The first month of 2018 turned out to be a momentous one for Taylor Hall. Due to a thumb injury, Taylor Hall missed three games and the All-Star Game. So he only played in eight games for the New Jersey Devils in January. He not only registered at least one point each of those eight games, he put up six goals and seven assists in total. When he was out of the lineup, the Devils played all of one good game as the offense sputtered in the other two games he missed. This was the month where the team was not as successful as they were in 2017, but it was also the month where Hall started getting notice as the crucial skater that he was for the 2017-18 Devils season.
As the NHL Awards ceremony comes closer and closer (it’s June 20), let us look back at what Hall did to start what would become a 26-game point streak.
The January Goals of Taylor Hall
Game #37 - January 2 - at St. Louis - 1:17 into 3rd - Assisted by Palmieri, Butcher - NHL.com Video Link
This is a total fluke of a goal. Right after the Devils start a power play, the Devils win the offensive zone faceoff. Will Butcher takes the puck, moves to the high slot, and fires a wrister through traffic. It hits the left post. Kyle Palmieri gets to the loose puck and puts the puck wide off a rising backhander. The puck bounces off the endboards and drops to the right goal line. Taylor Hall takes it, sees Carter Hutton still recovering from going far to his left on Palmieri’s attempt, and flings the puck laterally towards the net. The puck goes in off Hutton’s back. The shot was fortunate; Palmieri’s missed shot was a bad break turned good; and the whole thing started with Butcher hitting iron. Fun to see and important at the time as it tied up the game, 2-2. But a fluke all the way around.
Game #38 - January 4 - at Dallas - 19:32 into 2nd - Assisted by Hischier, Greene - NHL.com Video Link
Here’s another fluke of a goal for Hall. Andy Greene tried to chip a puck away into the neutral one at New Jersey’s blueline. Nico Hischier makes an attempt after that didn’t go so far due to the Dallas pressure. The puck is loose on the right side of the neutral zone and Hall swoops by to take it into Dallas’ end of the rink. Hall powered down the right side of the zone and got ahead of defensman Greg Pateryn enough for a shot. Ben Bishop anticipated this and hugged the post to make a save on Hall’s wrist shot. The rebound comes out, hits Pateryn’s skate, and the puck bounces up, over, and past Bishops glove to the top left corner. Hall certainly put in work for this play to happen - except he didn’t technically score the goal himself. You know it’s a lucky break when the NHL.com video link calls it fortuitous in the URL. The goal made it 2-3 late in the second period; the Devils ultimately lost 3-4.
Game #39 - January 7 - at NY Islanders - 3:18 into 3rd - Assisted by Moore, Wood - NHL.com Video Link
This play starts with a pass out of the zone by Hall. Nick Leddy could have stopped this pass except his stick broke. This event allowed the pass to get to Miles Wood, who was already skating through the left side of the neutral zone. Leddy and Sebastian Aho were focused entirely on Wood. Meanwhile, Hall and John Moore headed up ice. Moore trailed a bit so Wood was able to make a little drop pass to him within the left circle. Moore, who was under some pressure, immediately passed the puck to Hall in the slot. Hall stretched to his left and then quickly went to his backhand on his right after Halak bit on the fake. This allowed Hall to curl the puck just past Halak’s left skate. It was a lovely looking goal in transition created by some quick thinking. This put the Devils up 4-2 early in third. However, the Devils lost this game 4-5 through a shootout.
Game #41 - January 16 - at NY Islanders - 18:20 into 2nd - Assisted by Bratt - NHL.com Video Link
Jesper Bratt pokechecked a puck away from John Tavares as the Isles’ ace was curling into the high slot. Hall picked up the loose puck and carried the puck out on an odd-man rush. A 2-on-1 with Hischier supporting him on the other side. Hall looks at Hischier upon entering the zone, but looks to the net when he gets next to the slot in the right circle. He fires a wrist shot that Halak got a piece of - but not all of it. The puck trickled in past Halak’s left pad to make it a 4-1 lead for New Jersey. The score stood up as the final goal. Hall put in an effort on this play and finished it well, with a little help from Halak. Bratt’s play created the situation, even though it was not an intentional pass or anything like it.
Game #42 - January 18 - vs. Washington - 0:34 into OT - Assisted by Vatanen - NHL.com Video Link
This is one of my favorite goals from this past season. This was the goal that made me state that “Superstars make superstar moves.” The puck careened around the boards in the Devils’ end. Vatanen, with one-hand, poked the puck up and away from Orlov at the right sideboards. This was not only a zone exit, but the puck was also loose. Hall got onto this loose puck and softly chipped the puck off the boards to try and get past Evgeny Kuznetsov. He succeeded. Hall then has the puck, skating into the zone with pace, and he’s all alone with Holtby. Orlov tried real hard but he wasn’t catching this man. Not on this night and not at that time. Hall torched Holtby with a high wrist shot on his glove side for the 4-3 overtime win. This was all in one fluid motion. As I wrote in the recap for the win, Adam Larsson would never score that goal. Hall’s goal was not only legit but would be worth a million, billion stars. Vatanen’s assist - eh, he was chipping the puck away, not so much trying to feed Hall the puck. It worked out anyway.
