What did the last two games prove to us? Correction. What did the last two games prove to the rational fan. They proved that if the Devils are going to achieve even a modicum of success over the remaining 60+ games, the 42 million dollar man is going to have to earn every cent of it. The difference in play between Monday's game against the Bruins and last night's game against the Wild was nearly microscopic. The only difference was our goaltender stood on his head and covered some of the defensive gaffs. They still turned the puck over. They still got hemmed in their own end for extended periods of time. They still had glaring defensive breakdowns which, at one point, led to a partial 2-0 break.
I know it's easy to look at the man that backstops this mediocre team and criticize his play. He had his fair share of softies. He has been the victim of some bad bounces. However, the reason he has played 16 straight games is he very clearly gives the Devils the best chance of winning. That was evident last night when he made three or four saves that were anything but ordinary. The game winner in Boston was inexcusable. Bryce "Charlie Brown" Salvador attempting to boot the puck throughout the uprights only to have it go right past him for an odd man rush was even more inexcusable. Had Cory not given up the 3rd goal the Devils still lose that game in anticlimactic fashion.
Schneider remains the least of the Devils worries. He is not being crippled by the pressure of his first real shot at being a starting goaltender. He is being crippled by having an extremely average team in front of him. He is being crippled by the idea that he has to be perfect if he expects the Devils to pull out a victory. If anything, the criticism by fans is just piling on. Schneider has embraced his role with open arms, and has been the first person to take responsibility for his mistakes. If only the rest of the team was as forthright.
Last night also proved that Peter Deboer is going to have quite the task at hand when he tries to explain inserting Salvador back into the lineup. Salvador singlehandedly made his mark on the Boston Bruins game. The mark I am referring to can only be referred to as a skid mark. His inability to be an NHL caliber player led to two goals against in about a 30 second span. I am not saying that rookie Seth Hegelson played a stellar brand of hockey last night. He made his mistakes and took a penalty as well. But he was a welcomed improvement over Salvador and even contributed an assist in his debut. The way I see it, his lack of playing time in the 3rd period was a precursor to him being replaced. I don't agree with it, but you can bet your ass we haven't seen the last of our captain.
It was also clear that the injuries depleted this team. Cammalleri and Havlat were able to create more last night then the entire team did in the week prior. That's a good sign going forward with the return of Adam Henrique on the horizon. Elias inexplicably needed Havlat in the lineup to show some jump. Whatever works I guess. Although that is a scary thought with how injury prone Havlat has been throughout his career.
Lastly, I'm a man, and a man admits when he is wrong. Jacob Josefson has been a delight to watch this year. He has far surpassed my expectations. Not difficult to do with how low the bar was set, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless.