Back in the late 1990s, around the time that the New Jersey Devils were starting to gear up for their second run at a Stanley Cup, former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle famously cut a promo discussing his three Is: intensity, integrity and intelligence. The Devils have seemingly adopted the concept of three Is from him this season, although their three have been very different: inconsistency, injuries and illness. Now two of those three are hard to prevent, and definitely have an affect on the first one on that list as well. So even in a season where the team has performed below expectations, the moves necessitated by injury and illness may have led to a silver lining of sorts.
It has been a good while since Jersey’s Team has had a legitimate pair of defenders on the ice at the same time that could stop the offense of an opposing team. Tonight’s game against the New York Islanders could prove to be the birth of a new shutdown duo. For the first time in this crazy 2021-22 season, Jonas Siegenthaler and Ryan Graves will find themselves skating together.
Now the two have shared the ice for brief moments throughout the season, but haven’t truly played together. This could have been due to the coaching staff wanting to better compliment some of the other defenders on the team, or due to the fact that they don’t want two lefties on the same pair; whatever the reason, the only time these two together have really played together is when players were penalized, or when players were changing. With Damon Severson and Dougie Hamilton both out for at least tonight, Siegenthaler and Graves will probably see a lot of action together.
While this may only be a short-term solution due to the previously stated injuries and illnesses, if the Devils find a pairing that work to stop opposing teams from scoring, who’s to say the team doesn’t at least shift to this combination when holding a lead in the last few minutes of a game? Who’s to say that if they make enough of an impact, the team doesn’t decide to shuffle around the remaining regulars instead? Maybe the Devils wind up liking Siegenthaler/Graves as a tandem so much that, when healthy, Severson and Hamilton wind up together.
Now to dial everything back a bit, much of the future will be determined by how well this pairing does when put into action starting tonight. Additionally, this could very be a one night pair due to the fact that the Devils do not play again after tonight until Wednesday, the 19th. By that time, the team will probably have Damon Severson back, and the coaching staff might want to reunite his successful teaming with Seigenthaler.
At the same time, I can’t stress enough how many Devils fans have yearned for a true pair of defenders who could be deployed with a lead and stop the opposition from tying a game. This is at the very least an opportunity to see if that kind of duo exists within the current Devils roster. If the team finds that Graves/Siegenthaler works, perhaps they use that as a building block going forward, both for the rest of this season and for others going forward. Complaints are always abound regarding the team blowing leads; perhaps tonight is the first step toward finding a defense teaming that can lock down those leads.
What are your thoughts on Graves and Siegenthaler being put together for tonight; are you excited for the prospect of a true shutdown pair? If it works, do you want to see the team play them together going forward, even if it means scrambling up the other pairings? Do you think the Devils revert back to their usual pairs when the team is healthy regardless of this pair’s results? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!