Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
Five observations from New Jersey vs Ottawa:
1. Cory Schneider stole the show
I thought that was easily Schneider's best performance of the season. Yes, I know the Senators are not a good team. Yes, I know they were sitting a few of their top offensive players. Still, they mustered up 30 shots and 14 high-danger chances on Schneider (he faced 14 combined in the Minnesota and Buffalo games). It's not like his night was a walk in the park. He faced tough shots – plenty of them, at that – and came up big time and time again.
Schneider has now stopped 79 of 80 shots over his last three appearances and won each of them. Given how things have gone over the last year and change, it was fair to wonder if he'd be able to put together a multi-game stretch like that ever again.
I very much doubt he'll get back to the level he was at a few years ago on a night-to-night basis but finally – finally! – there's hope he won't be a complete lost cause over the final three seasons of his contract.
2. The reunited 2nd line stands out
The Devils sat Marcus Johansson to avoid injury risk prior to trading him, which meant the top-6 needed to be shuffled. John Hynes elected to bump Kyle Palmieri to the top line and reunite Miles Wood, Travis Zajac, and Blake Coleman on the 2nd unit. That decision certainly paid off – at least prior to Wood leaving the game with an injury.
They created plenty of chances around the net, connected on a pair of goals, and finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the team in Corsi For% at 5v5.
3. A good night for the depth guys
Due to injuries, the trade deadline, etc. quite a few role players and fringe NHLers are getting opportunities that normally wouldn't be there. Most of them took advantage of that vs the Senators.
Kurtis Gabriel scored the 1st goal of his NHL career and led the team with five hits.
Kenny Agostino, recently claimed off waivers, didn't find the scoresheet but finished 1st on the Devils in shots (four), chances (four), and attempts (six).
Steven Santini, playing in just his 2nd game since February 5th, scored a 5v5 goal and was on for two more (though it's worth noting he posted a -7 on-ice chance differential).
Brett Seney, who was previously expected to sit as a healthy scratch, recorded a primary assist and was one of six Devils to finish with a 50 CF% or higher.
Kevin Rooney led all Devils forwards in PK ice time (3:25) and did a stand-up job helping hold the Senators to just two shots on goal in that time. He also came up with a painful block in the dying seconds of the game to try and help Schneider get his shutout, which surely didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.
I don't think highly of any of these players moving forward but they all played their parts Thursday night.
4. The top line struggled
I don't know what it is but the Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri trio doesn't work together. It just doesn't. Going up against a bad, undermanned Senators team, they once again struggled to hold their own at 5v5. They spent more time against the Chris Tierney line and Ben Harpur - Christian Jaros pairing, which isn't good, than any other players and yet still posted subpar shot and chance differentials. In ~10 minutes of 5v5 play, the Senators won the shot battle (on target) 7-0. Yes, you're reading that correctly. Not one shot together over nearly 17% of the game.
These struggles aren't new, either. At 5v5, they've averaged 50.6 on-ice attempts per 60 (not good) and controlled just 46.7% of them. That's not exactly ideal from your best offensive players sans Taylor Hall.
5. Final notes
a) I thought Damon Severson had a nice game. He was involved offensively and helped generate quite a few good chances on the PP, where I think he's handled himself nicely. There are still hiccups defensively at times but Hynes seems to be letting him roam more and I think it's paying off.
b) J.G. Pageau piled up eight chances (five high-danger) in just under 20 minutes of ice for the Sens. I think he's been a pretty under-appreciated depth guy for a while now so it's nice to see him back healthy and contributing again.
c) I legitimately feel bad for Senators fans who have to watch 20+ more games of that lineup, or one very similar, with no chance of getting a top pick as compensation. Hopefully, Pierre Dorion is able to land some truly high-end young players/prospects for Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and co. in the coming days.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
On deadline plans, Severson, Hall, offer sheets and more
On the trading of Brian Boyle
Shero squashes rumors Hall could be dealt prior to the deadline
What about Andre Burakovsky?
Zacha's offensive play leaves little room for optimism