Albany Devils: What Have We Learned Through a Hat Trick of Games?

The Albany Devils opened the season with a disheartening 4-3 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack despite outshooting and outplaying them for major stretches of the game. This past Saturday, the Devils returned to the ice and won their Home Opener for the first time since the team’s arrival in Albany. They defeated their new neighbor, the Utica Comets, by a final of 3-2. In their latest game, they battled the Adirondack Phantoms at the Times Union Center and won 4-1 despite giving the Phantoms eight power play opportunities. The Devils have matched their previous high of winning two of their opening three games. This last occurred in their first season back in Albany in 2010-11.

*Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill are picking up where they left off last season. Actually, both are superseding just about every fan’s already high expectations. They have taken the reigns of this team on the back end after the departure of previous captain Jay Leach and Alexander Urbom, which is no easy task, and have provided great stability and confidence for the defense. Both players have a +2 rating. Merrill has three assists (all in the first game though) while Gelinas has two assists in the three games. Gelinas has not been afraid to use his excellent slap shot and has already recorded seven shots on goal. Each player has recorded one of their assists on the power play.

*Speaking of the power play, Albany has enjoyed tremendous success on their special teams thus far. Their power play is at an astounding 25% rate efficiency. Their penalty kill success rate through 12 opposing power plays is at a 92%. That would be just one goal against in a dozen chances. Adding to their solid penalty killing, the Devils even have a shorthanded goal.

*Joe Whitney, playing with his first two-way contract, is living up to the expectations I had for him in my Albany Devils preview. As for the aforementioned power play success, he already has three power play points. Overall, he has recorded five points, tied for the team lead, and three goals, which is the team lead. He is continuing to show initiative and is not afraid to shoot the puck and leads the team in shots (9) thus far. He also led the team in shots the last two seasons with 203 and 177, respectively.

*Harri Pesonen and his quiet persistence is going to pay off in a big way eventually. He is one goal away from a breaking out and going on a hot streak, just watch. He is one shot off from the team lead with eight shots through the three games. Keep in mind; he played in New Jersey briefly last season so the hunger is there for Pesonen. Sometimes the puck just doesn’t want to fulfill the desire.

*In exchange for Krys Barch, the Devils grabbed Scott Timmins. Talk about a steal. He is tied with Whitney for the team lead in points (5) and has notched a pair of goals. He opened the scoring for the team this season by scoring 51 seconds into the season opener. Timmins and Whitney have showed excellent chemistry and have worked together to score four of the Albany goals. Each has scored two goals with the other player recording one of the assists.

*Reid Boucher, the highly touted offensive prospect for the Devils, has notched a goal and an assist through the three games. He has continued doing what he does best and that is shooting the puck. He has seven shots on goal. He has been on the ice for the majority of the Devils power play team (which does not give a player a + when the team scores) and still has a +2. In an organization that values defense greater than offense, do not think for one second this does not impact the Devils view of a player. Just ask Mattias Tedenby, remember him?

*As for the defense, the rest of the defensemen outside Merrill, Gelinas, and Reece Scarlett, have a negative +/-. If the Devils want to continue to have success, Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, and Corbin McPherson must step up. They are not playing against most of the opposition’s top forwards and allowing the opponent’s lower lines to score goals will only cause trouble for Albany moving forward.

*Is Cam Janssen feeling sick? He has not dropped the gloves once thus far. With the trading of Barch he is the only true enforcer left in the organization.

*Darcy Zajac, however, may have other ideas about that. Besides fighting Alexandre Grenier of the Utica Comets, he threw his body around all game. Then he added an assist in the game against the Phantoms.

Included in this highlight video of the game against Utica you will see two of Zajac’s solid hits:

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*Stefan Matteau is grinding. He just has not had such luck on the score sheet. The Devils are keeping a close eye on his development after he opened his professional career in the NHL last season and then had some issues with his junior team. He can feel the pressure but look for him to finally break through this weekend.

*Finally, Tim Sestito and Rod Pelley are taking their roles as veterans seriously. Pelley is appreciative of being named the team’s captain and is excited to be leading the team’s young core. Sestito has led by example and shown tremendous energy through the opening three games and has two goals to show for it.

One of Sestito’s goals was a shorthanded penalty shot goal against Adirondack.

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The weekend ahead has the Albany Devils playing in Norfolk against the Admirals in back to back games starting Friday night. Norfolk is 2-1-0-1 on the season and split both games at home, each one against the Binghamton Senators. Last season, the Admirals took three of four from Albany including both games in Norfolk. However, in their final matchup the Devils defeated Norfolk 2-0 at the Times Union Center.