Blackwood Earns First NHL Victory as Devils Roll Over Boston, 5-2

For the first time this season (in the final road game of the 2018 calendar year, no less), someone not named Keith Kinkaid earned a win for the Devils between the pipes. That man was Mackenzie Blackwood and he had a pretty good night. The Devils beat the Bruins up in Boston 5-2.

It has not been easy for the Devils at TD Garden the last few years. The Bruins were 12-1-0 in the last 13 games between the two teams up in Beantown according to a graphic on the MSG+ pregame show, but they earned the victory tonight.

Things did not look too good for New Jersey with the announcement prior to the game that Taylor Hall would not be playing tonight. The team practiced in Newark this morning before flying up to Boston and Hall had a re-occurrence of the lower body injury that kept him out of some games a few weeks ago prior to the Christmas break. He is now day-to-day according to Erika Wachter.

Jesper Bratt moved into Hall’s spot on the top line with Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier while Stefan Noesen was back in the lineup to take his place on the roster. Noesen had not played since December 9 at Anaheim. Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches. One other transaction made was John Quenneville. He was actually sent back down to Binghamton just prior to the Christmas break and was recalled yesterday. For the B’s, Zdeno Chara was making his first appearance since November 14, as he had been out with a knee injury.

One Devil really excited for this game was Brett Seney. The former Merrimack College player had some 30 friends and family at the game. He was playing in his first game at TD Garden, something he did not get to do even in college.

The goalie matchup saw Jaroslav Halak go for the B’s as the former Islander made 28 saves on 32 Devils shots against. The Devils finished the game with 33 shots, since they added an empty netter later on in the game. As mentioned, Mackenzie Blackwood was the star of the show for the Devils. He stopped 40 of 42 Bruins shots and was named the game’s first star. As Ken Daneyko pointed out on the MSG+ post game show, it is a bit auspicious that a Devils goalie, wearing number 29 should get his first win against the Bruins. Martin Brodeur got his first win in the NHL against the Bruins back in 1992 wearing… number 29!

The Devils got the scoring started early as Damon Severson became the sixth defenseman in team history to score 30 seconds or less into a game. He did it 25 seconds in off assists from Andy Greene and Travis Zajac. It happened when Zajac got the puck to a pinching Greene. He then found Severson cutting backdoor on the Bruins’ goal and scored to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils would make it 2-0 before the first intermission when Palmieri scored on the power play at 15:25 from Will Butcher and Brian Boyle. It was set up when former Devil John Moore was called for tripping. On the man advantage, Palmieri took a shot in close that Halak made the initial save on. The puck then hit Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo and rolled up and over Halak, who was down in the butterfly, and in. The Devils now had a 2-0 lead to take into the first break.

On the power play, the Devils were 2-for-4 on the night with three shots. They also had three shorthanded shots on net. The Bruins were held 0-for-2 with three shots on the power play. They also accumulated three shorthanded shots.

Boston got on the board at the 15:07 mark of the second period when Chris Wagner collided with a Devils defender and the Devil went down. This left Wagner all alone to cut in behind the play and take a nice pass from Moore to score into an empty net. Danton Heinen had the secondary assist. The Bruins had cut the Devils’ lead in half. Boston out shot the Devils 19-9 in that second period but Blackwood was fantastic in net to keep the Devils on top.

In the third, at 4:15, Blake Coleman blocked a Torey Krug shot at the point in the Devils’ zone and sped off to collect the loose puck through the neutral zone. He grabbed it, went forehand, backhand on Halak and turned the goalie inside out to give the Devils a 3-1 lead. That goal was unassisted.

At the 7:51 mark, Miles Wood drove to the Boston net, knocking it off its moorings. He was tripped up on the play by Kevan Miller (for which he received a penalty on the play), and the puck ended up in the net. The call on the ice was no goal and that stood under review by Toronto. It turned out the puck had slipped under the side of the goal cage as it was jarred up as Wood bumped into it.

The Devils would get one for real at the 12:43 mark when Nico Hischier scored from Wood and Noesen. That occurred when Noesen won a puck battle along the boards in the Devils’ zone. Wood took it and he and Nico were off with numbers. Wood one-handed it to HIschier, who was cutting through the slot. Nico then was all alone on Halak and roofed it over the prone goalie to give the Devils a commanding 4-1 lead.

