Following the ever-so-satisfying victory versus the New York Rangers, I wanted to see the Devils match their level of intensity that they showed in regulation on Thursday night. With a win, the Devils would sweep their games with the Blackhawks for the season.
First Period: The scoring for the game was started by who else...but Brian Boyle? On a good shift by Blake Coleman, Boyle, and Brian Gibbons, the puck came out to Brian Boyle off a turnover at the blue line. He sent a floating wrist shot towards the net, and Blake Coleman’s stick waved in front of Corey Crawford as the puck went in the top corner. 1-0.
Almost five minutes in, Stefan Noesen came down the left side of the ice after Steve Santini passed out to Marcus Johansson in the neutral zone, and Johansson found Noesen. He had a clean breakaway on Crawford, but the goaltender stopped the puck. It was a great feed from Johansson, but Noesen just couldn’t beat Crawford.
The first penalty of the game came a bit over nine minutes into the game, when Jonathan Toews took a slashing on Kyle Palmieri. Travis Zajac won the draw, and Will Butcher passed to Taylor Hall, who sent it low to Palmieri, who appeared to slip the puck to Brian Boyle for his second goal of the game. However, the puck never made it to Boyle’s stick and was Palmieri’s goal. Thus, the assists went to Taylor Hall and Will Butcher.
On a great shift for Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, and Stefan Noesen, one of the hopes of all Devils fans was answered. Zacha entered the zone, passing to Butcher, who held the puck for Stefan Noesen. Noesen carried the puck low, pulling Corey Crawford out of position and sliding the puck into the slot - where Zacha buried a goal that made Joel Quenneville pull his goaltender for the second time this year while playing the Devils. Noesen had a really good backcheck during this shift that made the play go back the other way, so he deserves a lot of praise for the goal. 3-0.
In came Anton Forsberg, who has had a pretty poor season. He came into this relief appearance with a 1-4-3 record on a .907 save percentage and 3.33 goals against average.
The first period ended with some tension and not a lot of offensive drama. Following the Chicago Blackhawks digging away at Cory Schneider, Steven Santini got into a short bout with John Hayden. It was Santini’s first NHL fighting major, and it was nothing special. The Devils and Blackhawks were tied in shots at 9-9, and the Devils lead in blocks at 10-3 - which included a diving Brian Boyle block later in the period, which almost got Blake Coleman an opportunity on Forsberg.
In all, it was a pretty good period, to say the least. While I was just hoping for the Devils to come out with some intensity, they put three goals on the scoreboard.
Second Period: Following the strong first period result, the thought crossed my mind of whether Devils fans would see an opposite of the last game with Chicago.
Less than three minutes into the period, Damon Severson took a crosscheck by Cory Schneider from Ryan Hartman. After the stoppage, Severson dropped his gloves to fight Hartman. A few punches were thrown - more than the first fight.
Following the fight, Nico Hischier took the puck deep into the zone, shielding it with his body with his stick in one hand. He passed it across the crease to Palmieri, but the one timer didn’t go in. Anton Forsberg made a solid blocker save
On the other end, Patrick Kane got a breakaway on Schneider not too long after. Regardless, Schneider stopped it as Kane didn’t have a lot of footspeed going towards the net and didn’t get a great move on Schneider, and the puck was cleared away after a second attempt that got the leg pad.
Around 12 minutes into the second period Blake Coleman made a stupid decision when he punched Ryan Hartman after getting a shot from Ryan DeBrincat. He got a roughing to make the game four-on-four.
The Blackhawks finally capitalized on their dominance of the second period when Patrick Kane used Steven Santini as a screen, shooting it between the legs and past Schneider. The Devils were playing truly terrible in the second period, and they deserved to have a goal scored against them. This was also Patrick Kane’s 300th goal.
The Devils managed to survive the remaining few minutes of the period from Kane’s goal. They lost the second period shot battle 22-7, which is pretty awful. The Devils also blocked 11 shots in the period. At even strength, the Blackhawks had a 78.72 CF%, 22 scoring chances, and seven high danger scoring chances in the second period. Nonetheless, the Devils came out of it still two goals ahead.
Third Period: I can't imagine John Hynes was particularly happy with his team during intermission. To start the period, the Devils seemed somewhat better than the second. That may be a low bar to set, but it was true nonetheless.
Brian Boyle was still out after leaving the game late in the second. The line of then Gibbons-Coleman-Noesen applied some pressure in the offensive zone. Noesen continued to be strong on the puck, creating scoring chances for the team.
Miles Wood received a puck off a turnover from Taylor Sharp, with Butcher applying pressure. He sent a nice pass to Taylor Hall, creating a breakaway. Hall went backhand-forehand and the puck went past Forsberg. 4-1. Hockey was fun again.
Kyle Palmieri left the game around the halfway mark when he took a hit from Tommy Wingels in the neutral zone.
