After a first couple minutes that featured a lot of stoppages, the Sharangovich line got things going for the New Jersey Devils with a good offensive zone shift, as Janne Kuokkanen identified Rasmus Ristolainen as a weak point in the Flyers squad and brought the forecheck down on him. The Flyers could not repel the Devils initially, as Tatar and Sharangovich flew around trying to get the puck in on Jones, getting a couple shots off.
Dougie Hamilton nearly broke the ice as the Devils had just gotten away with a dangerous centering attempt against for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was found on a four-man rush, ringing a shot off the crossbar. However, he would not be deterred. Dougie helped keep play going for the Devils, shooting another attempt and gloving down the puck that deflected high off a block to keep it away from the Flyers. Jesper Bratt and Andreas Johnsson went back and forth on the wall, before Johnsson found Hamilton for the redirection on the inside of the circle - and this time there would be no post to bail Jones out. 1-0, Devils.
Mango and Ham > Melon and Prosciutto pic.twitter.com/VpyEHNPaWT— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 29, 2021
The next few minutes were a bit of a back in forth slightly in favor of the Flyers. They had a couple good shots on Blackwood, including a big kick save on Travis Konecny, but the Devils had a good shift by the Hischier line - which unfortunately had their attempts blocked. Following their shift, Nathan Bastian delivered a huge hit following a race for a potential icing, centering the puck for Michael McLeod and Andreas Johnsson - who I think were not ready for Bastian to win the puck out that quickly. Jones did a good job to seal off the net.
Tomas Tatar was thrown down in the offensive zone, but no call was made as the Flyers committed an icing with 7:30 to play in the period, following missed shots by Sharangovich and Severson. Nico Hischier’s line took the ice, and the Flyers nearly cleared the zone after a Devils chance - but Graves held it in to Zacha, who slipped the puck behind himself to Nico. Nico sliced down the middle with a protective move of the puck, pulled it back, and rang it off the pipe.
For some reason, the Devils were called for interference with 5:47 to play. Keith Yandle had made a much more egregious offense less than two minutes earlier, but Ryan Graves was called for interference for crosschecking Travis Konecny around the Devils’ net while the Flyers cycled high.
The Devils cleared off the draw, and the kill featured Michael McLeod and Jimmy Vesey. The Flyers missed Konecny on their re-entry, and Vesey cleared it again. The Flyers had trouble getting started - only setting up in the second minute. Cam Atkinson lost the zone with a pass to Sanheim that was off the mark and out of the zone. Joel Farabee was then called for hooking Damon Severson while Severson skated for the puck behind the net, killing the final 21 seconds of the Flyers power play with 4:07 to play.
The Flyers won the draw and forced the Devils to take it back in their defensive zone. They only did so after the Devils went to the power play, and Subban led the breakout with a pass to Vesey up ice. Hamilton centered it for Zacha, but Zacha was spun off the puck as he whiffed at it. Zacha dumped it back in, but then missed Hamilton at the point off a board battle - giving Scott Laughton a breakaway past P.K. Subban. Laughton was forced wide, but Blackwood did not do a good job of staying with him as the puck was backhanded into the net, tying the game. 1-1.
Just as Tomas Tatar was in position to rip off a shot to end the power play following a quick tic tac toe around the zone by the Devils, he flubbed a pass to the point-man, Severson - and the Flyers took possession. The Devils power play had no shots, one attempt, and a 0.00-0.26 expected goals ratio. Fire Mark Recchi.
Through one, the Devils trailed in shots 7-9 while the game was tied at one. 13 of the Devils’ attempts were blocked or missed the net.
The Devils continued the theme of having no quit on the offensive play in the second period. After Nico Hischier found Andreas Johnsson with a long stretch pass at the end of a lengthy shift, Johnsson bounced the puck off Martin Jones and sailed the rebound. The puck got back to him from Jesper Bratt, and his shot at the top of the circle beat Jones to give the Devils the lead! 2-1. Hischier’s pass really set up the opportunity, as he lifted the pass through two Flyers to spring Johnsson.
Dougie Hamilton dragged the puck from the defensive zone past a diving Flyer and around the linesman to give him and Dawson Mercer a two-on-one. Mercer skated a bit too far down low, and Hamilton cut to the middle and ripped a shot off Jones’ glove and off the glass.
