December 2017 was a low point for Taylor Hall’s torrid 2017-18 season. This was the month where Hall produced the fewest amount of points of any month with the 2017-18 team, including playoffs. Further, we now know he suffered torn ligaments in his left hand. The team’s official website stated it happened in late December. However, Hall only missed two games in the month: the back-to-back set on December 14 (at Montreal) and December 15 (vs. Dallas). Hall played in every game since December 15 in December. Still, the man was hurting in addition to not putting as many points as he did in prior months.
Of course, I am referring to four goals and six assists in twelve games. That was the “low month” for Taylor Hall. That’s how good his season was from a scoring standpoint. This will be the last “short post” because the points will absolutely pick up in the next three posts.
The December Goals of Taylor Hall
Game #27, December 5 - at Columbus - 4:47 into 2nd - Assisted by Hischier, Bratt - NHL.com Video Link
This starts in the defensive zone where Jesper Bratt chips a puck away from the sideboards. Nico Hischier takes the puck and heads up ice. Hischier gains the zone, exercises enough patience to let Seth Jones get in front and curl to the middle. In doing so, he found Hall coming down the right side. Pass, one-timer, score. Bratt’s pass wasn’t really a pass, but Hischier earned this primary assist and Hall provided the correct finish on the play. This goal was at even strength and broke a 1-1 tie to make it 2-1 New Jersey. The Devils won the game 4-1.
Game #30, December 12 - vs. Los Angeles - 16:14 into 1st - Assisted by Bratt, Butcher - NHL.com Video Link
Hall put up a double against the Kings, who came into this game as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The first was a power play goal that just looks nice to watch. The clip starts in the neutral zone and there is legitimate build-up play here. The entry was a pass-in to Brian Boyle, who passed back to Will Butcher as the team set up in their 1-3-1 formation. Butcher moved the puck to Bratt on the left side. Bratt saw a passing lane across the slot in between the four Kings penalty killers and an open Hall. The pass was on-point and goaltender Jonathan Quick reacted by turning as Hall collected the puck. Hall fired a wrister past a diving Quick for a sweet looking goal. How sweet? NHL.com’s description called it a “sweet PPG.” It was. Legitimate all the way around, off a scoring chance shot, and another great looking goal by Hall. The PPG put the Devils up 2-0 at the time in what would be a 5-1 win.
Game #30, December 12 - vs. Los Angeles - 15:42 into 2nd - No Assists - NHL.com Video Link
The goal is unassisted although Hischier played a role here. Hall intercepted a puck in the right corner in his own end and tossed a pass towards the middle. It gets interrputed but the puck bounces out of the zone and Hischier makes a play to keep the puck away from Tanner Pearson. Pearson did hit the puck away from Bratt in the neutral zone and Jake Muzzin tried to collect it at his own blueline. All the while, Hall was heading up ice through the middle of the neutral zone. So after Pearson’s touch, Hall darted forward to pressure the Kings defensemen. Muzzin got a touch, Hall stretched out to get it away, Hall succeeded, Hall deked to deny Drew Doughty a chance at the puck, and broke in one-on-one on Quick. Hall smoothly beat Quick through the five-hole with a backhander at the crease. This was a great goal that just further piled the misery on Los Angeles. It made the score 3-0 at the time in what would be a 5-1 win.
Game #33, December 23 - vs. Chicago - 2:02 into 3rd - Assisted by Wood - NHL.com Video Link
While Hall only had four goals in December, he did have two goals when he went in on the goalie alone. This one was a more traditional breakaway. Butcher pressured Patrick Sharp on defense and Sharp was forced to make a drop pass. Miles Wood intercepted the pass, turned, and saw Hall all alone in a forward motion in the neutral zone. Before taking a check and a second Blackhawk engaging him, Wood made a pass towards Hall and it was just right. Hall took the pass in stride and carried the puck in all by himself with only Anton Forsberg to beat. Hall made a simple backhand-to-forward deke that Forsberg totally bit on. Once he did that, Hall beat him with a mid-height shot to Forsberg’s right. This goal received big cheers at the Rock and it was the final goal in the game that ended 4-1 for the Devils.
An Arbitrarily Decided Goal of the Month: As cool as Hall’s breakaway against Chicago looked, I’m going to give it to the other breakaway goal: the second goal against Los Angeles. That play was started by Hall and while it was fortunate that the puck was moved all the way back to the blueline, Hall created the opportunity. He stole the puck from Muzzin and effectively split Muzzin and Doughty at the same time. His backhander that beat Quick was very clever. It was a dunk off a steal that made three Kings look bad. That’s worthy highlight of any reel.
The December Assists of Taylor Hall
Before jumping into assists, a reminder that when I’m looking for a legitimate assist, I’m looking for something that directly created a goal. Usually, this is a pass but I can accept shots that were re-directed or tipped by someone else or most rebounds. This first assist is a bit in a grey area.
Game #25, December 1 - at Colorado - 6:12 into 3rd - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Bratt, Goal: Boyle - NHL.com Video Link
Bratt made a good cross-ice pass to Hall. Hall took a shot from just below the right dot. Seymon Varlamov stopped the shot. A Colorado defenseman (Zadorov, I think) tried to clear the rebound but Brian Boyle denied the clear. Boyle’s first shot attempt didn’t go. The puck popped up and Boyle batted in his own rebound. Because of Colorado’s involvement and Boyle’s second effort, I’m not sure I can state that Hall’s shot really created the goal. It created an opportunity, yes, but Boyle’s attempted created another one that actually was realized. It’s a grey area. The PPG made it 2-1 in what would end as a 2-1 win for New Jersey.
