From the desks of:
NO SLEEP TILL BELMONT and THE BRICK CITY STYX
METROPOLITAN DIVISION RIVALRY
New Jersey Devils: Cheating Themselves Out of Valuable Points Now Threatening Their Place In The Standings.
The New Jersey Devils are demonstrating the value of fast starts. With a 22-12-8 record to date, they enter Tuesday's game against the Islanders in third place of the Metropolitan Division, and in sixth place of the conference standings.
But how much longer can Newark keep this up? Remember how they jumped out to an 8-2 record in October? They have played sub par hockey since then, going 14-10-8 over their last 32 games.
Just when they appeared to be turning things around with five straight wins in late December, they start the New Year losers of six straight.
The Devils finished at the bottom of last year's Eastern Conference standings with a 28-40-14 record (70-points). Their 14 OT/SO losses were second most in all the NHL. Their eight OT/SO losses so far this season are once again tied for most among current playoff contenders, and tied for second most in the league.
... all the hallmarks of a young, rebuilding team.
The inexperienced Devils are nevertheless doing well - far better than fans could have ever expected. Perhaps sooner than later they'll learn how to finish games instead of giving away points.
They can start by not exposing Cory Schneider to so many shots of goal. The opposition is averaging 32 shots on goal against Schneider this season. But that doesn't explain Saturday's performance against the Flyers - does it? - when he allowed five goals on just 25 shots.
In Cory's defense, his .911 SV% over his last 93 games is somewhat reflective of the New Jersey's rebuilding. Otherwise, he previously averaged a .923 SV% during his first three years with the Devils.
New York Islanders: Look Who's Number Eight! Thomas Greiss Rewards Coach Weight; John Tavares Takes Care Of The Rest.
Speaking of goalies, the Islanders two-headed monster must surely be killing Doug Weight. While it would be prudent for him to chose one, and just give it a go, what's a head coach to do with two troublesome goalies?
It took consecutive wins in his two most recent starts against the Devils and Rangers just for Jaroslav Halak improving his record to 13-12-2 through 28 games. At present, his 3.19 GAA is way above his career 2.46 goals against average, while his .906 SV% is down from his usual .916 save percentage.
It was Greiss' 21st appearance of the season. Entering Monday's game, he owned an unsightly 3.89 GAA, and an equally unsettling .882 save percentage.
But were it not for Thomas Greiss, the Islanders do not defeat the Habs on Monday; they do not win their third game in a row; and most importantly, they do not leapfrog over the Rangers into eighth place of the Eastern Conference standings.
Greiss made Doug Weight sweat, though. He faced an absurd 56 shots, allowing four goals. The Islanders blew leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before Max Pacioretti's game tying goal at 13:01 of the third period. It was Greiss, though, who kept the Islanders alive allowing John Tavares to end the game in overtime with his 24th goal of the season.
Then again, scoring isn't this team's problem. Defense is.
The Islanders are second in the league in scoring, averaging 3.6 goals a game. Their power play is slightly above average, ranking 12th in the league. Ponderously, the Isles rank 31st in goals against, and 30th on the penalty kill.