG, 3 takeaways, 5 hits in a lucky 13:13 for #13)

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Second straight defeat mars home opener

Devils’ pregame show looked better than last night’s game

It must be said the bloom is a bit off the rose now for the Devils.  After an impressive three straight wins on the road, the Devils are now back in the pack with two consecutive losses following a blowout in Washington and last night’s 3-2 home opener defeat at the hands of the Sharks.  While it’s not panic time yet, clearly it’s get worried about the special teams time.  Both in the fact we’re taking so many penalties and the fact we’re not killing enough of them off.  And some big names need to start playing better, beginning with the goaltender Cory Schnieder – who had two bad games on the trip and gave up a killer soft goal last night to Patrick Marleau in the third period.  Not that Cory’s the only guy who’s struggling, really the only big-name guy that hasn’t struggled the last few games is Mike Cammalleri, who may wind up being our most successful FA signing in quite some time.

Still, our struggles start with the PK woes.  New Jersey’s been shorthanded an astonishing 26 times in its first five games, and allowed six PP goals among them, for a woeful 76.4 percent.  After having a league-leading PK the last two full seasons, it’s struggled out of the gate.  While ‘conventional wisdom’ (re: coach Pete DeBoer) says part of that is integrating new guys into the penalty kill, the fact is it isn’t so much the new guys that are killing us as it is the holdovers getting more PK time than they should.  Like Bryce Salvador, who the organization has a collective mancrush on but let’s face it, he’s 38 years old and a statue on the ice.  He was supposed to be a PK specialist but has been on the ice for more than half our total goals against (9 of 17) so far and the Sharks’ quick, effective passing on their PP left him standing still on both the first two goals.

To be fair, Salvador getting over six minutes of shorthanded time a game is in part a function of the changing defense.  Without Mark Fayne and Anton Volchenkov around, second-year defenseman Jon Merrill and rookie Damon Severson are the #3 and #4 options defensively on the PK behind Sal and Andy Greene.  While neither’s fallen in over their head yet at some point they’re either going to have to get more minutes (which isn’t ideal in Severson’s case yet) or we’re going to have to finally free Adam Larsson from jail.  Maybe that chance’ll come Tuesday since Eric Gelinas has his second straight poor game, not hitting the net with shots, turning the puck over and making a dumb decision late in the third to give a penalty shot where he really had zero chance of getting the puck and not tripping Tommy Wingels.  Fortunately Schnieder saved Wingels’ penalty shot.  Whatever changes we’re negotiating on D, the forwards are mostly the same on the PK other than Cammalleri taking over the departed Ryan Carter’s slot on the three forward lines.

Elsewhere, our own PP hasn’t been great yet going just 3-18 so far with two of them coming in the Florida scrimmage.  Offensively after scoring eleven goals its first two games, the Devils have gotten two in each of the last three games.  Not particularly terrible but two’s not going to be enough to win a majority of your games either.  Especially when you wait till down 3-0 in the third period before coming to life last night.  Plus some other people besides Cammalleri are going to have to pick it up eventually.  We are only five games in but other than Cammalleri, Adam Henrique’s the only other forward with multiple goals so far and he has two.  For all the hulabaloo about our increased mobility and offensive potential on the blueline, only Severson has scored among our defensemen through the first five games (granted, he alone has three goals – though two were in the blowout at Washington).  While last night was the first time we weren’t outshot, we still gave up 30+ shots and are maintaining an Oiler-like average of 32 shots a game against in the first five.  And in goal, if Schnieder’s play isn’t concerning yet it surely is eyebrow-raising.  In his first season after signing a long-term deal to be Martin Brodeur’s replacement the spotlight’s obviously going to be on Cory more now.  Defensive issues aside, he just has to be better than a 2.97 GAA and a .908 save percentage before the vultures start to have a feast.

