The New Jersey Devils looked to continue their recent string of strong play as they hosted teh Vancouver Canucks for the final game of 2018 for both teams. Jersey would attempt to ride the hot hand of MacKenzie Blackwood for a third straight game. Coach John Hynes made a good bet there, as MackBlack would give the team their first bak to back shutouts since 2010!
Vancouver undeservedly got the first power play of the game on a Will butcher hook at 4:58; I’m not saying the penalty was undeserved, but the refs missed a blatant Eric Gudbransson boarding of Miles Wood just a minute earlier. The Canucks pressed well on their advantage, including a few good shots during and after it by Elias Pettersson, but MacKenzie Blackwood continued to make timely saves for the Devils.
Jersey’s team would strike first at the 12:03 mark, as Brett Seney would make Alex Edler look like a traffic cone and while Anders Nilsson made the initial stop, Brian Boyle would pounce on the rebound and slip it five-hole to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. While the Canucks were putting more shots on net, New Jersey kept them to the outside for the most part and eventually the Devils got their first PP.
Miles Wood would make the Canucks pay for their misdeeds, as halfway through the PP he wired a sweet wrist shot over Nilsson’s right shoulder to double the Devils’ lead at 18:12. Though the shot disparity would read 12-7 in favor of Vancouver, the score would read 2-0 in favor of New Jersey after one.
The second began with a quick start and stop on an offside followed by the Jesper Bratt show a couple of minutes later as he made a sweet pass for a Stefan Noesen shot and got a good shot off himself, but neither situation increased the lead. Blackwood made an excellent save on Marcus Grandlund with about 16 minutes remaining.
The Devils would take another penalty at 7:18 as Damon Severson would be guilty of tripping Pettersson. The Devils PK remained red hot, not surrendering a goal here (or on any PK tonight) and the Devils would finally begin to turn the tide after being shot 18-9 around the mid point of the period. The aforementioned Granlund tripped Nico Hischier with 19:46 gone and the second would come to a close with 1:46 carry over into the final frame with Jersey still up 2-0.
The third period saw the Devils cash in on the above stated PP, as Sami Vatanen would put an absolute bomb on net that Nilsson would seemingly get a piece of, but not enough to keep it out of the net. The Devils would ensure that they didn’t have to play with the “worst lead in hockey” for long, as less than two minutes later, Pavel Zacha would one-time home a Stefan Noesen drop pass to put the Devils up by four. The Devils flexed thier muscles this period, and continued to push the pace of play.
Blake Coleman and Drew Stafford came down with a 2-1 in the middle of the period, but Nilsson made a fabulous save to keep it at 4-0. A pair of penalties would be traded in the period, but nothing would come of either. The Devils would run the clock to the end a MacKenzie Blackwood would have his second shutout in as many nights. The Devils kept the action to a minimum in their own end, assuring Blackwood of another shutout win.
The Opposition Opinion: Take a trip to Nucks Misconduct for their view on this afternoon’s game.
The Game Highlights: Head on over to NHL.com for the last Devils game highlights of 2018.
Miles of Vatanen: Miles Wood and Sami Vatanen each had a very good game offensively, with a goal and an assist each. The Devils need both of these players to contribute and play better than they did during the early season lull, and as of the last few games, they have. Hopefully, each will have a strong second half of the season and build off of today’s effort and production.
Zacha-ttack: While he’s still not exactly a game-breaking player, it’s been encouraging to see Zacha contributing again in the past couple of games. With eight points in his last 21 games, his play has been more encouraging than what we saw to start the season. He may never live up to the billing of a former 6th overall pick, but he is proving that he can at least be a solid NHLer.
Opportunistic Attack: While the Devils were destroyed in terms of shot differential outside of the top line, they were the team that capitalized on its opportunities. The Canucks controlled more of the play over the first 40 minutes, but the Devils kept the attack to the outside, took advantage of Blackwood giving them a solid backstop, and also took advantage of Nilsson not having a great game. The Devils will need more games like this if they hope to continue to be competitive.
A Final Thought: Hopefully the Devils continue this strong play into 2019 and when their injured players come back. Blackwood has the team looking rejuvenated and while again the playoffs might be out of reach, strong play and evaluation for the future is more important.
Your Take: The Devils gave their fans a reason to celebrate today, as they trounced a team that has been playing some very good hockey. Three straight for Jersey’s Team now in the Blackwood era and hopefully more to continue coming. Please leave your thoughts on this game below.
Thanks to John for the game preview, to Mike for running the @AAtJerseyBlog account, and all of those who commented in the gamethread. Thank you all as always for reading and have a happy and healthy new year!