Mason Geertsen and Zack McEwen dropped the gloves off the draw with under 14 to play in the period. Geertsen was cut on the nose by his visor, but it looked like Geetsen took the brunt of the majority of blows. McEwen went to the locker room while Geertsen sat with blood on his face and an ice pack on his hand in the box.
After Pavel Zacha drove Justin Braun into the boards enough to free up the puck for an offensive zone possession off a dump-in by the Devils, Jonas Siegenthaler decided to end the cycle with a long wind-up slap shot from the wall. The puck was quickly moved out of the zone by the Flyers after that.
The Sharangovich had a flurry of chances with around seven and a half to play after Ryan Graves knocked Joel Farabee down at the far-end blueline. Tatar’s initial shot rebounded to Hamilton, who followed up from the slot with a shot of his own, giving Sharangovich a netside rebound that Jones tracked well. On the other end, Ryan Graves lifted the puck over the glass and sent the Flyers to the power play.
The Flyers cycled high and by the boards early before Provorov missed with a one-timer, gifting the Devils the puck to clear. On the re-entry rush, Sean Couturier sent it across the crease to nobody and the Devils deflected a Provorov pass out of play. Then, they cleared the puck off the draw. Sanheim fanned on a chance from the slot late in the power play, and Konecny ripped a shot from the upper edge of the circle that was gloved by Blackwood despite Farabee’s screen.
Nico Hischier won the next draw, and Mercer found Graves out of the box to send the puck deep. Hamilton held the zone, but sent the puck to a Flyer. The Devils took it back, giving the Mercer line a rush that nearly featured a goal by Mercer - but he missed the net on a redirection. They flurried Jones, and both Hamilton and Mercer had close shots saved by Jones to the side of the net.
After Subban’s slap shot from the point was blocked high, Subban rushed back to block a shot by Farabee off a drop pass by McEwan. The Devils were able to spring Jesper Bratt for a breakaway immediately following, and his wrist shot was saved by Jones’ glove. At the end of the period, after Dougie Hamilton was trying to will another goal, Jimmy Vesey drew a hooking penalty for the Devils as he skated around the zone, and the Devils wound the clock to zero without letting the Flyers touch the puck. Justin Braun would start the third period in the box.
To start the third, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Jimmy Vesey, Dougie Hamilton, and Damon Severson took the ice, as Severson replaced Subban on the top unit. This power play was an improvement, as the Devils got two shots on goal and did not give one up shorthanded. Pavel Zacha rang a shot off the crossbar for the first wave, and Bratt had an opportunity late in the power play to shoot from the dot, but his chance was deflected away as Philadelphia secured the kill.
Pavel Zacha nearly scored an own goal, as he deflected a two-on-one pass across into Mackenzie Blackwood when Graves and Hamilton were beat. The Flyers stayed on the puck, and a pass from Zacha hit off the referee’s skate to Scott Laughton, who passed across to Joel Farabee to tie the game at two.
A couple minutes later, Nathan Bastian got around the Flyers in the neutral zone, off a chip-out from Zacha, and took the offensive zone. He centered the puck for a cutting Ryan Graves, but Jones did not give an inch. Then, with 13:16 to play, Andreas Johnsson lifted the puck to Yegor Sharangovich in the high slot, but Cam Atkinson deflected the pass out of mid-air over the glass, giving the Devils a power play on a delay of game call.
The Flyers cleared the puck 10 seconds off the draw, off the stick of Justin Braun. The puck went out of play and the Devils won a neutral zone draw. Nico Hischier passed to Zacha to enter the zone, and Damon Severson lost it on the wall. The Devils worked back up ice, and Hischier dumped in. Hamilton held the zone once, and then Severson another time. Hischier’s pass from the wall to Severson was broken up. After Jimmy Vesey missed on a chance in the slot, he was called for tripping as he went for the puck. There was no trip.
The Devils won the draw, and McLeod took the offensive zone. Kuokkanen gave the puck away and the Flyers began to set up their breakout less than 10 seconds into the beginnign of their power play. Mercer took away a pass and took the puck up ice, spinning away from a hit or two and passing off to Ryan Graves for a slap shot that was saved by Jones. Giroux missed on a pass with seconds left in the power play, which could have been a goal if Couturier or Konecny were actually there for the redirection. Blackwood made a big save on Couturier after the penalty ended, and froze play with nine minutes left.