If the on-ice product has been uneven to this point, so was the off-ice product last night.  Let me start with the positive, asthetically I liked most of the changes.  All the new food choices made me pine for the fact we’re not going to have a fresh roll of Chico Eats this year.  I didn’t actually sample the food choices though, as I haven’t received my $200 food and beverage card yet (neither has anyone else) due to an unspecified delay.  Plus by the time I got inside the lines were just so crowded anyway, so I might as well wait for another day.  Even Championship Plaza had some good food choices in the various trucks outside though. The renovated and expanded team stores seemed to have more of a choice and variety between locations though I didn’t really have time to go through the main store last night.  Upstairs actually saw a fair amount of renovation including a mini-bar area outside of 225 and just off the main escalator upstairs.  Our much-balleyhooed pregame show debut looked good enough, especially the opening effects of the ice and fire: http://video.devils.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=647349&lang=en

Now for the negative/pet peeves, and part of that is related to the opening show.  The Devils made such a big deal on social media about being in your seat by 6:45 (normally the end of the pregame skate) for the debut of the new 3D presentation.  To the point where they even mailed postcards to all sth’s encouraging us to be in our seats by 6:45.  So while I was downstairs with friends just before 6:30 I decided to go upstairs so I’d be able to walk around the upper concourse at least once before getting to my seat.  When 6:45 came all we saw were Zambonis circling the ice, and there was nothing on the jumbotron either.  In other words your normal 6:45-7 break between the pregame skate and the game.  Apparently 6:45 in Devil-land really means 7 PM, which is a Tom Coughlin approach to time.  Although I liked the pregame show I was annoyed that I wasted fifteen minutes sitting at my seat for nothing.  It seemed like half the crowd was still stuck in concession lines or outside at 6:45 anyway, maybe they didn’t get the memo or knew better than to listen to anything the Devils said.

Another pet peeve took place before the game as well, where the Devils have apparently dispensed with player intros for the opposing teams.  Why?  Because it doesn’t add to the owners’ corporate vision for the atmosphere having us chant ‘sucks’ after every player on the other team gets called out.  I’m shocked they haven’t stopped introducing the refs yet to keep them from getting booed.  For whatever issue I’ve had with their handling of the goal song to me taking away the well-timed and completely harmless ‘sucks’ towards the other team’s starting lineup is a hundred times worse than trying (unsuccessfully) to sanitize the goal song.  Which of course leads to the main issue last night – and something I’m already tired of talking about – the goal song itself.  At the arena, the goal song sounded nothing like the YouTube preview I posted the other day.  And all of the fans chanting Let’s Go Devils for the video?  I kind of thought each fan clip would be shown on a rotation basis throughout the season, instead what we saw on the jumbotron was a Brady-Bunch like picture of like twenty-five little squares with all of the fan chants at once and the combined noise sounded awful.

Especially when the music got jacked up to concert levels on the second goal because again Devil fans cannot resist being defiant and trying to pump ‘you suck’ into every single goal song the team will ever put on the board.  I just don’t know what to say any more.  I’m tired of how petty and selfish Devil fans have become, and I’m tired of doing nothing after a goal besides clapping since I don’t want to join in the YS chant and nobody else wants to join in the goal song.  If you want to keep ruining the in-game atmosphere of a positive act (scoring a goal) for years and years and years eventually you’re going to do more to sanitize the atmosphere than the owners you’re trying to stick it to.  Clearly this impasse is no longer about RRP2 – especially since most of the people crying tradition are the ones who changed tradition by adding YS over the last several years – but more about Devil fans taking a perverse pride in being stubborn, selfish fools.  I was fine with ‘you suck’ in RRP2, especially when we were winning, but that’s over with now.  Ownership has been clear on this issue and instead of respecting their wishes on this one little thing we’re going to continue to drag every goal scored through the mud, as if we’re all Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a bus.  GIVE…IT…UP with this crap already!  RR2 is not coming back, YS is going to be frowned on and if you want the team to keep doing things to counteract your stupidity you’re only going to continue to annoy real fans.

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The Anthony Duclair Dilemma

Anthony Duclair will sit out for Sunday's game against San Jose.  nydailynews.com/Getty Images by Bruce Bennett

Anthony Duclair will sit out for Sunday’s game against San Jose.
nydailynews.com/Getty Images by Bruce Bennett

For the first time this season, Anthony Duclair will be a healthy scratch when the Rangers host the sizzling Sharks at MSG later today. The 19-year old rookie hasn’t done anything wrong. Thus far, he’s tallied three assists in five games. An exciting player, The Duke has made good things drawing penalties while showing he isn’t intimidated.

