December 12, 2019 • NEW JERSEY DEVILS NEWS & CLIPS
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The Devils will face-off against the Colorado Avalanche Friday night at 9:00 PM ET at Pepsi Center.
2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB
- Reality check for ‘underperforming’ Devils roster: How each player must improve
by Chris Ryan, NJ Advanced Media
DENVER — When Devils general manager Ray Shero fired coach John Hynes last week, he said every player on the roster was underperforming. Simply put, the team wasn’t getting nearly enough out of its perceived talent.
So what can each player do better to perform closer to his capabilities? Here’s a breakdown of all of the Devils’ current full-time NHL players and what they can do as individuals to provide more for the team.
Area for improvement: Show he can handle full-time starter role in NHL
Blackwood has been the Devils’ best option in goal this season, and it hasn’t been a debate. And at times, he’s been excellent, allowing two or fewer goals in nine of his 22 games, including relief efforts. But Blackwood has also been prone to cold streaks, such as the stretch where he allowed three or more goals in six straight starts from Nov. 16 through Dec. 3. He’s still technically in his rookie season, and this is the first time he’s been asked to handle a big workload in the NHL. It’s part of his development, and he needs to find ways to post quality starts more often than not.
Area for improvement: Shoot more at 5-on-5
Bratt has six goals this season, all at even strength, and they’ve come with an unsustainable 23.08 shooting percentage. When he puts the puck on net, good things happen. He just doesn’t do it nearly enough. Among the Devils’ full-time forwards, only Travis Zajac, Pavel Zacha, Kevin Rooney and John Hayden average less shots per 60 minutes than Bratt’s 5.94. Bratt’s offensive game is his biggest asset, and he needs to have more of a presence on that end.
Area for improvement: Drive play with his speed
After being in and out of the lineup early in the season, Boqvist has carved out a full-time spot in recent weeks, giving the Devils plenty of reason to dress him every game. Now he needs to take the next step. He’s one of the fastest players on the ice on any given night, and his pucks skills make him a consistent threat. He’s just a 20-year-old rookie still learning the NHL game, so he needs to continue to build confidence to take over shifts offensively when given the chance.
Area for improvement: Drive more offensive possession
Butcher has spent some time playing in the top-two defensive pairings, and the Devils have given him more defensive responsibility in his third NHL season. So it’s not surprising to see his possession numbers take a dip, but they need to be better. With Butcher on the ice at 5-on-5, the Devils are controlling 47.66% of the shot attempts — down from 53.14 in his rookie season and 49.87 in 2018-19. His best attributes involve moving the puck in transition and setting up teammates on the offensive end, and he needs to access those part of his game more frequently.
Area for improvement: Create more shorthanded chances
If you’re looking for one player that might be exceeding expectations this season, it’s probably Coleman. He’s second on the team in scoring with nine goals — eight at even strength and one shorthanded — and he leads the team at 10.9 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. So we’re going to nitpick a bit here, especially when talking about scoring chances on the penalty kill. The Devils’ penalty kill has been decent since an abysmal start in October, but when it’s at its best, the forwards are creating turnovers and getting some chances in transition. That aspect hasn’t been present this season, and Coleman is usually the one leading those rushes.
Area for improvement: End more plays defensively
At this stage Greene’s career, opponents are going to drive more possession than the Devils with him on the ice. That’s been the case for the past six seasons. With him on the ice at 5-on-5 this season, the Devils have allowed 31 goals, despite the expected goals allowed total sitting at 22.35. While that’s not all solely on Greene, he can help that total regress to the expected number by getting the puck out of the zone and keeping it out of high-danger areas.
Area for improvement: Make a bigger power-play impact
Gusev has made strides during his first NHL season after struggling to make some adjustments during the first month of the season. He’s not longer getting cratered in possession at 5-on-5, and he’s generating offensive chances much more consistently, helping him to five goals and nine assists. But just two assists have come on the power play, and he’s yet to score a goal there. Gusev is an elite passer and he has a quick shot capable of beating goalies, and those traits haven’t translated into power-play points.
Area for improvement: Score goals
It’s pretty basic, but Hall hasn’t been putting the puck in the net at the rate anyone would expect. It’s not from a lack of chances though, since he leads the team in shots and attempts by a country mile. He’s not going to shoot 5.5% all season, so the goals should come if he’s shooting at the same rate going forward.
Area for improvement: Get to the net on offense
Hayden has never been a big scorer — he had eight goals and 14 assists in 113 NHL games entering this season — but he has just one assist in 11 games with the Devils. His defense and physical play have been fine, but the Devils haven’t gotten any offensive production out of him and the fourth line in general. One of the reasons behind Hayden’s lack of scoring is his dip in high-danger scoring chances. He averaged 2.55 high-danger chances per 60 minutes last season. He’s currently at 0.53 in 2019-20. He needs to generate more attempts at the net for some greasy scoring chances.
