A miserable 2019 is wrapped up with a happy New Year’s Eve. The Devils, facing one of the NHL’s best in the Bruins, took care of business by dominating the Bruins to win 3-2 in the shootout. This is the recap.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Stanley Cup of Chowder for a recap later!
The Game Highlights:
The Devils certainly didn’t start off strong. Only a minute into the game, PK Subban was called for interference on Sean Kuraly, and the 3rd best power play in the league took advantage. After Blackwood started off by making a nice save on Patrice Bergeron, Matt Grzelcyk was able to find a loose puck and distribute it for a David Pastrnak one-timer. Blackwood made the initial save on the one timer, but it trickled through behind him where Brad “The Rat” Marchand was able to deposit the loose puck for his 20th goal of the season. Immediately after this goal, the Devils woke up a bit. Jack Hughes had a great chance in front of the net off a Wayne Simmonds pass, which was missed, before John Hayden tried to deposit a puck in short-side past Halak.
Then, the first instances of egregious non-calls by the referees began. For both teams today, the referees were absolutely awful. On a faceoff, Jesper Bratt was hit with a high stick by Zdeno Chara right in front of the referee, and left the game temporarily with no call in the Devils favor. This was the first instance, and there will be more instances later in the game.
A minute after this, David Pastrnak, the most dangerous Bruins player, had a couple of great chances off a wrap-around and subsequent follow up chance, both of which were stopped by Blackwood. Blackwood then stopped a great Charlie Coyle batted puck opportunity, off a feed from Anders Bjork. A period of silence occurred, before Sami Vatanen took advantage of a loose puck that was only stopped by a Jaroslav Halak desperation save. At this point, the Devils would start dominating play. PK Subban had a great opportunity to tie the game, before Blake Coleman and Nikita Gusev went on a two-on-one, where Halak stopped Coleman’s backhand before Nikita Gusev was stopped by Zdeno Chara’s massive body. Thus ended the 1st period, and the Bruins lead 1-0
The second period started off reverse of the 1st, with Nikita Gusev drawing a tripping penalty from Brad Marchand nine seconds into the period. Nico Hischier and Sami Vatanen both started the power play off strong with good cycling and pressure, including a rebound off a Vatanen shot which Palmieri barely missed. Despite the pressure, the Devils couldn’t score, which the Bruins capitalized on. Two minutes later, the Bruins’ 4th line of Kuraly, Nordstrom and Wagner pinned the Devils in deep, and a loose puck in the front of the net was deposited off of Nordstrom’s skate, as a direct result of the Devils’ defensemen’s weak backchecking. After this goal, some gear changed in the Devils play. The Devils dominated the rest of the play, starting with Damon Severson barely missing on a redirection.
At the 8:58 mark, the Devils finally broke through. Nikita Gusev, one of the Devils’ hottest players of late, was able to take a pass from Coleman and then perfectly thread it through back to Coleman, who deposited a one-timer to bring the Devils back by one. Sami Vatanen had a secondary assist on the goal. Then, nine seconds later, Travis Zajac took a tripping penalty, only for the Bruins powerplay to be wiped off due to Matt Grzelcyk tripping Hischier off an immediate shorthanded opportunity. The four-on-four was all Devils, with a Kyle Palmieri chance saved by Halak, before Severson missed on a slapshot and Butcher hitting the post himself. Pavel Zacha was able to strip the puck from a Bruin later on, resulting in a Gusev breakaway where he was stopped twice by Halak. The abbreviated powerplay then saw Severson get his shot stopped by Halak on a great opportunity, and then Wayne Simmonds tip a Sami Vatanen shot off the post.
Scenario two of egregious referee oversights happened after this. First, Nico Hischier was very obviously tripped by a Bruin, with no call. Luckily for the Devils, Zdeno Chara was then even more obviously high sticked by Jesper Bratt (I think), which the referees ignored again.
Referee ranting aside, David Pastrnak then tried to further the lead on his own for the Bruins. Pastrnak carried the puck on his own, before blasting two shots which were both luckily stopped by Blackwood, one on his initial shot and another off a direct rebound. Blake Coleman was then pushed down while in a shooting motion, which drew some ire from the Devils fans in attendance, before Mirco Mueller took a shot from the point which unfortunately hopped over Travis Zajac’s stick. Thus ended, the 2nd period, where the Devils controlled play, and had better opportunities.
This period, quite possibly, was the Devils best period of the year. The Devils continued their strong play, with Hughes, Simmonds and Wood controlling the puck in the Bruins zone to start the period. Jack Hughes was teed for a slapshot, which Halak supposedly saved and then Jeremy Lauzon was able to block due to interfering with Miles Wood and pushing him into the net. The proceeding Devils power-play saw Nico Hischier and Travis Zajac take shots on goal, which were both saved by Halak.