McLeod won the next draw and Subban moved it up ahead to Kuokkanen. Subban intercepted a pass around the boards by the Flyers and immediately gave it back. Sharangovich finally disrupted the ensuing possession with a great poke check up high, sending the puck into the neutral zone and forcing the Flyers back. This would prove fruitful for the Devils, as the Mercer line was coming on. Johnsson took a the puck away from Provorov off a pass from Ristolainen, and set Jesper Bratt up for a quick deke to the backhand goal past Jones! 3-2, Devils.
With six minutes to play, Michael McLeod sped into the zone and got the puck over to Dougie Hamilton after winding around the net. Hamilton got the puck at the mouth of crease, and slid it over to Nathan Bastian who was driving the net for the goal! Nate Bastian in his return to New Jersey to make it a 4-2 game!
WELCOME BACK, BASTIAN YOU BEAUTY. pic.twitter.com/TYWazP2nES— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 29, 2021
The Flyers pulled Jones with just over 4:20 to play. Mackenzie Blackwood almost got caught playing the puck behind the net, but the Flyers could not get on the puck. Mackenzie Blackwood came up huge with just over three minutes to play with Cam Atkinson to the side of the net. Blackwood got across the crease, and Atkinson had little room to work with as he sent it wide. After a draw, Andreas Johnsson sent the puck down the ice to seal the game at 5-2.
After the goal, the Devils continued to push the attack, and the Hischier line had to play defense again with 1:30 to play. Damon Severson absorbed a shot and hobbled off the ice, and then Sharangovich shot a puck off the glass on the other end. The Devils clamped the Flyers down for the rest of the game, giving The Rock a very satisfying win.
Dougie’s Best Game as a Devil So Far
In Friday’s recap, I said that I thought it was Dougie Hamilton’s worst game as a Devil. Well, this was most certainly the most dominating performance you could ask for to follow that up. In 15:52 at five-on-five, Hamilton had a 69.05 CF% - leading both teams - while the Devils had an absolutely bonkers 18-4 shots advantage. With Hamilton, the Devils had a 2.06-0.55 xG ratio (78.92 xGF%) while outscoring the Flyers 3-1 (and that goal against was a trash play off the referee’s skate). The Devils out-chanced the Flyers 19-8 with Hamilton, and led in high-danger chances 15-1. All the while, Dougie had only a 30% offensive zone faceoff rate, being tied with Graves and Kuokkanen with seven defensive zone starts at five-on-five.
Dougie Hamilton of the @NJDevils is using a custom stick in honor of Thea, a young girl he grew close with in Calgary who passed away after battling cancer.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 29, 2021
He opened the scoring at 5:07 of the first period. #HockeyFightsCancer pic.twitter.com/ZxjofcW1K4
Of the 18 shots the Devils took with Hamilton on the ice at five-on-five, Dougie had nine of them for an ixG of 0.9. That is above an Ovechkin or Draisaitl-level production of shots, as he had 13 five-on-five attempts, eight scoring chances, five high-danger chances, and four rush attempts. It was like watching the Devils play with four forwards until it was time for Dougie to get back and play defense. He had 10 total shots and a total ixG of 1.11 on 15 attempts; with 0.21 ixG, two attempts and chances, and a high-danger chance on the power play.
Flyers were well taken care of, especially by Dougie Hamilton pic.twitter.com/ER2xk0frdL— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 29, 2021
He was just absolutely dominant on the puck tonight. And let us not forget that the Devils could have had Rasmus Ristolainen before the Flyers swooped him up on July 23, saving the Devils from making a huge mistake as they had plenty of room to sign the best defenseman in Devils red since Scott Niedermayer on July 28.
