Devils Begin 2020-2021 Season With High Hopes

January 14, 2021 - New York Sports Day - View Full Article

 

Tonight, the Devils will open their season at home against the mighty Boston Bruins. It will be a test for New Jersey, who did not come close to making the playoffs last season, but who made several significant changes since the end of the 2019-20 season. The most significant change is behind the bench, where new Head Coach Lindy Ruff has instituted a new system. A more offensively minded Devils will take the ice tonight–a team which will be relying on speed and sending four players up the ice.

The team has had some unpleasant surprises over the last few weeks but is bouncing back strongly.

The sudden retirement of newly signed veteran netminder, Corey Crawford, was a shock. It was only three months ago that Crawford signed a 2-year deal with New Jersey and solidified the team’s twosome between the pipes. Crawford and Mackenzie Blackwood were to be 1a and 1b for this season. But, it was not meant to be. It is truly unfortunate, as Crawford was supposed to give Blackwood the benefit of his many years of experience. As important as a goalie coach can be (and I am not underestimating this), there is nothing like a young goalie sharing the net with an experienced Stanley Cup winner who is eager to teach. Scott Wedgewood will be Blackwood’s backup for the season, instead. And while Wedgewood is a solid netminder, he is no Corey Crawford. But hope is far from lost, as the 24-year-old Blackwood (a Devils 2015 second round pick) had an excellent season last year (he posted a 2.77 GAA and 91.5 save percentage in 47 games). And, if training camp is any indication, he is expected to pick up right where he left off.   

Starting the Season a Bit Short Up Front

The Devils’ forward lines will look different tonight. First-line center Nico Hischier is out due to an injury to his foot. Although Hischier is close to returning (currently, day-to-day), his loss will be felt in this newly minted offense first team. Added on the wing is Andreas Johnsson, who is kind of a jack-of-all-trades. He can play in all situations, which will be even more important than usual over the next few games until Hischier can come back and take some of the load of Johnsson.  Also added on the wing is 22-year-old rookie Yegor Sharagovich, who gets a chance to skate on the left side of Jack Hughes and Kyle Palmieri. With Hischier out, Michael McLeod will get a chance to be the fourth-line center.

Winger Jesper Bratt will not be on the ice tonight, as he was just resigned to a two-year contract earlier this week. He will also have to quarantine upon arrival. Also required to quarantine will be right handed defenseman Sami Vatanen, who signed  a one -year contract on January 7th. As Devils fans remember, Vatanen was sent to Carolina last February (essentially for their playoff run), in exchange for Janne Kuokkanen (who will be on the wing tonight for New Jersey) and Fredrik Claesson.  

Devils’ Much Improved D

If the Devils are a little short upfront of what the team will be in a few weeks, the defensive corps has been strengthened since last season. Ryan Murray will be on the left side of PK Subban tonight as part of the first pairing. Murray came to the team from Columbus for a fifth round pick in October of last year, and he is now healthy and looks to really contribute. He is considered a two-way left shot blueliner, who will fit in well with the new system. The other new D-man who should fit in very well is Dmitry Kulikov. Although Kulikov has played a more stay-at-home role during his professional career, he seems anxious to get back to the more two-way role he played in junior hockey.

And then there is Ty Smith, who will be making his NHL debut this evening. A Devils’ 2018 first-round entry draft selection, Smith, an elite skater, is starting on the third pairing.   

Prediction

The Devils are definitely on the right track with their new system. They should be exciting and fun, with lots of ups and downs as this shortened season moves along. New Jersey is essentially a team on the rise, but not quite there yet. The team is focusing on changing their style of play and quite a few of the pieces that this will take are now in the organization (either on the NHL team or below). But there are still some missing parts. So, the high hopes are really for some big steps by the younger players and some rebound for the veterans. Even if that happens, the playoffs are a longshot, but, in a couple of years–watch out for this team. 

 

The post Devils Begin 2020-2021 Season With High Hopes appeared first on NY Sports Day.




Comeback Kids, Devs Top Caps

November 12, 2011 - At the Red Line - View Full Article

Our three stars of the game, Hedberg, Fayne and Tallinder.

First, Johan Hedberg. The Devils got themselves in trouble early on on the game going down by two goals before the first period horn sounded. Devils commentator Steve Cangelosi commented that it looked like he was busier than the shots on goal tally indicated; the reason for that was simply because most of the shots were huge saves. A any point the Devils could have found themselves in a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.

Next up, Mark Fayne. Mark looked like he was given Ovechkin duty, as he seemed to tail the Caps captain most of the night. In fact during the second and third periods, I would credit him for keeping Ovechkin off the scoresheet. That alone means the Devils had a shot to win tonight.

Lastly, Henrik Tallinder. His persistence, energy, and drive is the sole reason the second goal was scored. He drove hard into the corner, wasn’t phased by a Caps hand under his arm, and actually pulled the Caps defender’s stick and glove off his hand using his armpit. That distraction, gave the Devils the slight edge they needed to get the puck back to Bryce Salvidor, who made a hard pass to Ryan Carter that he deflected in to the net to tie things up.

That brings us to the shootout. After a nail biting overtime, the Devils were fortunate to pass five minutes still tied, and even get a couple of scoring chances. In the shootout, Zach Parise made an excellent fake then shot to give the Devils the initial advantage. You would expect the Capitals Alex Ovechkin to score, but Hedberg stopped the other attempts leaving the teams tied at one goal a piece after the initial three rounds.

Nicklas Backstrom was next up for the Caps and could not get his shot past Hedberg, giving the Devils a chance to win it. The Devils choice was David Clarkson, and it was a good choice. Clarkson faked out Capitals net minder Michal Neuvirth and his backhand shot reached the back of the net. The Capitals were dealt only their second loss at home so far this season, and the Devils won their eighth game of the season, five of which now have been generated in overtime.

Of course the Devils aren’t coming out of this matchup unscathed. Their Penalty Killing unit kept the Capitals off the board when they were short a man, getting the Devils a 93% PK rate, second only to Pittsburgh Penguins who have a 94% rate. But their Power Play continues to struggle. To be fair, the Devils PP ability has struggled for quite some time, but they now sit dead last in the league’s Power Play percentage with 10%. If the Devils really want to come out of their mediocre haze, this must be addressed immediately.