The New Jersey Devils gave up an early partial two-on-one to the Seattle Kraken, and Jaden Schwartz nearly scored on a redirection. Ryan Graves had gone down to take away the pass, but failed, and Damon Severson could not close the gap between him and despite a noticeable effort. But Mackenzie Blackwood made the save! He made an excellent move across to bail his defense out, preventing the Kraken from taking a lead in the second minute of the game.
How did Blackwood get across that fast?! pic.twitter.com/s5KgMixrto— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) February 10, 2023
Miles Wood was shaken up a couple minutes later when linesman Devin Berg fell down as Wood was trying to gain the zone for the Devils. He fell over, backwards, as Berg was directly in his path. Play was whistled for offsides, and Wood slowly returned to the bench. Mackenzie Blackwood had to make a few more saves in the shifts ensuing after the faceoff, getting his seventh save in just the sixth minute of the game.
With just over eight minutes to play in the period, Dougie Hamilton held Ryan Donato’s arm back when Donato beat him to a puck behind the net, giving the Kraken their first power play of the game. Erik Haula forced a turnover in the defensive zone, and John Marino cleared it around the half-minute mark. The Kraken would not regain their offensive zone for another 40 seconds, and Matty Beniers slapped a one-timer wide, before the Kraken turned it over to Jonas Siegenthaler, who cleared it with 20 seconds left in the kill.
The Devils continued to give up the better of chances to the Kraken, with Blackwood getting his 14th save with three minutes to play in the period. Shortly after, the Devils worked it up to Yegor Sharangovich, who slinged the puck high on Phillip Grubauer. Grubauer’s rebound went to Haula, who was denied in the low slot. Nathan Bastian later took a slap shot from the top of the circle on the rush, which was a surprisingly strong shot that Grubauer had to blocker it away to stop it from hitting the far-side post. Miles Wood followed that up with a low shot from the side of the net, but Grubauer was well-positioned to make the save.
The Devils did not start the second period any better, depsite a line shakeup. Zetterlund joined the top line, while Bratt shifted to play with Mercer and Tatar. After Blackwood had to make several saves, John Marino had a chance in front when he went to the net for a rebound off a one-handed centering play from Bratt. Marino’s chip shot glanced off the top of Grubauer’s shoulder.
Dougie Hamilton took another penalty when he tripped Alexander Wennberg, who was rushing into the zone. Hamilton was called for interference. On the kill, after Kevin Bahl failed to clear the zone after blocking a shot, the Kraken had a chance in front. Siegenthaler and Bahl combined to trip Schwartz coming across (which was called on Bahl), and the Devils crease featured a slew of bodies on the ice. Bjorkstand whipped the rebound off the crossbar as Blackwood dove at the shot. At five-on-three with the tripping call, Blackwood made a huge rebound save on Matty Beniers. The Kraken decided to take their timeout after Blackwood froze a later shot from the faceoff dot, as Seattle had 36 seconds of five-on-three time to gameplan for.
The Devils sent out Graves, Marino, and Haula. Haula worked the puck back, but the Kraken took it away. Jared McCann fired a one-timer wide, and Erik Haula took the puck away and cleared it down the ice. Dougie Hamilton came out of the box, and Nico Hischier blocked a shot to allow him to get off. Hischier seemed to be in quite a bit of pain as a result of the shot, though. Graves cleared one last time after Blackwood saved a Tolvanen one-timer, and the BMW line nearly scored at even strength - with multiple shots being saved by Grubauer, who thought they should have been called for goaltender interference at one point, when McLeod was making his presence known.