Patrice Bergeron would cut the Devils’ lead to two when a Jake DeBrusk shot was redirected by Blackwood off of Bergeron’s shin pad and into the net.

A strange ending to the game came when Boston’s David Backes was called for an illegal check to the head of Coleman at 18:00. This would put the Devils on the man advantage for the remainder of the game. The Bruins pulled Halak to even it up but who else but Coleman scored into an empty net to ice the game for the Devils. His goal was officially a power play goal and gave us our final of 5-2. Halak had been 8-0 at TD Garden so far this season, but that was the end of that streak. The Devils won.

The Devils were out shot 42-33 and won just 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They did out hit the Bruins 28-20 and had more blocked shots (19-4) and less giveaways at 11 for the Devils to the B’s 17.

Individually, Andy Greene led the team in ice time (21:48 – 37 seconds on the PP and 1:41 on the PK). Zajac led the forwards with 19:41 (3:35 on the PP and 2:30 on the PK). Shots were led by Pavel Zacha with seven, hits by Brian Boyle and Coleman with four each, blocks by Hischier with three and takeaways by Zajac with four.

Next up, the Devils will return home to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. We will have that coverage for you here and will also have continuing coverage of the World Juniors later tonight.

2019 World Juniors Open

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got under way yesterday evening in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

Group A featuring Canada, Denmark, Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland, is playing at Rogers Arena (the home of the Canucks) in Vancouver. Group B which has Sweden, Finland, the United States, Slovakia and Kazakhstan, is playing in Victoria at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

The Devils have four players representing their organization in the tournament: Ty Smith (Canada), Fabian Zetterlund (Sweden), Aarne Talvitie (Finland) and Akira Schmid (Switzerland). Talvitie is serving as the captain for the Finns, the second straight year that the Devils have a prospect serving as a captain for his country in this tournament. Last season, you will recall, Joey Anderson was captain of the USA.

In addition, some other familiar Devils-related faces involved with this tournament are Tyler Madden of Team USA who is the son of former Devil John “Mad Dog” Madden and Patrik Elias, the Devils legend himself. Madden is a 5-foot, 11-inch, 18-year-old forward who players at Northeastern University. He notched an assist in the Americans’ 2-1 win over Slovakia in yesterday’s action.

Patty is serving as an assistant coach for the Czechs. His team won 2-1 over the Swiss in overtime. Schmid did not play. Switzerland will be playing Canada on December 27.

And speaking of Canada, they were the big winners on the evening, laying a total drubbing on Denmark 14-0. That may seem like running up the score, but remember that this tournament relys heavily on goal differential. You have to score when you can and the Canadians certainly did. Smith had an assist on a third period goal by Maxime Comtois. He also had one shot on goal and was a plus-4 all in 21:17 of total ice time. That led all Canadian skaters in TOI.

In the Canada-Denmark game, Canada’s Morgan Frost had a hat trick, Comtois finished with four goals and goaltender Michael DiPietro made 14 saves to preserve the shutout. Canada peppered Danish goaltending with 45 shots on the night.

In the night cap, Finland and Talvitie took on Sweden and Zetterlund in Group B action. Sweden had not lost in the preliminary round since 2006. Their streak was up to 44 games. Well, make it 45 as they defeated the Finns 2-1. Erik Brannstrom scored a pair of goals for the Swedes with Emil Bemstrom and Adam Boqvist getting the assists on both of them. Zetterlund finished with two shots on net in 8:26 of ice time.

As for the Finnish goal, that was scored by Talvitie who finished off a nice play from Kaapo Kakko. Jesse Ylonen had the other assist. Talvitie’s stat line saw him with the goal in 13:55 of time on ice. It was a timely goal too. One that got Finland going and nearly forced overtime. But the Finns were not able to complete the comeback and Sweden’s streak remains alive for another game.

Next up for these teams, Sweden puts their streak on the line against Slovakia on the 27th and Finland will match up with Kazakhstan on the same day. We will try to integrate some of tomorrow’s updates from this tournament into the Devils versus Boston post. The late game may negate that, however. We will see how coverage will go from here.