There haven’t been too many nights around here lately where everything’s clicked at once but last night’s 5-0 whitewashing of Nashville was one of them. Finally, the Devils had a rare laugher that was never in doubt, and not a moment too soon. If you’re trying to find anyone in red that didn’t play well yesterday, I don’t think you’ll find them. Offensively, five different Devils scored goals and thirteen players registered at least a point. Defensively, the Devils allowed just fifteen shots on net – no small accomplishment considering the six successful penalty kills during the game. And in goal, Martin Brodeur posted his second consecutive shutout and on a scale of 1-10 was 11 playing the puck last night, starting multiple breakouts. Yet Brodeur still was only second star behind fellow fortysomething Jaromir Jagr, who put up a goal early and a gorgeous assist late, passing the 1700-point plateau only behind names such as Gretzky, Messier, Howe, Francis, Dionne, Yzerman and Lemieux. In fact if Jagr hadn’t spent multiple seasons in the KHL he’d easily be second in points only behind Gretzky, who’s in another stratosphere.
Jagr scored the first goal of the game after barely a minute and a half with one of his patented deadly wristers. After Peter Harrold made a nice play in traffic to get the puck to Jagr, he drifted off to the left patiently waiting for the screen in front that eventually came and beat Carter Hutton for his fifth goal of the season. If Jagr made a smart individual play on the first goal, his entire line with Travis Zajac and Danius Zubrus would combine on the team’s fourth at 12:57 of the third period on a nice give-and-go play. Zubrus entered the zone, passed it back to Jagr on his right, then Jagr quickly found an open Zajac in front for a one-timer for Travis’s second goal of the season. Though coach Pete DeBoer was able to keep Jagr under fifteen minutes in a 5-0 game, his impact was still palpable. It’s fitting that in a week all about former Devils like Brendan Shanahan and Scott Niedermayer being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jagr keeps cranking out performances that show why he’ll join them in Toronto…some day. Maybe when he’s 50.
Same thing can be said about Brodeur, who after pronouncing that Cory Schnieder was the goaltender going forward has ironically done everything he could to prove himself wrong. Schnieder’s lower-body injury a couple weeks back was the opening Brodeur needed to turn back the clock yet again, allowing just two goals in his last four games and perhaps reclaiming the job again after going 4-1 in his last five games. Surely Marty has to start tomorrow at the Garden coming off of two shutouts. After that, the Devils have a pair of back-to-backs so each goalie’ll get work over the next two weeks. To be fair to Cory, he’s only had ten goals of support in his seven games and has a GAA of barely over 2, so it’s not like he’s been bad. Still, Marty turning back the clock to 2012…or 2003 has been inspiring. Especially when he’s on his game puckhandling like last night, it just gives the whole team more swagger.
If Marty and Jagr both turning back the clock has been mildly surprising, that’s nothing compared to the shock of likeable enforcer Cam Janssen‘s newfound goalscoring touch. After his unexpected goal in Philly, Cam followed that with yet another last night, putting home a rebound from a Ryan Carter attempt in front at 2:54 of the second period. If Cam was excited for his second goal in a week, so was the crowd – which chanted ‘Ca-am Jan-ssen!’ for at least a minute after. Putting Cam’s week in perspective, he’s tallied just five goals in his NHL career and three as a Devil. Two of them have come in the last four days, and this isn’t some guy that just came into the league yesterday. He was an NHL regular on and off from 2005 until last season where he spent most of it in the AHL, seemingly destined to finish out his days in Albany until his unexpected recall a week ago. Yes, Cam’s 752 penalty minutes in his 315 games are his primary calling card (i.e. being an enforcer)…but his enthusiasm and unexpected production has given a dying team a much-needed jolt of life in the last week.
Not that Cam’s the only new face having an impact. Eric Gelinas (five points, +1 in 8 games) has given the Devils much-needed offensive punch from the blueline to complement a resurgent Marek Zidlicky (eleven points in 17 games). Both defensemen combined on a bang-bang power play goal at 8:37 of the second period – five seconds after Seth Jones took a penalty – when Adam Henrique won a faceoff back to Gelinas, who fed Zidlicky for a violent one-timer goal, his second of the year. Gelinas has not only helped the power play start to hum, but he’s inspired d-partner Adam Larsson to play some of his best hockey as a Devil over the last two weeks. Perhaps Larsson’s taken well to being the mentor as opposed to the young guy on his pairing. Whatever the case, it’s like the Devils have added two defensemen and not just one.
New Jersey’s final goal of the night was also a bit unexpected, as Mattias Tedenby mezmerized Hutton with some slick movement before beating him from an angle with a wrist shot. If Tedenby’s goal was a stat-padder (it came with just 44 seconds left when the Devils already had a four-goal lead) it was a neccesary one for the young Swede, who hadn’t scored an NHL goal since 2011 but finally got rewarded for his improved play since getting out of limbo and into the lineup. Tedenby’s goal was also fitting cause he’d had an inauspicious start to the game, giving Hutton a perfect snowshower in the first period reminiscent of Claude Lemieux, and then getting sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct because of it. Has this league really gotten that soft where a well-timed snowshower is unsportsmanlike conduct?
All in all, last night was a nice game to enjoy from the ice cream suite. It wasn’t quite as good as it was last year when they brought in bowls of vanilla and chocolate icecream and full-sized brownies and cookies, as opposed to the Rita’s pre-filled cups of icecream – which were big enough – and the miniature (I’m talking one inch long) cookies/brownies they had last night. They didn’t even have the free programs they did last year, or the alum/mascot visits. Oh well at least the seat was padded and I did have enough to gorge on regardless. Not to mention a nice view of the attacking zone from the corner, the direct opposite of where I usually sit…and thankfully away from the annoying horn/vuvuzela concert in 122 for a night.
Despite the sub 13,000 crowd, the atmosphere seemed improved. Sadly being able to chant ‘you suck’ to SNA’s goal song a handful of times probably helped, though so did the game itself. The video on the goal song was nice though the random canned ‘Let’s Go Devils’ during it has gotta go. Let the crowd chant ‘Let’s Go Devils’ on its own, which usually happens after the goal song finishes and not during it. Blur 2 did came back after the final horn, so at least they’re listening to the fans on something. Having the ushers bang thundersticks and celebrate with the fans as everyone was leaving was a nice touch too.