First Period: The first chance of the game came for the Devils less than 30 seconds into the game. The Rangers made a mistake in the neutral zone, and Taylor Hall picked off the puck, who gave it to Jack Hughes, who was then alone in the Rangers’ defensive zone. Without having to beat any defensemen, Jack Hughes made a quick move on Henrik Lundqvist and put the puck low through the Rangers goaltender’s five hole.
Henrik Lundqvist, meet Jack Hughes. pic.twitter.com/WQD3YKcUw1— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 20, 2019
P.K. Subban got his first chance to shoot against Lundqvist just under three minutes into the game. He faked with the puck, dropping the Rangers defenseman to the ice, and his wrist shot was blockered away by Lundqvist.
One of Mackenzie Blackwood’s biggest saves of the early game came about seven minutes in. The puck came out to the slot where Alexander Namestikov was open, and Blackwood was able to get his glove out quick enough to make the stop without giving up the rebound.
A bit over halfway through the period, the Rangers got the first penalty of the game. Ryan Strome flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game. Hall, Hughes, Simmonds, Subban, and Palmieri came on for the power play. Kyle Palmieri hit the pipe with his first shot of the power play, which came from a pass across the slot from Hughes. Taylor Hall got on the board less than a minute in, off a backhanded pass from Hall that caught the Rangers defensemen pinching towards the blue line too much. The shot went right past Lundqivst’s shoulder. The secondary assist went to Kyle Palmieri.
The first fight came a few minutes after the goal when Ryan Lindgren slashed Wayne Simmonds behind the Rangers net after play was stopped, which made Simmonds turn around with a cross check. They were jostling for net position prior to Lundqvist freezing the puck. Simmonds got an extra penalty for cross checking, which was pretty stupid considering they both used their sticks against each other.
The Rangers power play, without its best players, mostly sucked. Andy Greene was mostly able to lead the kill to maneuvering through the whole two minutes. Right as the penalty expired, Jack Hughes came on and had a one-on-one where he chose to shoot from the faceoff circle, which was kicked away by Lundqivst.
Blake Coleman got the Devils their third goal of the game. Nobody on the Rangers picked him up. After the puck was freed up by the Devils forecheck, the puck came out to Coleman in the left faceoff circle, who used the Rangers defenseman as a screen on Lundqvist, who was too low to stop the shot. The assist went to Travis Zajac, who put the puck in a perfect spot for Coleman to make a play. The period ended 3-0, Devils, with the shots 14-5 in their favor as well.
Early Defensive Promise: Through one period, the Devils’ top pairing of Andy Greene and P.K. Subban were looking pretty good. While this may have been against the second-tier Rangers forwards, this is pretty good - considering this included a penalty kill.
The #NJDevils held NYR without a shot for the final 7:20 of period 1.— Craig Seiden (@CraigSeiden) September 20, 2019
Second Period: The Devils got a few shots on net to start the period. Mostly holding the Rangers to defensive zone faceoffs, the Rangers did not look to have made sufficient adjustments. The Devils were doing a much better job at getting sustained offensive zone time. After a shot was deflected away from Brandon Gignac, Wayne Simmonds returned from the box to the Devils’ bench. Gignac was, I noticed, going out of his way trying to at times contort his body to make plays around the net. After the following faceoff, he made an outstretched shot that drew Lundqvist out of position, which would have been better if another Devil was around to bounce of the puck.
Nonetheless, the Rangers got on the board four minutes into the period, right after an offensive zone faceoff follwing an icing. Buchnevich made a shot that Blackwood could not cover, and Namestikov got the rebound in the blue paint. 3-1 Devils. The Hughes line and Greene and Subban had their first misstep of the game. Following the goal, the Rangers seemed to be skating with more confidence, but the Zajac line was too good on the forecheck for them. Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman worked the puck out of the corner to Wayne Simmonds. After a Simmonds shot, Mason Geersten dropped his gloves, but Simmonds did not oblige. Apparently, Simmonds had checked him earlier in the shift.
Blake Coleman created a chance for Wayne Simmodns eight minutes in. With Simmonds behind him, Coleman drew the defenseman in close and one-handed the puck to Simmonds, who fired a good shot on Lundqvist. He might not have been scoring yet, but Simmonds certainly looked good for the red and black.
Play was stopped just over halfway through the period for a penalty. Namestikov went to the box for the Rangers for roughing. However, Lundqvist wouldn’t stay to see the Devils power play. Adam Huska would be playing the second half of the game. P.K. Subban got tied up with Gabriel Fontane, who was trying to get on the puck after Blackwood played it. Four-on-four for a little more than a minute.
Blake Coleman and Blake Tennyson nearly combined for a goal right away, as they played catch until Tennyson had a clear shot on Huska right in front of the net, off the rush. Tennyson’s redirection went through Huska’s five hole and then wide of the net.
