Where would the New Jersey Devils be without Cory Schneider? Last in the NHL? Possibly. Fighting for a playoff spot? No chance. It’s simply amazing what the Devils’ goaltender has been able to do this season. He singlehandedly keeps the Devils in games that they otherwise would have no chance in and steals two points for them more often than not. He’s not the only reason the Devils are playing well, but he’s damn sure the only reason they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
In today’s 2-1 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, Cory Schneider stood on his head making 31 saves to give the Devils a much needed win against a division rival. The Flyers are trying to catch the Devils in the playoff hunt and today’s victory was very important in keeping some distance between them. It was an odd game for Schneider who only had to make two saves in the first period as the Devils controlled much of the possession. However, after that the Flyers turned it on and really peppered the All-Star with a plethora of quality scoring chances.
The win took Schneider’s record to 25-16-6, which keep in mind he’s getting a league-worst 2.21 goals of support per game. Nine games over NHL .500 while on the worst scoring team in the league is pretty damn good, but wait… there’s more. Check out these numbers: 1.98 GAA and .931 SV%. Those are only second to Detroit’s Petr Mrazek for goalies who have played 30 games or more. Schneider is also tied for the league-lead in games played with 47.
There’s a reason Cory Schneider made his first All-Star appearance this season. He’s that good. If it wasn’t for Braden Holtby having a ridiculous season (35-5-3) and the aforementioned Mrazek, Cory would be the frontrunner for the Vezina. As it is he should be a finalist if his play keeps up. I also feel like Schneider should get some serious consideration for the Hart (MVP) Trophy. No disrespect to anybody but there isn’t a single player who is as valuable to his team as Cory Schneider is to the Devils. As I said, without him, they’re one of the worst teams in hockey.
Let’s give some love to a few other players as well, shall we? How about the goal scorers in today’s game, Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique. Blender scored one of the sexiest goals you’ll see and has been outstanding since he’s been a regular in the top-six. Blandisi has four goals and seven assists in the 14 games since he got recalled from Albany and has done a great job filling in for the injured Michael Cammalleri on the top line. Henrique is also picking up the slack as he has six points in the last six games and has scored some huge goals, none bigger than the OT winner today. Henrique, it’s over 😉
Seriously, check out this goal. Filthy.
***Between-the-legs goal alert***https://t.co/fo4HcQitHZ
— NHL (@NHL) February 13, 2016
On the other end of the ice, it has been the play of Adam Larsson and Andy Greene that has really stood out. Those two get matched up against the other team’s star players and top power play units, but do a solid job of containing them. Larsson is turning into an absolute stud on the blue line, who would be a future Norris candidate if he got more of an offensive role as well. Then there’s Captain Greene who is a rock back there and rarely ever gets beaten. Those two might be the most underrated D-pair in hockey.
And finally we come to Travis Zajac. This guy is my favorite player for a reason. Zajac does everything you want on the ice and I mean everything. He’s a monster defensively, one of the best in the game at shutting down an opponent’s top center. He draws the task of doing so every night and is always up to the challenge. Zajac is also very proficient in the faceoff dot winning well over 50% of his draws. He’s even adding more offense this season!
Last year was a baaaaaaaaad year for Zajac, no doubt, but he’s back to being the kind of player the Devils need. He’s never going to score 30 goals or put up 80 points, but 15-20 goals and 40-50 points are something he should hit. Right now he has eight goals and 19 assists, which makes sense because he’s more of a playmaker than a finisher. Zajac is also excelling on special teams where he’s third on the team with 11 power play points and leads the team along with Henrique with three shorthanded points. While his 5-on-5 role is more defensive oriented, he has done a good job when he’s been in a position to add offense.
Watching today’s game against the Flyers, his former college coach Dave Hakstol actually had to change his game plan in the middle of the contest. The Devils thoroughly dominated the first period due in large part to Zajac’s line shutting down the very dangerous line of Jakub Voracek – Claude Giroux – Wayne Simmonds. Starting in the second period, Hakstol actively avoided putting out Giroux against Zajac and the Flyers had way more success.
When overtime started, John Hynes sent out his best defensive trio of Zajac, Greene and Larsson. Hakstol shockingly chose to hold off on using Giroux and Voracek until the second shift. That’s how much of an impact those three have on the game. Opposing coaches avoid them and rightfully so. Cory Schneider gets the headlines and he damn well should, but don’t sleep on the three studs the Devils have defensively that make Cory’s job just thaaaat much easier.