John Hynes was worried about a couple of things prior to Saturday nights’ 5-0 loss to the Coyotes at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.
One was the team’s mindset and how engaged it would be from the opening faceoff coming off Friday night’s 2-1 win at Denver. The second was how good ex-Devil goalie Scott Wedgewood might be as he faced his former team for the first, surely with plenty of adrenaline and extra motivation.
Turns out, both things went against the Devils.
“I think the story of this game was on four out of the five we gave them some gifts,” Hynes said. “It’s not the recipe you want to have, especially coming in a back to back. I thought we had a really strong push in the second period, where we played well and didn’t get rewarded for it. I think the lessons coming out of this, off a back to back, is you’ve got to be ready to play, you’ve got to be tighter in your game and you’ve got to be smarter in some areas.”
The Devils were outscored and outplayed in a sloppy and step-slow first period. And Wedgewood, helped greatly by the fact that the Devils struggled to establish a net-front presence and instead took many of their shots from the outside, recorded his second career shutout and first with the Coyotes as he finished with 26 saves as he made his career-high fifth straight start.
Wedgewood acknowledged afterward facing the Devils was obviously special to him.
“It was a lot,” Wedgewood said. “Obviously when you get traded, you want to put up a strong effort back to where you came from and show them, hopefully, not that they made a wrong decision because it’s a business, but you want to go out there and play well.”
Most of the saves Wedgewood made were not in the overly-difficult category because he was seeing pretty much everything that came his way.
But his stretching, right toe save on Stefan Noesen’s one-timer was definitely a special one, highlight tape material.
“He was very good, he’s a good goalie,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “I don’t think we got nearly enough traffic or got pucks to the net when we had traffic in front of the net. He was able to see everything and he made some good saves.”
Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, meanwhile, gave up a first-minute goal for the third straight time in his starts. Hynes said the three – the Coyotes’ Jason Demers beating him from the right circle with Brandan Perlini screening Kinkaid, the Red Wings’ David Booth getting free for a tip in a 4-3 overtime win last Saturday and Artem Anisimov’s tip goal 41 seconds into a 7-5 win at Chicago on Nov. 12 – were all different circumstances and not necessarily the goalie’s fault.
“Chicago is on a point shot with a double-net front shot,” Hynes said. “Detroit is a point shot with a screen and a tip. Tonight was a missed assignment where we let the player walk righ1t down the middle of the ice and let a bomb go. So I think we’ve got to do a better job in front of him for sure.”
Some post-game observations:
1. Maybe I saw a different game from Hynes and the players but I wasn’t very much impressed with the Devils’ second period, either. I mean, it was better than their first and third, when they struggled to get chances. But despite a 15-4 shot advantage in the second period, the Coyotes still scored the lone goal and the shot advantage doesn’t necessarily mean anything if they aren’t very dangerous shots – Noesen’s one-timer and Drew Stafford’s backhander at the left post being the exceptions.
2. The negative person could think, boy, bad loss in this game and a home-and-home with the Blue Jackets, who are playing as well as anybody in the NHL right now and this could spiral for the Devils pretty quickly.
But who would think like that?
3. Not sure what Hynes does with his lineup for Tuesday night’s game at Columbus but I’d have to think Steven Santini is back in on defense. Question is – and I don’t have the answer – who does he go in for? It would probably be Lovejoy. But Lovejoy was not the Devils’ worst defenseman in this one. Would Hynes take out Severson? Andy Greene was a minus-3 buthe’s not coming out. Guess we’ll have a better idea Tuesday.
4. Kinkaid spoke about net-front screens and the Devils getting their legs moving later in the game. But he cut to the chase when he said, “I think they wanted it more, ultimately.” That’s how it looked.
5. Goals within the first minute will certainly get a lot of notice but, if a team stiffens, they have 59 minutes to make that up.
It’s the goals in the final minute that really, really hurt. Such was the case as Derek Stepan knocked in the puck at the left post with 24.3 seconds left in the first period after John Moore could not clear the puck from his skates as Stepan and Tobias Reider pressured him. That made it 2-0, which is a world apart from going into the first intermission down 1-0.
“They got a few bounces,” Kinkaid said. “The period is not over until it’s over. It’s an unfortunate bounce. That’s the way it goes. Sometimes we get those.”
6. Hynes called a timeout after Dylan Strome scored his first NHL goal to make it 5-0 at 13:36 of the third period, just 1:31 after Alex Goligoski had made it 4-0.
“The game is pretty much over,” Hall said. “the message was to compete, not to wilt. Not to just give in. It’s tough like that at the end of games, with the game out of reach. True character shows. Not matter the score, we’ve got to play to our character and the way we want to conduct ourselves.”
7. I know the team just got Marcus Johansson back from a 13-game absence. But my diagnosis on what's feeling off for the Devils recently is they really, really, really miss Kyle Palmieri from the lineup. He's out with a broken foot and the earliest he may return might be around Christmastime.
8. No practice on Sunday as the team travels to Columbus. The team will practice in Columbus on Monday at 1 p.m.