A somewhat obvious penalty was missed again later, where even though the referees called a tripping penalty on Joakim Nordstrom, Charlie Coyle could have easily been called for a high elbow on Miles Wood, which was again not seen and ignored. Vatanen, Pamieri and Hughes desperately tried to get the tying goal on the proceeding penalty, with a Jack Hughes tip being the best opportunity, but Halak looked unbeatable. Then, at the 13:11 mark, the Devils finally broke through. Public Enemy of Boston #1 PK Subban was able to corral the puck at the point, fake out his man, and then send a puck at the net which was tipped by Jesper Bratt past Halak. Just like that, the game was tied, and the Devils seemed destined to win.
Almost unfortunately for the Devils, David Pastrnak is a Bruin. He tried his best to beat the Devils himself, getting set up for an open slapshot, which Mirco Mueller was able to block to save the Devils. Wayne Simmonds then absolutely did Zdeno Chara dirty, but was stopped by Halak, before a Miles Wood batted shot was also stopped by Halak. A Jesper Bratt shot and Damon Severson rebound were then also stopped, before the most egregious no call of the game occurred.
With Blake Coleman controlling the puck against the boards, Brad Marchand skated at him for a hit and quite clearly hit Coleman high, sending him to the ice, but no penalty was called. As Devils fans complained, David Pastrnak then skated at the Devils goal and was also obviously tripped by a Devil, with no call called again. Ken Daneyko claimed that the referees wanted to let play run, though I contest that Marchand’s dangerous hit on Coleman should be called no matter what, and allowing an equally egregious no call on a non-opportunity by David Pastrnak does not have equality in terms of severity of action. The period ended with no other chances, and overtime began.
To start off overtime, both teams possessed the puck for long intervals of time, though none got more than seeing-eye shots which were easily stopped. Then, at the 2:17 shot, Matt Grzelcyk walked in alone, ringing a shot off the post to keep the Devils alive. With 12 seconds left, Sean Kuraly was able to walk in on a two-on-one opportunity, which Jesper Bratt intentionally drew a penalty in order to stop the opportunity, a smart play by Bratt. The rest of overtime ended without much alarm, and the game went to a shootout, which is summarized as below.
- Gusev SAVED by Halak on five-hole shot
- Coyle MISSED on deke
- Boqvist SAVED by Halak on glove-side wrist shot
- Pastrnak SAVED by Blackwood on glove-side
- Palmieri MISSED net on wrist shot
- Marchand MISSED hitting post
- Simmonds SAVED by Halak on deke
- Debrusk SAVED by Blackwood far-side
- Hughes SCORES glove side low
- Wagner SCORES backhand deke
- Severson SCORES fake shot to backhand
- Bergeron SAVED by Blackwood glove side. Devils win!
Quite possibly the Devils’ best game of the season. After a weak start to the game, the Devils played hard, played fast, and genuinely outplayed the Devils.
Initial Thoughts After Game: Nico’s team plays with much more balance and equal pressure than Hall’s team. Not to dog on Hall, with how great a player he is, but without Hall the Devils are more of a team, as opposed to a team always looking to feed Hall and rely on him to score. Nico Hischier has stepped up offensively, while Jesper Bratt and Nikita Gusev are getting more chance show what they can do. In today’s game, Mirco Mueller was very sound defensively, and stopping Pastrnak’s shot might have been his play of the season. Blackwood was amazing for the Devils, while PK Subban and Andy Greene were very sound defensively. John Hayden wasn’t a liability on the ice, which is great for him.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Miles Wood and Wayne Simmonds had awful games. Watching the game, I didn’t think they were too awful, if not just slightly invisible. The only player who I thought wasn’t great today was Will Butcher, but that could be attributed to him coming back from injury.
Rambled thoughts on the Bruins: Jaroslav Halak helped the Bruins keep close, because the Devils absolutely pounded the Bruins. If the Bruins win, he gets player of the game. Jeremy Lauzon had a good season debut for the Bruins, and Matt Grzelcyk is as good as his name is hard to spell. Depth-wise, the Bruins forwards are rather lacking. Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk were pretty quiet today, but Sean Kuraly had a solid game. David Pastrnak’s shot is as scary as hyped, and I didn’t know Chris Wagner could dangle like he did in the shootout.
Final Thoughts: What a game. What were your thoughts on the Devils’ performance today? Who played well? Who could have played better? How do you feel about Nasreddine as the coach?
Lastly, thanks to all of you for a great year at All About the Jersey! Let’s all collectively hope that the Devils play better in 2020, and I look forward to all of your continued support and comments. Thank you, and have a great night!