Right off the first face-off, this is looking like its going to be a weird game. Buckle in folks.
Play is halted just over a minute into the game as a shot from Miles Wood knocks the blade out of Detroit netminder Johnathon Bernier’s skate.
Directly off the ensuing face-off, the Devils are on the attack. Bernier makes the initial save on Dakota Mermis but Joey Anderson picks up the rebound off Wood and buries it on a wide open net. 1-0 Devils just 70 seconds into the game.
The Devils have come out for this first period feet moving and guns blazing, a pleasant surprise after the trade deadline ravaged the roster and half the lines are filled with call-ups and new players. The Devils have 10 shots in just the first 5 minutes compared to 2 from the Red Wings. A delayed penalty call against the Red Wings for too many men nearly led to a Devils shot on their own empty net thanks to a scary drop pass but fortunately it stayed wide of the goal.
The Devils don’t manage to score on the power play but they do rack up a few more shots and scoring chances. Back at 5 on 5 and the Devils continue to run the ice, leaving the struggling Red Wings chasing the puck most of the game so far. The top line continues to impress with a slick play from Jack Hughes chasing the puck down into the corner and backhanding a pass directly onto the cutting Nico Hischier’s stick in front of the net, but Bernier is able to push the puck away from danger.
Cory Schneider hasn’t been put to the test much in this first period. An odd hop off the boards on a Detroit dump-in forces him to make a unexpected save, which was probably the most difficult one of the period for him so far. Right after this came a big shot attempt from Valtteri Filpulla off a bad turnover from Dakota Mermis that forces Schneider to make a big save, and he comes up with it cleanly. The Red Wings start to threaten a bit in the waning minutes of the period. Another sudden scoring chance for the Wings forces Schneider to really stretch for the shot, but again he comes up with it cleanly.
The Devils respond well to the Red Wings’ attempt to tilt the ice and take control back over the game in the last two minutes. Good puck movement gives just about everyone on the ice for the Devils some kind of shot or shot attempt before time expires on the first period.
Detroit comes out a lot stronger in the second period to start, forcing the Devils to clean up some of their sloppier plays very quickly as they suddenly start to result in turnovers and shots on Schneider. Fortunately they do manage to adjust quickly and within a few minutes The Devils seem to be much more settled and are back onto the attack. Nico Hischier draws a holding penalty so they’ll have a few more minutes to re-hone their offensive moves on the man advantage.
Detroit does a pretty good job of stifling the Devils attempts to enter the zone for the first minute, but once they’ve gained the zone it becomes fairly obvious why they’re ranked one of the worst penalty kill units in the NHL. They collapse into themselves far too much and the Devils passing across the zone goes unchallenged. They manage a few shots before a good rebound on a shot from Pavel Zacha goes directly to Jesper Bratt, who buries it past Bernier for a power play goal. 2-0 Devils.
Almost immediately after the second goal, the Devils return to the power play on an errant clear from the Detroit defensive zone by Dylan Larkin. This power play looks nearly identical to the last— Detroit holds the Devils out of the zone for a bit, but once they break over the blue line, the scoring threat is imminent. This time it takes towards the final few seconds of the penalty before Jack Hughes finds a wide open Kyle Palmieri standing nearly inside the Red Wings goal. Palmieri nets what might be the easiest shot of his career to give the Devils a 3-0 lead.
The Red Wings aim to make things at least a little more interesting for the Devils and Cory Scheider after the third goal. The wings drive down into the Devils zone and catch the defense a bit flat footed, which somehow forces Miles Wood to take a cross checking penalty. The Red Wings get to pull Bernier on the delayed penalty and make the Devils dance a bit but they only get one shot off and Schneider swallows it whole.
Detroit’s power play manages an attack quickly but then the Devils penalty kill kicks into high gear and threatens to tally a shorthanded goal by Kevin Rooney. They don’t manage it but they do manage to kill off the rest of the penalty pretty easily with clears and just one more scoring attempt.
Unfortunately we’ve decided to give them one more crack at the power play with a quick repeat penalty, this time with a hooking call on Pavel Zacha. A quick couple clears kills the majority of the penalty. Detroit gets a few seconds of zone time at the end of the penalty, which works out for the Devils— with five skaters in the zone, they’ve forgotten about Zacha. Zacha picks up a pass coming out of the box and races into the zone with Nico Hischier. He passes to Hischier who nearly makes it a four goal lead but Bernier just gets across in time to keep the score at three.
