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Tatar Scores Lone Goal and Vanecek Gets Shutout As Devils Defeat Bruins 1-0

Vitek Vanecek shut out the Bruins, saving all 24 shots he faced. Tomas Tatar scored the only goal of the game on a breakaway, as the Devils improved to 4-1 in the preseason

Boston Bruins v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils (3-1) faced off against the Boston Bruins (2-1) at Prudential Center tonight for the first time this preseason.

First Period

The first shot didn’t come until Jakub Lauko fired one at Vanecek nearly 3 minutes into the game.

Oskar Steen took the first penalty of the game, knocking over Erik Haula, who was not anywhere near the puck, at center ice. It would’ve been icing on the Devils, but instead the faceoff was in the Boston zone.

The power play looked to still be coached by Mark Recchi, including an icing on the Devils. I’m not sure the Devils have known they have a man advantage when it says power play since the 2017-18 season.

Graeme Clarke had a solid shift, gaining the zone and passing to Johnsson for a shot that went wide. He got a decent chance of his own that was blocked away. The puck went the other way, and Vukojevic hammered a guy behind the Devils net. Vukojevic was then hooked by Greer, sending the Devils back to the power play.

Frederic tried to center it to Studnicka, but the connection missed, or it would’ve been a dangerous shorthanded chance for the Bruins.

Hughes gained the line and gave it to Zetterlund, who passed it on to Haula, but his pass around the boards got past Holtz and went out of the zone.

After the Devils regained the zone, Hughes fed it to Holtz, who took a second to collect the pass and then fired a wrister wide.

Holtz tried to feed Hughes but he fanned on the one timer. Holtz went for another wrister but missed the net again.

Shots were scarce, with only 5 total in the first 10 minutes.

Just after I noticed that, Vukojevic took a D to D pass, and from behind his own blue line, fed Tatar at the Bruins line, who went in alone and beat former Devil Keith Kinkaid to give the Devils the first tally of the game

Craig Smith got a breakaway on a stretch pass from Ahcan, but Vanecek shut the door on him.

Wolff and Zetterlund had an awkward collision at center ice.

Clarke intercepted a pass but lost the puck.

Bastian sent Johnsson in on a 1 on 1 but he tried to pass it back and it was intercepted. I am a big Johnsson defender but that was a very boneheaded, very passive, very disappointing play to watch. Johnsson can make some good passes for a free goal when it looks like maybe he should shoot (if you remember the Bratt-Mercer-Johnsson tic-tac-toe goals from last year) but sometimes you just want to see the guy shoot the puck.

A Clifton D to D pass was intercepted by Tatar at the Devils blue line but he lost the puck for a second at the Bruins line, making the play offside.

Vukojevic got called for pushing Steen into the Devils net.

2nd Period

A Vukojevic point shot got behind Kinkaid and went through the blue paint and out.

Clarke got called for high-sticking and the Bruins got another power play. Sharangovich had a shorthanded wraparound chance but Kinkaid was there so he cycled around to kill time.

Mercer fed Holtz who was standing right in front of the net but he couldn’t lift the shot and it went off Kinkaid’s pad and out.

Johnsson had a rush shot but Kinkaid gloved it.

Hughes got the puck and passed it across to Bratt for a great chance. I didn’t quite see what happened, but I know that somehow, the puck did not go in the net.

The Devils almost had a 3 on 2 but Johnsson blew it by passing to the one guy that had the boards on one side and a Bruin on the other.

Siegenthaler got called for high-sticking AJ Greer.

At the end of the PK, Wood set it up for Hughes but Kinkaid made the save on the one-time blast. Bratt then set up Hughes for another 1T but Hughes missed the net.

3rd Period

Haula had a chance on the rush but missed the net.

With about 15:00 left, the Devils had some sustained zone pressure, but did not score

The Devils had several chances in the span of a couple minutes, including Holtz hitting the post, but once again they did not score.

The bruins appeared to have tied the game, but the goal was immediately waved off for incidental contact.

The Bratt-Hughes-Sharangovich line had some good pressure with Bahl and Marino at the point. Wolff iced the puck.

The Devils had a 2 on 1 that turned into a 3 on 2 but Hughes hit the post.

I believe it was Lauko who had a good chance alone but was stopped.

Unfortunately my computer froze for several minutes and I missed part of the 3rd, but it was back running for the end of the game. When games are on TV this shouldn’t be a problem.

The Bruins had a 6 on 4 but the Devils killed it and won the game, 1-0.

Final Thoughts

I know we’ve said it after every preseason game, but once again, there appears to be hope for the net this season. Vanecek with the shutout. Goaltending alone can make this Devils team so much better than last year.

I also liked Clarke and Vukojevic in this game. They don’t look better than the other options to make the roster, but they were pleasant surprises and could challenge for bottom 6/4 spots in the future.

Once again Holtz had good on-ice numbers but did not score. It’s definitely good progress, and I think the goal scoring might just be luck (he did hit the post), but he still looks slow to me. We’ll see what happens.

I also regret to inform you that Johnsson looks to be in 2020-21 form (above average underlyings but unable to put the puck in a soccer net). Hopefully he’ll get some of that positive regression he got at the beginning of last year but who knows.

Tatar was the lone goal scorer. He was very disappointing in both actual results and analytics last year, but it looks like he’s out to earn his 4.5 million this year. He definitely looks a lot better. I don’t expect him to have the analytics he had in Montreal, but if he can be a good, contributing middle 6er that would be a nice boost.

Did anyone stand out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.