Jack is back, everybody! And staying for good!
Despite the outcome, he lead the team in possession tonight, so we can safely say Jack is officially back.
Also, I watched the ESPN feed tonight so you didn’t have to. You’re welcome. It was awful.
The Devils' fourth line gets things going quickly, getting a beautiful cycle going in the Sharks’ zone that looks like a power play is supposed to. The return of Nathan Bastian is already looking noticeable for that line.
The Sharks strike first, however, off a quick play off the faceoff down in our zone. The Sharks win it back to Radim Simek at the point who takes a shot. Blackwood makes the initial safe but can’t handle the rebound, which bounces out of control to Noah Gregor who puts it home to put the Sharks up 1-0 early in the first period.
The always beautiful combination of Mercer, Zacha, and Bratt continues to put up artwork on ice night after night with a sweet pass from Mercer to Ryan Graves cutting at the slot. Graves is hooked by Brett Burns on the play, so we’ll go to the first powerplay with Jack Hughes in 17 games.
The Devils are getting the passes in, but the Sharks powerplay is putting in excellent work to interrupt the passes and clear the zone to kill time. Hughes gets one good look at a cross-crease pass to Hichier that just doesn’t reach, but no more, and the powerplay fizzles out.
Andreas Johnsson races in and pulls off an absolutely stunning spin move against glass pylon Erik Karlsson, but Reimer gobbles it up.
Pavel Zacha gets the best opportunity of the period for the Devils with a sudden burst of blistering speed to get himself a breakaway, but Reimer remains solid.
Noah Gregor comes back the other way, splits the defense and tries for an opportunity of his own, but Blackwood sends it aside. Interesting to note, he once again bobbles this rebound, but the defense is there this time to make sure Gregor doesn’t put it in again. The period comes to an end after a relatively uneventful 20 minutes but for a few moments, and we’ll do it all again after the first intermission.
The Second Period
Dawson Mercer starts off the second period with a shot from the boards that Reimer steers wide. The Sharks take the puck back the other way and take control of game, hammering Blackwood with shot after shot as the Devils struggle to clear. Finally it proves too much for Blackwood, who gives up a shot from the high slot to Jacob Middleton. 2-0 Sharks.
Lindy Ruff challenges for offsides for absolutely no reason, which of course isn’t correct so we then go o the penalty kill.
The Sharks get moving quickly and immediately have Blackwood scrambling for saves, but Vesey is able to get a hold of the puck and carry it back out. It looks like we’re going to have a shorthanded rush but that actually is ruled offsides, because of course it is.
The Devils are able to kill the rest of the penalty with some big saves from Big Mac and we return to even strength.
Even strength isn’t doing the Devils any favors, as Tomas Hertl gets an opportunity for a near breakaway after Subban trips over nothing, but Smith does well to play the angle to force him away from the net. Smith follows that play up with a beautiful bat the puck out of the air clear that unfortunately doesn’t make it out of the zone but still looked cool.
Siegenthaler defends well against Brent Burns to prevent the Sharks from taking over the zone yet again. The Devils take the zone their own way but are stopped for a hooking call against Jesper Bratt. Why. I have no idea, as I didn’t see anything and ESPN thought it was more important to babble about their newest app than show what happened.
The Sharks don’t waste any time in scrambling the Devils powerplay. Within seconds of the puck dropping we end up with all four Devils low in the corner, leaving Timo Meier wide open in the slot. Blackwood plays the angle poorly and leaves the whole opposite side for Meier to shoot at, who doesn’t miss. 3-0 Sharks.
Right back into the zone the Sharks set up once again. Ty Smith makes a good play to block the shot but it goes right back to Barabanov who feeds it across to Erik Karlsson, who once again doesn’t miss the wide-open net. 4-0 Sharks.
Rinse, repeat, the Devils can’t clear the zone, cross-ice pass to wide-open Shark in the slot, this time Logan Couture, but fortunately Blackwood gets over to save that one.