Game #44 - January 30 - at Buffalo - 5:31 into 3rd - Assisted by Bratt, Hischier - NHL.com Video Link
This play almost never happened. Ben Lovejoy made a defensive zone pass to Greene, who was at the right sideboards. Greene decided to pass the puck up-ice to Hischier, who had a Sabre on him. Fortunately, Hischier was able to get the puck free and continue on by the left side of the neutral zone. As he collected the puck, he carried the puck into the zone, and he made a short pass to Bratt before Ryan O’Reilly could stop him. Bratt collected the puck and then made a backhand, cross-ice pass to the left point. Hall took the pass in stride and fired a low snap shot from the top of the right circle. The shot went past Robin Lehner’s left to make it 2-0 New Jersey at the time. The game ended with a 3-1 victory. It was a good play for all three. Give a little extra credit to Hischier for making the most out of a not-so-ideal pass from Greene.
An Arbitrarily Decided Goal of the Month: It has to be the overtime winner against Washington. This was the goal that opened my eyes to the reality that Taylor Hall is a Superstar. How can you not see this and marvel at its glory?
The January Assists of Taylor Hall
Before jumping into assists, this is 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 #38 - January 4 - at Dallas - 19:46 into 1st - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Zajac, Goal: Boyle - NHL.com Video Link
After a shorthanded attempt, Travis Zajac gets a puck to Taylor Hall before a forechecker gets to him. Hall carries the puck out of his own end and leads an odd-man rush with Palmieri on the far side (to the goalie’s left) and Boyle coming down the middle. As Hall gets past the right dot, he fires a pass to Boyle. Boyle tips the puck past Bishop, who attempted a stick-check of his own, for a power play goal. It was a good entry and pass by Hall and a good tip by Boyle. This put the Devils up 1-0 in the game at the time, which unfortunately ended with a 3-4 defeat.
Game #38 - January 4 - at Dallas - 15:59 into 3rd - Power Play Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Bratt, Goal: Palmieri - NHL.com Video Link
While the Devils did not win, Hall factored in on all three goals they scored in this game. This goal did give the Devils some hope at mounting a comeback, though. Mostly because it was a terrible PPG allowed by Bishop. As with Hall’s goal in St. Louis, this was a fluke except Bishop really he should have stopped it. Hall dumped the puck around the boards from the right sideboards to the left corner. Bratt is first to the puck but he only touches it back due to the defense on him, who may have touched it off too. Palmieri jumps in and fires a wrist shot from the left sideboards. Somehow, someway, the puck eludes Bishop and goes through his legs. It was softer than a bag of cottonballs. I can’t call the assists legit and the goal was a fluke. It still counted. This put the Devils within one but Bishop didn’t falter again so the Devils lost 3-4.
Game #39 - January 7 - at NY Islanders - 2:41 into 3rd - Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Butcher, Goal: Wood - NHL.com Video Link
This play was legitimate. Pavel Zacha starts this by forcing an Isle defender to falter on a clearing attempt. This allows Hall to collect the puck in the left corner. As he came around the corner, he flung a pass to Will Butcher at the right point. Butcher collected the pass, setled himself, and fired a slapshot on net. Jaroslav Halak made the save, but Miles Wood banged in the rebound at the crease. This was a solid play where all three point-earners, well, earned their points. This put the Devils up 3-2 early in the third period. Alas, this lead would be blown up and end in a 4-5 shootout loss to the Isles.
Game #40 - January 13 - vs. Philadelphia - 5:43 into 1st - Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Hischier, Goal: Bratt - NHL.com Video Link
This play begins with a breakout. Sami Vatanen made a pass to Nico Hischier into the neutral zone. A stick-check forces the puck to pop up and drop into the Flyers’ zone. Hischier tried to one-hand the puck past a defender but failed to do so. Hall picked up the loose puck and went towards the net from the left side. A sliding defender denied him a chance to make a one-handed move. Hischier picks up the loose puck from that play and finds Jesper Bratt open at the right post. His direct pass to Bratt was on point and Bratt one-timed it in from close range. While Hall helped create things, he didn’t make a pass or a move that really created this. I can’t credit him with a legit assist here. I can do so for Hischier and Bratt’s goal was clean too. This opened up the scoring in the game, which sadly ended 3-5 in favor of the Second Rate Rivals.
Game #40 - January 13 - vs. Philadelphia - 1:46 into 2nd - Power Play Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Butcher, Goal: Palmieri - NHL.com Video Link
This is the second and more legitimate assist for Hall. After the Devils win a faceoff to start a power play, Will Butcher makes a pass to Hall on the left side of the zone. Hall skates the puck down past the left dot and on the outside (closer to the boards) of it. He looks back and tosses a pass to Butcher at the center point. Butcher collected the puck on his first touch and passed it to Palmieri at the right dot on his second touch. Palmieri slammed that pass with a one-timer that beat Brian Elliott and converted the power play. It was a simple play, but the Devils changed the point of attack quickly enough for Palmieri to get that shot. The PPG made it 2-1 Devils at the time. Alas, the game ended with a 3-5 L to Philly.
