East Wins ECHL All-Star Tourney

The Eastern Conference won the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic tonight in exciting fashion. They won 2-1 in a sudden death shootout after the final game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The ECHL All-Star game features the now-familiar NHL/AHL mini tournament format with a few twists. For one, the four teams participating were not divisions, but rather the Eastern and Western Conferences along with two teams made up of the split-squad Toledo Walleye. The Walleye were hosting the game at their Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.

The four teams (dubbed the “East,” “West,” “Fins” and “Hooks”) competed in a round-robin style opening round with total goals then leading to a second round reseeding where the finals were determined. The Skills Competion also awarded goals to this aggregate score: the Fastest Skater was first and awarded one goal, then the Hardest Shot which gave two goals and finally, the Shot Accuracy, which awarded three goals to the winning player’s team.

The final then featured the two best teams going head-to-head with the score reset to zero. In the event of a tie, there would be a sudden death shootout. All games were contested with a running clock, no faceoffs after goals (the team scored on would simply skate the puck out from behind their net) and no penalties (in the event of a penalty, the player drawing the penalty would skate the puck into the offensive zone from his own blue line with the rest of the players chasing him in a sort-of breakaway). Every game was also contested three-on-three. Got all of that?

The first game of the round robin featured the Hooks versus the East. Shane Berschbach scored first for Team Hooks and the game winner came of the stick of Matt Register as the Hooks defeated the East 2-1. Joe Cox (of the Florida Everblades) had the lone goal for the Eastern Conference.

The second game saw the West overcome Team Fins 3-1. AJ Jenks got the scoring off to a start for the Fins but three straight unanswered by the West saw them pull out the victory. Justin Hodgman of the Fort Wayne Komets had two goals while Alex Brooks (Indy Fuel) scored an insurance goal.

Game number three saw the Fins overcome the East 3-2. Bryan Moore, Charlie O’Connor and Jenks each scored for Team Fins while Cox and David Pacan (of the Brampton Beast) scored for the East. This game was notable because a goal was actually waved off during play, something you are not likely to see in many All-Star Games.

It was here that the first skills competition took place, the Fastest Skater event. Moore won this one for the Fins with a time of 12.97 seconds on his full lap around the rink. Fins earned a goal for this win.

The East met the West in the next game with the East winning 3-1. Jalen Smereck (Norfolk Admirals), Mike Szmatula of the Adirondack Thunder and Dajon Mingo of the Jacksonville Icemen tallied three straight for the East while Steven Iacobellis (Wichita Thunder) scored for the West.

The final game of the round-robin saw the Toldeo Walleye explode as Team Hooks faced off with Team Fins. The Fins won 5-1. Moore, Jenks, O’Connor, TJ Hensick and Dylan Sadowy scored for Team Fins while the Hooks got a lone goal from Register.

At this point it was Fins leading with ten total goals, the West with seven, the East with six and Hooks pulling up the rear with four. The hardest shot competition (worth two goals) was next up. This was won by Jenks who put Fins up with 12 goals when he won with a shot of 99 miles per hour.

The next two games were set up by reseeding the teams based on goals scored and would set up the finals. The Hooks beat the Fins in the first game, 3-1 with Team Fins finishing with 13 goals while Team Hooks finished with seven. In this particular game, Moore scored for Fins while Trevor Yates had two goals and Greg Wolfe also scored for Team Hooks to give them the victory. Despite that loss, Fins were still headed to the finals with a total of 13 goals.

The next game featured the East against the West again. This was an exciting one as the East edged the West 4-3 as Szmatula scored the game winner on a breakaway with time running out. Smereck had two goals for the East and Mingo also added one while Jared VanWormer of the Kansas City Mavericks scored twice and Iacobellis scored once for the West. With that, the East and West were tied in the standings with ten goals each.

The other seeding in the finals could all come down to the shot accuracy event in the final skills competition of the night. Sure enough, with three goals on the line, Pacan (who would be named the game’s MVP) hit four targets on only six attempts and moved the East ahead of the West with 13 goals to the West’s ten. The East was headed to the finals to face Team Fins.

We now reset the score to zero and the two teams had this game to decide things. Connor Schmidt scored for the Fins while Andrew Cherniwchan of the South Carolina Stingrays scored for the East. Time ran out with those two goals being the only scored and we were headed to an unique event: the sudden death shootout.

Mingo converted on his only shot while Jenks could not keep things going for the Fins and the Eastern Conference won the 2019 ECHL All-Star Classic.

Overall, this was a cool event with a lot of cool ideas. Next up we will get coverage of the NHL All-Star Game up as well as the Skills Competition. Those take place Friday and Saturday.

Blackwood Named ECHL Alumnus of Month for December

I am a little behind on this, as this award was given out back on January 1, but since there is very little Devils news during the on-going bye week, I thought I would get to this now.

Devils’ goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was named the Meigrey Group/ECHL Alumnus of the Month for December. Blackwood, a former member of the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL, made his NHL debut on December 18 against the Hurricanes (posting a 2-0 shutout) and then blanked the Canucks on December 29 to become the first Devils rookie goalie to record back-to-back shutouts in his first two career starts.

He played for the Thunder in 2017-18 where he was 2-1-1 (2.48 goals against average and .920 save percentage) according to the ECHL’s press release on the award. The release also mentions that he played in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs, going 3-1 with a shutout for Adirondack.

Blackwood is one of 651 players all-time who have gone from the ECHL to eventually play in the NHL. The press release states that ten made their NHL debut this season alone (including Blackwood).

