The New Jersey Devils got things started this evening with a faceoff loss to Filip Chytil and the New York Rangers. The Devils got a clear after Jimmy Vesey was bearing down on Simon Nemec. The #2 overall pick of the 2022 Draft punched it up along the boards to Ryan Graves and out. The Rangers got the puck in the offensive zone but Jack Hughes made a nice stick play to deflect a shot attempt out of play. Mackenzie Blackwood made a save off of a Barclay Goodrow shot from the high slot. The Rangers continued to apply pressure as Ryan Carpenter, Ryan Reaves, K’Andre Miller, and Zac Jones got the puck on net. Ondrej Palat gained the offensive zone and got the puck to Hughes, but couldn’t handle the return feed in front.
The Rangers kept throwing the kitchen sink at the Devils with Jonny Brodzinski and Jacob Trouba firing at Blackwood. The Devils finally got their first shot on Rangers starting goaltender Louis Domingue with Palat shooting from a tight angle.
Vitaly Kravtsov, who you may vaguely recall as one of the 27 or so “untouchables” for the Rangers in a potential Jack Eichel trade, got himself a nice scoring chance after juking Jesper Bratt out of his skates but just missed the net. Julien Gauthier fed the puck in front for Dryden Hunt for a redirected shot that Blackwood somehow got a pad on. The Rangers mostly kept the puck in the Devils end outside of a long stretch pass from Damon Severson to Andreas Johnsson that didn’t lead to anything and Blackwood had to make his 17th save of the period on a Brodzinski snapper with 5 minutes left in the period.
The Devils managed to stop hemorrhaging shot attempts for a few minutes until Jack Hughes nearly created something with a spin move. Unfortunately, he only hit the far post. The Devils finally touched up with 25.4 seconds left in the period on a delayed penalty, as Joe Gambardella hooked Gauthier. The Rangers couldn’t do much within the first 24 seconds of their power play and the period finally came to an end.
The Devils controlled the puck off of the opening draw of the second and cleared the puck to kill more time on the carryover power play. New Jersey did a nice job denying the Rangers clean zone entries and get set up. New York finally got in the zone with Brodzinski getting a shot on net but Brian Pinho cleared it to kill the rest of the man advantage. Palat intercepted a puck in the offensive zone and tried to feed it cross-ice to Holtz but Zac Jones made a nice diving stop. Palat worked it along the boards for Hughes who had space and ripped a wrister in for a 1-0 Devils lead. Give a partial assist to Alex Holtz for the screen he set in front.
Jack Hughes, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/ucueqJJGXs— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 1, 2022
Jesper Boqvist made a nice pass to Simon Nemec, who got plenty on a shot against Domingue. The journeyman netminder got a pad on it. The pace picked up a bit as Nikita Okhotiuk laid a big hit on Gustav Rydahl and Thomas Hickey made a nice stick play in the defensive end to deny the Rangers a shot. Unfortunately, Geertsen played the puck before Andreas Johnsson got off so the Rangers get another power play for too many men.
Blackwood picked up where he left off on the early portion of the power play with a stop on Chytil and stuffing Goodrow, giving the Devils a chance to clear with 30 seconds left. Hughes hit the post again in the closing moments of the Rangers power play trying to go top shelf. The Devils had a rough sequence where Hughes lost control of the puck and Okhotiuk collided with Blackwood while trying to deny the scoring chance. Fortunately, Blackwood turned out ok.
Jaroslav Halak came on to relieve Domingue for New York. Hughes got a breakaway opportunity but Jacob Trouba did a good job not head-hunting for a change and positioning Hughes to the outside, so Hughes sailed the backhander high and wide.
The Rangers came back with a 2-on-1 but Blackwood did a nice job moving from his left to right to deny Gauthier for his 27th save to this point. Palat chipped the puck ahead for Hughes after a Rangers turnover in their own end, but Halak got good positioning and the shot hit him in the shoulder. The period came to an end with the Devils up 1-0.
Blackwood fought off a blast from the point from Jarrod Tinordi for his 30th save of the night. Chase Stillman did a nice job along the boards and found Ryan Graves with a ton of space, but Graves ripped it off the crossbar. The Rangers came right back with Braden Schneider finding Artemi Panarin in the slot. Panarin beat Blackwood short-side to even the game at 1.
Hughes created a chance for the Devils at the tail end of the shift, finding Reilly Walsh for a shot on net. Halak made the save though. The Devils had another breakdown in front of their own net but fortunately for them, Reaves was off the mark. Alex Holtz came back with a one-time pass to Hickey that missed. Palat made an extra pass to find Severson for a blast but Halak stopped that as well.
The Devils controlled the puck after the TV timeout with Severson firing off another shot from distance, but Halak steered it out of danger. The Rangers came back with Hunt finding K’Andre Miller, who sent a seeing-eye shot off of both Devils on a PTO (Senyshyn and Hickey) and in for a 2-1 Rangers lead. Rough break for Blackwood.
Holtz whiffed on a feed from Hughes which led to a 2-on-2 rush the other way, but the Devils avoided calamity there. The Devils came right back with Hughes trying to create something weaving his way through traffic but couldn’t finish it. The Rangers continued to apply pressure but Blackwood denied Gauthier in front as Hickey knocked Rydahl on his rear end.