Unfortunately, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has decided to shift Marty St. Louis back to right wing. With Kevin Hayes impressing enough, he’ll center a second line of Chris Kreider and Rick Nash. Derick Brassard will anchor the top line with Mats Zuccarello and St. Louis. The recall of right-handed center Chris Mueller allows Dominic Moore to move up to the third line where he’ll play with Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak. Mueller starts with Tanner Glass and Ryan Malone.

Right now, it’s a numbers game. As Vigneault emphasized, he wants Duclair to be in his top nine. At the moment, there’s no room if this experiment goes well. In their 2-1 shootout win over Carolina, the desperate coach played mostly three lines in the third period. Duclair received only one shift after being moved down to the fourth line. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to keep him if he’s not going to play an offensive role. However, with Hagelin off to a poor start, you can make a case for Duclair in the top nine. I’m not suggesting benching Hagelin. I just don’t get the infatuation with Glass, who is a bit player.

The other issue for the organization is the expected return of Derek Stepan. He’s currently on long-term IR and will miss five more games. Once that’s up, he’ll be back for November. Undoubtedly, they can use Stepan, who can aid their power play and provide a smart two-way pivot who can kill penalties effectively. His creativity and workmanlike approach is missing. When he is back, that’s another top nine forward. and most notably, a center who can relieve pressure from Hayes. It’ll create better balance.

At this point, I’m not sure sending Duclair back to Quebec of the QMJHL is best for his development. Why not keep him and give Duke an opportunity? He’s clearly one of the club’s most talented forwards. After Kreider, Nash, St. Louis and Zuccarello, Duclair is right there in terms of skill. I just hope the Rangers don’t mess him up. For now, they can still play him in four more games before deciding what to do.

There’s no rule that says you have to play veterans over kids who are more deserving. If that means Glass becomes a spectator, so be it. He doesn’t have to play every night. He’s an energy guy who kills penalties and provides physicality. Malone also shouldn’t be guaranteed a spot. He’s an experienced player with size who can aid the power play. They can pick their spots. Nothing is etched in stone.

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Rangers Eek Past Canes In Shootout, Send Down Fast and Miller

Getting Nashty With It: Rick Nash beats Anton Khudobin in the shootout. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II/Getty Images

Getting Nashty With It: Rick Nash beats Anton Khudobin in the shootout.
AP Photo by Frank Franklin II/Getty Images

At least the losing streak is over. That’s my half-gallows approach to last night’s Rangers ugly 2-1 shootout win over the lowly Hurricanes. After suffering humiliations to Toronto and the Islanders, they found a way to win for the first time on home ice. Albeit a game that many of our fans called “boring,” and “good nap time.”

I was out working but caught the skill competition with my brother at Applebee’s in Tottenville while watching the Jets latest debacle. Rick Nash scored on a wonderful forehand deke faking Anton Khubobin out of his jock strap. Then Henrik Lundqvist stopped a third consecutive Carolina shot by denying Ryan Murphy and pumping his fist in celebration.

”I think we needed to feel we could play a solid, 60-minute game,” said Lundqvist after stopping 29 of 30 shots. ”You need every point you can get. Just because we had a great comeback (from early-season doldrums) last year, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this year. We need to … stay in the (playoff) race from the get-go.”

Of course, he’s right. Even if it was dull hockey and the team turned over the puck a lot (20 giveaways), they needed to get two points. Especially with the Islanders remaining the only undefeated team, the Devils taking it on the chin to Washington and the Pens and Jackets remaining strong. If you can’t beat depleted Carolina without both Staal brothers sans Marc, who was re-teamed with Kevin Klein by desperate coach Alain Vigneault, then you have issues. If you give away the puck as much as they did, they still have some work to do before Sunday’s final home game versus San Jose before visits to the Devils and Canadiens next week.