In other ECHL news, the CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic will be presented tonight from Toledo, Ohio on the NHL Network. I will be watching and will have something up a little bit later. The All-Star Classic is a 3-on-3 tournament similar to what the NHL and AHL do. The Skills Competition will take place between the rounds of the tournament according to the ECHL website. That will include the Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot and Accuracy Shooting contests.

Representing the Thunder for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Classic will be Mike Szmatula. The ECHL All-Stars are chosen by a vote taken from coaches, team captains, media relations directors, broadcasters and other members of the media in ECHL cities according to the ECHL website.

Despite Late Surge, Devils Fall to Ducks 3-2

Following the Devils’ loss to the Islanders on Long Island Thursday, they knew something had to change. They wanted a win heading into their week-long bye that starts tomorrow and ends on Monday, January 28 at Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, they could not pick up that momentum as they fell to the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 at Prudential Center today.

The big news coming out of yesterday’s practice was veteran Drew Stafford calling a players-only meeting on the ice following the hard workout they were put through by the coaching staff. The Devils had a season-low 17 shots versus the Isles and wanted to get out some frustrations amongst the players. It has been a frustrating season for all involved and the players just needed to work some stuff out.

In other news, Taylor Hall will indeed miss the 2019 All-Star festivities in San Jose and Kyle Palmieri has been chosen to take his place as the Devils’ lone representative. Palmieri, for his part, said that, while he is excited and grateful for the opportunity, he would give it all back to have a healthy Taylor Hall in the Devils’ lineup. But Palmieri definitely deserves this honor and congratulations to him. We will see him in San Jose on the 26th and 27th.

Injuries have been a big part of the year and they continue to plague the Devils’ season. Miles Wood has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to January 14 due to his lower body injury. Ben Lovejoy missed today’s game with the upper body injury that kept him out of the Islander game as well. He was scratched from the lineup. In addition, Blake Pietila was sent back down to AHL Binghamton.

With all of those roster moves, the Devils recalled Kurtis Gabriel and Nathan Bastian from Binghamton to fill up the spots vacated. Gabriel was a healthy scratch today along with Egor Yakovelv. Bastian, however, would see playing time, making his NHL debut wearing number 42. He would even get into his first NHL fight, battling Josh Manson in the second period.

Mackenzie Blackwood was back in net for the Devils, as he stopped 11 of 14 shots against for a .786 save percentage. For Anaheim, their All-Star, John Gibson started and made 29 stops on 31 shots for a .935 save percentage. The Devils held the Ducks shots down under 20, including out shooting them 14-3 in the second period, but still could not score enough of their own to prevail.

Marcus Johansson, who went on to be named the game’s third star, got the scoring going 6:50 into the game. He took a pass from Jesper Bratt in the Ducks’ zone and skated to the front of the net all alone, backhanding it upstairs to beat Gibson and make it 1-0 Devils. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on this early goal.

But the Ducks wasted no time in getting that one back. Daniel Sprong buried a Nick Ritchie rebound over Blackwood’s glove to tie things. Adam Henrique had the secondary assist and got the puck to the net in the fist place. The goal came at 9:10. The Devils challenged for offsides, saying that Henrique was the man to head into the zone before the puck, but after the review, the call on the ice stood: it was a good goal. Because the Devils lost the challenge for offsides, they took a delay of game bench minor that put Anaheim on the power play.

And 1:28 into that man advantage, Troy Terry took a pass from Hampus Lindholm at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired and scored his first National Hockey League goal, the second player to do it against the Devils in two games. Sprong had the other assist on this one, which put the Ducks up 2-1. Terry, you may remember, was the shootout specialist from Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championship, seemingly scoring every time he touched the puck in that situation.

Special teams struggled for the Devils today. They went 0-for-4 with seven shots on the power play and had three shorthanded shots. Anaheim was 1-for-2, scoring on their only power play shot. They also had one shorthanded shot on Blackwood.

Brian Boyle was shaken up in the first period when he was hit awkwardly by Manson.

There was no scoring in the second period, although the Devils had lots of chances. But in the third period, newly acquired Derek Grant scored for the Ducks 5:11 into the frame. The Devils had dominated the first five minutes of the period in terms of possession, but once Anaheim took control, Terry got the puck to Grant at the near faceoff dot in the Devils’ zone and he snapped one by Blackwood just under the crossbar. It was now 3-1 Ducks.

But hold on, with Blackwood pulled for the extra attacker and 56 seconds to go in regulation, Butcher found a nice seam to get the puck to Bratt at the near faceoff dot. Much like the Grant goal, Bratt snapped a wrist shot by Gibson’s glove to make it 3-2 Anaheim.

But that was it. The Devils had that late surge but could not do any more. A few timely defensive plays by the Ducks let time run out and the Devils fell, 3-2.

New Jersey out shot the Ducks 31-14. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the teams were dead even in hits with 19 each, the Ducks blocked more shots at 11 to the Devils’ nine. The Devils also had more giveaways at four to Anaheim’s one.

Sami Vatanen led the Devils defensemen in ice time against his former team, going 23:39 (including 2:54 of power play time and 1:57 on the penalty kill) while Travis Zajac led all skaters with 23:51 (4:36 on the PP and 1:47 on the PK). Shots were led by Damon Severson and Vatanen, who both had five apiece. Hits were led by the All-Star Kyle Palmieri with six. Blocked shots were led by Andy Greene with two, as he also leads all NHL players in blocked shots this season so far. Blake Coleman led in takeaways with two.

Next up for the Devils, their much needed bye week. They will be off until a week from Monday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. In the meantime, the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Weekend will take place on the 26th and 27th. We will have coverage of that for you, to see how Palmieri does.

Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below as they are always appreciated.

Devils Lose in Return to Nassau Coliseum

The Devils played the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum for the first time since December 15, 2014. They lost tonight 4-1.

Back in 2014, they fell in a shootout 3-2 to the Isles with Scott Gomez scoring a regulation goal and a shootout goal to score what many thought would make him the final Devils’ goal scorer in the building. That was the trivia question on MSG+ tonight, but Gomez was supplanted by Andy Greene in this game. (For the record, I cheated and looked up the information on Hockey-Reference.com.) That was about the only thing that went positively for the Devils in the 2019 game.

Before we begin, I would like to congratulate my brother and his wife as yesterday they welcomed their first child into the world. Congrats and good luck to Matt, Laina and little Ryan!

The Devils have had a rough go of it injury-wise over the last few weeks. Add Ben Lovejoy to that list of the walking wounded. Lovejoy was a scratch tonight with an upper body injury, joining Miles Wood (lower body) and Egor Yakovlev (healthy scratch) in the press box tonight. Steven Santini slotted back in on defense in place of Lovejoy.

On the subject of Taylor Hall, he remains out and the team said that they will determine his status next week (the Devils have their week-long bye week coming up). He is unlikely to play in the All-Star Game in San Jose in a little over a week. Kyle Palmieri will likely take his place as the Devils’ representative.

Mackenzie Blackwood got the start between the pipes for the Devils, making 22 saves on 25 shots for a .880 save percentage. Going for the Islanders was Robin Lehner who stopped 16 of 17 shots against for a .941 save percentage. The Islanders actually out shot the Devils 26-17 with an empty net goal late in the game. Blackwood, after a rough first period, settled in nicely. He made a stop in particular very late in the third period when the Devils got caught in a bad change, turned over the puck and Blackwood was forced to make a nice save and then fought off the rebound as well.

But overall, the Devils just could not get much going. Anders Lee scored the first goal of the game when he redirected a Nick Leddy shot by Blackwood at 5:48 of the first period. It was the first New York shot of the game and Jordan Eberle had the secondary assist.

The Isles would score again at the 9:19 mark of the first when Michael Dal Colle backhand tipped a Scott Mayfield slap pass from the point. Leo Komarov had the secondary assist on the goal that doubled the Islanders’ lead. For Dal Colle, this was his first career NHL goal.

Eberle would triple up the Islanders when he scored on the power play at 15:12 of the first. With Blake Coleman in the penalty box serving a cross checking minor, the Devils just could not control the puck and Eberle snapped a shot by Blackwood. Leddy and Brock Nelson had the assists on that goal. On the night, the Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play with two shots. They also added a shorthanded shot on special teams. The Islanders were 1-for-3 with a trio of shots on the power play.

New Jersey would notch their only goal of the night when Damon Severson shot through traffic and Andy Greene tipped his shot by Lehner. That one made it 3-1 at the 7:07 mark of the third period and seemed like it would be the goal to turn things around.

But the Isles stifled the Devils and, when New Jersey pulled Blackwood with about 2:30 remaining in regulation, New York put a cap on it. Lee scored into the empty net from Josh Bailey at 17:51 of the third.

In the end, Lee was named the game’s first star (a pair of goals), Dal Colle (first NHL goal) was the second star and Eberle (a goal and an assist) was the third star. New York now moves to within a point of first place in the Metro Division with a big matchup with first place Washington tomorrow night.

As for the Devils, they won 50-percent of the game’s faceoffs, splitting evenly with the Isles, had 31 hits to the Islanders’ 29 and had more blocked shots (19-13) in the game. The Islanders had more giveaways at 13 to the Devils’ five.

Greene led all New Jersey skaters in ice time with 23:30 (3:43 shorthanded included). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 20:08 (including 1:39 on the power play and 3:07 on the penalty kill). Shots on goal were led by Greene with five, hits were led by Sami Vatanen with four, blocks were led by Greene with five and takeaways by Zajac and Blake Coleman with one each. In addition, Coleman’s five game point scoring streak came to an end in this game.

Next up, the Devils will take on the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday at home with a 1 PM puck drop. The Ducks have been struggling mightily of late and the Devils will look to capitalize on that as they head into their bye week. We will have coverage of the game here for you then. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below, as they are always welcome.

Devils Dropped Again in Columbus

Following last night’s epic pond hockey game at Prudential Center, the Devils had to travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. Let’s just say tonight was a little more disappointing as the Devils fell 4-1.

Columbus scored two goals in the opening 2:28 and that was all they needed as they moved into a tie with Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Congratulations also to Coach John Hynes who moved past Doug Carpenter for second place in games coached for the Devils, behind only the great Jacques Lemaire, in the Chicago game.

Some roster moves tonight as Miles Wood, after leaving last night’s game with a lower body injury, was not dressed tonight. He joined Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev in the press box. Wood is listed as day-to-day. Blake Pietila slotted back in up front in Wood’s place.

Taylor Hall remains out, missing his 11th straight tonight. In his absence, Kyle Palmieri took over the team scoring lead last night. And speaking of Palmieri, he was moved to a line with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman as Hynes decided he wanted to get some firepower together in Palmieri and the red hot Coleman.

In goal, the Devils (on the second half of a back-to-back) went to Keith Kinkaid. He stopped 30 of 34 for a .882 save percentage. Facing him was Joonas Korpisalo, the Jackets’ backup. Columbus has had some drama in nets lately. Sergei Bobrovsky was recently suspended by the team for going straight to the showers and not to the bench after being pulled in a game last week. He missed one game, sat the next and came back to defeat the Rangers in their last game. Korpisalo made 29 saves on 30 shots against for a .967 save percentage.