Area for improvement: Establish a true role on the power play
Since breaking into the NHL, Hischier’s never established himself as a point machine on the power play. Part of that was opportunity in the past two seasons, but now he’s a part of that unit every time he plays. The Devils have tried him in multiple spots — the wing, the slot and net front — and he hasn’t taken off in any of them. Hischier has the offensive abilities to provide a big boost to that group. Now the Devils just need to get him in a comfortable role and let him find some traction.
Area for improvement: Translate play into points
As Hughes’ rookie season has progressed, it’s been easy to see his confidence build. His speed and play with the puck are evident when he gets going. However, he’s posted just 12 points in 27 games. Those numbers will surely improve as the 18-year-old continues to develop. He’s driving play in ways that will lead to scoring, and now that just needs to translate on the scoresheet.
Area for improvement: Use his size
When the Devils traded for Mirco Mueller in 2017, they saw a big defenseman with solid skating who could help fill a void in that area of the game. Mueller has shown flashes of what the Devils saw. He still needs to be more consistent in ending plays and fortifying the Devils’ play in the defensive zone.
Area for improvement: Cut down on penalty minutes
Palmieri is on pace for 30 goals and 52 points, which would be on par for his production during his time with the Devils. He’s producing shots and attempts at his usual rates, and even though he’s moved to the slot on the power play, he still has six goals and four assists on the man advantage. But Palmieri has been taking penalties at a higher rate than any point of his career, averaging 1.41 per 60 minutes. He’s never been above one per 60 minutes, except in 2013-14 with the Anaheim Ducks, when he averaged 1.13 penalties per hour. He’s just 11 penalty minutes shy of matching his career high of 46. He’s a physical defender, so he’s going to go to the box on occasion. But the Devils need his scoring presence to stay on the ice.
Area for improvement: Provide any sort of offense
When Rooney has been in the lineup, it’s been as the Devils’ fourth-line center. On one end of the ice, he’s done his job. In 177 5-on-5 minutes, he’s been on the ice for just four goals against. His lines have been strong defensively. But getting offensive production from the bottom line makes a difference on good NHL teams. Rooney has just one assist this season, and the Devils have scored just two 5-on-5 goals with him on the ice. Rooney had six goals and 10 points in 41 games last season, and even if he was only mirroring those numbers, it would make a substantial difference.
Area for improvement: Reestablish 5-on-5 offensive impact
Severson’s biggest strength has always been on the offensive end, and while he’s at an ugly -12 rating right now, he has taken strides defensively in recent seasons. But so far in 2019-20, he’s not as involved offensively as years past. He posted 1.29 points per 60 minutes last season for the best rate of his career, and that number is at 0.64 through 30 games this season. He averages 3.3 shots per 60 minutes, compared to a career rate that’s hovered a hair below five per hour.
Area for improvement: Convert high-danger chances more often
No Devil has more high-danger shot attempts than Simmonds’ 41 this season, yet he has just four goals to show for it. He’s consistently getting to scoring areas and generating looks, and they simply haven’t gone in the net. Potting an extra goal here and there would make a big difference.
Area for improvement: Make smarter puck decisions
It would be safe to say Subban has a lot of areas where he’s underperformed this season, from his point production to defensive play to everything in between. But one of the biggest issues in his game has been his decisions with the puck on his stick. Sometimes he tries to make the extra play or do a little too much, and it leads to a turnover going the other way. Keeping his game simple and making the safer play on occasion would limit those mistakes, and it would help him generate more in the offensive zone.
Area for improvement: Move puck quicker on power play
Along with Coleman, Vatanen might be one of the few Devils living up to expectations. He leads all Devils defensemen in goals and points, and he’s been reliable in his own zone. He’s also been the one defenseman to find traction on the power play, so this is again more of a nitpick than anything. He touches the puck more than any player on the power play while running the point, and he’s looking to feed passes to set up shots for his wingers. When the power play has struggled, it’s because the Devils have been slow moving the puck. When Vatanen cycles the puck quickly, the Devils are set up for more dangerous shots.
Area for improvement: Finish his breakaways
Since breaking into the NHL, Wood has been a breakaway waiting to happen. His straight-line speed allows him to blow past defenders for clean looks on a regular basis, yet he has just three goals to show for it. Converting at a higher rate would make a huge difference, especially for a fourth line that has trouble producing offense.
Area for improvement: Find offensive consistency
It’s been a harping point for Zacha over the course of his NHL career: his offensive game fails to stay consistent for long stretches of time. He’ll have games where he’s involved, generating plenty of chances, before disappearing for the next stretch of games. He’s been playing with Bratt and Boqvist, two offensive-minded wingers, so he needs to take advantage of being on a line set up for offense.