With Namestikov out of the box, Joey Anderson cleared the puck and the Rangers power play begam. They gained the zone with 36 seconds remaining in it. A slap shot from the blue line hit a skate and went out of the zone. The Rangers caused some bedlam in the last few seconds, as Greene lost his stick and played with McLeod’s. However, Blackwood was able to make the stop on a close angled shot to freeze play.
Michael McLeod, in the midst of a poor game, saw a chance to reverse his fortunes. Taking a breakout pass from Subban, McLeod went wide and shielded the puck on his backhand, sliding the puck through Huska’s five hole with a defender on his back to make the game 4-1, Devils. Joe Morrow took a terrible angle, pretty much giving McLeod a lane.
McLeod straight to the net pic.twitter.com/AqwFbbicii— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 21, 2019
With just under a minute in the period, play was stopped for a penalty. Joey Keane was behind Zajac in the corner and hooked his hands. Jack Hughes was kicked out of the faceoff circle, and gave it up to Zajac. Zajac won the draw, and the Devils took a few shots at the goal, maintaining their structure but never breaking down the Rangers’. Ryan Strome got a shorthanded chance late in the period, after the puck went off Hall’s skate, but could not convert. The period ended with the score still 4-1, and the shots 27-16.
Injury Scare: Kyle Palmieri left the bench in the end stages of the second, which was why Zajac was on the ice for the power play. Simmonds had also been filling in on Hughes’ line. However, he’d be back on the ice for the start of the third period.
Third Period: The Rangers won the first draw, with a minute left in their penalty kill. The Devils nearly kept it in with the forecheck, but had to reset twice before getting sustained zone time. Kyle Palmieri fired a slap shot on his strong-side wing, off a cross-ice pass from Jack Hughes. Huska got it with a quick glove. Subban then got a one-timer chance right from the draw, which Huska smothered. The Rangers then cleared the puck as the penalty expired.
Blake Speers made a great play off a flipped puck, turning around as he entered the offensive zone and creating a one-timer opportunity that was steered wide. It was good to see him finally do something in an otherwise anonymous appearance.
Jack Hughes got a breakaway opportunity, as he got around the Rangers defensemen and attempted to lift the puck over Huska’s right pad. However, his stick was lifted well from behind, which disrupted his shot.
The Rangers nearly had their second goal of the game when Vinni Lettieri hit both of the goal pipes with his shot, but it didn’t go in.
Blake Coleman got involved in a scrap with Michael Haley, who dropped his stick and gloves when Coleman did not. Haley thus went to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Devils went to the power play. That’s a good way to play your way off a team, if you’re Michael Haley.
The Rangers took a delay of game penalty with a minute and 14 seconds left in the power play. After a Hughes pass to Simmonds hit Simmonds’ skate, Joey Keane cleared it over the glass. Taylor Hall had an open net twice in the five-on-three. One shot went wide of net, and the second was saved by a diving Huska. Hall took a third chance from a sharp angle, but that too was stopped by Huska, with four seconds left in the five-on-three. The second wave of the power play, led by Travis Zajac came on for the remaining power play, but play was stopped for a cracked glass pane behind the Rangers net.
The glass is broken but you can't blame the mascot this time— Abbey Mastracco (@AbbeyMastracco) September 21, 2019
After the delay, Hynes sent the second wave back onto the ice. They were not able to get much going, being pretty light on NHL talent (only Zajac and Coleman). The game was moving pretty slow after the penalty expired. The teams seemed much more energetic in the second period, but seemed to be running out of energy by the time the third reached its halfway point.
Travis Zajac poked a one-timer pass away, knocking the puck towards the Devils’ offensive zone. The Devils were able to forecheck the Rangers into making a bad pass, which turned into an icing. However, the Ben Street line was unable to do anything with an offensive zone draw. However, Geersten again took a roughing penalty for dropping his gloves against Brandon Gignac. Gignac, not a fighter, didn’t drop his gloves after taking a high stick, which led to a Devils power play. Not very much happened on the power play, as the Devils were very slow to make things happened and allowed the Rangers to clear the puck multiple times.
With a bit more than five minutes left in the period, Michael McLeod took an interference minor. It was a pretty stupid penalty, as the Rangers were holding the puck in their offensive zone while making a change. It might not have been NHL-caliber talent on the ice, but the Devils should have converged on the remaining puck carrier rather than take a penalty after letting a partial-change be completed.
After Blake Speers failed to clear the zone, the puck got to Joe Morrow at the top of the circle. Brett Howden deflected his high shot down past Blackwood to make the game 4-2 with under five minutes to play.
Joey Keane took a hooking penalty on Joey Anderson with around four minutes to play, as Anderson had the puck around the Rangers net. Previously at risk of letting the Rangers make it a game, the Devils got a chance to put it away for good with another power play.
The Rangers got a clear off the initial draw. Taylor Hall skated the puck in on the re-entry. After a missed redirection chance and some passing, the Rangers cleared again. Hughes played it to Simmonds on the second re-entry, who held it from Huska before backhanding a shot, which was followed by another clear for the Rangers. The penalty expired before a third re-entry.
