For the first time in a looooong time it felt good to watch the Devils play again. They executed their plays well, they didn’t back down, and they were every bit as gritty as the Flyers. All those who were expected to score for the Devils score, and were the best players on the ice for the Devils today.
Was it a perfect game? No, but it very nearly was. Every player except Blake Pietila and Nick Lappin ended up a positive in terms of Corsi, with only Lappin being not positive in 5 v 5 Even Strength Corsi. Likewise, every player not named Claude Giroux or Shayne Gostisbehere was a negative in terms of Corsi for the Flyers, and no Flyer had a positive Corsi on even strength.
The first period was the worst for the Devils, and they still outperformed the Flyers in everything but the scoreline. Watching the game, the Devils felt like a completely different team. They were moving, passing, and overall playing very well. The first very good chance came off a Miles Wood shot from outside the circle. It beat Mason, but was stopped by the far post, and the Flyers were temporarily saved. Travis Konecky nearly scored himself off a deflection, but that also hit the post before bouncing back to Kinkaid. The Flyers actually scored first in the game, off some nice passes by the Flyers first line combined with the fact that Jon Merrill lost his stick trying to backcheck on Brayden Schenn. A tic-tac-toe from Giroux to Voracek to Del Zotto resulted in an empty net for Del Zotto to easily deposit home to make it 1-0. Today however, the Devils were here to win. Stefan Noesen temporarily gave Devils fans happiness when he appeared to celebrate a game-tying goal. However, embarrassingly enough, he actually missed the net completely. Luckily enough, Travis Zajac then won a faceoff in the Flyers zone to Kyle Palmieri, who sniped a shot on Mason’s far side and into the net to make it a 1-1 game. Near the end of the period, Henrique then proceeded to strip Andrew MacDonald, and got an invaluable chance which he couldn’t deposit. The period would end 1-1, but the Devils seemed like the better team.
Six minutes into the second, the Devils pounced. Henrique first did a good job keeping the puck in the zone, and distributed the puck to the corner, Provorov then tried to cycle the puck around the boards, but Beau Bennett did a nice job reading the play and intercepted it. He centered the puck right to Henrique, who easily lifted the puck top-shelf and in to make it 2-1. Four minutes later, Joseph Blandisi did what he does best and crowded the net. Damon Severson took a very simple slap shot, which Blandisi was able to tip and deflect past the shoulder of Mason and in for a 3-1 game. Brayden Schenn then scored off a pretty pass from Gudas to make it 3-2, but that would be all for the Flyers for this period, and game.
The third was a rare sight from the Devils. Instead of sitting back deep in their own zone, they actually tried to put pressure on the Flyers offensively, and heaven behold it worked! Only one minute in, Taylor Hall scored the prettiest goal of the game on a breakaway, after speeding by Brayden Schenn. A Jussi Jokinen shootout goal replication (Correct me if that’s not the origin), it was one of the most beautiful goals scored by a Devils this year, and just like that it was 4-2. Less than three minutes later, John Moore and the Devils had, yet again, sustained pressure on the Flyers, and he decided to just shoot a puck on the net. It bounced off of the new goalie Neuvirth, and rebounded right to Adam Henrique for a 5-2 game. Taylor Hall then deposited an empty net goal in the dying minutes of the period, and the game ended 6-2. What a night!
The Opposition Opinion: Jay Polinsky evidently wasn’t happy in this recap.
Henrique’s Possession: As noted by writers on this site, and others, Adam Henrique has not been a possession player this year. His Corsi is pretty terrible on the year, but this game showed what he can offer when he’s at his best. He and Damon Severson were the best players today in terms of possession, with both having a +14 difference in Corsi. Of course, he also scored two goals for the Devils today, and the first was a result of his great play in keeping the puck in the zone. The lines were very mixed up today, but I believe he and Bennett were together for most of the game, and they played very well. Again, these games are for the future, not the present, so players like Beau Bennett are playing for their Devils/NHL futures.
How’d the Kids Do?: The youth on the team played very well for the Devils today. I don’t completely understand why they scratched Steve Santini, but I guess if it works it works? Nick Lappin you could tell was trying his best to make plays happen, but I don’t recall him doing anything that led to a great scoring opportunity or breakout. Miles Wood was all over the ice, and I was particularly pleased to hear he was going at it with Wayne Simmonds in the 3rd — the Devils need a fast, physical player like him who has the potential to score 10-20 goals in the future. Joseph Blandisi was physical like Wood, though with less speed and more defense now. He doesn’t quite have the offensive potential of Wood, but again he’s a quality 3rd-4th liner of the future who can chip in a few goals as well. Imagine Brad Marchand, without the 30-40 goal potential. Blake Pietila was mostly invisible tonight, but didn’t do anything bad which was good. Stefan Noesen charged the net a lot, and nearly scored. Again, he didn’t do much though. Pavel Zacha and John Quenneville are the future for the Devils, and Quenneville was particularly active on the ice today. He didn’t score, but his offensive potential is definitely there. Zacha’s been quiet since returning from his injury, so let’s hope he returns to form.
Also, although he’s not a kid, I have to give some credit to Dalton Prout this game. He played solid defensively for the Devils, and had his best game by far.
Damon Severson was not included in this section because we pretty much know what he is at this point. Congrats on the 30 point season though.
Looking to the Future: During the intermission, the Devils announcers were mentioning more possible recalls for the Devils from the juniors and other ranks. A name thrown in was Michael McLeod. The Devils first round pick could get a chance with the Devils this year, and then could fight for a roster spot next year. He’s a fast player, with developing offensive and defensive skills. I don’t know how ready he is, but it can’t hurt to give him a look.
Blake Speers, who made his debut earlier this year, will also be fighting for a spot next year. He obviously wasn’t ready during his limited NHL action, but he got a look at what he needed to work on to stick with the team.
A bit of a concern for me personally is the fact that Harvard’s Alexander Kerfoot still isn’t signed. The former 5th round pick has developed very nicely, and is now a Hoby Baker candidate. He seems a better prospect than most of the players the Devils have, and they could risk potentially losing him for nothing a la Jimmy Vesey if they don’t sign him by August 15th. Yes, it’s early, but the fear is still there. Hopefully Shero gets him signed quickly.
12 games left.
So...: What’re your thoughts on this game? What do you think of the Devils youth currently? What would you like to see the Devils do? Are you concerned about Kerfoot potentially leaving for nothing like I am? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.