Area for improvement: Shoot the puck
Zajac’s offensive game has never been his biggest asset, but he’s less involved than he’s ever been. He’s not getting any power play time, so a dip in his goal and assist totals should be expected. But at 5-on-5, his 7.05 shot attempts per 60 minutes is the lowest rate of his career. With Coleman and Gusev on his line, he’s got two wingers capable of driving play to the offensive end. He just needs to find ways to generate more attempts for himself.
- 10 TAKEAWAYS: On the PP, World Juniors and More
by Amanda Stein amandacstein / NewJerseyDevils.com
A week of adjustments have been underway as the Devils continue to adapt to their new interim head coach Alain Nasreddine. Perhaps it was the perfect timing to set out on a four-game road trip that will span nine days.
Here are the 10 Takeaways, presented by Ticketmaster, from the past week:
When we last left off last week, Alain Nasreddine had just been named interim head coach of the Devils. Later that evening, he coached his first game, only hours after assuming the role.
“It was a lot of emotions all day long,” Nasreddine said after the 4-3 loss to Vegas. “The game was a lot of fun to be in, obviously. I liked the energy by the team. I really, really liked our first 40 minutes. The third period, it was almost like we ran out of gas a bit. It doesn’t take much in this league for the other team to make you pay for it and that’s what happened.”
A day after his debut, the team had an off-day which allowed Nasreddine to get his ducks in a row and adjust to his new role with the team and meet with the other coaches and Devils management.
Nasreddine understands the unique role he now currently finds himself in, a new old voice.
“It’s not like I’m a new voice coming in, I was the assistant coach,” he said. “I’m the same guy in a different position. It goes back to what I said the first day, I see this more as a partnership where it’s meeting that way (of playing) but doing this together with the players.”
Upon the team’s return on Thursday, Nasreddine began individual meetings with each player to outline expectations and adjustments he’d like to see in their game.
Part of those expectations is taking pride in the way they practice. In his first practice on Thursday, players were flying on the ice, the tempo upbeat.
“We asked the players to skate,” Nasreddine said after practice. “This is the style play, we want to have is a skating team. And if we’re going to be a skating team, it starts in practice. And that was a message this morning to make sure that we build those habits in practice and we can then bring to games. It’s a tough way to play when you’re gonna ask the players to skate so you’ve got to build the conditioning and get it to the games.”
Jack Hughes had been out of the Devils lineup since he blocked a shot against the Canadiens on November 28. He missed three straight games before returning to the lineup against Chicago on Friday, December 6. In his return, Hughes recorded his fifth-highest ice-time this season, playing 18:03 of the 2-1 shootout loss. It didn’t look like the Devils rookie had missed a single beat, and despite being held without a point, was one of the Devils best players on the ice.
“He was flying,” Nasreddine said after the game. “He had energy. He wanted the puck on his stick all night. He tried to create. I thought he had a pretty good game. I think tonight playing with No. 9 also helped. [Hall] was probably the best player on the ice for me. Had a strong game. Numerous chances, shots, skating looked great. And I think him and Jack played pretty well together.”
In came one player, out went another. As players hit the ice for warmups against Chicago, the team announced that Nico Hischier would be out due to illness. Hischier missed his first game of the season against the Blackhawks and would subsequently miss the game against the Predators just a night later and the game in Dallas last night. It is quite unusual not to see Nico in a Devils lineup. Through his first two-plus years in the league he has played 176 of a possible 194 games. In his rookie season he played all 82 games and in 2018-19 he missed 13 games.
Before Nico sat out against Chicago, he was on his best offensive run this season with three goals and five assists in his past nine games.
Hischier was placed on injured reserve by the team, retroactive to December 5.
In the absence of Nico, Pavel Zacha has been given his spot on the first wave of the Devils power play. Zacha has been on the ice with the man-advantage with Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev and Sami Vatanen. Against the Blackhawks, Zacha played a total of 4:40 on the power play and added another 2:41 against the Nashville Predators. He played 2:53 on the man advantage in Dallas.
The 6’3”, 210lbs forward used his net-front presence to take away Pekka Rinne’s eyes in Nashville, parking himself in front of the net in a play that lead to Kyle Palmieri’s power-play goal.
“All I ask is for the power play to be threatening,” Nasreddine said when asked about what he’d like to see from his power-play units. “It needs to bring energy to the team. The power play has looked good for a couple of games now.”
It’s that time of year where teams with young talented players get asked the question: “Will you allow Player-X attend the World Junior Championship?”
