After a tough start to the season between integrating six new players into their system and players going out injured, the Devils are starting to come together. That has been evident in the last week as they continue to generate goals and become more and more aggressive defensively.
Credit is due to the coaching staff. The Devils have been working extensively on new plays. Each game shows how those plays can be effective when it is applied. The most important thing is that they are finding the puck behind the goal line thanks to these new plays they have been working on.
In places where they show strong signs of weakness, the players put in the extra time on the ice to become better. For instance, their faceoff percentages were horrible. They had a success rate of 39% at the start of the month. Now, the stats sheet shows that they are the ones winning the majority of the faceoff battles after each contest.
It’s the little things that they spend time on that help them improve on their overall game. Those little things end up helping in a big way. Ryan Carter explained Jaromir Jagr’s attention to the little things and how it becomes such a big thing in the end.
“He is fun to watch,” Carter said of Jagr. “He does a lot of little things to prepare himself for games. He really analyzes the little parts to the game. Why is a guy with all that skill working on something so simple and little like that? Then you see it translate into the game and you’re like, ‘That’s why!’ There’s a lot of little things that if you just kind of sit back and watch he does you pick up. It will help you in the long run for sure.”
For the Devils, they may have started off playing good hockey but losing at the end of the night didn’t equate to what they wanted overall. It defeats the purpose. Now, all of that is changing.
“I think we’re finding ways to win,” coach DeBoer said after the game. “If you go back early in the season when we’re playing a much better brand of hockey, I think we played fairly well at the end of the losing streak. We just didn’t find ways to win…los[ing] late in games. Now we’re finding ways to win those games. It’s a confidence thing.”
In their 3-2 win over the Rangers, the Devils once again found scoring from an unlikely source…Ryan Carter. He tallied his first two goals of the season in the contest. The Rangers answered quickly after his first goal, when Marc Staal scored from the blueline 18 seconds later at 6:55 in the second period. Carter finished up the stanza with another goal at 19:13. Dan Girardi tied up the game at 13:18 in the final period. Dainius Zubrus tallied the game winner at 17:05.
“He always plays well here against the Rangers,” DeBoer said of Carter. “He’s one of those guys that has the ability to raise his game in big games and important, gritty games.”
Carter has been finding success alongside Cam Janssen. The other night, Janssen attributed his ability to get the puck in because of Carter’s assistance.
“He’s brought a positive energy to the team” Carter said of Janssen and their chemistry together on the ice. “His scoring the goals, and timely goals too, have helped our club and guys like to see that.
“That’s nice of him,” Carter said of Janssen crediting him for helping him score goals. “But I didn’t score them.”
With goals coming from the fourth line, their success has more to do with getting in the not so pretty goals.
“Hockey is a funny game,” Carter said. “You can get grade A opportunities and they don’t go in then all of a sudden when you throw a piece of junk at the net, it finds its way in. You’re like, where is this coming from? What’s going in? It’s a progress sticking with it, doing the little things: shoot the puck and getting after it. The fact they went in tonight is good. It helped our team win. That’s the important thing.”
With all division rivalries, there are always bound to be some form of shenanigans during the game. In this contest, Mats Zuccarello smacked Martin Brodeur with his stick one too many times before Brodeur was caught on camera punching Zuccarello in the face with his glove hand. To the Devils, Zuccarello deserved it. To the fans, they only saw what Brodeur did. Marek Zidlicky tried to help out in the end. That put both him and Zuccarello in the penalty box for roughing.
“I saw Zuccarello stick him two or three times,” DeBoer said of the altercation. “Zuccarello better hope Marty doesn’t get upset.”
“Marty should be respected in this league,” Carter said. “I don’t know about Zuccarello but a couple of extra shots there were probably unnecessary. I think Marty did the right thing letting him know, ‘Hey buddy, you can’t do that.’ It’s a battle. A penalty each way and that’s fine.”
The Devils were down to five defensemen during this match. Eric Gelinas got hit in the ear with the puck. The referee sent him off the ice after his ear started ringing. There was a small cut on his ear and he ended up being fine in the end. They just wanted to make sure they took extra precautions since this was a head injury.
Anton Volchenkov also ended up getting hurt in the match.
Even without all of their defensemen on the ice, the Devils still met up against the Rangers aggressively to push for a win. It was about overall teamwork in the end.
“Any time you go on winning streaks, or you win big games or you go into buildings in tough circumstances, and when you have to get contributions from everybody, that was the story tonight,” DeBoer said after the game. “Our five D all dug deep to make up for the minutes lost by Volchenkov. We got a goal from our fourth line. Our big line got a goal. That’s what we need.”