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Game Preview #53: New Jersey Devils vs. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks have been rather good under Boudreau.

New Jersey Devils v Vancouver Canucks

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (18-29-5) versus the Vancouver Canucks (26-22-6). SBN Blog: Nucks Misconduct

The Time: 7:30 PM EST

The Broadcast: MSG+

Smith Pulled From the Lineup

After the team’s last performance, Lindy Ruff decided to make a change to his lineup in practice. Since Dougie Hamilton returned to the team, Hamilton has played with Jonas Siegenthaler while Ryan Graves and Damon Severson have become the second pairing. That left Ty Smith with P.K. Subban. Lindy Ruff had this to say about Ty Smith yesterday.

I do not disagree with what Ruff said here. Ty Smith made opposing defenses look foolish at times last year, but has as many points as Jonas Siegenthaler this season - both have a goal and 12 assists. However, I was a bit confused to see this after the last couple games. I did not really blame Ty Smith for the goal by Brandon Hagel to open up the scoring on Friday night, as Gillies had interfered too much with the Devils’ breakout. The end of the game was a mess, but the Devils should have been winning by that point. Smith was in the middle of the pack in CF% and xGF%, so I do not really think this scratching is specifically for anything he did last night but all the things he hasn’t been able to do this season.

Daws, Please

Small sample size aside, Nico Daws is the only Devils goaltender aside from Jonathan Bernier to be sporting a save percentage above .900 - Jon Gillies has an even worse save percentage than what Mackenzie Blackwood had. For this reason, I do not think Gillies has earned more chances with the Devils. Nico Daws is 21 years old and is a developing goalie, while Jon Gillies should have reached his full potential already. At the rate Gillies has been playing at, it would be increasingly difficult to watch the rest of the season as Gillies overtakes Blackwood for the most games started for the Devils in 2021-22.

The Boudreau Effect

If you are a Devils fan, I am sure all you have heard about the Vancouver Canucks is how they are trading J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, and possibly some of their other top players. They had a bit of a rough stretch before the break, but have won six of eight since the All-Star weekend. At 26-22-6, they are sixth in their division - but Bruce Boudreau has led his team to an 18-7-4 record with him at the helm. This only washed out the hole that Travis Green dug the Canucks into, but do not mistake the Canucks for a bad team.

While Elias Pettersson started the year languishing, he has found his game again and is up to 17 goals and 21 assists. The Canucks have four players with 15 or more goals and six players with 10 or more goals. Meanwhile, Thatcher Demko has a .918 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average, as he has taken over the starter role very well since the departures of Jacob Markstrom and then Braden Holtby’s disappointing play for them last year.

The Canucks have the top players to be a good team, though their defense is a bit weak beyond Quinn Hughes - and their forward depth is not there. While the Devils only have two 15-goal scorers to this point, they have seven 10-goal scorers, eleven 20-point scorers, and eighteen 10-point scorers (with Nate Bastian just one point away from that group). The Canucks have only seven 20-point scorers, and fifteen 10-point scorers. Bruce Boudreau has gotten wins from his team without much help from his bottom six. The Devils’ path to victory today involves a focus on shutting down J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, and Elias Pettersson. If the Devils’ depth would likely outplay Vancouver’s depth, as it does not seem like they have been able to settle on a regular bottom six group. The Canucks, over the course of this season, have been a below-average scoring team that has been a bit stingy defensively. If the Devils can bring the offense they have had recently, they might have a very good night.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching? How do you think the game will go? Do you think Daws can continue to show a spark? How will Colton White do in place of Ty Smith? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.