After two periods, the Rangers trailed 1-0 on a Chris Terry neat redirection of a Murphy shot. As I checked Twitter, there was plenty of concern. Even this early, our fans are in panic mode. They see a struggling team that hasn’t gelled. Still without Dan Boyle and Derek Stepan, it’s forced Vigneault to make changes. Despite 19-year old rookie Anthony Duclair drawing two penalties, he only took one shift in the third period on the fourth line. Instead, Vigneault moved Ryan Malone up to a line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. The move worked with Brassard scoring on a double deflection of a Dan Girardi point shot to tie the game. Both Zuccarello and Brassard got a piece of it with the latter getting credit for his third goal in three games.

”I was looking to find nine guys that I felt could give us a little spark,” Vigneault said. ”I wanted to see what Malone could do a little bit more there with Brassard and Zucarello. (Chris Kreider) was fighting it a bit, so I was just trying to find nine guys that could give me a little more there.”

”Sometimes you just got to shuffle the deck a little bit,” Vigneault added. ”Took (Martin St. Louis) away from the center position there, tried a few different combinations, sometimes you just got to see what can happen, and see what might click.”

One might ask what Duclair did wrong? Nothing. Even if I disagree with sitting one of our most dangerous forwards, it worked. With Vigneault finally souring on St. Louis at center, it looks like he’ll shift back to right wing which means the team had to make room for another center. Not surprisingly, they sent Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller down to Hartord and recalled Chris Mueller. With the Rangers getting destroyed on faceoffs (44-23), it makes sense. Plus Fast and Miller weren’t playing. Even if I don’t know exactly what the plan is with Fast, he’s better off. Plus Miller needs it after looking lost.

The one other change was Matt Hunwick replacing Michael Kostka on the blueline. He received 14 shifts (10:07 TOI) and was on for Carolina’s goal. What did Vigneault do? Played new captain Ryan McDonagh a ton. He and Girardi saw 34 shifts with Mac Truck logging 30:19 to Danny G’s 27:24. That included plenty of power play duty where the team continued to baffle firing blanks in five chances. They have yet to score on it. Sound familiar?

At this point, they’re 2-3-0 without a single point from McDonagh or a single goal from St. Louis. Carl Hagelin is also without a point and minus-five. Even Kreider has disappointed with only one goal over the first five. Sure. He has three assists but he passes too much. This is a guy with immense talent. It wouldn’t hurt to shoot more. The team must play a lot better. The next three aren’t easy. We’ll get a better answer next week.

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Devils prepare for home opener after finishing a (mostly) successful trip

Perhaps it’s for the best if I don’t see any highlights (or lowlights as they were) of last night’s 6-2 loss in Washington.  What I heard on the radio was more than enough with Cory Schnieder’s misplay on the fifth goal summing up an overall bad night for him and his team.  Aside from super rookie Damon Severson anyway, who’s continuing to take the league by storm with another two goals last night, upping his total to three on the young season – and playing nearly twenty-two minutes with significant TOI in all situations.  By the way, Adam Larsson has three goals in his entire three-year NHL career.  Just saying.  Severson’s more than just a scorer though, he’s been a solid all around contributor, as evidenced by his increasing PK time over the season’s first week plus.  As much as I want to put the brakes on the hype and remind people that Larsson started out strong in his rookie year too, it’s impossible when you see things like this:

Bowman, by the way was in attendance for Tuesday’s game in Tampa.  There is one significant difference between Larsson then and Severson now (besides the goalscoring), Severson IS two years older after all – age 20 now, while Larsson started at 18.  I have to admit maybe the staff wasn’t so crazy letting him have a job straight out of camp despite only a handful of pro games with Albany last year, for whatever complications might eventually develop with the former #4 overall pick, who clearly hasn’t developed as fast as lesser-heralded picks like Severson and Jon Merrill.  You can’t really argue with a winning lineup, and coach Pete DeBoer hasn’t – not changing the lines or defensive rotation through the first four games.

