The Devils have been playing with the absolute league minimum roster. With only eighteen players (six defensemen, twelve forwards) and two goalies, the Devils are still struggling to win.
They have dominated the puck in these last two games against Buffalo and Colorado. But after generating 43 shots on goal in Friday’s contest, they were only able to score two goals.
In the matchup against the Avalanche, the Devils outshot the Avalanche 43-22. Yet, the Avs were able to register three goals out of their 22 shots. Fourteen percent of their shots ended up as goals, while the Devils have only had a five percent success rate.
This is an ongoing theme with the Devils. Their domination of the puck should be an indicator that the Devils are doing something right, but with no goals to add to the scoresheet, something is obviously wrong and no one has the answers on how to make it right.
“We just need to score,” Ilya Kovalchuk said after the game. “Perhaps take maybe even more shots, put some pressure on their goalie…just take shots…take chances. We’ve got a great group of guys here. Right now, the bounces aren’t going our way, but we can turn it around.”
Rookie Matt Taormina has been generating the very few Devils chances alongside Kovalchuk. Taormina’s pass to Kovalchuk on Wednesday led to the game winning goal in the 1-0 win over the Sabres in overtime. The duo followed it up with another goal and assist a piece in the Avalanche game. They have both been responsible for the last three goals the Devils have seen.
“He played a really good game,” Kovalchuk said of Taormina. “He scored a goal. Hopefully, the first of many. He’s got patience. He passes the puck really well. That’s what he did for my goal.”
“It feels good,” Taormina said of contributing on the last three consecutive goals. “It’s always nice to help out your team somehow. We didn’t get the win. It kind of puts a damper on things even not getting the win. I don’t look at it as getting points or anything like that. You just go out there and play your game and hopefully something will happen.”
Taormina has been proving his worth with the Devils, registering the most ice time of anyone…more than last year’s number one defenseman Andy Greene. His work on the power play alongside Kovalchuk has been generating plays along with goals.
It’s not so often that a defenseman meshes so well on the blueline with another defenseman, or a superstar forward so quickly into their rookie year. But this is the type of performance he’s been delivering since preseason. Taormina had no idea that this would be the year that he would be given the chance to make it in the NHL.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Taormina said. “The more experience you get, the easier it feels, the [more] comfortable. I kind of said that about last year. I wasn’t expecting that either. I guess you have to expect the unexpected. I’ll just keep going, keep playing my game and see what happens.”
With Brian Rolston (sports hernia) and Anton Volchenkov (neck, broken nose) out of the lineup this week, Tim Sestito, Matt Corrente and Jacob Josefson were called up to the club to get the Devils up to an 18 skater roster. Friday marked Josefson’s first career NHL game.
Rolston will be out for the next 4-6 weeks. He had surgery on Thursday and is expected to be out. But if his recovery was anything like Patrik Elias’ recovery, it may take a little longer to get back into the game.
There is also another obstacle that lies before Rolston when it is time for him to return. With the Devils decision not to make any major moves to correct their salary cap problems, once Rolston or any of their other injured players (that are listed as injured, non-roster or on Long Term Injured Reserve) are ready to return, according to the collective-bargaining agreement, they cannot return to the lineup until the salary cap is fixed.
Does it seem like the situation in Newark is getting messier and messier? What’s next?
New Jersey Devils 2, Colorado Avalanche 3
With the Devils dominating the puck in the first period and the top line registering the majority of the shots on goal, it wasn’t the Devils that got on the scoreboard first. With Colin White in the penalty box with a double minor for high sticking Daniel Winnik in a very dangerous hit to the head, Cody McLeod went top-shelf against Martin Brodeur and tallied the first goal of the game for Colorado.
Twenty-five seconds following his goal, McLeod received a five minute boarding penalty along with a game misconduct at 12:15. The five minute man advantage generated nothing for the Devils as they elected to put five forwards on the power play unit for most of the power play.
This proved to be a faulty play as the forwards spent more time chasing the puck into their own zone to gather the puck and bring it back into Colorado’s zone. If a defenseman had been placed on the play to skate down and gather the puck, the forwards would not have wasted time chasing the puck on the extended power play. As a result, the Devils generated no goals in the five minute extra man advantage.
The Avalanche ended the first period registering one goal on only three shots, while the Devils generated 17 shots and no goals.
In the middle stanza, Colorado continued capitalizing on Brodeur when T.J. Galiardi went top-shelf for their second goal of the game at 11:48.
At 13:37, Winnik headed to the penalty box for goaltender interference, awarding the Devils their third power play of the game. With Elias, Kovalchuk, Taormina, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, on the power play, Kovalchuk passed the puck over to Taormina at the top of the blueline. Taormina didn’t even look up. He shot the puck, which made it all the way through the traffic in front of Craig Anderson, and into the net. This was his second point in two games, and his first career NHL goal.
In the final 20 minutes, Chris Stewart sent another puck top-shelf on Brodeur, for the third straight top-shelf goal in the game, at 4:31, bringing the Avalanche up to a 3-1 game. Kovalchuk answered with a goal (assisted by Taormina) 8:49 to make it 3-2, but it wasn’t enough. With the 43 shots on goal, the Devils were not able to generate anything beyond two goals, awarding the win to Colorado.
The Devils face the Bruins on Saturday at 7 p.m.