Who Wants To Be The Devils New No. 1 Goalie? By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Well that’s not good news. Tuesday morning the Devils announced that netminder Mackenzie Blackwood was placed on IR with a left heel injury. We’ve known for weeks Blackwood was suffering through some aches and pains (as does every other hockey player), but this new development creates more questions than answers.
With Blackwood on IR for the foreseeable future, who will step up to be the Devils new Number One? Tuesday night, in Newark, New Jersey, we got our first look at what the Garden Staters plan will be. Newly recalled Akira Schmid got the start with Jon Gillies taking a breather following a weekend back-to-back set.
Schmid delivered a one-period performance that saw him surrender three goals on seven shots and was yanked in favor of Gillies to start the second period. The rough first period was a precursor to the Devils’ eventual 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. On the flip side, Braden Holtby started in net for Dallas and made 36-saves.
When asked why Holtby was so good tonight, Damon Severson explained, “we didn’t really test him inside.”
Now, let’s dig deeper into Schmid and the Devils’ performance.
1) Schmid and the Devils didn’t get the start they wanted when Joe Pavelski put the Stars up 1-0 14-seconds into the game on a shot that appeared to catch New Jersey’s netminder off-guard.
“Just a bad start right from the beginning,” said Severson. “And we didn’t do a lot to turn the tide back in our favor.”
It was a long day for Schmid, who was called up from the AHL and joined the Devils in time for their morning skate. Perhaps that played a factor in his shaky start? Whatever the reason, Schmid was unable to shake it off as Jacob Peterson doubled the goalie’s problems 9:45 into the first period to increase the Devils’ deficit to 2-0.
“On the first goal, we fell down,” said Lindy Ruff. “We didn’t recover.”
Granted, neither team generated much during the first 10-plus minutes of the game as the puck bounced around like a pinball. In total, nine shots were registered during the first-half of the opening period and five of them belonged to New Jersey. Schmid wasn’t exactly tested early. And for many goaltenders it’s hard to get into the flow of the game when you’re not consistently involved early.
2) The second-half of the first period wasn’t much better as Joe Pavelski victimized Schmid again, this time with just 3:12 remaining before the intermission. On the play, Pavelski did as he always does and tipped in a shot from teammate Miro Heiskanen. That made it 3-0 Dallas on only seven shots.
“We lost the puck on a few plays,” Ruff explained.
3) On to the second period and Jon Gillies replaced Schmid in net.
Lindy Ruff explained the goalie change by saying, “I was worried about Akira’s mindset going into the second (period).”
The goalie change did not pay immediate dividends though. 15-seconds into the second period Roope Hintz scored to put the Stars up 4-0. Strictly from a goaltending perspective, this wasn’t what the Devils wanted. Gillies just played both ends of a back-to-back set over the weekend and New Jersey clearly doesn’t want to overtax him.
“You wanna get that first shift in and feel good,” Severson explained. “Just not a real fun game for us.”
With Mackenzie Blackwood out indefinitely the Garden Staters will likely search the market for a goalie to help them wait out his absence.
4) 12:01 after Hintz’s goal, Jesper Bratt scored his team-leading 14th of the year (on the power-play) to get the Devils on the board. So, the score was 4-1 Dallas with 7:44 remaining in the second period.
5) A brief fisticuffs broke out between Luke Glendening and Michael McLeod towards the end of the period. And just like the game itself, it didn’t go well for the Devils’ fighter, McLeod. Glendening caught him with a couple of big hooks and ended the fight in short order. The fight also ended McLeod’s night as the medical staff determined he could not return.
Lindy Ruff told reporters after the game there was no update on McLeod but called it pretty obvious in regards to why he didn’t return to the game.
6) Then, it was on to the third period and the first noteworthy thing to occur was the Devils prevented Dallas from scoring in the opening seconds of the period. After allowing goals 14-seconds into the first and 15-seconds into second, it was a moral victory of sorts to not let that trend continue in the third.
7) Another item of note, after surrendering a goal to start the second period, Jon Gillies was sharp the rest of the way; making 23 total saves during his two periods of work. Gillies was positionally sound as he continues to impress his teammates and coaches since coming over in a trade with St. Louis back in December.
Unfortunately, Gillies and Co. were unable to get back on track after the first period and lost to the Stars 5-1. (Jani Hakanpaa added an empty-netter to get Dallas’ fifth goal with 2:25 left in the game).
“We’ve gotta be better than we were tonight,” said Ruff.
New Jersey’s power-play went 1-for-3 on the night. Meanwhile the Devils went 1-for-1 on the penalty-kill…Jack Hughes led all Devils forwards in ice time at 19:54…Damon Severson led all New Jersey defensemen in ice time at 26:51…Janne Kuokkanen suited up for his 100th career NHL game…Bratt’s power-play goal was the fifth consecutive game the Devils have scored on the man-advantage. “We have good chemistry,” Severson said.