The Blue Jackets only needed 45 seconds from the opening faceoff to get on the board. Cam Atkinson scored as Pierre-Luc Dubois intercepted a hard around by Damon Severson and shot. Atkinson was able to redirect the shot by Kinkaid to put the Jackets up 1-0.

Boone Jenner then scored the game winner at the 2:28 mark when he got open in the slot after Josh Anderson won the faceoff in the Devils zone. Jenner took the pass and found the back of the net to make it 2-0 Blue Jackets.

A similar play led to the third Columbus goal when the Jackets won a draw and David Savard was able to find Artemi Panarin cutting backdoor as Savard made the pass out of the corner to him and he scored. Atkinson had the secondary assist on the goal that came at 17:20 of the first. Atkinson would be named the game’s second star with Dubois the first and Korpisalo the third.

And speaking of Dubois, one of the reasons he was named the first star was because of his power play goal from the top of the near faceoff circle that beat Kinkaid short side. That goal came 1:45 into the second period and Zach Werenski and Panarin had the assists. This was a rough one as the Devils were killing off a double minor to Severson. He took a holding penalty, argued it and was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor as well. Severson was benched by Hynes following that penalty for the majority of the second period.

Special teams-wise, the Blue Jackets were 1-for-3 on the power play with two shots on goal and two shorthanded shots. New Jersey was 0-for-2 with six power play shots. The chances were there, the Devils just could not convert.

A tough break for the Devils came at the 14:13 mark of the second when Palmieri had seemingly scored and the goal was waved off due to a penalty for goalie interference.

The Devils would finally get on the board late in the second period when Blake Coleman extended his point streak to five games. The goal came at 18:24 and occurred when Coleman won the offensive zone faceoff and the puck got back to Mirco Mueller. Mueller took a shot that was tipped by Korpisalo by Coleman in front. Ben Lovejoy had the secondary assist on the goal which made it 4-1 Jackets.

And that was our final as the Devils could muster no more.

The Blue Jackets out shot the Devils 34 to 30 and, although those Columbus goals that were scored off of faceoff wins, New Jersey did dominate in the circle winning 58-percent of the draws. The Jackets out hit the Devils, 19-17, blocked more shots at 19-9, but the Devils had less giveaways at six to Columbus’ five.

Individual stats saw Will Butcher lead the team in time on ice (23:52 total, 2:41 on the power play) while Zajac led all forwards with 18:42 (2:46 on the power play and 1:34 shorthanded). Drew Stafford and Palmieri led in shots on goal with four each, Brian Boyle led in hits with three, Severson led in blocks with two and Zajac led in takeaways with two as well.

Next up, the Devils will return to the Nassau Coliseum on Thursday to take on the Islanders. The Isles are playing a select few (20 I believe) games at their old barn this season and this game is one of them. We will see you then with coverage right here. In the meantime, as always, feedback in the comments section is always appreciated.

Offense Explodes, Devils Outlast Blackhawks 8-5

Whew! That was quite a little hockey game there. The Chicago Blackhawks came to town and the Devils gathered two points as the offenses exploded for a combined 13 goals. The Devils came away with the 8-5 victory on home ice to notch their first back-to-back wins of the 2019 calendar year.

Before we begin, congratulations to former Devils broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick who was announced as a new member of the National Sports Media Hall of Fame as per an article on the Devils’ website. In addition, Devils radio play-by-play guy Matt Loughlin has been named the New Jersey Sportscaster of the Year by the same organization. Congratulations to both men for these well-deserved honors.

Roster-wise for the Devils, Stefan Noesen was placed on injured reserve (lower body) retoractive to January 12. Egor Yakovlev was recalled from Binghamton to take his place on the roster and was a healthy scratch today along with Steven Santini and Blake Pietila (who was sitting in favor of Kevin Rooney, who played primarily on a line with Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford).

The goaltending matchup saw New Jersey go back to Mackenzie Blackwood who stopped 27 shots of 32 thrown at him by Chicago for an .844 save percentage. The Blackhawks started with Cam Ward who made 19 saves on 25 shots for a .760 save percentage. Ward was pulled in the third period in favor of Collin Delia who went 14-for-15 for a .933 save percentage.

Now to the goals. The Devils kicked off this deal when Blake Coleman scored unassisted at 13:50 of the first period. It came after Coleman was done serving a hooking penalty and came out of the box on a breakaway. He went backhand-forehand using a head fake and beat Ward to make it 1-0 Devils. This extended his point scoring streak to four games.

If you are a hockey coach preaching good, solid defensive hockey, you might want to look away from the second period. If you are a fan who likes offense, this one was for you. Your mileage may vary, of course. Eight total goals scored in the second combined between the two teams. A graphic on the MSG+ telecast mentioned that this was the first time since April 6, 1996 that the Devils and their opponents combined for eight in a single period. That one came in the second period of a game versus the Hartford Whalers that the Devils eventually won 6-3.

The period kicked off at 3:07 when Patrick Kane scored his first of two for the Hawks to tie it up at one on the power play. Ben Lovejoy had gone off for tripping at 2:36. The goal was off a nice give-and-go from Jonathan Toews and Kane snapped it by Blackwood. Dylan Strome had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Devils then went on to scored five unanswered beginning with Kyle Palmieri giving New Jersey back the lead at 5:16. He scored on a partial breakaway on a delayed hooking call on the Blackhawks. He put one just underneath the crossbar. Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier had the assists on the goal.

