By Jeff O’Connor
It wasn’t pretty, but the four-game losing streak is now dead after a 3-0 win by the New Jersey Devils over the New York Islanders on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
The key here is it’s a win. It’s all about accumulating points by any means necessary. On the scoreboard, yes it’s a 3-0 win but let’s be honest if felt more like a 1-0 victory. This is the exact type of triumph that we saw in the first three games of the season; not their best effort, outplayed at times but still get by. How will they build on this one, though? Will they coast like they did in the four-game losing streak? Or can they improve slowly, but surely, to turn yesterday’s effort into a foundation to build on?
One thing that was pleasant to see was the penalty kill. After allowing three markers on the man advantage to the same Isles on Thursday, New Jersey killed off all seven NY power plays. It’s never good to be on the penalty kill, however, that many times (a pretty alarming issue over the first several games). Subtracting the fighting majors, the Devils are just about averaging five minor penalties a game. That’s a few too many. They need to cut down on those.
I love the Carter-Gionta-Bernier as much as everyone and they’ve done an excellent job over the last three games. Heck, they’ve been the best line for NJ since Thursday’s home game. On one hand, it’s great to see they are starting to regain that 2012 playoff form. On the other hand, they should not be the Devils most dangerous line. Since Thursday, no top-line player has scored a goal with a goaltender in the net. We’ve seen three goals from Bernier, one from Carter, one from Henrik Tallinder, one from Greene and one from Adam Henrique while he was on the fourth line. Where is everyone? Ilya Kovalchuk has been simply smothered over the last several games. He hasn’t found open space 5-on-5 and he hasn’t been lethal on the power play.
Lastly and most importantly, Johan Hedberg played another brilliant game. He has now allowed one goal in 125 minutes of play against deep scoring teams (Boston and Islanders). He makes brilliant saves look easy and his positioning and fundamentals are excellent. It’s nice to know there is essentially no drop off when the Devils need to give Martin Brodeur a break. It’s essentially like having a 1 and 1a set of goaltenders.
On a minor note, Mark Fayne got back in the lineup after missing the previous two games. While he looked sharp in the first period, the New England native wasn’t as sharp when he was asked for his Super Bowl prediction by Deb Placey of MSG-Plus during the first intermission. “I guess I’m rooting for San Diego since Baltimore took out the Patriots.”