The Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils traded some backhand opportunities in the first minute and a half - the first being a high riser that missed the net from Ryan Hartman after a bad turnover at the Devils blueline. Going the other way, Janne Kuokkanen, from the wall quick after a zone entry, set Jimmy Vesey for a sneaky chance in close to the side of the net that Talbot had to snuff out.
After another terrible defensive zone turnover, Joel Eriksson Ek was all alone in front of Blackwood before Ryan Graves hooked him from behind as Dougie Hamilton caught up and tried to push Eriksson Ek to the outside. Hamilton’s effort may have prevented a decision for whether to award a penalty shot, and the Devils went to the kill on a slashing call. Off the draw, they cleared the puck, and the Wild set up toward the halfway point of the first minute.
The Wild had solid possession for awhile, but Mackenzie Blackwood only had to fight off two shots in the first minute, as a pass across from Kaprizov to Eriksson Ek to the side of the net went way over Eriksson Ek’s stick - leaving the Wild with relatively not-so dangerous chances. After Blackwood gloved a point shot from Matt Dumba with 20 seconds, Colton White cleared off the clear and the Devils made the kill, having allowed four shots on net that didn’t seem to bother Blackwood.
Right after the penalty ended, Dawson Mercer sped through the neutral zone and got tripped by Hartman as he left the puck off for Bratt at the blueline. Bratt danced right around Kaprizov and drove the net, nearly scoring - but the Devils went to the power play. The Wild cleared off the draw, and the Devils had an odd unit that featured Hischier, Vesey, Subban, Hamilton, and Johnsson. Without Zacha, P.K. Subban took a shot from the top of Zacha’s circle that Talbot covered - and the Wild cleared again off the next draw.
After re-entering, Johnsson took a shot that bounced off the right pad of Talbot and out, which was followed up by a set-up from Hamilton to Subban for a one-timer into Talbot’s crest. The Wild cleared yet again off the draw. The Devils went to the box again as Hamilton was called for interfering with Marcus Foligno as the Devils entered the offensive zone, being called for the pick play.
Zacha, Bratt, White, and Siegenthaler took the ice. They got the puck deep into the offensive zone, and Bratt danced around for awhile before dumping for White, who got it back to Bratt who missed Zacha cutting toward the slot as the Wild went to the power play. Blackwood made a great save off a slapshot from Kaprizov with 25 seconds in the kill, and Vesey cleared with 10 seconds to secure it for the Devils.
Dougie Hamilton got called for "interference" for bumping into a guy while skating to his spot on the power play.— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) November 25, 2021
Michael McLeod just got tackled and hugged for a couple seconds up against the Devils bench.
The people on said bench were quite displeased at the no-call. Quite.
After the Devils were buzzing with great chances for Bratt and Zacha, the Wild scored a weak one on Blackwood. The Devils collapsed off the Wild zone entry, giving Dmitry Kulikov all the time in the world to slap a shot low for Ryan Hartman to deflect past Blackwood. Almost like collapsing does not help this team. 1-0, Wild.
After the goal, the Devils lost all momentum, generating almost nothing offensively for a few minutes. Then, with just under three minutes to play, Nico Hischier took the offensive zone and forced Talbot to smother a shot from Colton White, giving them an offensive zone draw. The Devils won the draw but could not hold the zone, and Tomas Tatar finally won the puck back without a stick, helping Hischier spring Vesey ahead for the team’s first good shot in about five and a half minutes, as Kuokkanen drew an off-the-puck high stick from Matt Dumba.
Back on the power play, Ruff sent out Mercer, Tatar, Bratt, Sharangovich, and Severson. On the rush, Tatar forced Talbot to make a kick save, and the Wild were able to clear twice before the Devils brought their poorly designed first unit back on the ice, and the Wild cleared again. They entered the zone and had possession before Subban lost it in the corner with Johnsson providing passive non-support, and the Wild got a two-on-one chance the other way after a pass around the boards by Matt Dumba. Hamilton did not take the pass, and Nico Sturm scored on the one-timer from Frederick Gaudreau with under a minute to play. 2-0, Wild.
Chances were 22-11 at 5v5 for the Devils that period, 5 high danger chances to Minnesota’s 1— Devils Red Alert (@DevilsRedAlert) November 25, 2021
2-0 to show for it
Meanwhile, in Utica...
He’s backkkkk!!!— Utica Comets - WWWWWWWWWWWWW (@UticaComets) November 25, 2021
Holtz fires one in to put the Comets on the board. pic.twitter.com/VgIoZPJXjz
Sure, send Holtz down if Ruff is not going to play him. However, with a first unit of the power play that features just one truly good offensive forward in Nico Hischier (who is stuck in the slot where he cannot handle the puck and control play), with Johnsson, Vesey, and Subban failing to create anything - the power play personnel decisions after beating the Lightning leave me scratching my head. There are just no great shooters to make use of there, with Holtz in Utica and the two best shooters on the team also not getting that first unit time.