Some teams will do it, like the Detroit Red Wings who have loaned Joe Veleno to Team Canada. Veleno, however, has played his first professional season all in the AHL. So, the question was asked of interim coach Nasreddine, would Jack Hughes be loaned to Team USA?
Before the question was even finished being asked, Nasreddine jumped in and said: “that was shut down right away.”
“We have no intention on sending him there,” the Devils interim head continued. “He’s on the team, he’s a big part of this team, so it’s not something where we want to lose him for three weeks. Yeah, he’s not going there.”
What I really liked was the swagger Hughes carried when he was asked the same question just a couple minutes later.
“I mean I haven’t thought about that,” Hughes said. “I’m here for a reason, so I’m not planning on leaving.”
I’ve mentioned it quite a few times, but the life of Mackenzie Blackwood has really gone through quite a transformation over the last two years. On New Year’s Day 2018 and then playing in the AHL, Blackwood was told by his then-head coach Rick Kowalsky that he had been demoted to the ECHL’s Adirondak Thunder. Fast forward, less than two years later, and here is Mackenzie taking hold of an NHL team as their number one goaltender.
On Friday against Chicago, Blackwood had an outstanding performance in the 2-1 shootout loss. Blackwood made 28 saves on 29 shots after 65 minutes of play, before the team came up just short in the shootout.
“He’s got all the talent in the world,” Taylor Hall said after that game. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a young goalie that wants to work hard, wants to get better. When you see him put in performances like this you hope that you can build off of that.”
And while the Blackhawks don’t have the record they’d probably like, they do still have all-world talent on their roster, who are capable of changing a game at any moment. But Blackwood was able to counter. He made two outstanding stops on Chicago’s Brandon Saad, both breakaway attempts and a point-blank save on Alex DeBrincat as well that got the crowd cheering.
The 23-year-old goaltender has carried much of the load this season, still adjusting to the NHL game. Blackwood has played in 22 of the Devils’ 30 games. He made 33 saves last night in Dallas.
Do the Devils have a secret weapon for their shootouts? It would appear if they don’t have just one, they might have two. A couple of weeks ago, both Nikita Gusev and Jesper Boqvist scored beautiful shootout goals against the Winnipeg Jets and once again, they were both employed against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was only Jesper Boqvist’s second shootout attempt in the NHL. And you guessed it, he did it again and is now 2-for-2 in his career. Boqvist is only one of six players in the NHL who have taken two or more shootout attempts and have a 100 percent success rate.
Boqvist sits in some pretty fine company. Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault is 3-for-3, as is Dallas’ Tyler Seguin. Players, including Boqvist who have gone 2-for-2 are Dallas’ Joe Pavelski, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, and Arizona’s Christian Dvorak.
Not a bad group to belong to.
Nikita Gusev isn’t far behind in his attempts and success-rate. After a long list of players who have gone 1-for-1 for their 100 percent success, Gusev is next on the list with a 75 percent success rate scoring three goals on four attempts.
One Devils prospect who will most certainly compete for a spot on their national team is goaltender Akira Schimd. Schmid has played six games for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL this season. Schmid is one of three goaltenders at the U20 Swiss National team camp, where he’ll compete for a spot with Stéphane Charlin (Genève Servette HC) and Luca Hollenstein (EV Zug).
Cuts are expected to be made by Swiss national team coach Thierry Paterlini after their two friendly matches on December 13th and 14th.
Swiss U20 national team will start tournament play against Kazakhstan on Thursday, 26 December.
Have you been dipping into the new Jersey Life series that we’ve had on NewJerseyDevils.com this year? Every week, there’s a new look into the Devils community, it could be fan-related, a player event, we really run the scope. This week’s episode was truly touching. Community reporter Catherine Bogart sat down with Evan Yasser, who is on the autism spectrum and has an incredible ability to call live sports play-by-play. Evan was invited by the team to help call a period alongside Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch and did an incredible job.
Take the time to watch Evan’s story and have a listen to his remarkable play-by-play here:
- PROSPECT REPORT: Here Come World Juniors
by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com
It will soon be the most wonderful time of the year…to watch the best available teenage hockey players in the world play for their country.
The World Junior Championship starts the day after Christmas at two sites in the Czech Republic. The final selection camps lists have been announced and countries will be setting their rosters between now and Dec. 26, when the tournament opens with four games, including the U.S. vs Canada in Ostrava.
Four Devils prospects are in the mix: defensemen Ty Smith (Canada) and Daniil Misyul (Russia), forward Nikola Pasic (Sweden) and goaltender Akira Schmid (Switzerland).
Another interesting storyline: as many as eight of the top 10 picks at the 2020 NHL Draft could be in action, headlined by Canadian forwards Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield, who are the consensus No. 1 and No. 2.
