February 18th

This is the date that Cory Schneider last won a game in regulation.

After watching the home opener live at 5AM on Sunday morning, I was excited to get home and watch the Devils face off in Buffalo against the Sabres. The life of an overseas hockey fan begins once again with social media blackouts and no conversing with friends in New Jersey.

I hadn’t realized it, but was reminded during the beginning of the game that Jacob Josefson, the ex-Devil, signed with the Sabres during the off-season; the first match-up of many for our Eastern Conference foes.

The Devils came out where they left off against the Avalanche, just dominating the game for the first 5 minutes. The Sabres had a couple of early chances but Devils’ players were in prime position in front of net to cover rebounds, with Will Butcher clearing the puck from an empty net chance by the Sabres.
It didn’t take long for the first goal, with Brian Gibbons rebounding the puck off Stefan Noesen and in. The Devils also went on the attack with a power-play, where they displayed crisp passing and several chances, but no goal.Will Butcher was very active with good coverage, and Schneider with another nice clear from a rebound. Schneider seems to have worked on improved rebound control in the off-season, as it seems much improved.
With 4 minutes to go in the first period, the Sabres bounced back, with some back and forth, and not so one-sided, but that changed quickly, with strong fore-checking from the Devils, Pavel Zacha outworking opponents, getting a chance to Hall, Andy Greene with a quick shot and Hall following up.
Nico Hischier continued to show his puck possession skills with tight turns and with the puck behind the net, gave a quick pass to Brian Gibbons who buried it, Nico getting his first NHL point!
The Devils went to the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.

What was really good that I enjoyed, was Steve Cangialosi and Ken Daneyko giving Jacob Josefson a shout-out to begin the second period. I always liked Josefson, and like they said, kept thinking each season was his time to break out, but never did. Hopefully he does well in his future.

The second period started just like the first, with the Devils on the attack, dominating play, and not giving the Sabres any chances to fight back. Jesper Bratt drew a penalty by being slashed. In a lapse of play, Jack Eichel split two defenders but luckily didn’t score shorthanded. Will Butcher and Taylor Hall get a late chance, but no success on the power-play.
With the NHL cracking down on face-off violations, the Devils suffer their first infraction, going to four on four late in the power-play, and the Sabres getting a shortened one. At the last minute of their power-play, Evander Kane splits the Devils and scores, breaking through for the Sabres, and drawing another penalty; the Devils go straight back on to the penalty kill.
Wasting no time, Adam Henrique clears the puck and started a two on one with Jesper Bratt, with a nice soft pass over the stick. Bratt undressed the goalie making the shorthanded goal look easy with a quick deke opening up the net. The Devils get the goal back and lead 3-1.
After killing the penalty, the Sabres get a good shot on goal with Schneider making a stop. Immediately from the face-off, Hall bounces the puck up the middle and in to the offensive zone. The Sabres commit a cardinal sin by misplaying the puck straight back to Hall, where he gives Marcus Johansson an easy goal with an uncovered net, extending the lead to 4-1.

The Devils continue to dominate throughout the second period, with Miles Wood showing some passion getting in to a fight as well. The Devils receive an offensive zone face-off, and again, Hall throws a pass in front of the net with Jesper Bratt making a perfect deflection in goal.
With a minute to go, Nico Hischier off a defensive zone face-off passes the puck up to Jesper Bratt and begins a two on one with Marcusu Johansson. After a little back and forth, Johansson buries the puck. The Devils go to the second intermission leading 6-1, totally dominating the end of the second period, and the Sabres fans booing their team.

The third period wasn’t any different, although the Devils didn’t extend their lead at all. They did give up a wraparound shot, again by Evander Kane, where the puck crept through the gap. He was the only active player in an otherwise lifeless Sabres team. The game finished 6-2, Devils winning their second for the season and first on the road.

Throughout the entire game, the fourth line just continued to push hard; they really are showing they belong in the NHL, and complimenting the Devils roster. Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall show marked signs of improvement from last season, and Taylor Hall since last game as well, picking up two assists and firing shots. Neither never stopped moving and showed their speed.
Whilst Nico Hischier picked up his first NHL point, Jesper Bratt has just continued to show how much of a steal he was as a 6th rounder. He might very well be the surprise of the league, and definitely someone to keep an eye on. He won’t be going back to juniors or the AHL, that’s for sure.

The Devils’ power-play suffered, going 0-4 compared to their first game of the season which was 3-4. The Sabres did do a good job of not giving them any opportunities and probably the only bright moment from an otherwise poor game for them. The penalty kill was good apart from Evander Kane making two defenders look like traffic cones.

The next three games will be the real test for the Devils, with a trip across to Toronto to face an excellent Maple Leafs team on the upward trend, and an always tough Washing Capitals group with Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby, although it will be good to see another game where Australian Nathan Walker is playing (hopefully). The Devils then play their first game against the New York Rangers, who started slow but can never underestimate, plus the rivalry factor.
If the New Jersey Devils can come out of the first five games with a winning record, such as 3-1-1, I will consider that an excellent start to the season. The injuries to Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford don’t help, but hopefully they will make their return soon. If the rookies keep playing the way they have, then they don’t need to be rushed back, which is always a good thing.

Still on the lookout for Nico Hischier’s first goal, but onward and upwards. And now Cory Schneider has two regulation wins to start the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils season.

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