2 on 1 against Subban, who as usual flops to the ice and leaves both players still open, but Blackwood makes a gorgeous sprawling save to keep the game at ‘embarrassing and not yet ‘humiliating’. Subban then immediately follows that up with a penalty for cross-checking, so we’ll go back to the penalty kill, because that’s totally what we needed right now.
Somehow the Devils and Blackwood kill the penalty, but you’d never know it because our 5 on 5 play continues to look like we’re down a man.
Zacha manages to carry the puck out of the zone but he drops the pass to Jack Hughes who has no stick, and I give up.
The period mercifully comes to an end, the Devils are down 4-0, and unfortunately we still have to do this one more time.
The lines have been shuffled a bit to start this period, which I generally don’t advocate but is a welcome change in this game. Johnsson-Mercer-Bratt stays together, but Zacha and Hischier are now paired with Tatar, while Hughes returns to center with Sharangovitch and Kuokkanen at wing. Why he was at wing in the first place is utterly beyond me.
San Jose isn’t giving much up this game, setting up a solid trap at the blue line that effectively stifles the Devils rush attempts at every turn.
6 and a half minutes into the period we finally manage to get into the Sharks’ end enough for Dougie to take a shot and us to get a faceoff in the zone. Of course, we immediately lose possession after the drop, so I hope you weren’t expecting anything more than that.
The Devils are finally able to push into the zone. Severson passes up to Tatar who carries in and pulls up before spinning and passing around the boards, feeding Nico Hischier around the other side. Hischier sends it in front to Zacha who blasts a one timer. Reimer stops it, but the rebound bounces into the air. Tatar crashes the net and bats the puck out of midair and down past Reimer to finally put the Devils on the board and at least ruin the shutout for San Jose. 4-1 Sharks.
Johnsson strips the puck from Middleton at the Devils blue line and feeds Jesper Bratt. Bratt turns on the jets and pulls away from the Sharks defense, crossing the blue line and ripping a shot over the shoulder of Reimer and into the back of the net. Devils cut the lead in half in only minutes, 4-2 now.
The Devils have the momentum now and the game play is starting to change just a bit. They start winning some puck battles and now we’re spending some time in the Sharks zone, even giving Dougie Hamilton the opportunity for a shot or two.
Lindy Ruff pulls Blackwood with 3:40 left in the game. McLeod wins the faceoff but the Devils can’t keep a hold of it, forcing Smith and Hischier to race back after the loose puck. Smith drops a pass to Hischier who apparently was not expecting it, and Timo Meier picks it up and sends it into the empty net. 5-2 Sharks and there goes what was left of a chance at a comeback.
The Devils put up a good effort for the waning minutes that definitely were not there for the entire second period, but much too little too late, and this one stings a bit as the buzzer sounds.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats
It's not much, but there are a few small stats of interest I want to mention.
Despite the team being slaughtered, Tomas Tatar somehow managed to come out of that game with a 73.5 CF%. Pavel Zacha was also high with 68. Next on the list was Subban, which makes me question everything I know about stats, but then I notice the disparity between shot attempts and shots on net when he was on the ice and everything makes sense again.
Dougie Hamilton continues to lead the team in shots with 7 and an individual expected goals stat of .25. Yes, you read that right. He lead the team with a .25 ixG. Sometimes I hate statistics.
Everything. Everything was bad. Everyone was bad. I have no excuses or redeeming moments for anyone. Why was Jack Hughes on the wing? Why does PK Subban continue to lay down as a form of defense? Why is Blackwood still so off? Why is Hischier not winning faceoffs? Why did our team go into the locker room after the first period and come back out like the NBA players in Space Jam after the aliens stole their talent? Why does ESPN continue to employ announcers and analysts who don’t know the game or the players they are announcing?
I have no answers to these questions. I have only headaches.
Leave your questions and headaches in the comments, and once again, I’m sorry you had to read this.