Unless he’s injured, Devils prospect Ty Smith will suit up for Canada and is expected to be part of the Canadian leadership group. Smith, 19, and in his final year of junior hockey, was part of Canada’s team last year in Vancouver that lost in overtime to Finland in the quarterfinals. Finland later beat Jack Hughes and the U.S., to win gold when Kaapo Kakko scored in the championship game’s waning moments.
USA Hockey has named an older team that includes many of Hughes’s teammates from its development program that produced eight first-round picks at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Though none are on the U.S. squad, the other three Devils prospects offer compelling stories.
Misyul was taken 70th by the Devils in Vancouver. He has shown well playing against men for Lokomotiv in the KHL this season and tournament play for the Russia U-20 squad in the lead-up to being named to the final selection camp. Ottawa 67’s defenseman Nikita Okhotyuk, who the Devils took nine picks earlier last June, had the inside track to join Misyul but has suffered two injuries since the season started and was left off the Russian’s final selection camp list.
Like Smith for Canada, Misyul is expected to the final cut for Russia and be part of a defense corps playing in front of goaltender Yaroslav Askarov.
“The best goaltending prospect I’ve seen since Roberto Luongo,” said Red Line Report chief scout Kyle Woodlief. “If Russia has just a competent team in front of him, Askarov could win them gold on his own.”
Indeed, Askarov stymied Canada at this summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup to win gold over a team that included Byfield (a late-2001 birthday, Lafreniere had outgrown the age group). That came a few months after he did the same in the semifinals to Hughes and Co. at last spring’s World U-18 in Sweden, though Russia later lost the gold medal game to the hosts.
Nikola Pasic, the last player taken (7th round), 189th overall) by the Devils in Vancouver in June, has made the cut for the Swedes after a blistering start to the season with BIK in the Swedish second division. Pasic, a slick pivot who also plays the wing, is expected to be a secondary scoring threat behind the Swedes power pairing of Lukas Raymond and Alexander Holtz, who are both rated to go in the first handful of picks in the June Draft.
Sweden has an incredible 48-game preliminary round winning streak at the World Junior, including an overtime win last year over the U.S., but Tre Kronor has won gold just once during that span.
Swiss goaltender Akira Schmid, the Devils fifth-round (136th overall) pick in 2018, has been hurt for much of the season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. Schmid was part of a Swiss team that played the top countries tough last year in Vancouver. If he regains his health, he could be his country’s go-to netminder in his last year of eligibility.
The World Junior is typically a 19-year-olds tournament. But the presence of the 2002-born Byfield and a collection of late-birthday 2001s means that most of the top-10 for this summer’s Draft will be in action. Lafreniere, who is nursing a minor ankle injury, and Byfield are locks to make Team Canada and could be joined by Cole Perfetti, who right now could go inside the top-five. That Canadian trio combined with both Swedes and Askarov could very well make up picks one through six in June’s Draft.
A seventh, forward Tim Stutzle, will play for Germany, who are part of an Ostrava-based group that includes the U.S., Canada, Russia and the host Czechs. Right now, Stutzle is rated somewhere between seventh and 10th on most scouts’ pecking order.
Sweden, Finland, with their top own top-10 Draft prospect Anton Lundell, Slovakia, Switzerland and Kazakhstan are in the other group that is based in Trinec.
The NHL Network will broadcast 20 World Junior games, including all U.S., Canada and medal round contests.
- Devils Through the Decades: 1995 Quest for the Cup (part 1)
by Jerri Rettig / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com
There is nothing like playoff hockey – NOTHING! Plain and simple, the Stanley Cup is the most coveted trophy in sports and the most difficult to attain. Some players (great ones) never get the chance to hoist it and a good majority of loyal and diehard fans never get the opportunity to experience it.
As a fan who has been privileged to have had the luxury (several times), I feel compelled to discuss the criticality of playoff game day superstitions – we all do it in some way, shape or form however, a good number of you may not be as blatant with them and/or open to sharing as I am (could very possibly be a mistake on my end).
In 1994 and in the first round against Buffalo, we lost our first home game while I was wearing Devils attire. As a result, I switched it up for game 2. My new outfit was black stirrup pants, black boots, black tank top and a leopard print blouse (don’t judge – it was 26 years ago and I believed it was stylish). When we won, I felt that this was the lucky outfit and my playoff uniform for the remainder of that series as well as the following two. I would take it off after each game, spray it with perfume and hang it on my balcony for proper airing. You know as well as I do, that there was no way to wash or clean the outfit and maintain the luck.
In addition to the outfit, I developed/adopted a “power play pose” (where I sat on my leg throughout the PP). I still utilize this and it has now extended to all power plays – regular season as well as playoffs.