Blake Coleman took his second penalty of the game when he saw a puck in the air by Schneider’s crease - he knocked it upwards with his stick, and out of play. It was a delay of game.
Pavel Zacha created a breakaway for Jesper Bratt when he cleared the puck to the neutral zone. Bratt outskated Oesterle, and Bratt was awarded a penalty shot. Bratt made some moves close to the net, but Forsberg didn't break and was at full extension to make a pad save.
The Chicago Blackhawks continued to battle, but the Devils and Cory Schneider were there to stop them. Miles Wood and John Hayden got 10 minute misconducts for unsportsmanlike conduct after Sami Vatanen took a delay of game.
On the last power play of the game, the Devils penalty kill stood strong. Andy Greene and Steven Santini didn't allow any really good opportunities, and the Devils skated off with a 4-1 win.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Second City Hockey for a recap from the Blackhawks perspective.
The Good: The Devils capitalized on a lot of their chances, and while they may have allowed many more attempts against than the Blackhawks did, they didn't get crushed in the high danger department.
In all situations, the Devils had 13 high danger scoring chances for. The Blackhawks had 11. While Schneider had to make a lot of stops (39, to be exact) - some of those being on good chances - the Devils thankfully mostly left the second period in the second period. Despite the first period being the one where they scored three goals, the third was the only one where they beat the Blackhawks in possession stats - the Devils had a 57.14 CF% at five-on-five in the third period.
The Devils certainly bent, but they didn't break down. The goal that was scored by the Blackhawks could have even been avoided if Santini played the body on Patrick Kane.
After all, the Devils got their bodies in front of 28 pucks. Without checking, I would guess that's close to a season high for the team. The Blackhawks only blocked seven shots. Some of the Devils blocks, like the one by Brian Boyle in the first period, probably preempted solid opportunities for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Bad: John Moore and Sami Vatanen had pretty rough games. Their possession stats were among the lowest of the game, and they simply had too,much trouble making zone exits with the puck. To credit John Moore, he used his speed to stop what might have been a partial breakaway in the early third period.
I wonder whether John Hynes opts to mix up the defensive pairings again. The Greene and Santini pairing, Kane goal aside, had a pretty solid game. When they were on the ice together, they had a 50.0 CF%, and the Devils had four high danger chances for and zero against (the Kane goal was from the top of the circle).
The Butcher and Severson pairing was better than Moore and Vatanen but worse than Greene and Santini. They had a 44.83 CF% at five-on-five, and the Devils also had four high danger chances for with them on the ice. However, the team also yielded five with them on the ice. Moore and Vatanen, for what it’s worth, only gave up two against, and the team had two for with them on the ice.
So to their credit, they didn't break. But it could have been a lot better with them on the ice.
A Tale of Two Cor(e)y’s: Cory got his goals, and he delivered the win. Facing 40 shots, he stopped 39. Plain and simple, he played a great game. The other goaltender with a homophone of a name - Corey Crawford, did not play a great game. Corey got pulled after seven shots, on which he allowed three goals. In the game preview from this morning, Ryan called him an early Vezina candidate. Thankfully for the Devils, he didn't look like one.
Cory Schneider, however, did look like one. He didn't make any mistakes, and stayed strong when the puck was loose around the net. He deserved The Jacket for making sure the Devils won tonight.
We Finally Had a Fully Healthy Forwards Group: Whether we’ll continue to have one remains to be seen. Brian Boyle left the game late in the second period, and Kyle Palmieri left several minutes into the third. The word on their injuries is that they were held out for precautionary reasons.
I'm sure that they'll be evaluated later, but they have time to recover if they’re day-to-day injuries. The next Devils game is on December 27th, and they'll have time off to be with family for a Christmas break. Let's hope nobody is significantly injured.
Speaking of Christmas: Look at this Tweet:
#NJDevils win their 21st game of the season on Dec 23rd.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) December 24, 2017
It took them until Jan 31 to reach that mark last season.
The Devils gave us an early gift by beating Our Hated Rivals on Thursday night. In my opinion, this feels really good to read. Following what Alex wrote for earlier today, the Devils continue to defy early season expectations. The PDO regression hasn't come to tank their dreams of the playoffs. Before the season, many - including myself - thought it would take a miracle for the Devils to be where they are today. Jesper Bratt, Will Butcher, Brian Boyle, Brian Gibbons, and Blake Coleman later, where do we stand?
Your Take: How do you feel about tonight's win? Who, aside from Schneider, had the best game in your opinion? What made you most happy during the game? What made you most angered during the game? Do you think John Hynes should make any lineup changes for when the team comes back on December 27th at 7:00 PM versus the Detroit Red Wings? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
And, to the readers, thanks for following along at All About The Jersey, whether it be in the gamethread or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog. This is Chris - have a goodnight and a good Christmas break.