For the first time since 2012, the New Jersey Devils earned the right to play beyond the team’s 82nd game of the season. On April 5, 2018, the New Jersey Devils clinched a playoff spot in their 81st game of the season. A win and they were in and they beat Toronto 2-1. Ironically, the man most involved in the team’s offense did not get on the scoresheet that night. Taylor Hall was held pointless on that night, ending a then nine-game point streak. He was given the night off for the season closer in D.C. But this is not to say Hall did not make his mark in the short month of April. He would put up five points in the first two games of the month and proceed to get back to getting points in the first round of the playoffs. While the Devils were eliminated, Hall finished April with eleven points in eight games.
The Hart Memorial Trophy for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player and the Ted Lindsay Trophy for the NHLPA’s Most Outstanding Player are given out for a player’s performance in the regular season. For the purposes of this review, to end this look back of Hall’s points after he styled on Our Hated Rivals would be incomplete. The playoff run was short. New Jersey lost in five games. Yet, Hall still made an impact as he had done all season long, especially in the 2018 portion of the season. His campaign ended with an exclamation mark and secured that he is the Superstar Left Winger for the New Jersey Devils.
For the last time, let us first look back at Hall’s goals in April.
The April Goals of Taylor Hall
Game #74 - April 1 - at Montreal - 15:53 into 3rd - Assisted by Zajac - NHL.com Video Link
The Devils took a too many men on the ice penalty in a 1-1 game in the third period in what could be described as a “trap” game. Hall was put in the box to serve it. Things went from bad to worse as Ben Lovejoy took a cross-checking penalty during that penalty kill. The Devils tried to survive the 3-on-5 situation. In the final seconds of it, Keith Kinkaid made a save at his left post. A pass was thrown up to Jeff Petry, who was in the high slot. Travis Zajac took the pain in blocking the shot with his body. As the puck dropped to his stick, Hall left the box. Zajac chipped a backhander past Petry and into the vacant neutral zone for Hall to take it. Hall collected the puck, turned as he gained the zone, and went in all alone on Carey Price. Hall beat Price clean to Price’s right for a shorthanded goal. The Devils went up 2-1, the Canadiens fans were unhappy, and Hall scored his first shorty of the season. Zajac’s read was great and Kinkaid and the Devils did well to deny Montreal a PPG. Once the puck got to Hall, the Superstar took care of business.
Already up 1-0, the Devils benefited from an early power play against Our Hated Rivals. The play was familiar to the Devils power play. Hall, who was on the right side of the zone, had a give-and-go with Will Butcher. From the center point, Butcher distributed it to the other side to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri one-timed a pass to Patrick Maroon, who was in front of the net. Henrik Lundqvist robbed him with the pad. The rebound was loose and defenseman Neil Pionk knocked it away in the heat of the moment. The puck came out into the bottom half of the right circle - and Hall easily got onto it. In one motion, Hall cut in a little bit and fired a high wrist shot past Lias Andersson, Pionk, and a rushing Lundqvist to the top right corner. Hall’s finish was a PPG thanks to a Ranger turnover; his 90th point of the season. This made it 2-0 at the time.
Game #75 - April 3 - vs. NY Rangers - 15:45 into 2nd - Unassisted - NHL.com Video Link
Hall has scored a shorthanded goal, plenty of power play goals, and a couple of overtime winners. What didn’t he do? A 5-on-3 goal (NJ only scored one all season - and two in the playoffs). He also did not have a penalty shot. Thanks to Our Hated Rivals - specifically Brady Skjei hooking him from behind on a breakaway attempt - Hall received a penalty shot.
And it was a beautiful penalty shot. Hall took the puck at center ice, carried it into the zone, and just as he entered the slot, Hall ripped a fantastic wrist shot to the top corner of Lundqvist’s left. I would like to think Hall fired it then as Henrik Lundqvist appeared to make himself look smaller. Hall recognized that the corner was open and blasted one in. The Rock was ecstatic - the fans were on their feet for this one. The goal put the Devils up 5-1 at the time; if the penalty shot was an opportunity to nail in the coffin, then Hall hammered it in with authority. This would end up being Hall’s 39th and final goal of the regular season.
Playoff Game #1 - April 12 - at Tampa Bay - 13:55 into 2nd - Unassisted - NHL.com Video Link
It was fitting that Taylor Hall would score New Jersey’s first playoff goal since Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. It was surprising too as Ondrej Palat set him up. Well, not on purpose. The Devils were in the offensive zone, but it looked like the Lightning were going to shut it down. Palat collected a loose puck in the corner and passed the puck into the middle of the zone. He didn’t hit Tampa Bay’s #9 with the pass; he hit New Jersey’s #9. Hall was in the slot, he skated in a bit and to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s right, and Hall slid a rolling puck through the five-hole for the score. The finish was not as clean, but it was enough to get the Devils on the board, down 1-3 at that time of the first game of the series. The goal was Hall’s first ever playoff goal. Thanks, Palat.