During the 1995 playoffs, I unveiled and expanded a set of good luck superstitions, but the outfit was retired given that it most certainly lost its juju at the conclusion of our ’94 run. My rituals and props now included a “good luck Devils toothbrush” only used on game days, my rally towel and pompom (provided as we entered the arena for the first home game). This was the only towel I accepted and carried throughout the whole run. The placement and usage of the towel was also crucial.
The towel was laid out on the back of the chair in front of me with my hands on it at all times as I leaned forward to watch play. During power plays and PK’s, it was squeezed tightly between my hands (while sitting on my leg of course) and then placed back on the chair at the conclusion of the power play. A quick shoutout and thank you to all the patrons who sat in front of me and leaned forward to allow for proper towel placement. During OT’s, the towel was, again, scrunched between my fists and held to my mouth to keep me from screaming. My towel/pompom were the first things I put in my bag when I traveled for a couple of road games.
While on the road, I had to enlist the cooperation of rival fans in order to execute the towel placement. Today, this towel resides in my 1995 memory box complete with beer, wine and mustard stains absorbed throughout the playoffs. The towel took a beating, but where would (might) we have been without it?
Detroit Finals Game 4 – With “Good Luck Towel” and Pompom
A playoff run, be it round 1 or the finals is often chock full of OT’s and game 7’s which is a wicked rollercoaster ride for the fan (buckle up) – pure jubilation if you win and soul crushing when you lose – a virtual cornucopia of emotion. There is a reason why they call it “sudden death.”
I would be remiss to start writing about our ’95 run without acknowledging 1994 (as horrifically as it ended). The Devils went three rounds, played two game 7’s and twelve OT periods to include a quadruple OT against Buffalo (buckle up and lock yourself in). When we lost that game in the wee hours of the morning, it was utter and complete disappointment followed by unbridled exhilaration when we won game 7 moving us forward to the semi-finals against Boston. We took that series in six games which also included two OT’s and propelled us to the conference finals against our arch-nemesis…The Rangers.
The battle on the Hudson was both, epic and agonizing with three double OT’s and a game 7 – not for the faint of heart. With an opportunity to close it out at home in game 6 (and the melodrama of Messier’s prediction “we will win tonight”), we walked into the building with high hopes, excitement and confidence. Entering the 3rd period and up by one goal, we could taste the win. The 3-2 loss that night was disheartening and set the stage for game 7…buckle up for the ride!
Game 7 was played at MSG and I was there. I had attended all seven games of the series and had hoped not to be back in that building after game 5. My seats were behind Brodeur’s goal so fortunately and unfortunately, I had a bird’s eye view of the two most important goals of the game.
With a minute left in the game and the Rangers up by one, everyone in the arena was on their feet and counting down when the unthinkable happened (if you were a Rangers a fan). With 7.7 seconds left, Zelepukin tied the game!! I was elated, screaming, shrieking, whooping and hollering while all of the fans around me fell back in their seats deflated…buckle up, hold on tight and don’t let go – game 7 OT. Between the 3rd period and first OT, I went to the ladies’ room and while I was waiting on line I heard a couple of guys walk by and one said to the other “Oh no, it’s that girl in the leopard shirt again” – my uniform.
OT in and of itself during the playoffs is a form of torture that any diehard can appreciate, but a game 7 OT is agony. Every shot, every save, every giveaway is gut-wrenching and/or heart stopping.
The first OT ended and we were heading for our third double OT of the series bringing with it the heightened level of stress and anxiety that goes along with a win-or-go-home scenario. Less than five minutes in, Stephane Matteau scored the goal that sent us home for the summer. I was devastated and heartbroken, didn’t wait for the handshake (historically, one of my favorite things to watch and a great hockey tradition). I couldn’t get out of the building fast enough! Sudden death. Having been at the game, I was fortunate enough that night to have escaped the now infamous rant “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” however, it couldn’t be avoided in the days and weeks to follow and I was haunted by it for months to come (still am).
Despite the outcome in 1994, it validated the Devils as bona fide contender – a deep and talented team. Unbeknownst to us at the time, it was the beginning of an “era of greatness” that started with our first Cup in 1995.
Part 2 of this story will be posted in a few days and I will be sharing my memories of that magical season however, in my last article I had asked to hear some of yours which I will share now;
Tomoki Tajima – He was living in Japan and became a (very) long-distance fan in 1995. Watching Scott Stevens hoist the cup via satellite TV, he was moved and impressed. At the time, Tomoki was studying for his college entrance exams, was motivated by the team and felt it gave him the momentum to study even harder – he passed and from that moment he became a fan. Tomoki has been living in New Jersey for the past three years (relocated by his company) and visits The Rock several times a year.
