Reasons for Devils to Be Optimistic

In this week’s Q&A, Ken Daneyko gives his take on the latest Devils games, the team’s red-hot power play and the prospect pipeline.

MSGNetworks.com: Obviously, two disappointing results for the Devils with overtime losses against the Rangers and Canadiens where they had late leads. What can you say about those games?

Ken Daneyko: Well, I try to be a half-glass full kind of a guy and I might be looking at this a little differently than everybody else. I’m very positive about the Devils’ performances in those games. Yes, it’s frustrating for everyone. For the fans, they look at the score and they see leads in those games slip away. But even going back to the game against Ottawa, the Devils have been playing the way they want to over those last three games.

What the Devils were struggling with earlier in the season, from puck possession to offensive zone time, you’re now seeing improvements with regularity. No, the points haven’t been there to show for their performances, but I have to agree with what Andy Greene touched upon, that one or two plays have been the difference.

For all intents and purposes, the Devils outplayed both the Rangers and Montreal, but good teams find a way to get it done.

The Devils are a young, retooling team and they’re learning how to finish off games. I feel for the players because they’re frustrated and you feel that they should at least have five out of those six points. But the way they’re playing is the right way and they’re starting to find some consistency.

MSGNetworks.com: An area where they’ve started to find some consistency lately is the power play — the Devils have scored a power play goal in their last five games. Have you seen something click when they’re playing with the man advantage?

Ken Daneyko: It’s all about confidence and you can see that they’re playing with confidence when they’re on the power play. They’ve been the best power play in the league the last four or five games and they look deadly. Even when I’m calling the games, I can see the players on the ice feeling it.

When they get the power play, you’re thinking ‘Oh boy, here we go!’ The passing, the execution, the puck control, puck retrieval, all those little things, you can see they’re in sync. For me, the most important thing on the power play is the execution of the passes and they’re putting passes right on the tape. It sounds simple, but if you ask any power play that goes through struggles, they try to do too much. Everything for the Devils has been clicking from that standpoint.

The good news is that they’re carrying over their success on the power play while playing 5-on-5. You can see it in how they come through the neutral zone with speed. The power play has really helped in every area.

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MSGNetworks.com: Looking ahead to Thursday’s game against the Capitals, the Devils face a stern test in Washington. Can you talk about the added firepower the Caps have now that they’ve traded for Kevin Shattenkirk?

Devils Kinkaid Capitals Backstrom Road 122916

Ken Daneyko: The Capitals are all-in here and they haven’t gotten to where they wanted to go in recent seasons. They’ve just added another guy that’s very offensive and a real good player on the back end. They’re a deep team and solid top to bottom. It starts in goal with Braden Holtby. The Devils are going to have to be at their best. Against teams like Washington, mistakes have to be at a minimum. You can’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone because the Capitals just don’t need many chances to score.

I’ve played on teams like this before, where we’re confident and we’re good up-and-down the roster. You believe you’re going to win when you’re on the ice every night. The Capitals are at that level right now.

MSGNetworks.com: Finally, we’ve mentioned some of the younger players on the current roster that have contributed in recent weeks. Are there any youngsters in the farm system that you’re expecting big things from in the future?

Ken Daneyko: I never want to put too much pressure on these young guys that haven’t played a shift in the National Hockey League, but you’re seeing the development. I give Ray Shero and his crew credit because the Devils weren’t as deep in the past on the farm and with our prospect pool. We have a ways to go and we have a ton of draft picks that Ray has accumulated.

But there are young guys like Mikey McLeod, the first pick in last year’s draft and Yegor Rykov, a defenseman out of Russia who played well in World Junior Championships. It may take a year or two for Yegor to come over, but hopefully, Ray can figure that out. He looked like one of the better defensemen in that tournament.

And then look at the guys currently on the roster development like Joseph Blandisi, Steven Santini, Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood — these guys are all young prospects. It’s so important for the organization to have 30-33 players that can play in the National Hockey League. The talent pool is really improving and it’s a real bright spot for the organization.

Sometimes you have to have a little more patience than we all want to, but now it’s time for the team to take the next step and be a contender for the playoffs … whether it’s this year or next year.