The Devils were firing away early, with Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt being denied on their shifts. After a Wild turnover behind the net, Jimmy Vesey had an uncontested one-timer right in front of the net that was smothered by Talbot. With the fourth line on, the Wild finally pushed the puck down to their offensive end, and the fourth liners struggled to get a handle as they turned it over, leading to a point shot that Blackwood gloved.
Damon Severson had a couple shots from the top of the zone three and a half minutes in after Yegor Sharangovich snuck in for a backhand shot that was stopped by Talbot. The first attempt from Severson was blocked right back to him, and the second beat Talbot but rang out from the inside of the post, past the screen of Jimmy Vesey. Just past five and a half minutes into the period, Dawson Mercer hit Andreas Johnsson for a redirection on the rush. Johnsson nearly beat Talbot with the shot, but it somehow stayed out.
Nico Hischier took a tripping penalty seven and a half minutes into the period, as Jonas Brodin went down in the neutral zone. Pavel Zacha joined McLeod on the draw, and they got the puck down ice early. Kuokkanen and Vesey followed them, with Vesey flipping the puck high, and the Devils cleared again after the Wild re-entered. The first unit of the kill came back on, and Siegenthaler got a nice clear off the glass as Kaprizov rushed him in the corner. After clearing yet again, Siegenthaler broke up a pass to the slot, got the puck to Zacha - and Zacha finished off the kill by shooting the puck down ice.
The referees missed a clear as daylight trip as Johnsson was taken down by Brodin’s stick as his line entered the zone. A shot from Mercer was blocked and the Wild got the puck down the ice before White got on it and moved it to Severson. After the Devils re-entered, Damon Severson danced around an oncoming forward with a deke through his own legs and ripped another shot off the post from the high slot.
This period was a big nothing. The shots were 25-18, Devils at the end of two.
Fabian Zetterlund was not on the bench at the start of the third. Nico Hischier won the draw, and dumped into the zone after receiving the puck from Siegenthaler. The Devils won the puck from behind the net to Hischier, but the Wild were all over the Devils and they did not get into open space.
A few minutes later, P.K. Subban dumped the puck in after failing to hold the zone. Tomas Tatar was taken down as he got to the boards and kicked the puck out. Nico Hischier shoved Jamie Benn off of the puck, drifted to the corner, turned off his man, and set Pavel Zacha up for a wicked shot from off to the side of Talbot that cut the lead to 2-1!
Pavel wildin’ out. We on the board. pic.twitter.com/fABOXwOv7Z— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 25, 2021
The Devils struggled to get anything in close in the following minutes. The closest I saw either team come to scoring was Nico Sturm on a long slap shot that almost beat Blackwood - but Blackwood got it with the blocker. The Wild did a good job of hindering the Devils physically - and a bad pass or two did not help the Devils in their offensive zone.
With 11 minutes to play, Yegor Sharangovich danced into the offensive zone and passed from the slot to Jesper Bratt, who ripped a shot high that was fought off. I mean, it was a good shot by Bratt - but Sharangovich was in the perfect spot for him to shoot.
With just over nine minutes to play, after Zacha left the ice after taking a shot to the leg, Damon Severson set Dougie Hamilton up with a fake one-timer, cross-ice slap pass that Hamilton shanked to the side of the net. Dougie had the whole net, and it went wide.
With 7:14 to play, Ryan Hartman tripped P.K. Subban up along the boards as Subban came to support Sharangovich along the wall. Ruff sent out the first unit with the only alteration being Zacha replacing Vesey. Johnsson and Subban remained, despite Vesey playing way better throughout the night than Johnsson. The Wild had a rush early that was snuffed out, and the Devils got the puck deep 45 seconds in. Fortunately for them, Zacha was crosschecked in the corner by Matt Dumba from behind and the referees actually called it. Lindy Ruff called timeout with 1:08 on the five-on-three and 6:22 to play in the game.
Hischier, Zacha, Mercer, Bratt, and Hamilton took the ice. The Devils won it back to Hamilton, and Zacha took a shot from the right circle that was smothered under the arm by Talbot. The Devils won the second draw, and cycled slowly around. Zacha forced Talbot to make another save, fighting off a high shot. Zacha set Mercer up at the side of the net, but Mercer could not redirect it cleanly. The Devils tic tac toed around high in the zone, and Bratt nearly beat Talbot below the blocker. Mercer and Hischier could not connect around the net to score, and Talbot covered. Joel Eriksson Ek attacked Nico Hischier pretty unnecessarily after the whistle as Nico went to defend Mercer in a scrum, and both players were called for roughing. This was a situation where only Eriksson Ek should have gone off, frankly.