Barry Greif – Barry and his son (Stu) became Devils fans from the inception (1982). Stu accompanied Barry to game 3 of the finals in 1995 and when Barry asked him to go to game 4, he said that he couldn’t as he had a game of his own to play (men’s league). Barry replied “Stu, you have been a Devils fan since you were 10. There is a very good chance they could win the cup that night. How often can you see your team win a Championship in person?” Stu thought for a moment and said, “I’ll be there.”
That day (game 4) they attended a family event and at 4:00 Barry kissed his cousin goodbye and told her he was leaving because he “had a date with destiny.”
Late in the game, after the score was 5-2 and the chants changed from “We Want The Cup” to “We’ve Got The Cup” Stu knew he made the right decision.
Andreas Michaelides recalls the dominant play of Stephane Richer.
Vincent Villa had scheduled a trip with his family and in-laws to Niagara Falls. He fondly remembers watching the Philly series in a small hotel room and thoroughly enjoyed the “big goal by Claude Lemieux and the rock-solid goal tending of Marty Brodeur.”
Felony Van Horn (the Philly fan) – After the Devils game one win against the Flyers and as a Devils fan in Philly, Felony called into the radio station where the broadcaster was a “homer” and talking smack against the Devils. She laid into him with great satisfaction. In addition, she also has great memories of watching the Devils celebration as it was carried on public access TV and aired in Philly.
As mentioned, my (personal) 1995 story will come out in a few days and my January article will be a tribute to the 2000 Cup as we celebrate the 20-year anniversary. I would love to hear and share any special memories or stories that you may have of our 2000 run for that article. Please share with me below.
- GAME STORY: Stars 2, Devils 0
by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com
DALLAS, TX – The Devils fell behind early and trailed 2-0 after a lopsided first period but managed to hold off the Dallas Stars for the second and third. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert a goal of their own in a 2-0 loss at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night.
Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 33 of 35 shots in the loss.
- Devils’ Nico Hischier returns to practice ahead of Friday’s game vs. Avalanche
by Chris Ryan, NJ Advanced Media
DENVER — Nico Hischier appears to be closer to his return to the lineup.
Hischier, who missed the Devils’ past three games due to illness, returned to practice on Thursday at Ice Centre at the Promenade, ahead of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Devils placed Hischier on injured reserve ahead of Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Stars, but he is eligible to be activated on Friday. His official status for Friday’s game won’t likely be known until morning skate.
If the Devils do activate Hischier, they will need to make a roster move ahead of Friday’s game. The current roster stands at the maximum 23 players.
Though Hischier was on the ice, he wasn’t in the first set of line rushes. Here’s how the Devils lined up early in practice:
Taylor Hall – Jack Hughes – Kyle Palmieri
Blake Coleman – Travis Zajac – Nikita Gusev
Jesper Boqvist – Pavel Zacha – Jesper Bratt
Miles Wood – Kevin Rooney – Wayne Simmonds
John Hayden – Nico Hischier – Michael McLeod
Andy Greene – P.K. Subban
Damon Severson – Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher – Mirco Mueller
3) TV/VIDEO LINKS –
- POST-GAME | Stars 2, Devils 0
- BLACKWOOD STRONG AGAIN, BUT DEVS’ POOR PLAY CONTINUES
4) RADIO LINKS –
5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB –
- Devils Need a Reset, Not a Rebuild
BY ALEX CHAUVANCY, The Hockey Writers
The New Jersey Devils may still be holding out hope to try and turn around the 2019-20 season. But things are looking bleak, as they sit at 9-16-5 on the season and haven’t won a game since American Thanksgiving. Interim head coach Alain Nasreddine has a tall task ahead of him, and it’ll only get harder as the Feb. 24 Trade Deadline approaches.
The hope heading into the season was the Devils would go into the Trade Deadline as buyers, but it’s become quite clear selling is the only option. General manager Ray Shero has some valuable trade chips on his roster, and he needs to recoup some assets to begin a quick turnaround to make the team contenders for next season.
The Trade Candidates
We’ll start with the trade candidate everyone is talking about, and that’s Hall. Rumors are running wild, with teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes considered to be frontrunners. And any trade involving Hall may yield quite the return, as it could take as many as four pieces to acquire him.
Hall hasn’t been quite himself this season, with 25 points in 30 games, but a change of scenery should benefit him. With that said, Shero shouldn’t sell short on Hall. This is a trade that could alter the look of the franchise, so maxing out the return is crucial. If it’s four pieces he wants, that could entail two top prospects, as well as two draft picks — one conditional depending on if Hall signs an extension with the team acquiring him. At worst, they should come away with at least one top prospect and a couple of draft picks. And that’ll help get the reset started.