McLeod and Bastian
Despite being saddled with Mason Geertsen for about four and a half minutes of their seven minutes of five-on-five play together, Nathan Bastian did great together tonight. McLeod was flying around the ice with the puck at times, and Bastian did a great job again of clearing the path for some centering attempts off his stick. Their 81.91 xGF% was not for nothing as they were rewarded for their effort with a goal that helped put the Flyers away in the third period. With Geertsen on the ice, they allowed a mere 0.01 xGA and had a total xGA of 0.06 - they did their part to shut down the Flyers despite playing mixed minutes, facing down Farabee and Couturier the most of Flyers forwards and taking a few draws against Claude Giroux. They also scored their goal against Giroux’s line (as you can see from Couturier weakly poking for the pass across and angrily going to clear the puck out of the net when Bastian scores).
Having a real fourth line is huge for the Devils, and McLeod and Bastian can work somewhat in spite of Geertsen’s presence. With Jack Hughes possibly returning to the lineup this week, I would expect to see either Jimmy Vesey or Janne Kuokkanen join them to provide some extra skill to that line. But until then, I have just as much trust in McLeod and Bastian to cause some chaos and chip in a few goals as I did last year.
I just cannot wait to see how well they perform when Miles Wood is healthy.
Andreas Johnsson’s Monster Game
Andreas Johnsson tied his 2020-21 season total for points on November 13 when the Devils played the Bruins, and then went through a five game pointless drought. Understandably, some thought that Johnsson was regressing to a more average sort of performance and that his scoring pace from the first 13 games, where he had 11 points, was unsustainable. Well, with Friday’s two-point performance (which officially beat his total from last season) and his four-point game tonight, Johnsson is back to 17 points in 19 games. While he was scoring at a 69-point pace through 13 games, Mango shrugged off the five-game drought and is now scoring at a 73-point pace, still playing just over 15 minutes a game. He has six more points than last season in 31 fewer games.
Johnsson was second among Devils and first among forwards with a 0.38 individual expected goals tonight at five-on-five. Dawson Mercer was second among forwards with 0.33, and Bratt was fourth with 0.17. This line was absolutely insane tonight, as they worked hard for eight high-danger scoring chances with zero against. They were just all over the ice, and Philly had no answer.
The Other Lines
Nico Hischier’s line was the victim of the referee’s skate tonight, as they would have allowed zero shots on goal at five-on-five if not for Pavel Zacha’s pass behind the net deflecting off the referee right to Scott Laughton, who set up Farabee’s goal. They did a good job of plugging the lanes defensively, as the Flyers had nine attempts that missed the net or were blocked with the Hischier line out. Nico also came very close to scoring, and I think he is due for a big game of his own in the near future. Those pucks won’t go off iron forever.
“Thought we got off to a great start. A lot of good stuff in the game.”— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 29, 2021
Hear from Lindy Ruff after tonight’s 5-2 win over the Flyers. pic.twitter.com/3vTFEvq2iQ
Yegor Sharangovich could be said to set up the game winning goal by Bratt with his defensive play, driving the Flyers into their own end, leading Ristolainen to handcuff Provorov with a pass between the skates that Johnsson picked up. He was third among forwards in ixG, and his line with Kuokkanen and Tatar had a 70.99 xGF%. This was a great four-line effort, and I felt like each line could have had at least one goal. But sometimes goals come in bunches for some lines while others need to keep at it - when the score is 5-2 it’s impossible to complain.
Lindy Ruff has some interesting options at hand. He could reunite Jack Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich, who has found his groove again at center. He could leave Sharangovich as the third line center and play Jack Hughes with, dare I say, Nico Hischier. I know Hughes lined up on the fifth line at wing in practice with Boqvist and DeLeo, and I wonder if Ruff has something in mind with that. It did not work last year, but Mercer is not a good candidate for top-line winger with how well his line is working. These are good problems to have, I think, as Ruff would really be choosing between having three lines that are guaranteed to be difficult to stop, plus the suffocating fourth line - or allowing Sharangovich to grow as a center (where, I repeat, he is actually doing well at) and trying to make Nico and Jack into an at-least temporary duo.
A Good Day Not to Be a Philly Sports Fan
I just cannot help myself:
What did you think of tonight’s game? Were you surprised to see them bounce back like this, or were you expecting a big game tonight? How about Dougie? And Mango? What did you think of Bratt’s game winner after he had been denied on the earlier breakaway? How happy were you when Bastian scored? What should Ruff do if Jack is ready for games this week? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, whether you followed in the gamethread or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.