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The Devils have been, at times, a completely frustrating team to watch, an abysmal team to watch or, in the case of the past two games, a fun team to watch. Much like their game in Calgary on Friday night, the Devils put together a solid performance with a lot of energy against the Vancouver Canucks. The Devils have managed to get 5 out of 6 points during this Western Canada road trip. They’ve done some good things during this road trip but we will see that the Devils bring to Minnesota tomorrow night as they go up against a very hot Wild team.
The Devils had a number of players putting in the effort against Vancouver. Josefson/Zacha/Bennett line played very well and the Lovejoy/Merrill pairing had a solid night. Cory Schneider continues to improve his game as he only gave up 1 goal on 22 shots and that one goal was a perfect laser by Eriksson. Once in a while Kyle Quincey will remind us that he does have something that our other defensemen do not, a powerful slap shot. Quincey tied the game at 1 in the second period when he took a very hard slapper that redirected off a Canuck and into the net. I’ll be honest though, his slap shot does make me miss the days of Eric Gelinas winding up and slapping them from the blue line.
The Devils ended this one in OT after Travis Zajac put in a fantastic back checking effort to strip the puck away from Sven Baertschi and got it up to Taylor Hall. Hall took the puck up the ice and fired it into the back of the net, giving the Devils the 2-1 victory. You could see in the close up of Hall after the goal that he was giving Zajac all the credit for his defensive effort.
If there was one complaint you could make about the Devils play, It would center around their power play unit. The Devils only had one opportunity but they didn’t score and their January stats go to 2-23 for the month of January and 3-45 overall. They still seem to struggle on the power play and make it too easy for the opposition to read their attack.
Schneider has been steadily improving this month. He had a terrible month of December and has pulled himself out of an .887 save percentage into a respectable .940.
Here’s the thing to remember. The Devils aren’t a great team and the Stanley Cup is not in the sights for this season. Getting to the playoffs however, that would be a huge step in the right direction for this organization and basically making 2016-17 a win. During the month of December, playoffs seemed like a pipe dream. Now the Devils aren’t in a playoff position but the Devils only trail the Flyers by 5 points. If the Devils could put together a decent run like other teams have this season, they could find themselves back in a playoff position. Here’s the interesting thing about the Devils. They are one of the most intriguing teams ahead of the March 1 trade deadline and beyond that really. They’re one of the very few teams in the league with lots of salary cap space plus they have 18 draft picks at their disposal over the next two years. If the Devils can remain in the hunt, they could use some of these picks as a way to pry a good player or two away from teams that are cap-strung or that may be having issues re-signing some guys. There may not be another trade like the Taylor Hall trade but you never know. The key is to remain close and keep building a team where guys want to come because the future looks good.
On to Minnesota which won’t be an easy one.