The Devils acquired Vatanen in 2017 when they traded Adam Henrique to the Anaheim Ducks, and he played a significant role in their run to the playoffs that season. He’s in the final year of his contract and is on pace to finish with 39 points, the most he’s had since 2015-16. So he picked a good time to have a career season.
But as well as he’s played, it might make the most sense for the Devils to trade Vatanen. He’ll be 29 at the start of next season and is due a pay raise from his $4.5 million base salary. The Devils need young, cost-effective talent in hitting the reset button, and Vatanen could help net that in a trade. He’s a right-handed shot that plays top-four minutes, so it isn’t unreasonable to expect a good prospect and a draft pick in return for him.
The Devils signed Simmonds to help their need at right-wing. He has only 11 points in 30 games, but it hasn’t been for the lack of shots and chances. He’s fired 68 shots on goal but has only four goals to show for it — a 5.9 shooting percentage. His underlying numbers have also rebounded after a poor 2018-19, so a team looking to add scoring and a physical presence would benefit from having him.
It’s hard to imagine the return for Simmonds being anything outrageous, but that shouldn’t affect Shero’s decision to trade him. He’s on an expiring contract, and there isn’t a fit for him on the Devils moving forward. The Devils got a second-round pick for Brian Boyle in early Feb. 2019 (he had 19 points at the time). Simmonds should reach that mark by this season’s Trade Deadline, especially if his poor shooting luck turns around. So a similar return isn’t out of the question.
Greene is in a bit of a different position than the rest of the team’s pending unrestricted free agents. He’s been the team’s captain since Oct. 2015, and it’s pretty unusual to see a team’s captain traded in the middle of the season. But at 37 years old, another shot at a Stanley Cup could be enticing, and that could persuade him to waive his no-trade clause (NTC) for one last shot with a contender.
If he chooses to waive his NTC, Greene should have a fair amount of suitors. He’s a veteran with plenty of experience and is one of the top penalty-killing defensemen in the league. Those are the type of deadline acquisitions teams like to add for a deep playoff run, so the Devils would be able to get some value for him. At the same time, no one would fault Greene if he decided to remain with the team where he’s spent his whole NHL career. And that wouldn’t be the worst thing, given a fair amount of Devils’ prospects should see action to end the season and would benefit from his presence.
Devils Shouldn’t Blow It All Up
The Devils shouldn’t be looking to start from scratch, and if they are, ownership will have to decide if Shero is the right person to do so. But what they should be looking to do is get things turned around to be playoff contenders in 2020-21. While getting prospects that are close to NHL-ready is important, Shero will also need draft picks heading into the offseason.
The Devils are not in the position to be trading away their top prospects like Jesper Boqvist or Ty Smith for NHL talent, so that’s where the extra picks come in handy. That’s how Shero acquired Nikita Gusev and Marcus Johansson in past trades, and it’d be fair to expect similar moves this summer. The team isn’t completely devoid of talent, either, so a quick reset could do the job. And considering they’ve made the playoffs once since 2011-12, another drawn-out rebuild should be a last resort.
- MacKinnon and Colorado take on New Jersey
by The Associated Press
New Jersey Devils (9-16-5, eighth in the Metropolitan Division) vs. Colorado Avalanche (20-8-3, first in the Central Division)
Denver; Friday, 9 p.m. EST
BOTTOM LINE: Nathan MacKinnon and Colorado square off against New Jersey. MacKinnon is third in the league with 48 points, scoring 19 goals and recording 29 assists.
The Avalanche have gone 9-3-2 in home games. Colorado leads the league shooting 11.6% and averaging 3.7 goals on 31.7 shots per game.
The Devils have gone 5-9-0 away from home. New Jersey has scored 15 power-play goals, converting on 13.6% of chances.
The matchup Friday is the first meeting of the season for the two teams.
TOP PERFORMERS: MacKinnon leads the Avalanche with 29 assists and has collected 48 points this season. Joonas Donskoi has totaled 12 points over the last 10 games for Colorado.
Taylor Hall leads the Devils with 25 points, scoring six goals and collecting 19 assists. Kyle Palmieri has four goals and three assists over the last 10 games for New Jersey.
LAST 10 GAMES: Devils: 2-7-1, averaging 2.3 goals, four assists, 4.2 penalties and 9.6 penalty minutes while allowing 3.5 goals per game with a .892 save percentage.
Avalanche: 7-2-1, averaging 3.8 goals, 6.3 assists, 3.2 penalties and 7.2 penalty minutes while giving up 2.3 goals per game with a .925 save percentageGet all the Blues coverage from Jim Thomas without the pop-ups and surveys. Your subscription also includes access to our daily e-edition.
INJURIES: Avalanche: Philipp Grubauer: day to day (undisclosed), Cale Makar: day to day (upper body), Andre Burakovsky: out (upper body).
Devils: None listed.