Jordan Eberle said at intermission the adjustment needed to beat Blackwood was "just shoot quicker."— Emerald City Hockey (@EmeraldCityHky) February 10, 2023
Probably could've taken his own advice here. pic.twitter.com/r980ZJ1vqA
A Devil from behind the net (it looked to be John Marino) made a heinous turnover to Matty Beniers with a missed breakout pass, and Blackwood had to be sharp against him. Miles Wood had an excellent shift when that line was next out there, digging out a Hamilton slap shot rebound with Bastian and skating the puck around the offensive zone — and back around the net — to set up a Hamilton one-timer that was stopped by Grubauer. The action continued when Grubauer robbed Alex Holtz after kicking a point shot right to him in the slot. Martin split out to his left to take away the shot, and Mercer could not get his following sharp angle shot on target
Adam Larsson — yes, Adam Larsson — took the lead for the Seattle Kraken when Miles Wood deflected his point shot and made it flutter up and down to beat Blackwood with under six minutes to play in the period. 1-0, Kraken.
The Hischier line tried to fire back, with Nico Hischier and Ondrej Palat leading a quick charge after the draw. After a rebound, they engaged the Kraken along the wall to win back the puck — but Palat was crosshecked from behind and the Devils went to their first power play of the game. William Borgen went to the box.
Tomas Tatar joined the first unit. Nico Hischier pushed the draw forward to Tatar, who worked the puck immediately and decisively from behind the net to Ondrej Palat, who kept it moving to the point. Hamilton one-timed it through a screen and past Grubauer! 1-1.
Hi, my name is Dougie and I hit dingers. pic.twitter.com/ZuI3QtX9md— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 10, 2023
With the Devils not losing momentum for the rest of the period, Yanni Gourde took a hooking call, which drew a whistle with 12 seconds to play in the period. He had hooked Graves in front of the Devils net when Graves was clearing the puck away. Dougie Hamilton’s shot went wide, and the Devils were not able to get the puck back to the front of the net for another shot.
The power play started the period rather weakly, not getting any pressure on Seattle with the man advantage for 1:46. At even strength, Fabian Zetterlund boxed out 37 at the blueline to work the puck up to Haula, who sent it back behind Zetterlund on the three-on-two. However, Zetterlund was able to redirect it slightly behind his back to Yegor Sharangovich, whose shot was just barely squeezed in Grubauer’s seven hole.
About six minutes into the period, Wennberg nearly finished a dangerous pass from Schwartz at the side of the net. Schwartz had picked off a Devils pass right to him in the slot, and should have picked up an assist here. But, with Blackwood zipping across, Wennberg did not get the shot off at a good angle and the puck went well wide of the net, under Blackwood’s pad.
Later, Fabian Zetterlund lifted a backhand from the goal line off of Grubauer’s shoulder. Yegor Sharangovich batted it out of the air, but it hit Grubauer again. Yanni Gourde later took another penalty for holding, and the Devils went to the power play with 10:48 to play. He had had a between-the-legs redirection earlier, and he later tugged Hamilton backwards when chasing the puck.
The Devils power play gained the zone 15 seconds in after losing the draw. They moved, the puck between Hischier, Hamilton and Palat, until Bratt came out high to ring a slap shot off the bar. The Devils did not miss a beat, and Dougie Hamilton wired another one-timer off Tanev’s leg and under the crossbar! 2-1 with 10 minutes to play!
Dougie, Dougie, Dougie, can't you see?— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 10, 2023
Sometimes your goals just hypnotize me.
And I just love your flashy ways.
Now we're up by one and that's okay. pic.twitter.com/1rcQoP2lbb
Then, Mackenzie Blackwood made a huge save on the other end to rob Jared McCann. About a minute after Dougie scored, Nico Hischier rang a shot off the crossbar on the rush, with Vince Dunn sliding across in futility for the shot block after Larsson could not contain Hischier.
Eeli Tolvanen took a high sticking minor penalty on Alex Holtz, who was gaining the zone for the Devils. With 7:03, the Devils got a chance to extend their lead. The Devils collected from their own zone after the draw and turned it over on the entry. The first unit never really got possession in the offensive zone, and the second unit came out at the end of the first minute. John Marino played forward for this unit, and swiped a neutral zone pass away when covering Severson — but Wood lost the puck before he could make a play.