Palmieri would double up at the 8:27 mark when he scored his 22nd of the year from Will Butcher and Travis Zajac. Palmieri beat Ward through the legs on the power play – Chicago’s Brendan Perlini was caught for high-sticking at 8:08 – on a goal that was initially awarded to Boyle as he had seemingly touched it just before it went in. It actually looked like it went in off of the Blackhawks’ d-man’s skate, though. That goal made it 3-1 New Jersey.

Zajac made it 4-1 at 10:07 when Ward made a stop on a cutting Miles Wood but the puck just stayed in the crease and Zajac tapped it in. Coleman had the other assist on the goal. Palmieri, with two goals was the game’s first star while Coleman (two goals and an assist) was the second star and Kane (two goals, two assists) was the third star of the night.

The next goal came off of the stick of Sami Vatanen, who scored on the power play at 14:58 of the second from Jesper Bratt and Damon Severson. Toews was in the box for holding Zajac’s stick at 13:47. On this goal, Vatanen unleashed a rocket of a slapshot one-timer by Ward’s glove to make it 5-1 Devils. The Devils’ power play was 2-for-2 with three shots on net. They also had two shorthanded shots. The special teams were a battle of the Hawks’ second-ranked power play versus the Devils’ first-ranked penalty kill (both since the Christmas break). The Blackhawks were 1-for-4 on the power play, only striking once on two shots. The Devils PK won that battle.

While Palmieri was busy scoring goals 21 and 22 of the season, Kevin Rooney notched his first career NHL goal. He scored at 17:58 of the second from Stafford and Brett Seney. The Devils’ sixth goal and fifth unanswered came when Seney alley-ooped the puck to Stafford. Stafford cut in on Ward and shot and Rooney cleaned up on the rebound. Congrats to Kevin Rooney on his first career NHL goal.

The Hawks would finally stop the onslaught when Kane got his second of the game, ripping a one-timer by Blackwood from an odd angle to make it 6-2. Henri Jokiharju had the lone assist on that one at 18:19. Brent Seabrook then scored at 19:01 from Kane to make it 6-3. Kane had intercepted Blackwood’s clearing attempt in the corner and passed to Seabrook, who buried it to cut the Devils’ lead to three.

That was one hell of a period and either some of the most exciting or sloppy hockey you have seen, depending, again, on your point of view. But the teams were not done.

Seney kicked off the third by scoring from Bratt and Pavel Zacha at 8:10 to make it 7-3 Devils. This one was on Delia as he had come in at the very start of the third period. Seney took a centering pass from Bratt and tipped it by Delia in the slot.

Just 37 seconds later, Chicago’s Dominik Kahun snapped a pass from Carl Dahlstrom from the far faceoff circle to make it 7-4 New Jersey.

Things remained interesting when Brandon Saad scored a goal at 18:28 that went in and out of the net so fast, you could only tell via the overhead replay that it actually had entered the net. That goal, with an assist to Kane, made it 7-5 Devils. The Blackhawks pulled Delia after winning the ensuing faceoff with about a minute and a half remaining in regulation for the sixth attacker. Blake Coleman would cap the night off by scoring into the vacated cage with 34 seconds left in the game to ice it at 8-5.

According to MSG+, the last time the Devils had collected eight goals in a game came in December of 2008 – just about ten years ago – against the Rangers.

One note on that third period as Wood was injured and left the ice gingerly after taking a hit where his leg was wrenched. He would skate two more shifts, but eventually left the game and would not return. He will, however, make the trip to Columbus tomorrow as per John Hynes in his post game presser. Because of this, he ended up missing the fracas late in the period that did not lead to any penalties, but did see Ben Lovejoy drop the gloves to fight Drake Caggiula.

So when all was said and done, 13 Devils had registered at least a point. Six had multiple points on the night. The Devils out shot the Blackhawks 41-32 but only won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They also out hit the Hawks (21-10) and blocked more shots (15-7). They did register more giveaways, however at eight to Chicago’s six.

Individually, Andy Greene led all Devils skaters in ice time with 23:24 total (including 5:32 on the PK) and Travis Zajac led all forwards with 20:14 (19 seconds on the power play and 5:08 shorthanded) as the Devils really leaned on the veterans in this game. Palmieri led in shots on goal with six, three players (Boyle, Nico Hischier and Rooney) led in hits with three, Greene led in blocked shots with seven and Wood led in takeaways with two.

Next up the Devils travel tomorrow to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets in the second half of a back-to-back. We will have coverage right here for you. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below as they are always appreciated.

Devils Defeat Flyers in Duel of Rookie Goalies

Today Mackenzie Blackwood and Carter Hart, both highly touted rookie goaltenders with their respective clubs, met up for the first time. It was the first time (as per the trivia question on MSG+ today) since 1987 that two rookie goalies had played each other in a Devils-Flyers game – the last time it happened it was Craig Billington and Ron Hextall. It does not happen often (this was the 211th regular season meeting between Philly and New Jersey) that you see what could be the future of two franchises faceoff with one another. Today was worth the price of admission, though as the Devils won the game 3-2.

Blackwood was not the only one the Devils were getting back from injured reserve. Marcus Johansson was back from his upper body injury suffered on December 21 at Columbus. In addition the Devils called up Kevin Rooney from Binghamton and he was a healthy scratch today along with Stefan Noesen and Steven Santini. Mirco Mueller slotted back in on defense.

