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Devils Muster Little Offensively in 3-1 Loss to Rangers

Aside from a first period goal by Yegor Sharangovich, the Devils generated almost nothing offensively against Alex Georgiev and the Rangers.

NHL: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Yegor Sharangovich scored a goal. He also got injured on this fight with Braden Schneider in the first period and didn’t return. That kind of night for the Devils.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Game Recap

The New York Rangers started things getting the puck in deep but the New Jersey Devils eventually got a clear. The Devils caught the Rangers 2-on-1 in transition but Ryan Strome got a stick on a pass from Miles Wood intended for Jesper Bratt to deflect it out of danger. Wood would’ve been better served just shooting the puck there. Nico Daws got tripped up by someone’s stick as the puck cycled along the boards, but no harm, no foul. The Rangers came back and gained with zone with their fourth line but Daws made the save off of a shot by Jonny Brodzinski. Mika Zibanejad fed Frank Vatrano for a feed that Daws stopped. The Rangers kept the zone and set up Vatrano again for a scoring chance but he partially fanned on the open net. The Rangers kept the pressure up with Daws taking a shot off of the mask by K’Andre Miller and covering up on a loose puck from the point by Jacob Trouba. The Devils finally got a decent shot on net as Nico Hischier fired a puck from the point that Alex Georgiev stopped, but the Rangers cleared the loose puck.

Moments later, Yegor Sharangovich intercepted a neutral zone pass from Jacob Trouba. Sharangovich made his move and beat Georgiev with the backhand to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.

Jesper Boqvist took a big hit in the neutral zone from Braden Schneider. Yegor Sharangovich dropped the mitts to have Boqvist’s back, got into a scrap with Schneider and got 2, 5, and 10 minute penalties for his efforts. The Devils got an early clear on the ensuing Rangers power play. The Rangers regained the zone, did a nice job moving the puck, and Ryan Strome batted it in in front of Daws off of a one touch pass by Chris Kreider to tie the game.

The Rangers continued to control the pace of play but the Devils eventually got the puck into the offensive zone. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do much of anything with it. The Devils regained the zone after the first TV timeout with Damon Severson sending a shot towards the net from the point. Nico Hischier eventually collected the loose puck for a rebound attempt that was denied. Pavel Zacha held Adam Fox in front of the officials to give the Rangers another chance on the power play. Jimmy Vesey failed to get a clear that he absolutely had to make along the boards and the Rangers immediately made the Devils pay for that mistake as Chris Kreider redirected a feed from Artemi Panarin in for a 2-1 New York lead.

The Devils finally got a scoring chance in the final minute after the puck was tied up along the boards for awhile but Dawson Mercer sent the shot high. The Rangers tied up the puck along the boards in the closing seconds to go to the dressing room up 2-1 in a period they mostly dominated the Devils. New York held a 13-7 shot advantage, a 2:1 edge in CF, a 3-2 edge in HDCF, and an xGF edge of 1.17 to .56.

The Devils, who have already shaken up their line combinations, had a decent chance in the opening minutes of the second as Hischier found Zacha in front of Georgiev, but the best Zacha could do was a backhanded attempt that went wide. Jesper Bratt found Zacha in front off of a really nice pass but Zacha couldn’t handle it cleanly and wound up kicking it towards Georgiev, who stopped him anyways.

Jimmy Vesey finished a check along the boards and went down in a heap as his knee buckled. He couldn’t put any weight on his leg as he went down the tunnel, and it appears he is done for the night. Yegor Sharangovich didn’t return either after his fight earlier and he finished serving the 17 minutes of penalty time, so the Devils are down to 10 forwards for the second game in a row.

Andrew Copp tripped up Ty Smith to give the Devils power play their first chance of the night. Like most Mark Recchi power plays, it was awful. Barclay Goodrow nearly got a breakaway opportunity but Dougie Hamilton was all over him to keep him from getting a clean shot off. The Rangers got another clear off of a blocked shot and almost another shorthanded chance as Mika Zibanejad nearly beat Hamilton to the puck despite a 50 foot head start. Ryan Strome ripped a shot off of Daws’s shoulder and off the crossbar in a 2-on-1 in the closing seconds as the Rangers penalty kill dominated that two minutes.

Hischier sent a feed in front with just over a minute to go in the second but there was nobody there to connect with. The Rangers kept the puck in the offensive zone as Ryan Graves broke his stick on a block attempt, but Zacha handed Graves his stick and Graves eventually cleared the puck in the closing seconds of the second period.

2-1 New York after 40 minutes of play. The Devils were much better defensively (only 1 SOG allowed) in the second period despite being shorthanded but unfortunately didn’t do nearly enough offensively to get the equalizer.

Andreas Johnsson found Tomas Tatar for a one-timer early in the third period but Tatar sailed the shot wide. Pavel Zacha got a lot on a shot off of a feed from Dawson Mercer but Georgiev was up to the task and make the stop. Dougie Hamilton intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and got a little space in traffic but he hit the glass instead of the net. The Rangers came back and cycled the puck around with Justin Braun firing the shot from the point. It didn’t get past Daws cleanly, as either someone in front redirected it or Daws only caught a small piece of it, but it did go in and it put the Rangers up 3-1 with 16:05 to go.

The Devils created some pressure with Georgiev stopping a shot by Zacha and Severson getting a chance in front, but the Rangers got a clear. Jesper Bratt gained the zone but was hooked by Adam Fox to give the Devils power play another chance.

K’Andre Miller collected a loose puck to get a clear 20 seconds in. Nico Hischier eventually regained the zone, but Severson’s pass was deflected right to Braun for the easy clear. The Devils got their second unit on and Ty Smith flubbed a return pass to lead to an Andrew Copp shot the other way. The Rangers easily killed off the remainder of the Fox penalty. Georgiev did a nice job to get across to stop Bratt on a one-time feed with 5:10 remaining.

Severson sent a shot towards the net with around 3:20 to go that Georgiev easily kicked out. Johnsson had a shot deflected away as Daws was pulled for the extra skater with around 2:20 to go. The Devils got called for a hand pass with 1:31 to go to set up a faceoff outside the offensive zone. They got called for another hand pass to bring the faceoff to center ice, regained the zone, and pulled Daws again. Zibanejad got a clear and the Devils reset with a minute to go. Tomas Tatar lost control of the puck in the neutral zone and tripped Vatrano to put the Devils down a skater. Hischier and McLeod had a partial 2-on-1 in the penalty, but its too little too late at this point. The Rangers fans in attendance at Prudential Center gave the visitors a hand as the clock hit zero and the Rangers win 3-1.

Highlights

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

The Opposition Opinion: Visit Blueshirt Banter if you want to read the Rangers perspective of this game.

Jack Hughes Done For the Season

During the first period intermission, the Devils announced that Jack Hughes will miss the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

Per the team’s statement, Hughes was diagnosed with a low grade MCL sprain in his left knee, and due to the timing of the injury and where we are in the season, the team made the decision to shut him down. Hughes will begin his motion rehab and conditioning immediately.

It’s certainly disappointing to see Hughes’s third NHL season end in the manner it has. His 26 goals leads the team and might wind up leading the team when the season ends despite only playing 49 games. He is 3rd in assists with 30 and 2nd in points with 56 and has averaged 1.14 PPG. As you can see from the watching the games, his production, and the JFresh player card below, he’s been everything the Devils could’ve wanted in Year 3.

If there is any silver lining in this news, its that the injury doesn’t appear to be more severe than it is and.....(fingers crossed).....it hopefully shouldn’t impact anything the next time the Devils play a meaningful game, which is Opening Night 2022 in October. I’m knocking on wood at the moment due to the lengthy history of the Devils medical staff not exactly being honest and forthcoming in regards to injuries, so if you want to take this news with a grain of salt, I totally get it. Here’s hoping Hughes has a speedy recovery and a relatively incident-free offseason in regards to his training.

Injuries Continue to Pile Up

The Devils lost Yegor Sharangovich for the remainder of this game. Not because he got a game penalty on top of the 17 minutes of penalty time for fighting with Braden Schneider in the first period after standing up for Jesper Boqvist on a hit, but because he had a pretty big welt on his forehead after the fight.

I don’t love that Sharangovich wasn’t able to finish the game as a direct result of said fight (in which he lost decisively if we’re being honest), but generally speaking, I was ok with Sharangovich having Boqvist’s back. As I wrote in my recap the other night, I don’t have an issue with teammates sticking up for each other in the heat of the moment and even though it literally led directly to a goal against, I care more about the big picture remifications than the results of this one game. Yes, even with this being a rivalry game. The Devils are a soft team and have been that way all season long. Other teams have taken liberties at times, and Sharangovich stood up for Boqvist after he took a big (clean) hit. It did go noted that Lindy Ruff said that Sharangovich might have “overreacted” off of what happened with Subban and Hughes the other day, but he also didn’t criticize him for having Boqvist’s back.

You can watch Ruff’s postgame comments below.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Vesey left the game after it appeared his knee buckled after he finished a check along the boards. It did not look good as he couldn’t put weight on his leg as he went down the tunnel, and with the regular season coming to an end in 24 days, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a season-ender for #16.

Lindy Ruff didn’t have much of an update on either player after the game, other than Vesey will undergo an MRI tomorrow and that Sharangovich will be reevaluated tomorrow as well.

Other Things I Didn’t Like

The Devils didn’t even come close to doing enough offensively against Alex Georgiev, who has been bad this season. Georgiev had an .892 save percentage on the season going into this evening and is coming off an appearance where he stopped 13-of-17 against the Sabres, a game the Rangers won in spite of their goaltender being terrible.

It’s a shame too, because the Devils actually played pretty well defensively over the final 40 minutes. Honestly! The Rangers were held to just 4 shots on goal over the final two periods. Considering how poor the Devils have been defensively this season, I’ll take that! The problem is that that’s not good enough when you only get 21 shots on the opposing netminder who has struggled all season in a game you basically trailed throughout.

The Devils didn’t show up on special teams. The stats say they were 1-3 killing penalties, but with the one penalty so late in the game, they were 0-2 in actuality. It was way too easy for the Rangers with their passing on the Strome goal and Vesey’s failed clear led to the Kreider PPG seconds later. The penalty kill had a lengthy stretch earlier this season where they were very effective, but are now only killing 71% of their penalties in the last 9 games and have had some kills where they’ve looked flat out bad.

And yet, the penalty kill once again wasn’t the worst Devils special teams unit, as Mark Recchi’s power play generated a whopping zero shots on goal in their two opportunities. The Rangers had three potential scoring chances on the first power play and the Devils were fortunately not to get scored on shorthanded for the 12th time this season when Strome’s shot went off of the goaltender’s shoulder and hit iron. One of the recurring themes all season is how much special teams have cost the Devils games, and tonight was no exception.

It’s another reminder that the Devils need to clean house with this overmatched coaching staff once the regular season ends on April 29th. We’ve seen enough of this organizational ineptitude over the last two years to know this isn’t going to magically get better. It’s time for a new voice.

Ty Smith’s struggles and his continued presence in the lineup irritate me. He looked slow, had one incident where he flubbed a clean pass on the second power play, and for some reason, played 20:38 in this game, second among defensemen. The fancy stats say he wasn’t terrible, but let’s just say I don’t see whatever the coaches saw to warrant that type of usage. I have my doubts that the Devils were as good as they were defensively the final two periods because of Smith.

To the surprise of no one, Rangers fans outnumbered Devils fans in Prudential Center.

I would hope that the Devils are capable of being embarrassed that Prudential Center was invaded by the opposition’s fanbase. That they would be embarrassed that their home arena was basically the Dollar Tree version of The World’s Most Overrated Arena. It’s certainly not the first time this has happened in Devils history, and with the Devils being as pathetic as they have been over the last decade or so, this continues to be a thing. Just add it to the long list of other things they should be embarrassed with this season.

This is a novel concept that I’m about to suggest here, but perhaps if the Devils want more of their fans to be in the building, maybe they should consider putting a better product on the ice. It would be nice if Devils fans were all too happy to keep their tickets to the Rangers games rather than resell them because they know those are the only tickets that will easily sell on the secondary market. Not to mention the litany of other Devils games on the secondary market that will go unsold as this season comes to a close.

I would hope that when Josh Harris and David Blitzer sit down with their english muffin and morning coffee tomorrow and scroll the news feeds on their smartphones, they would see stuff like the photo above and be embarrassed. I would hope they see their hockey team losing game after game, year after year, in humiliating fashion and be embarrassed. But I suspect they’ll be content to see that there were 15,020 in attendance last night while they continue to put their bid to purchase Chelsea together and it’ll be business as usual at HBSE.

Final Thoughts

The Devils weren’t as terrible as they’ve been in recent games and played fine for a stretch, but they didn’t come close to making Alex Georgiev work hard enough. Special teams in particular was atrocious and the end result is a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers, which is also the season tally in the Hudson River Rivalry.

What did you think of the loss tonight? Did it bother you that Sharangovich stuck up for Boqvist? Did it bother you that he left the game early as a result? Are you as done as I am with the inept special teams play of this team? What about the fact that Rangers fans continue to invade our building in droves? What’s your take on the Jack Hughes injury and are you with me that you’re just relieved it isn’t something worse? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and any other related Devils news and thanks for reading!