With two and a half minutes to play, Ryan Graves appeared to get hit way behind the play by Yanni Gourde after John Marino made a hit on the puck carrier in the corner. No penalty was called. McLeod was tripped with the puck by Jamie Oleksiak with under two minutes to play, and no penalty was called. McLeod stayed on for the empty net, and Blackwood froze a point shot with Jared McCann setting a screen. Nico Hischier won the draw, and, after a spin-backhand pass from Haula, John Marino flipped the puck from behind center ice to give the Devils a two-goal lead with 1:11 to play!
Ryan Graves nearly scored on an empty net with a full-ice shot, but Grubauer was not all the way off and stopped it at the high slot. Grubauer never got off the ice after that, and Blackwood made another save with 15 seconds to play before the Kraken decided to accept defeat in their own zone. The Devils won, 3-1.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Davy Jones’ Locker Room (what a name).
Dougie Hamilton’s previous career high in goals and points was 18 goals in 2018-19, an 50 points in 2016-17. Both were full seasons for Hamilton. Tonight, his two goals brought him up to 51 points — a new career high, and 15 goals in the team’s 51st game of the season. His 15 goals on 184 shots (8.15%) is right around his 2019-20 pace of 14 goals on 170 shots (8.23%) in 47 games. If Dougie can sustain this for the rest of the season, he would finish with about 24 goals and 82 points. The most shocking thing is that he would probably, by my estimation, finish third at best with that line in Norris voting at the end of the year. However, he is doing his best to chase down Erik Karlsson for the defensemen goal scoring lead, as he now only trails the Norris frontrunner by two goals. Dougie was at the center of the action tonight. He needed to be! With Jack Hughes out, Hischier and Hamilton are the next best go-getters on the roster. Hischier’s line with Bratt and Palat, however, did not work at even strength tonight, and it’s very fortunate they got those power play opportunities to make up for those moments. Also, this wasn’t the first time this year Dougie powered the Devils to victory with a multi-goal effort.
I’m very glad John Marino hit the open net to seal the game, but I should mention that his pairing with Kevin Bahl was bordering on unwatchable for their time together. In 10:25, that pairing was outshot 1-5 and saw the only goal against, sporting a 10.21 xGF% and 16.67 CF%. Nothing good was happening, offensively, when that pairing was on the ice. This was at its worst when the BMW line paired with Bahl and Marino, as they saw several attempts for the Kraken (and the goal) in over four minutes together.
It’s only Marino’s second game back, though, and he did make some of his trademark defensive plays throughout the game. He pinched effectively, even almost scored on Grubauer — but his passing from the back end was very rough. He did not pair well with Kevin Bahl, and this is a problem as the third pairing has not been playable since Smith and Severson relatively dominated opposition bottom six lines during the team’s best win streak of the season. I was never on the “trade Severson” bus, and this game just furthers my belief that the right side of this defense cannot lose anyone and return to full effectiveness throughout the season.
Now up to 7-4-2 with a .902 save percentage on the season, Mackenzie Blackwood had his best night of the season tonight. If not for Miles Wood deflecting a shot almost at the point, he would have skated off the ice with a shutout tonight. Still, his 33 saves gave him a goals saved above expected of 2.66, as he had eight high-danger and 11 medium-danger saves, including three rush shots and four rebound shots according to Natural Stat Trick. He may not have been peppered down low all night, but he was asked to make some big reaction saves — especially in the first period.
He was more important to the win than anyone else. The Devils may have scored later on the power plays if Dougie’s goals somehow didn’t go in. They might have found another way. But would they have been able to get three or four regulation goals if Blackwood merely played an average game tonight? It did not look like they could do that without Jack Hughes. Blackwood played out of his mind, and he deserves most of the credit for the win.
What did you think tonight? Should Palat and Bratt stay with Hischier? Where should the Devils look for their third pairing lefty? What did you think of Blackwood tonight? Do you think the Devils will end up .500 in their games without Jack? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
And whether you followed in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris — goodnight.