Game #27, December 5 - at Columbus - 11:06 into 3rd - Primary Assist - Goal: Bratt - NHL.com Video Link
Bratt leads a 3-on-2 rush and passes the puck ahead into the zone for Hall for a zone entry. Hall took the puck and charged the net for a close shot. Sergei Bobrovsky denied the shot, but Bratt followed the play as a trailer of sorts. So while both defensemen went with Hall, Bratt was free to take shot off the rebound outside of the crease. Bratt slammed the puck home. This rebound opportunity was a legit assist in that it created the opportunity, Bratt finished it, and there was no real chance for the defense or the goalie to recover. All the same, the goal made it 4-1 for New Jersey - and that held up as the final score.
Game #32, December 21 - vs. NY Rangers - 11:54 into 3rd - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Palmieri, Goal: Boyle - NHL.com Video Link
Kyle Palmieri takes a shot and Henrik Lundqvist made a stick save. The puck bounces to the area behind the net and Palmieri doesn’t win the loose puck. Smith does and forces the puck to the right corner. He gets a secondary assist on this goal but I do not think he should get it. Hall collects the puck in the corner and fires a quick pass to Boyle, who is above the crease. It had to be a quick pass as the Rangers were converging on him. The pass was excellent (and legitimate). Boyle took the puck on his forehand, turned around, and lifted a backhander past Lundqvist for a great looking PPG. The goal was also crucial as it tied up the game 3-3 at the time. The Devils won 4-3 through a shootout.
Game #33, December 23 - vs. Chicago - 9:20 into 1st - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Butcher, Goal: Palmieri - NHL.com Video Link
This is technically an own-goal on Chicago. It starts with a faceoff win at the start of the power play. Butcher wins the puck and tosses it to Hall. With pressure in his face above the right circle, Hall makes a direct pass to Palmieri in the left circle. Palmieri tried to go for a pass to Boyle, who was on Crawford’s flank on the right side of the crease, for a tap-in goal. At first, it looked like that was what happened. However, upon closer review, Jan Rutta was the one who tipped it home. The NHL does not count own-goals so the goal was given to Palmieri. The passes were legitimate and Palmieri’s move was rewarded, even if it was helped by a Blackhawk. I don’t know why NHL.com called it a shot through a five-hole when the puck did not go in that way. Oh well. The PPG made it 2-0 for New Jersey in a game that ended 4-1 for the Devils.
Game #34, December 27 - vs. Detroit - 15:16 into 1st - Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Santini, Goal: Hischier - NHL.com Video Link
Hall collected a puck on the left side of the ice and headed towards the blueline. In the face of some pressure, he launched a saucer pass to the right point. Steve Santini took the pass and fired a shot. Hischier tipped the puck along the way to make it a goal. Hall’s only secondary assist of the month was legit; it was a good, intentional pass that created the shot. The goal opened up the scoring of the game, which ended up being a 3-1 win.
Game #34, December 27 - vs. Detroit - 18:22 into 1st - Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Bratt, Goal: Hischier - NHL.com Video Link
Make it two for the rookie. This play is a fun one to watch as it was created by a forecheck. Hischier applied some pressure that led to Darren Helm losing the puck. Bratt ended up taking the puck away and immediately passed it to Hall at the center point. A good secondary assist, if a bit risky as it was with Helm bearing down on him. Hall skated towards the top of the right circle and sent a pass across the zone to the left circle to Hischier. From outside of the dot, Hischier blasted a slap-shot one-timer that beat Howard clean. Two goals for Hischier in the first period and the Devils went up 2-0 in the first against Detroit.
An Arbitrarily Decided Assist of the Month: In my opinion, the most impressive assist was his primary assist on Boyle’s goal on December 21 against Our Hated Rivals. Hall collected and immediately made a pass to the top of the crease. A slight change in angle would have missed a wide-open Boyle on Lundqvist’s doorstep. With Rangers crashing in, it was a tight window for Hall to make that pass and he did so. Boyle took it and turned it into a very pretty looking and pretty important power play goal.
When I decided to do this review of his points, I anticipated finding that some of Hall’s goals were fluky and he had some fortutious bounces and he had some cheap assists. I have a tendency to favor primary points - goals and first assists - as mark of who’s putting in the work. But so far, I’m finding that Hall’s points have been real.
All 12 goals I have reviewed have been great shots and intentional plays by Hall. If there were any flukes or fortunate occurrences on those goals, it was by some of the assists and even they weren’t that frequent.
As for the 24 assists, I’ve only called five as not being legitimate and there are arguments to be made about three of them. Also: four of those five I questioned their legitimacy were primary assists (and the one secondary was a questionable one). I am now more skeptical of regarding secondary assists as noise.
In this past month, the only point I question as one that may be should not have been awarded was the primary assist on December 1. An Avalanche player touched the puck before Boyle did and Boyle put in his own rebound, which he in part created. But I could be convinced otherwise. The other five assists: one created rebound and four passes that changed the point of attack from right to left or right to center. The goals were very nice and confirmed that Hall could finish even though there were only four.
This post concludes the 2017 portion of this review. In 36 games, Hall put up 36 points. According to NHL.com, this put him in a five-way tie for the 21st most in the NHL from October to December. A point-per-game pace is always desirable. This also makes what he will do from January to April even more remarkable. And he was not even 100%. Pack a lunch for Parts 4 through 6. If it is anything like Parts 1 through 3, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
I now turn to you, the reader. What did you think of Hall’s goals and assists in December? What impressed you the most about the goals and assists by Hall in December 2017? Which were your favorite? Would you give Hall an assist on that December 1 goal by Boyle? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Hall’s points in December. Thank you for reading.