The New Jersey Devils opened the 2014-15 season with a 6-4 win at the Philadelphia Flyers on October 9, 2014. Two nights later, they followed up their victory with another one, a dominating 5-1 performance over the host Florida Panthers. While New Jersey was spoiling the Panthers home opener, the Albany Devils, their AHL affiliate, were in the process of securing a 5-1 win of their own against the Adirondack Flames. Both squads matched or set franchise records with their successful starts to the season. Coincidentally, both teams will open the home portion of their respective schedules on Saturday, October 18, when New Jersey hosts the San Jose Sharks and Albany faces off against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders.
Historic Opening for the New Jersey Devils
New Jersey opened the season with two road victories for the first time in their history. Previously, they opened a season with a road victory on eight occasions but either played the following game at home or lost/tied if they were away.
New Jersey scored eleven goals through their first two games which tied a previous record set in 1991-92. That season, the Devils also won their first pair of games. In their season and home opener, they defeated the St. Louis Blues 7-2 on October 5. The next night on the road they escaped Chicago with a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks. The Devils offensive prowess didn’t end there as they won their next two games as well, defeating the Quebec Nordiques 6-5 and the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 with both games taking place at the Meadowlands.
With their win at the Flyers, the Devils improved their record in season openers to 19-8-5. Since they moved to New Jersey from Colorado before the start of the 1982-83 season, the Devils have the best points-percentage in season openers at .671. Ironically, the Colorado Avalanche franchise, which moved to Denver prior to the 1995-96 season from Quebec, has the second best percentage (.656) during that time.
On an individual level, nine different Devils have scored goals thus far. The only player with more than one is Mike Cammalleri with three. Cammalleri, Damon Severson, Martin Havlat, and Tuomo Ruutu have already scored their first goal with New Jersey. Last season through the team’s first three games (their opener was a 3-0 defeat to the Penguins on the road), the Devils scored seven goals, and just like this season, more than half were scored by newcomers. Damien Brunner, Michael Ryder, and Jaromir Jagr all scored their first goals with New Jersey with Brunner burying three and Ryder two. The only goal not scored by a first-year Devil was the last goal of the seven, which was scored by the current longest-tenured Devil, Patrik Elias.
A New Era in Net
In the net, Cory Schneider started his second consecutive season opener and the first in the post-Martin Brodeur era for the Devils. He became the first goaltender other than Brodeur to win a season opener for New Jersey since Chris Terreri made 17 saves in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 6, 1993. One of the two goal scorers for the Devils on that night was defenseman Ken Daneyko, who took over for Glenn “Chico” Resch as the Devils television color commentator, a role Resch held since the 1996-97 season. The Devils won their first seven games of the 1993-94 season, a franchise record.
The last goaltender before Schneider other than Brodeur to win a season opener on the road was Alain Chevrier on October 9, 1986. The Devils defeated the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden 5-3. They opened that campaign with three straight victories.
Albany Devils Finally Win a Season Opener
First New Jersey Devils-affiliated AHL Season Opening Win Since 2004
Meanwhile on the farm, in just one game, the Albany Devils had a historic opener of their own. For the first time in nine attempts dating back to 2006-07 when the parent club took ownership of their own AHL affiliate, the A-Devils won their season opener. The last time a New Jersey-affiliated team won their season opener was all the way back on October 15, 2004, when the Albany River Rats defeated the Binghamton Senators 6-2 on home ice. Three familiar names to score a goal in that contest for Albany include Zach Parise, Cam Janssen, and Pascal Rheaume.
AHL veteran Paul Thompson played in his first official game with Albany after a strong training camp in which he scored a combined three goals in two AHL scrimmages at the AmeriHealth Pavilion and then added another goal in one of two preseason games for the A-Devils. His hot start continued into the regular season opener when he scored four goals. The only other A-Devils (or Lowell Devils) to score four goals in one game were David Clarkson, Matt Halischuk, Tim Sestito, Chad Wiseman, and Bobby Butler. Butler was the last player to score four goals for Albany. He did so on December 12, 2012, in a 6-3 victory over the Wilkes/Barres-Scranton Penguins at the Times Union Center in Albany. Joe Whitney, the current franchise leader with 151 points, had assists on two of Butler’s goals and assisted on three of Thompson’s.
Leo is in his second year with THW. He covers the 3-Time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. You can follow Leo on Twitter, @LeoScaglioneJr.