Playoff Game #3 - April 16 - vs. Tampa Bay - 12:24 into 2nd - Unassisted - NHL.com Video Link
You may have noticed that I’ve written “Unassisted” for this and the last three goals. Coincidentally, giveaways created three of them and the one that was not came from a penalty shot. On this play, the Devils were actually buzzing on offense. Hall set up Palmieri for a long, slap shot one-timer from the center point. Vasilevskiy made the save and the rebounded puck went into the slot. Anton Stralman could not corral the puck, but the puck did get in between his skates and he went by (denying Sami Vatanen a chance). Viktor Hedman came up in the slot and tried to clear it away. His clearance never left the entirety of the slot. Hall came flying in and one-timed the puck with a blazing and lot wrist shot. The shot got between Vasilevskiy’s legs and into the net. The Devils tied up the game, 1-1, on that goal, the Rock popped huge, and Hall looked like he was in a state of euphoria for crushing another turnover by Tampa Bay. Thanks, Hedman.
An Arbitrarily Decided Goal of the Month: As huge the Game 3 goal was from a meaning standpoint (equalizer in a playoff game) and as much as I enjoyed the chorus of disapproval in Montreal after the shorthanded goal, I have to give it to the penalty shot goal on April 3. Four of five goals for Hall had no assists (from his own team, anyway), but this one was really all about Hall. He used his speed to gain into the zone with pace, he acted with confidence, his quick release on his wrister was his best move on offense, and he made a great read by catching Lundqvist when he was small and shooting then even though Hall was not even at the hashmarks. The shot placement was perfect and, hey, it helped bury Our Hated Rivals a little bit more.
The April Assist of Taylor Hall
I’ll save you some trouble. Hall had six assists in April between the regular season and the playoffs. All of them were legit.
Game #75 - April 3 - vs. NY Rangers - 10:40 into 1st - Power Play Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Palmieri, Goal: Butcher - NHL.com Video Link
This started with Hall taking a puck down the right side of the zone. He evaded a potential challenge from Carey. In the corner, Hall turned and made a simple, direct pass to Palmieri, who was at the right point. Palmieri took the pass easily, had a touch, showed a slapshot, and then passed the puck across to the left point where Butcher was. Butcher fired a slapshot one-timer that went past a Ranger, a screening Patrick Maroon, and Lundqvist’s right pad. The shot hit off the left post and into the net with a loud “ping,” followed by cheering and goal horn. It was a great shot by Butcher. Hall’s assist was a secondary and it worked out. The goal put the Devils up 3-0 at the time and this was a very good thing.
Game #75 - April 3 - vs. NY Rangers - 10:40 into 1st - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Zajac, Goal: Butcher - NHL.com Video Link
This play starts with Zajac helping and winning the puck in a board battle on the left side of the zone. Zajac pitchforked the puck to Hall at the center point. Hall kept the puck in the zone and headed down the right side of the zone. Mika Zibanejad applied some pressure. As the two went into the corner, Hall slid a backhanded pass directly to the right point. Butcher collected the pass, settled the puck down as he moved in a little closer, and fired a wrist shot that beat Lundqvist under his right arm, shortside. Rangers were in the path of Lundqvist’s vision so maybe he did not see it. No matter. The shot was once again true for the rookie and Hall helped create it again. The goal put the Devils up 4-1, restoring the very good three-goal lead.
Playoff Game #1 - April 12 - at Tampa Bay - 9:35 into 3rd - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Butcher, Goal: Zajac - NHL.com Video Link
In the third period and on the road, the Devils had a power play opportunity to pull themselves back within one. They would do so. The play began with Palmieri taking a shot. Vasilevskiy made the save. Maroon got to the loose puck behind the goal line, so he fired it around the left boards. Palmieri beat a Bolt to it to knock it into the zone. Butcher collected the puck and skated to the top of the left circle. There, he fired a cross-ice pass to Hall. Hall moved past the dot, stopped, and flung a pass towards Zajac in the slot. Zajac re-directed the pass past Vasilevskiy’s left, just inside the post, for the important goal. It was a good read by Hall and a good re-direction by Zajac. The goal put the Devils down 2-3; unfortunately, they would lose Game 1 by a 2-5 final score.
Playoff Game #3 - April 16 - vs. Tampa Bay - 4:03 into 3rd - Power Play Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Palmieri, Goal: Butcher - NHL.com Video Link
The Devils did not score many 5-on-3 goals in 2017-18. They only had one all season. They had two in this playoff series. This is the first one, and it was a big one. Down 1-2, the Devils were on the attack. After a miss, Palmieri supposedly touched the puck before Butcher collected the puck off the boards at the right point. In other words, his secondary assist does not appear to be legitimate to me. Butcher moved a bit towards the middle along the blueline before he fired a pass to Hall by the left circle. Hall skated the puck into the left circle, outside of the dot. He just handled the puck as he did not have a good shooting or passing lane. He saw Butcher coming into the left point so he passed him the puck. Butcher collected the puck and saw Maroon completely blocking out Vasilevskiy. As the goalie peered around the left side of Maroon, Butcher fired a wrist shot past Maroon’s right and to the top corner. The Devils tied up the game, the fans were joyous, and Butcher’s converted the massive 5-on-3 situation with a great shot placement. Hall’s pass was simple yet effective.
