Devils Get Back To Winning Ways
The Devils got back to their winning ways Sunday night at the Prudential Center when they squeaked by the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. It was a big answer to the questions that re-surfaced after the team was shut out by the Rangers the night before. The Devils had three more shots on goal on Sunday than they did against the Rangers, and maybe that was just all the difference, as it was three shots that found their way into the back of the net.
The Devils got their offense from an unlikely source, Jon Merrill. He recorded a goal (what turned out to be the winning goal) and an assist for his first multi-point game as a member of the Devils. The other two goals scorers were Patrik Elias, who got his 17th of the year, and Damien Brunner, who got his 11th. The Maple Leafs made it interesting late when Phil Kessel scored a goal with just over a minute and a half to go, making the score 3-2, but the Devils held on to get a huge two points.
The win salvaged what could have been a very bad weekend; the Devils definitely skated with much more purpose Sunday, they made their shots count, and they looked more focused. For whatever reason they didn’t have it against the Rangers, they found it on Sunday against the Leafs. They got to more loose pucks and played an all-around tighter game. This is a positive for the Devils, so if coach Pete DeBoer can get them to really focus during their four-day gap on moving the puck and getting shots, it may do wonders for this team. They’re always just a lucky break away in their games — sometimes it goes their way, sometimes it doesn’t, but in the NHL, it’s the more focused, hard-working teams that tend to make their own breaks. The Devils need to start doing that.
The Devils who have now have 75 points, have played as many games as the Rangers (72) and are seven back of New York in the Metropolitan playoff race, but this win helped out in the Wild Card race much more. With the loss Toronto fell back to the second and final Wild Card spot, and have played one more game than the Devils while only being five points ahead of them, so what looked so far away just before puck drop could be well within range if the Devils have a good streak and Toronto falters further.
Trading wins for losses won’t get it done for the Devils at this point; the Devils need a good long streak of points. They need consistent play from goaltending, defense, and forwards. Wins like this give the team and fans confidence that it’s coming together, but losses like those to the Rangers make you remember that the propensity to fall apart again is so close. In the final 10 games we will see what this Devils team is made of. I still believe they are talented enough to get it done down the stretch and make it into the playoffs but it won’t be solely in their control. They are going to need some help to make the playoffs, so along with being stressful, it will be fun and interesting to watch unfold.