Game #42 - January 18 - vs. Washington - 3:33 into 2nd - Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Vatanen, Goal: Greene - NHL.com Video Link
Sami Vatanen apparently got a secondary assist on this play and I’m not sure I see it. Devante Smith-Pelley tries to set up Nicklas Backstrom at the crease, Greene denied him a shot, and the puck hit off Vatanen’s skate to come out to Hall in the slot. It was a fortunate bounce. Hall took the loose puck, skated it out, went right to the right corner of Washington’s zone with Dmitry Orlov defending him. Hall stopped, had a little space from Orlov, and then turned to fire a pass towards the front of the net. As Hall carried the puck in, Hischier and Greene went into the zone. The pass was intended for Hischier but Matt Niskanen blocked it. Fortunately, the puck went right to Greene. Greene waited until the last moment (he was right at the goal line) before firing a wrister under Braden Holtby’s left arm. It was a good shot. Was Hall’s assist legit? I’d say so because he created the opportunity and he intended to get the puck to that area. If it wasn’t for Niskanen, Hischier has the puck at the crease and probably has Holtby at his mercy. It’s another grey area, although I think it is a light grey.
Game #43 - January 20 - at Philadelphia - 8:12 into 2nd - Power Play Secondary Assist - Secondary Assist: Butcher, Goal: Bratt - NHL.com Video Link
Hall’s final assist for January was a fortunate break for him. On the power play, Hall was on the outside (by the boards) of the right circle. He attempted a cross-ice pass to Bratt. The pass was blocked so the puck popped up and sailed into the left corner. Bratt did retrieve the puck. He beat Radko Gudas to the puck (not that Gudas tried particularly hard on this play). Coming out of the corner, Bratt passed the puck up to Butcher, who was at the left point. Butcher skated towards the center point and then passed the puck back to Bratt in the face of some pressure. Bratt received the pass above the left circle. He skated into the top of the circle, just on the inside half of it, and fired a wrist shot that ramped up off Gudas’ leg for the puck to go high, past Michal Neurvirh, and hit bar-down into the net. The PPG put the Devils on the board and Hall got credit for an assist he didn’t exactly intend. So I can’t call it legitimate. The pass from Butcher and the shot from Bratt sure were legit. This would be the Devils’ lone goal of the game in a 1-3 loss to Philly.
An Arbitrarily Decided Assist of the Month: In a month where Hall’s assists were mostly not legitimate and not impressive looking, I have to go with the one that was impressive. His pass to Boyle for his tip-in-like goal on January 4 against Dallas in the first period was superb. Hall gained the zone, he weighted the pass perfectly for Boyle, and made that pass in stride and with a defender nearby. No matter how stringent one thinks an assist should be, that’s a pass that just about everyone can agree on being a true assist.
In the first three parts of this point review, I was surprised that I did not see too many flukes or unintentional plays that gave Hall points. Most of his assists were legitimate. The goals were not only good goals but from scoring chance locations. This month, however, Hall ended up benefiting a bit more than usual on the scoresheet with luck.
A refresher of those plays: The first goal Hall scored in January involved a shot hitting a post, a teammate missing on a rebound, and Hall getting the goal from the goal line and off the goalie’s back. The second goal Hall scored in January was really scored by Greg Pateryn’s skate. Three of his five secondary assists came from a dump around the boards, a defender blocking a puck away from his stick, and a defender blocking a cross-ice pass attempt that his intended target ended up getting anyway. In total, that’s five out of thirteen points. In the first three months of the season, I counted no fluke goals out of twelve and only four non-legit assists out of twenty-four.
This is not to say that Hall did not put in a strong effort or that he should have points taken away. It is to say that players get some bounces in their favor from time to time. They do not necessarily happen in any kind of order. In Hall’s case, he was fluke-free on goals for three months and then had two in two nights to start the fourth month of this season. Did Hall do anything different or should feel bad about the goals? No and no. It just happens. I would be curious to see how many more fluke goals or non-legit assists would show up in the next two months, where Hall put up a total of 39 points.
Still, it is remarkable how Hall would just keep showing up on the scoresheet. To have an eight-game point streak with time off for injury in between is a good feat. And this would be the template for most of 2018. He’ll have a point here and there and then a game with multiple points to further boost the totals. Which was all good - it’s what Superstars do.
I now turn to you, the reader. What did you think of Hall’s goals and assists in January? What impressed you the most about the goals and assists by Hall in this past month? Which were your favorite? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Hall’s points in January. Thank you for reading.
Oh, and pack a lunch for each of the next two parts. There’s a lot more to review.