At the other end of the ice, Schneider snuffs out the last ditch effort from the Red Wings as the period draws to an end. The Devils go into the second intermission up 3-0.
Hischier starts off the third period using his head to get the Devils another man advantage. More specifically, his face. He took a stick to the face from Detroit’s Alex Biega. The Devils draw up some good chances on the power play but Detroit’s penalty kill is improving as the game goes on and they keep the Devils from scoring a third power play goal. Immediately after the penalty ends, Michael McLeod looks to net his first NHL goal but Bernier pokes the puck off his stick at the last moment.
Jack Hughes spices things up a bit after getting bounced around by Larkin and Fabbri. Hughes goes in for a hit on Fabbri but the two catch legs and both go flying. Fabbri gets the worst of it and limps off the ice as Hughes is sent to the sin bin.
This time the Devils penalty kill unit does not manage to get the job done. Detroit’s power play unit suddenly puts on an absolute passing clinic in front of Schneider and finds Filppula with a wide open net to shoot at. Schneider can’t even hope to get over in time to save the shot, and his shutout falls on the Red Wings 23rd shot of the night.
Detroit must be serving hot chocolate and Jell-O shots in the penalty boxes tonight, because the Devils and Red Wings are just determined to keep taking penalties. This time Damon Severson draws one on a hook from Dylan Larkin, and the Devils pick up another man advantage. Detroit’s penalty kill has definitely improved a bit since the beginning of the game but they’re still no match for the roll that the Devils power play unit is on. Pavel Zacha feeds Nikita Gusev a clean pass in the high slot that he rips past Bernier. The Devils regain their three goal lead and go up 4-1 in Detroit with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game.
The game seemed to be winding down quietly until the final minute of play. Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi aimed a cheap, deliberately late hit at Jack Hughes, and was promptly told that’s not allowed by a very cranky John Hayden. Hayden went high on the hit and all hell broke loose. Both teams came together, in particular Bertuzzi and Subban who both earned 10 minute misconducts for throwing gloves at each other (not really what tossing the mitts means, guys). Hayden picked up a major and a game misconduct for the high cross check. Its not an ideal response, but given the extra attention to Hughes after the Fabbri injury, I can’t help but agree with Hayden that some response needed to be given (though perhaps not that much— let’s keep it below the neck please). Given the fact that Hayden was on the ice for a shift with Hischier and Hughes, I’d say Nasreddine must have agreed on the need for a response to some extent.
Fortunately only 40 seconds remained in the game, so the Devils kill off the abbreviated penalty and end the game with a 4-1 win over the Red Wings.
First Look at the New and ... Improved? Devils
Cory Schneider rejoined the big club and got his first NHL start since January 18th, when he gave up 4 goals on 17 shots and was pulled halfway through the game against Columbus. Detroit isn’t exactly a tough team but tonight he managed to get through two full periods without conceding a goal and finished the game with 27 saves and his first NHL win in nearly a full year. A small victory in the grand scheme of things, but a huge win for Schneider.
Dakota Mermis played in his third game as a NJ Devil tonight. He wasn’t great— he gave up a rough turnover on a blind pass early in the game that nearly turned into a goal and had one of the worst CF%s on the team besides the top line— but he also picked up his first NHL point with an assist on the Joey Anderson goal. Not really the ideal performance but it could have been worse.
Michael McLeod made his first appearance in the big club since January 16th. He racked up 3 shots, 4 scoring chances, the second best 5v5 CF% on the team and one really good look on net that should have become a goal if he weren’t the most snakebitten Devil since early season Jack Hughes. He’ll likely be a fixture in the lineup for the remainder of the season, a boost of consistency and confidence that will likely be extremely beneficial for the former first round pick.
Fredrik Claesson made his Devils debut and it went about as well as could be expected— he was almost entirely invisible. He picked up an even 50 CF% and did not register a shot or any form of individual offensive effort. All things considered, I’m okay with that for a first look. A good defenseman is one I do not spend the entire game yelling at the TV over, so Claesson was alright tonight in my books.
Your take: How are we feeling about this team post-deadline? Did tonight’s win sway your opinions one way or another? Who impressed tonight, and who didn’t? Leave your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading!