Devils hockey is finally back! Feels like forever, but here were are with the first preseason game of 2022-23 in Montreal. Hughes, Holtz, Palat, and Hamilton are all sitting tonight, but I’m still very excited to see Devils hockey.
Dach had the first chance of the game, but Tatar backchecked the puck away.
Boqvist got the puck to Johnsson for a chance, but neither player was in the middle of the ice for a good scoring chance. The puck got behind the Devils defense and Blackwood made a stop on Hoffman.
Matheson had a chance but shot it wide from a somewhat sharp angle
Clarke walked in at 12:10 but Allen stopped him
Boqvist then got called for a tripping penalty after he fell and hit into a Canadien.
Halonen got some time in the Canadiens zone on the PK
Blackwood made a good stop in the dying seconds of the penalty
The Devils had a 3 on 2 and Hischier almost scored, and then set up a near goal.
Tatar got called for a penalty and the camera cut to a shot of Hischier on the bench in discomfort
Caufield scored the on the power play, giving Montreal a 1-0 lead
Halonen had a chance in front with 4 minutes left in the first period
Hischier was not on the bench in the second period. Later the Devils gave us an update, that he had cramps and was out for precautionary reasons.
Half a minute in, the puck took a weird bounce and Tatar had a chance with Allen out of position, but nobody seemed to know where the puck was for a few seconds
Beck hit the post at 14:45 of the second.
The Canadiens got a 2 on 1 and then pinned the Devils in their zone for over a minute. Blackwood had to make some stops, but nothing too crazy, and the score remained 1-0.
Tyce Thompson took a penalty with an obvious high stick to the visor, and the Canadiens got their 3rd pp of the game.
On the power play, Filip Mesar had a one-timer right in front and Blackwood made the stop. The Devils chose this opportunity to replace Blackwood with Daws in net, with 15 seconds left on the Montreal power play.
Boqvist had a shot with 5:33 left in the period, sending us to a commercial break. I noticed that a bit before this, Severson made a good pass after a d to d from Graves. It doesn’t mean anything, but it was fun to notice a normal NHL play in the first preseason game, with lots of prospects and AHLers, and most NHLers not trying very hard.
With 4:20 left in the second, Montreal took a too many men penalty
Bratt made a great pass to Boqvist right off the draw and Boqvist was robbed, and then Bratt hit the post on the ensuing faceoff. Bratt had enough of not getting points, and simply fed Tatar in front of the net for a goal on the faceoff after that. Bratt in midseason form already. The TSN crew was heaping plenty of praise on Bratt, which I loved hearing.
Thompson fed Foote who fed Clarke who had a great chance but missed the net.
Montreal took a penalty for goaltending interference.
Severson got it to Boqvist who passed to Foote, who shot the puck as the buzzer sounded, bringing the 2nd period to a close with a 1-1 tie. Both goals came on the power play.
I have not been a big fan of Kevin Bahl, but I must admit he looks pretty good in this game. He is using his body well and not giving the Montreal forwards any space in the Devils’ zone. Also, although I have had hope for Boqvist, he looks the same as always. Like he could do something good, but a step behind the play more often than not. (He did make some nice plays in the game outside this stretch in the 2nd, I will say after watching the 1st and 3rd periods - I missed the 1st period due to something coming up suddenly and had to find a way to watch it after finishing the 2nd and 3rd. Still, the Devils have made me pessimistic about them, so I’m not expecting him to suddenly be a good NHL player)
Tatar redirected a Severson shot wide
Boqvist gave the puck away and the Canadiens went the other way and Daws had to make a big save
The Devils pinned the Canadiens in for a bit and Severson almost scored, but the puck hopped over his stick
Vilen shut a guy down easily. He has looked pretty good so far. His offense isn’t great but it’s there, and he doesn’t look uncomfortable with the puck. Very different from the Vilen I saw in Finland, who looked like a fish out of water every time his team had the puck.
Caufield fed Beck, who hit the post
The Canadiens almost had a 2 on 0 but Severson, caught flatfooted, stole the puck
The puck took a weird bounce off Bratt’s stick and almost went in when Bratt was behind the net
The Devils got another power play, as Johnsson drew a penalty with his tenacious forecheck
He then tipped a Clarke shot just wide
Tatar got called for a very soft slashing penalty on the backcheck when Montreal had a shorthanded chance
After the penalty was killed, Boqvist made a nice play to steal the puck and give the Devils a couple chances.
Talvitie was alone in front with 6:40 left but shot it wide
With 6:11 left Johnsson stole the puck at center and gave it to Clarke, back to Johnsson, back to Clarke, who shot it and the puck bounced off Allen, off of Clarke’s skate, and into the net, giving the Devils a 2-1 lead.
With 5:00 left, Pezzetta tipped a Matheson point shot past Daws to tie the game... or so it seemed. The Devils challenged for offsides, and the goal was overturned, keeping the score 2-1 in favor of the Devils
Bratt had a partial breakaway at 4:15 and Caufield was robbed by Daws at 3:57.
The last couple minutes featured a flurry of shots from Montreal, but a combination of blocks, good saves from Daws, and a post kept the Canadiens from tying the game, giving the Devils their first win in their first game of the preseason
I’m not going to try to write too much here, as it’s just the first preseason game. Mostly I’m just happy to have Devils hockey to watch. The goaltending was certainly a good sign, though. Last season goaltending is what sunk the Devils from a middle of the pack team to a basement team, entirely on its own. Goaltending, probably mostly Blackwood, is absolutely the x-factor for the Devils this season. Everyone else will be good, hopefully playoff level good, but goaltending could make the Devils a true playoff team, or one struggling to stay average. Blackwood looked good today, making some nice saves. Daws was good as well. If Blackwood gets back to his form from the second half of 2019-20 and pre-covid time of 2020-21, or even close, it could seriously buoy the Devils in the standings. The goalies even being average would’ve made last season’s Devils a 90 point team, and that was with Blackwood, Hughes, Hischier, and Wood missing significant time, and Hamilton spending most of the season with a broken foot bothering him. I don’t want to be too optimistic so in my head I still have the Devils as an 80 point team after the crashes and burns of the previous seasons, but at least today was a good sign for the status of the Devils’ net.
Everything else was pretty much as expected. Jesper Bratt was the best player on the ice. Severson looked like a top 4 defenseman, which he is. Graves looked comfortable in a preseasons game, as he should. Johnsson was hard-working and good but not the level he was at the beginning of last year. Halonen and Vilen both looked pretty good for players not expected to make the roster. If Vilen makes the NHL at all that’s great value for a 5th round pick. Same goes for Halonen as an undrafted player.
Nico Hischier did leave the game after the first period, which is never good. Supposedly it was just cramps, but it seems like every time a player on a team I root for leaves a game, it’s much more severe than initially thought. We’ll probably hear and see nothing for 3 weeks and then find out he has a broken leg. We have Novo now though, so hopefully nothing will slip through the cracks like things used to, and hopefully the team wasn’t lying this time.
That’s all for tonight. What did you think about the game? Anyone stand out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.