Halak made a stop on a Sharangovich turnaround snapper with about 4:15 to go. The Devils got some offensive zone time but Palat’s pass in front was intercepted and chipped out of the zone. The Devils pulled Blackwood with 2:18 to go on an offensive zone draw. Tinordi cross-checked Holtz in front for some reason to give the Devils a 6-on-4 with 2:02 to go. The Devils cycled and Palat nearly found Hughes sneaking in on the doorstep but Halak made the stop. The Rangers finally got a clear but Hughes made a nice play on the other end to keep them from getting the empty netter. Back in the offensive zone, Bratt made a slick back-handed pass towards Johnsson but Vesey laid out to chip it away and clear it. The Devils iced the puck with 3.3 seconds remaining and couldn’t get the equalizer as the Rangers win 2-1.
The Opposition Opinion: Visit Blueshirt Banter if you would like to read the Rangers’ perspective on tonight’s game.
Things I Liked And Didn’t Like From The Game
- I LIKED THAT Jack Hughes continues to be the most dangerous forward the Devils have. He had no less than five Grade A scoring chances in this game. I also like the chemistry he and Ondrej Palat clearly have in such a short period of time. None of this should be a surprise, of course. Palat has shown for years he can play with elite talent and make the little plays that need to be made to win hockey games. I look forward to what they can do once the games count for real.
- I DIDN’T LIKE THAT Alex Holtz seems to be deferring a bit much to Hughes and Palat. The stat sheet says he had two shots on goal but I don’t recall either one of them, nor did I see the Devils try to put him in a position late to get his shot off in the 6-on-4. I can appreciate him trying to be unselfish, but I do want to see the Devils put him in positions to shoot. Part of that may be him learning how to create the space to do exactly that. I’m not worried about Holtz at all, as I think he’ll get there, but its something I noted as I watched the game and wondered where the Devils were getting another goal from.
- I LIKED THAT Nikita Okhotiuk continues to bring a physical element to the table as it continues to be something the Devils are sorely lacking. This is his best attribute and the best case I can make for him to make the team.
- I DIDN’T LIKE THAT Okhotiuk wasn’t particularly impressive defensively, as he still has work to do in terms of defensive positioning. That’s not a problem exclusive to Nikita Okhotiuk though as the Devils stunk as a collective whole in their own end tonight. Speaking of....
- I DIDN’T LIKE THAT the Devils hemorrhaged shots and shot attempts throughout the first period and most of the third. The Rangers didn’t exactly dress a Murderer’s Row of offensive stars outside of Artemi Panarin, but that didn’t stop them from moving the puck at ease in the offensive zone and firing shots from all angles at Mackenzie Blackwood. It didn’t matter who was on the ice for either team either. It was a collective failure in terms of defensive structure and a failure to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. It’s a minor miracle they only gave up 2 goals.
- I DIDN’T LIKE THAT Sam Laberge was penciled in for the 4th line LW slot this evening, but didn’t play for whatever reason. Not because I’m a Sam Laberge fan all of a sudden, but because the default decision by the team still seems to be “ehhhhh....just stick Mason Geertsen in there” whenever they need a warm body to get 12 minutes of ice time and do nothing with it. Why do I get the feeling he’s gonna somehow sneak his way onto the team yet again and provide nothing but aggravation for a second year in a row?
- I LIKED THAT for a fourth consecutive preseason game, the goaltending was a strength of the team. I mentioned this in my recap the other night as well, but this is the single most important development for this team in terms of whether or not they’re going to be competitive night in, night out. I think its important not to get out ahead of ourselves and declare that we have competent goaltending, but it needed to be mentioned and we should give Blackwood and Vanecek credit when they play well.
- I DIDN’T LIKE THAT the Devils didn’t give Blackwood the rest of the night off after he made 29 saves in the first 40 minutes. Is it a huge deal? Not particularly. But I do think confidence matters, swagger matters, and feeling good about your performance matters, especially with a player who has struggled through injuries and poor performance for the better part of two seasons. I can understand that that’s not generally how NHL goaltending works and the idea is to build up Blackwood to play the full 60 minutes, and I don’t think him giving up two in the third diminishes his performance tonight in any way, but I would’ve let Schmid finish the game and gotten Blackwood out there holding his head high about his performance after a hard night’s work. He deserved that.
- I DIDN’T LIKE how Andreas Johnsson played tonight. I thought he looked slow and indecisive playing with Sharangovich and Bratt and that he got in the way more than contributing to anything positive. For that matter, I’m not a huge fan of the Sharangovich at center experiment either. I can understand the Devils experimenting with center options with Nico Hischier potentially missing some time, but I thought that second line would’ve been better off with Boqvist between Sharangovich and Bratt. Speaking of #70....
- For his sake, I DIDN’T LIKE that Jesper Boqvist appears to be an afterthought as he seems to have drawn the short end of the stick in terms of playing with other NHL players and proving he still deserves a spot on this team. Playing 10 uneventful minutes with Joe Gambardella and Chase Stillman, neither of which will see an NHL roster again this year, isn’t exactly making your case.
- Lastly, I DIDN’T LIKE the performance of either Thomas Hickey (outside of one play he made) or Zach Senyshyn. I’m not trying to pick on the two players on PTOs, but I have yet to see why exactly either one should make the team. I’m sure they’ll both get at least one more chance to show something, but I’m not holding my breath that the Devils unearthed a gem here.
What did you think of the game today? Are you as pleased as I was with Blackwood and Hughes? Are you as displeased as I was with the defense, or lack thereof, in general? What stood out to you, both positive and negative? Please feel free to leave a comment on tonight’s game and thanks for reading!