Playoff Game #3 - April 16 - vs. Tampa Bay - 12:55 into 3rd - Primary Assist - Secondary Assist: Greene, Goal: Noesen - NHL.com Video Link
T.J. Miller skated the puck from the Devils zone over the Devils’ blueline. He gave up the puck and the Lightning had to withdraw. Andy Greene collected the loose puck. Some Lightning players went for a change; Steve Stamkos touched up and went towards Greene. Greene calmly passed the puck across the zone to Hall. Hall carried the puck down the left side of the neutral zone and into Tampa Bay’s area. Meanwhile, Stefan Noesen came on the ice and went down the right side of the neutral zone. Four Lightning players were in vicinity and all were looking at Hall. Nobody saw Stefan Noesen. At the top of the left circle, Hall made pass to Noesen, who was inside the right circle. Noesen demolished the pass with a slap shot one-timer that just torched the net. Seriously, he got all of that one. It was pass, CRACK, massive cheer, and goal horn, in that order. This goal put the Devils up 3-2 in the third and it would stand as the first playoff game winning goal since Bryce Salvador (yes) in Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. The pass was great, the shot was perfect, and the moment was glorious.
Playoff Game #4 - April 18 - vs. Tampa Bay - 12:55 into 3rd - Power Play Secondary Assist - Primary Assist: Butcher, Goal: Palmieri - NHL.com Video Link
The final assist of Hall’s entire 2017-18 campaign came on this play: another 5-on-3 situation. This started with an offensive zone faceoff win by Zajac at the start of the advantage. Palmieri won the puck at the right sideboards. He passed the puck back to Butcher at the right point. Butcher passed the puck to Hall, who was above the left circle. After some handling and not drawing any Bolt to him or elsewhere, he passed the puck to Butcher at the center point. Butcher collected the puck, turned, and fired a pass to Palmieri. Palmieri was open and showing one-timer just above the right dot. The pass came to Palmieri just behind and above the dot and Palmieri slammed a slap-shot one-timer past Vasilevskiy for a goal. The final assist was a direct pass that led to one that Palmieri smashed with great success. The PPG put the Devils up 1-0 in what would sadly be a 1-3 loss. It still counted and looked good.
An Arbitrarily Decided Assist of the Month: The pass to Noesen in Game 3 against Tampa Bay. Hall carried the puck in, he carried it in with speed, and he drew attention. Hall has done that all season long and he made the most of it. Hall not only made a great read (Noesen wide open) but placed a great pass such that Noesen could one-time it. The one-timer was superb and the play was important. It was so much fun at the Rock for Game 3. The atmosphere was electric as dropping a toaster in the bath. That goal was rewarded with the humongous cheers it deserved. (It may be Noesen’s best goal ever too.) Who set it up? The Superstar: Taylor Hall.
I intend to have a summary for the whole season of Hall’s points. But I do want to highlight a couple of things. First, all eleven points were real. They were not faked, they were not falsified, they were not cheap, and they were not crazy-lucky plays you may see once in a blue moon. All six assists - giving Hall a total of 58 between the season and the playoffs - were actual, direct, intentional passes that led to goals. That’s All five of his goals were intentional shots that were placed by Hall on purpose.
While he lacked assists from his own team (Zajac’s backhanded chip was the only one), Hall did receive help for four of his five goals in April. Yes, but making the opposition suffer for turnovers three different times and one penalty shot is their problem. Hall did his job and did it excellently. Those were not flukes, those were mistakes getting punished by Hall.
Expect further effusive praise about his wrister will be in the summary, but it was on point in this short month. The shot he did not really get all of or hit with a lot of power was his first playoff goal. That was a rolling puck that did trickle through Vasilevskiy. Even so, the moment Hall saw an opening, he took it and was well rewarded. The release is fast, his accuracy is very good, and he can fire it with a lot of force. This month featured more examples of what Hall did for the majority of his 41 goals (season plus playoffs).
While Hall did score in the playoff-clinching win over Toronto, Hall was a bright spot in a short playoff series against Tampa Bay. He made them pay for two turnovers, he set up two important goals in the Devils’ sole win in Game 3, and he helped get them on the right foot in Game 4. Alas, the Devils needed more and Tampa Bay to not be so good; but as with the 2017-18 season, Hall made sure he was making an impact as much as possible. That impact was so incredible, he could very well get a trophy (or two) later this week.
This is the end of the point review. I will put together a summary of what I found. Maybe it is mostly trivial. Maybe it is not. But I like it all the same because it gave me the opportunity (excuse?) to look back all 99 points Hall put up between the regular season and the playoffs for the New Jersey Devils. Hall legitimately had one of the best individual seasons ever in New Jersey Devils history. His production was crucial as the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and in not getting swept by a strong Tampa Bay squad. Whether his outstanding regular season is enough to earn him an award later this week is not up to me. But I hope this review really shows how amazing Hall was in 2017-18.
In the meantime, Hall put up five goals and six assists in all games in April. What did you think of them? Which ones about them impressed you the most? Which were your favorite? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Hall’s points in April. Thank you for reading.