With two minutes to play, Zajac’s line ate a good chunk of time before McLeod’s line came on for them with a minute and 30 seconds to play. They went off with an Anderson dump-in, and Street’s line came on. Gignac turned the puck over, but the Devils regained it in the neutral zone. Gignac flipped the puck for one of his linemates to redirect, but Huska gloved it with 29 seconds to play. The Rangers got one more chance, as Vinni Lettieri backhanded a shot from a wide angle, which Blackwood didn’t need to touch. With that, the Devils won 4-2, with the shots 40-23.
Bad Signs for a Supposed “King”: Henrik Lundqivst gave up three goals on 24 shots, before being relieved by Adam Huska. While his goals against were nothing to be scoffed at, it’s not a good look for Lundqvist to apparently be outplayed by Adam Huska, who should be expected to either be the backup for Hartford or a starter in the ECHL. Huska made 15 stops on 16 shots, including some good ones when the Devils were on the power play.
Lundqivst is 37, and will be 38 by the start of the playoffs. We’ll see how he fares in the regular season.
But Can He Play Against Men?: A big question posed for the Devils coming into this season was whether Jack Hughes can play well against older, more physically mature competition. I think he has answered that call very well, now with three goals and an assist in two preseason games. A thing that is very noticeable about his game is he does not shy away from contact. Rather than passing at the sign of physical impediment, he willingly draws defenders to him before making passes.
This will serve him very well, whether he lines up next to Taylor Hall or Nikita Gusev this season. They are good skaters in their own right, and wonderful playmakers. A center willing to take a physical punishment on occasion can create a lot of odd-man and wide open opportunities for linemates of that caliber.
Rusty: There were a few missed opportunities.
Wayne Simmonds had a very big one, right before the five-on-three. Hughes made a great pass down low to Simmonds, who would have had an open net if he was quick enough to the puck. Instead, the one-timer failed and the puck hit Simmonds’ stick, before being cleared out of play.
Then was Taylor Hall, on the subsequent five-on-three. He had a wide, wide open chance to the right of the net, and inexplicably shot the puck into the outer side of the net. He had a few more chances on the power play, all stopped by Huska, but the best opportunity was his first. Hopefully, another preseason game will have both of them at their normal level of precision, with fewer miscues.
Still the Best on the PK: Andy Greene had a so-so night as P.K. Subban’s partner. But he was perfect on the penalty kill. With Subban on his right, a notable drag to penalty kills, Andy Greene’s wave of the penalty kill got two shots on net in two minutes - both of which Subban (one minute on the penalty kill) was on the ice for. Greene did not allow a single shot on goal while he was on the ice during Rangers power plays.
Blake Coleman was only on the ice for 25 seconds of penalty kill time, while Zajac did not see a single shift. John Hynes wanted to see who else was capable amongst his forwards.
Blake Speers did not make a good showing here. With a minute and 19 seconds played on the penalty kill, he over-committed in an attempt to clear the puck. The Rangers were able to keep it enough away from him to create a screened shot attempt, which went in.
Perfect position, perfect redirect.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 21, 2019
Howdy cashes in on the PP: pic.twitter.com/DxkibYqH4z
Speers’ failed attempt drew Ben Street out of position, which left the whole right side of the ice open for the Rangers. Thus, you have a power play goal against.
Who Disappointed: Michael McLeod had a goal, which was very nice. Aside from that, his line was anonymous. The Street line was supposed to be subpar. The McLeod line featured three young Devils vying for a spot on the roster. Aside from the goal, which was a gift from Rangers defenseman Joe Morrow, their line played to the tune of a -14.96 relative Corsi percentage, with the second most ice time of any Devils line (8:49 to the Street line’s 8:52). Marian Studenic in particularly lost to me playing the puck in the offensive zone. Joey Anderson seemed to have it together the most, but still didn’t move the needle in the flow of the game very much. Anderson looked much better when playing to the right of Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman, as they looked a much better fit for the 21 year old winger.
Good Tidings for Blackwood: Mackenzie Blackwood did not have to play the whole game, as he had Gilles Senn looking to get in a game backing him up. With Hynes indicating the remaining games will between Blackwood and Schneider, Blackwood had to look pretty good to get the full game. Of course, he did, allowing two goals on 23 shots. One of those was a deflection on the Rangers’ power play, and his ability to cover the puck with his glove was impeded by P.K. Subban on the other goal. The Devils cannot ask for more from Blackwood than what they saw tonight, and his continued success puts them in a great position moving forward.
Your Thoughts: What did you think of tonight’s game? Did you enjoy seeing Hall and Hughes together? What did you make of Simmonds’ game? Do you think he can put together a comeback season for the Devils? What do you think about our goaltending situation, having seen our best two play against the Rangers?
This wraps up the Devils’ second preseason match against the Rangers. Whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - have a good night.