The goalie matchup saw Blackwood, making his seventh save of the year, make 32 saves on 34 Philly shots for a .941 save percentage on the afternoon. Hart stopped 23 of 26 for an .885 save percentage. Both goalies played pretty well and, although it is always tough to say, could be meeting up many times in the future. The two actually met up once before this season, as per Steve Cangialosi. They faced each other back on October 27 in the AHL when Hart (playing for Lehigh Valley) beat Blackwood, who was suited up for Binghamton at the time. Hart and Blackwood were also connected in that they were both called up from the American League on the same day.

This was the third meeting of the year between these teams already, but the first in Newark. And the hometown fans were treated to early action. Damon Severson got the Devils on the board early (6:32 into the first period) off assists from Drew Stafford and Pavel Zacha. It occurred when the Devils cycled down low, getting it to Stafford at the point. He saw Severson at the bottom of the far faceoff circle and passed. Severson one-timed it from the odd angle and beat Hart to make it 1-0 Devils. Severson now leads all Devils defensemen with 21 points.

New Jersey made it 2-0 when Nico Hischier came out of the penalty box after serving a hooking penalty and was sprung on a partial breakaway. He cut in on Hart and went backhand, through the five hole to put the Devils up 2-0 at the 5:08 mark of the second period. The goal was unassisted. Nico would go on to be named the game’s first star (Blackwood was the second star and Severson the third).

The Flyers would catch a break on their first goal of the evening as Bryce Salvador pointed out during the second intermission report. It came when the officials missed that the Flyers had made a late change to swap Radko Gudas off for James van Riemsdyk. It was simply a snafu as the defenseman Gudas was caught having to play forward on the faceoff in the Devils zone. But the Devils had the last change as the home team and the officials simply missed it. Off the faceoff, the Flyers would get a 2-on-1 where van Riemsdyk would chip the puck over Blackwood’s stick-side shoulder. That made it 2-1 Devils. The goal came at 15:51 of the second period off assists from Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov.

But the Devils would get that one back just 1:18 into the third period. It came when Blake Coleman jumped on a loose puck in the Philly zone and threw it in on Hart. Hischier crashed the net and jolted the puck free. Miles Wood slipped in backdoor and finished, putting the loose puck in the net to make it 3-1 Devils. Nico would end the game with a goal and an assist.

Philadelphia would get a 6-on-4 advantage late when Severson was called for hooking at 16:56 and Hart was pulled with about 2:40 left in the game. They would not score on this (only mustering one shot on goal here) and the Devils penalty kill remained strong. The Flyers were 0-for-3 with four total power play shots, plus one shorthanded shot.

The Devils power play, on the other hand, was not strong, going 0-for-5 with four shots. The Devils added a shorthanded shot on special teams.

Following that penalty, Hart would remain out of the net and Couturier scored off of a stretch pass from Jakub Voracek that sprung him for a breakaway. The Devils were making an ill advised change and got caught in it. His goal came with 2 seconds remaining in the game and van Riemsdyk had the secondary assist. That one made it 3-2 which was our final. A much needed two points for the Devils.

The Flyers out shot the Devils 34 to 26 and won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They also out hit the Devils 17 to 10 and had less giveaways at four to the Devils’ ten. Both teams blocked 14 shots.

Individually, Blake Coleman led in shots with six, Coleman and Sami Vatanen led in hits with three each, Andy Greene led in blocked shots with six and Severson led in takeaways with two. Time on ice was led by Travis Zajac with 21:38 (5:36 on the PP and 4:38 on the PK). Vatanen led the d-men with 21:15 (3:34 on the PP and 40 seconds shorthanded).

Next up for the Devils, Monday features a date with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks come in with a similar record to the Flyers and Devils. We will see if the Devils can knock off another struggling opponent. We will, of course, have coverage right here for you. In the meantime, if you would like, please feel free to leave some feedback down in the comments section. It is always appreciated.

Devils Fight Back But Lose to Leafs, 4-2

The Devils have had a hard time of it this year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After two blow outs earlier this season, they will be glad to put the Leafs in their rearview mirror as of last night. They lost 4-2 at Prudential Center.

It was 80s Night at The Rock, as the team was wearing its heritage white, green and red jerseys and the music and in-arena graphics were all throwbacks to the 1980s. The jumbotron was even done up to resemble the center-hung scoreboard at the Meadowlands in a nice touch.

The Devils still have some missing pieces, but they are getting better. Mackenzie Blackwood and Marcus Johansson skated this morning and the team is still without Taylor Hall. But without Hall and Johansson, the Leafs just have too much firepower to deal with. Mirco Mueller, Stefan Noesen and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches for the Devils tonight.

Without Blackwood, Cam Johnson once again backed up Keith Kinkaid, who got the nod between the pipes for the Devils. Kinkaid stopped 39 of an avalanche of 42 shots on goal. The Maple Leafs finished with 43 shots thanks to an empty net goal late in the game by Mitch Marner. Facing him was Michael Hutchinson who made 27 saves on 29 Devils shots.

The Devils were basically assaulted all night by John Tavares. The former Islander scored two goals and added an assist on the empty netter for three points in the game. He was named the game’s first star. Blake Coleman would be the second and Toronto’s Zach Hyman the third.

The Devils power play remained anemic while the penalty killers knocked off their only challenge of the night. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the PP with five shots while Toronto was 0-for-1 with one shot. The Leafs also had four shorthanded shots, which just shows how dangerous their offense is in any given situation.

Ron Hainsey got the goal scoring started off 4:30 into the game. He took a bank pass off of the boards by Hyman and one-timed it by Kinkaid. Connor Brown had the secondary assist on the goal that gave the Leafs the 1-0 lead.