P.K. Subban took a long shot with 20 seconds in the power play that almost went in off a Vesey deflection, and Tatar missed the rebound. The penalty expired with just over four minutes to play. The Devils chased the Wild around for the next minute and a half, failing to take possession. Tomas Tatar fell at the blueline, and the Wild cleared it down ice with two and a half to play. The Devils finally got the puck but turned it over after entering the zone, and then took it back with two minutes to play. Kulikov iced the puck with 1:47 to play.
The Devils had six attackers from then on, and the Wild forced them to re-enter with under 90 seconds to play. Nico Hischier won it to Mercer behind the net, and the Devils cycled around. Jesper Bratt took a weak shot from the half wall that appeared to be intended for a redirection, and Nico Hischier, instead, picked it up in front. Nico slid it to Sharangovich, whose shot trickled through! Tie game with 1:07 to play!
McLeod won the draw, and got off for Bratt. Zacha and Hamilton were on with him. Zacha dropped a pass for Hamilton, who ripped a shot off the post. Pavel Zacha broke up Kirill Kaprizov’s deke on the other end, and the Devils changed to their second line of Hischier, Sharangovichm and Severson. Sharangovich ripped a shot that was saved low. He recollected, and Severson got off for Hamilton. Johnsson and Mercer came on. Mercer displayed amazing hands as he dragged towards and around the net, but could not get a shot on net. Johnsson ripped a shot from the slot that was left in front of the net as Talbot looked behind him, but Mercer could not get there in time.
Zacha and Mercer came back on with Subban. The Wild had possession and cycled passively. The Devils did not give them an inch inside, and Subban broke up a pass for Bratt to push it out. The Wild immediately re-entered, and Kaprizov shot the puck off Blackwood’s mask.
Mercer was tripped up at the wall, but no call was made. The Wild had a chance the other way, and Marcus Foligno took a slap shot that was deflected out of play by Hamilton. Nico Hischier took the puck the other way off the draw, but time expired.
Dougie Hamilton went first for the Devils. He was stopped, as his backhand was poked away.
Mats Zuccarello went first for the Wild. He went for the straight shot and rang it off the post.
Jesper Bratt went second for the Devils. He deked to the forehand and was stuffed.
Kevin Fiala went next. He ripped a shot into the corner. 1-0, Wild.
Yegor Sharangovich went to save the game. Talbot made the glove save. Wild win, 3-2 in shootout.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Hockey Wilderness.
The Shootout Needs to Go
If the shootout is not good enough to determine playoff games, it is not good enough to determine who makes the playoffs. Nothing deflates my interest more - especially when I recap a game - than seeing a game go to a shootout. Especially when the three-on-three overtime includes open space masterminds such as Jesper Bratt, Kirill Kaprizov, and Dawson Mercer - the NHL needs to do its players and fans a favor by making overtime ten minutes. After those 10 minutes, I would rather see a tie than a shootout. But I mean, how many three-on-threes are getting through 10 minutes without a goal?
I’m Not Mad At the Players Tonight - The Devils Deserved to Win
I have had a tendency the past couple years for ripping certain individual performances or certain lines when the Devils lose. The last time I remember recapping games where the Devils lost and I wasn’t all too mad about it was 2017-18 - because they lost some games that year where they played pretty well. This was one of those losses.
Do you want the eye test from tonight? The Devils dominated the Wild at even strength and when they were on the penalty kill tonight. I did not feel like the Devils gave Kirill Kaprizov much room to work with tonight, and Joel Eriksson Ek - who I think is a great player - did nothing tonight. The one bad lapse for the Devils was when they let Hartman roof the deflection off Kulikov’s point shot, when they collapsed immediately after the Wild took the zone. But that is a systemic issue with Nasreddine and Ruff’s defense. They give the point all the room in the world, and the players just are not going to box out opposition to perfection all the time.
As for the statistics - the Devils had a 67.65, then 60.00, then 62.96 CF% at five-on-five in the three regulation periods. In overtime, they had a 75.00 CF%, with the two attempts being Kaprizov’s shot off Blackwood’s mask and Foligno’s shot that was deflected out of play. In all even strength play, the Devils had a 2.8-1.44 xGF advantage, which comes out to a 66.1 xGF%.
The Devils’ lines all had good nights. The first line was a bit slow to start but had a great third period. The Mercer line had an 87.49 xGF%, but were not rewarded for their efforts. The Kuokkanen-Sharangovich-Vesey line had a 69.51 xGF%, but were on the ice for the Hartman goal. I do not think Sharangovich collapsed “too much” when Kulikov held the puck - I see this happen too often to blame a player for being out of position. The system has them collapse too much, but there’s just nothing for the forwards to do except stand around and wait when the point man has that much time with the puck. The fourth line, before Zetterlund did not return to the bench, had an 86.40 xGF%. No line was outshot.