Between the loss and the gruesome face injury to Martin Havlat last night though (supposedly badly cut along the bridge of his nose when accidentally caught by a ref’s elbow, you really can’t make this stuff up), DeBoer might not have much of a choice but to change the lineup for tomorrow’s home opener.  For the talk about Severson, the defense as a whole has had its rough patches.  After leading the league in fewest shots allowed last season, the Devils have been outshot in every game this year.  Coach DeBoer dodged a tough question about whether vets Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky had a tough night in Tampa by saying matter-of-factly the Lightning players give a lot of defensemen tough nights.  Which is true, but either way the few vets we have need to start playing better, before we do become guilty of giving the kids too much too soon.  If there is going to be a change on defense tomorrow it’ll most likely be Eric Gelinas coming out for Larsson, which will make opposing goaltenders breathe a sigh of relief – but of the three young guns he’s the most defensively challenged and was a -2 last night.

It also needs to be said that the Devils have faced three pretty good offensive teams out of the four games and did well to get three wins in that stretch, with all of them being road games.  However you can’t count on the type of offensive outbursts the Devils had in their first two games every night either.  Our game in Tampa is probably the more likely template to winning games this year – keep the puck out of the net and score timely goals.  The former starts with Schnieder, who had a bit of an uneven road trip playing very well in the two Florida games, not so well in the two division games in Philly and Washington.  After yesterday’s stinker tomorrow is a big game for him, another bad one and the vultures will start to circle over a first-time #1 goaltender trying to replace the great Brodeur.

Up front you can’t complain about the results so far…fifteen goals on the trip and no less than two in any game.  Albeit last night both goals came from Severson and the forwards were shut down.  Perhaps last night was just a end-of-trip lull, certainly seemed that way after the first period from the recaps.  Still there’s a lot to feel good about to this point, the top three lines are all contributing (even without a goal from last year’s team MVP Jaromir Jagr), and big FA signing Mike Cammalleri seems to fit like a glove.  I do kind of want to pump the brakes on the Zach Parise comparisons a little, but both are similar players – smallish guys with a nose around the net and willing to embrace backchecking – and so far Camm has been at least a Parise-lite player here to this point, continuing his high level of play from the end of last season in Calgary.

So now after nearly two weeks, we finally get to see a ‘real’ home game tomorrow.  I didn’t attend any preseason games, though I did see an Aerosmith concert with friends early last month and clearly the building looked like it was still under renovation between a new food vendor that’ll bring in a bunch of new eateries (Legends), the team store expansions and the 3D technology that’s being put in for pregames and eventually in-game stuff.  I did make it out to the arena last weekend for the annual season ticket holder barbeque, which is an informal way to meet the players in a variety of settings, whether it’s getting pictures around the concourse or participating and attending mock press conferences in two different locales.  The barbeque served a double purpose as many of the new arena food options were available for taste-testing.  It was all I could do to avoid taking a bunch of the chicken parm samples.  Many of the players even participated in cooking demonstrations outside the Fire Lounge.

Also set to change (again) is the goal song, and at the barbeque the Devils publicized fan involvement – which can be seen in the ‘Let’s Go Devils!’ fan chants interspersed throughout the goal song posted above, also an individual fan creation.  I can’t say how much I like or dislike the song until I actually see it at the arena but hey, nothing can be as bad as ‘This Is Our House’, right?  At least having fan chants is better than just the canned LGD chant the team used in its second attempt to replace Rock and Roll Part 2 last year, after the Bon Jovi Our House song failed miserably.  Clearly the contreversy over replacing the goal song is not going away judging by the stupid, asinine social media attempts to boo the song again and intersperse ‘You Suck’ into it though at this point fans are just being childish.

As evidenced by a number of outlets fans still have not accepted that RR2 is not coming back, and will not come back under this ownership which is clearly commited to ‘changing the culture’.  People protested, argued and wrote angry letters last year but at some point they have to give up the ghost.  Even Nashville is no longer using the song.  You can agree or disagree with it, and the team’s reasoning why, at some point you just have to accept that a twenty-second song isn’t worth dragging everything through the mud for.  Especially when booing and stupid chants come to mar the team actually scoring, the way it did in last year’s home opener when the team tried to change the goalsong without anyone knowing (at least this year they’ve been more above board about it).  In theory you’re there to watch your team win a hockey game, not attend a concert where you don’t like the playlist.

Goal song nonsense aside, I am looking forward to seeing the new changes at Prudential Center and hopefully the team continues its strong play of the first three games as opposed to the dud last night.

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