A little less than three minutes later, at 7:21 of the first period, Tavares struck for the first time of two when he scored from Jake Gardiner. That made it 2-0 Leafs. Tavares hit the Devils one final time when he scored with six seconds remaining in the first from Morgan Rielly and Marner on what was just a tic-tac-toe surgical play to make it 3-0. Things looked really bleak for the Devils heading into the second period.

One highlight of the first for New Jersey was Kinkaid coming out of his goal cage and cutting off a Leafs breakaway. His adventure led to him falling down and nearly giving up a goal in an empty net, but the Devils recovered and no harm, no foul on that I guess.

The Devils made a game of it in the second period. It began at the 16:07 mark when Blake Coleman backhanded his own rebound in after Miles Wood went point-to-point with Andy Greene and Greene fired a shot on Hutchinson. Coleman tipped the initial shot on goal and then leapt on the rebound to make it 3-1 Toronto.

And the Devils kept on coming. Twenty-six seconds after Coleman’s goal, Brian Boyle found the back of the net when Blake Pietila led him in on the rush and dropped the puck for him just inside the Leafs’ blue line. Boyle wristed a shot by Hutchinson to make it 3-2 and the Devils, in a flurry of action, were right back in the game.

It would remain that way until with a minute remaining in regulation, the Devils pulled Kinkaid and Marner scored his empty netter (although Kyle Palmieri made a valiant back checking effort). That goal came with 22 seconds left in the game and Marner got an assist from Tavares.

It was just one of those games for the Devils. They did not get blown out, but they were beaten early and often and just could not recover. Most of that was the John Tavares show, as he just victimized the Devils. In the end, Toronto finished with 43 shots to the Devils’ 29. The Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs and out hit the Leafs 15 to 9. They also edged Toronto in blocked shots 9-8. But the Leafs had less giveaways at three to the Devils’ nine.

Damon Severson led the Devils in ice time with 22:22 (2:01 on the power play and eight seconds on the PK) while Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:52 (2:19 on the PP and 1:05 on the PK). Shots on goal were co-led by Palmieri and Wood with four each, hits were led by Steven Santini with three, blocks by Sami Vatanen with three and takeaways by Boyle, Zajac, Coleman, Pietila, Greene and Severson with one each.

Next up, Saturday as the Devils take on the rival Flyers in Newark. That is a 1 PM puck drop and we will have the coverage here for you. In the meantime if you have any comments, please feel free to leave a comment below. It is always appreciated.

Bad Second Period Dooms Devils to Loss in Buffalo

The Devils jumped out to an early one goal lead but let a bad second period where the Sabres scored five unanswered to hurt them and lead to a 5-1 loss at KeyBank Center.

Some roster moves to get to before we begin. John Quenneville was sent back to Binghamton yesterday and defenseman Egor Yakovlev was recalled. He was a healthy scratch tonight along with Mirco Mueller. Mackenzie Blackwood was also a scratch but he is still recovering from his lower body injury suffered earlier in the road trip. Cam Johnson was the backup again tonight as Blackwood “is progressing nicely” according to the team and MSG’s Erika Wachter.

Speaking of injury, Buffalo would be without Jack Eichel, who is also hurt. This would seem to favor the Devils, but the rest of the Sabres’ roster stepped up enough to fill that offensive void.

Between the pipes, Keith Kinkdaid went for the Devils. He was a career 3-0-0 against Buffalo in his career coming into tonight. He stopped 28 of the 33 shots the Sabres threw his way. For Buffalo, Carter Hutton started as he stopped 20 of the 21 shots the Devils fired in on him.

Special teams-wise, New Jersey continued its dominant penalty kill, but struggled on the power play once again. The Devils had their chances, going 0-for-4 with three shots (plus a shorthanded shot to go with things). The Sabres were kept 0-for-1 with two shots on the power play and two shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on.

Blake Coleman got the Devils up by one just 1:28 into the game. He scored from Miles Wood and Travis Zajac. It was a puck luck bounce as Wood just threw the puck to the net and it bounced in off of Coleman’s skate. The assist to Zajac moves him up the Devils’ all-time leading scoring list to fourth all-time, past Scott Gomez and behind only Patrik Elias, John MacLean and Kirk Muller.

A weird play with 13:38 to go in the first as Steven Santini blocked a shot at the side of the Devils’ net and the puck bounced to Nico Hischier, who was off to the races on a clear cut breakaway from the Devils’ blue line. The only problem was that for some reason the referee had blown the whistle to stop play. The best MSG analyst Ken Daneyko could come up with was that the official thought that the puck was in Kinkaid’s glove as he lost sight of it. Anyway, this was a tough break for the Devils and kept the score at 1-0.

The Devils kept that lead until 1:39 into the second period when Jeff Skinner scored his 29th of the season from Tage Thompson. Skinner scored off the rush to tie things, sniping one under the crossbar and down. That made it 1-1, but things were about to go downhill for the Devils very fast.

At the 4:14 mark, CJ Smith scored his first career NHL goal when his shot trickled by Kinkaid and Sami Vatanen tried to clear it from the goal line to no avail. The goal was reviewed and the call on the ice of good goal stood, it was 2-1 Sabres. Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo had the assists on the goal.

At 10:42, Casey Mittelstadt chipped a second-chance effort over Kinkaid’s right pad to make it 3-1. Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Dahlin had the assists there.