When you outshoot your opponents 42-27 and hit four posts in the game, you deserve to win.
I Am Mad at Mark Recchi
With the Devils going 0 for 4 on the power play tonight, they now sit at 13.7% effectiveness on the season. With their improving penalty kill now at a below average, but respectable 78% effectiveness, the eyes should be squarely on Mark Recchi for why this team is losing games. The Devils have only played 17 games, and yet:
This is the third overtime or shootout loss in which the Devils did not score on multiple power play opportunities, out of four such losses.
The Devils have lost three games in shootouts, plus one in overtime this season. The first shootout loss, versus the Blue Jackets, the Devils went 0 for 3 on the power play, while the Jackets went 1 for 2. The only plain overtime loss, against the Kings, featured the Devils going 0 for 4 on the power play, while the Kings went 1 for 6. In the last shootout loss before tonight, against the Rangers on 11/14, the Devils went 1 for 1 on the power play, while the Rangers went 0 for 2. That goal against New York was not off a set-up, as it was a shot right off the entry by Dougie Hamilton. Tonight, the Devils went 0 for 4, while the Wild went 0 for 3.
So in games where the Devils lost in overtime or in shootouts, they have gone 1 for 12 on the power play. That is an 8.33% effectiveness rate. You might be asking, well the Devils have won three in overtime or shootouts. What about those? Without Recchi (and, in those cases, a better penalty kill), those may have been won in regulation. Versus the Blackhawks, the Devils went 0 for 2 on the power play while Chicago went 2 for 5. Versus the Sabres, the Devils went 1 for 3 while Buffalo went 1 for 2. Against the Sharks, the Devils went 0 for 4 while San Jose went 1 for 3.
So in overtime or shootout losses, the Devils have an 8.33% effective power play and an 84.6% effective penalty kill. In overtime or shootout wins, the Devils have an 11.1% effective power play and a 60% effective penalty kill.
The Devils are making comebacks despite their power play being bottom of the barrel, irredeemable trash. Mark Recchi obviously has scoring talent to work with. Why is it, that Nico Hischier can work the walls and behind the net to perfection at even strength and is never placed there on the power play? He has completely failed to make use of Yegor Sharangovich, who has 3 goals in the last two games after getting off to a terrible start to the season. Perhaps a good offensive assistant would have gotten such a lethal shot going earlier. Pavel Zacha leads the team with a paltry two power play goals and was taken off the power play in practice this week. Perhaps if they practiced the power play with him, he would have been sharper moving the puck around at five-on-three after being thrown back on the unit in the third period following his goal to cut the Wild lead to one.
Mark Recchi needs to be fired yesterday. His power play is losing this team games and helping teams who don’t deserve to be in it stay within reach.
I mean, it must be a bore to read how I describe these power plays. They usually go: The Devils lost the draw, and the (insert team here) cleared. The Devils lost the puck quickly after re-entry and had to retrieve it again. Rinse and repeat. And then when they do get the puck in for more than five seconds (and no, Bryce, I don’t care about how good the Devils are at getting the puck across the blueline for half a second), they play catch high in the zone before a too-far-out shot is smothered in the goalie’s chest padding. And then they lose the draw, and have to retrieve a clear. Such a power play is made even harder to watch because of the fact of how many odd-man rushes they give up to the shorthanded teams.
There’s just nothing there, man.
Nico Hischier, the Captain Strikes Back
I just wanted to dedicate this section to Nico Hischier, who has drawn the ire of some for not producing enough on the top line. Well, Hischier is now tied for the team-lead in points with 12 in 17 games, along with Mercer, Bratt, and Zacha. Without his two perfect feeds tonight, the Devils would not have beaten both Cam Talbot and the post. Personally, I am not a fan of his line featuring Tatar - but Tatar was important to the Zacha goal tonight. This is probably the best we have ever seen Nico Hischier as a playmaker, and I have to think the goals will be coming eventually. Nico has never scored below an 82-game pace of 20 goals in any season, and he is well below his career shot percentage prior to this season of 11.2, sitting at 5.9% this year so far. If he can score goals and keep his playmaking up, Hischier will be well on track for a 60 point season (he’s currently on track for 10 goals and 48 assists). Also, it was good to see him and Zacha connect at five-on-five tonight - and I’m looking forward to more of that moving forward.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Do you think the shootout deserves to stay or go? How about Mark Recchi? What did you think of Damon Severson tonight? How about the penalty kill? Do you think the Devils should claim Nathan Bastian for that fourth line? Or should they bring someone up like Schnarr or Clarke? Or perhaps give Holtz another chance? And who was better tonight: Talbot, or the post? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for following along. Whether you did so in the gamethread or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight. Additionally, have a happy Thanksgiving - and see you on Black Friday.