At 16:00, Jake McCabe scored shorthanded while Skinner was in the box for slashing Brett Seney. He scored on a 2-on-1 as McCabe blocked a shot at the Sabres’ blue line then jumped up with Evan Rodrigues on the rush. Rodrigues sold a shot and passed to McCabe who buried it behind Kinkaid to make it 4-1. Vladimir Sobotka had the other assist on this goal.

The Sabres capped off this onslaught 1:45 later when Lawrence Pilut shot through traffic to beat Kinkaid, who was without a stick. This was Pilut’s first career NHL goal as well. Conor Sheary and Rasmus Ristolainen had the assists on that one. It was now 5-1 Sabres and that would be our final.

According to MSG’s Steve Cangiolosi, this was the first time since November of last season that the Devils gave up five in a single period. They did that last year at Winnipeg. Former-Sabre Drew Stafford seemingly scored on his former team with 12:52 to go in the third. The light never went on and his shot seemed to just tickle the twine under the crossbar, but Toronto had its look and said no goal. Upon replay, the puck apparently hit the crossbar and came out. It was just one of those nights for the Devils.

Buffalo got their lone power play when Stefan Noesen and Rodrigues got into it midway through the third. Noesen drew a double minor for roughing while Rodrigues only got two minutes. The Devils killed that off and remain good on the PK. Both Pilut and Wood got ten minute misconduct penalties late in the third.

Stats-wise, the Devils were outshot 33-21, won 46-percent of the draws in the game, were out hit 13-11. They did block more shots than Buffalo at 19 to the Sabres’ 11 and had less giveaways at three to the Sabres’ six.

Individually, Zajac led all Devils skaters with 20:51 of ice time (4:20 on the PP and 1:11 shorthanded). Vatanen led the defensemen with 20:32 (2:40 PP/1:44 PK). Shots on goal were led by Damon Severson with four, hits by Blake Pietila with three, blocks by Coleman with three and takeaways by Brett Seney with one.

So the Devils need to shake this game off and come out angry for their next game. They return home on Thursday to faceoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs at The Rock. The Leafs are one of the best in the league and hopefully the Devils will play with some urgency on Thursday. I will be attending this game so my post will be up a little bit later. If you would like to comment on this game, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the section below. They are always appreciated.

Devils Defeated in Vegas, 3-2

The Devils rolled in to Sin City feeling good following their shootout win in Arizona. Unfortunately, they let a two goal lead slip away and fell to the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2 at T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL for the last month or so following a slow start. They had won five in a row coming into this game. But the Devils were on a bit of a warm streak of their own, having gone 6-4-1 since their comeback overtime win over these same Knights back on December 14 in Newark.

But if the Devils were going to win tonight, they would have to do so without Mackenzie Blackwood. The rookie goaltender missed the game with a lower body injury. Cam Johnson was recalled from Binghamton to back up Keith Kinkaid. In a cool move, the Devils signed Jeremy Brodeur, Marty’s son, to a PTO and he will be the backup in Binghamton for the time being as the Devils have obviously had some goalie injury problems with Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack and now Blackwood all suffering injuries right now.

In addition to Blackwood, Mirco Mueller and John Quenneville were the other scratches.

Keith Kinkaid got the start in goal, as he was scheduled to do and made 25 saves on 28 Vegas shots. Facing him was Malcolm Subban (PK’s brother) who made 36 stops on 38 Devils shots. Subban was named the game’s third star as he made a good showing in giving workhorse Marc-Andre Fleury a rare night off. This was also Subban’s first home start as a Golden Knight. Max Pacioretty was the first star and Alex Tuch the second as the media went with a Golden Knights sweep of the three stars.

It was the exact half way point of the season for the Devils, game number 41 and the Devils got off to a good start in this one. Nico Hischier put the Devils up on the board first, scoring from Jesper Bratt and Ben Lovejoy 5:06 into the contest. It ended up being a nice individual effort by Nico, although it was not fully intended as such. Hischier tried to make a pass to Damon Severson as the two were breaking in on a partial 2-on-1. The pass was batted down by the Knights’ defender and came back to Nico’s stick. He shot and beat Subban to make it 1-0 Devils, the second straight game that Hischier had scored the opener for New Jersey.

Vegas had a chance to make it 1-1 when a scramble in front of the Devils net led to the puck going in after the net was dislodged. Toronto reviewed it, but there was intent to blow the whistle by the referee, which was good enough to help the call on the ice of no goal stand up.

The Devils would double down on their lead at the 9:37 mark of the first when Ben Lovejoy scored from Pavel Zacha and Drew Stafford. It was a rare goal from the defenseman (his first of the year and first since March of 2017) but a nice one. It happened when Lovejoy took a pass in front of the Vegas net on his backhand. He waited and pulled Subban out of position before going to his forehand and beating the goalie from an odd angle. The Devils now had the 2-0 lead.

But that would only last until the 12:30 mark of the first when Zacha tried to make an ill-advised pass across the Devils’ zone and it was knocked down by Ryan Reaves. He skated in on Kinkaid and the shot trickled by the New Jersey netminder. It now was 2-1 Devils.

The Golden Knights got a little bit of puck luck when Brayden McNabb tied it 11:17 into the second period. The goal was initially waved off on the ice saying that Ryan Carpenter interfered with Kinkaid, preventing him from making the save. Vegas used their coach’s challenge on this and the replays showed that there was only minor contact between Carpenter and Kinkaid’s blocker and the call on the ice was overturned. It was a good goal and the game was now tied up at two. Cody Eakin and Carpenter had the assists on the goal.

The game winner for Vegas would come 4:31 later when, on a delayed penalty against the Devils, Max Pacioretty tipped a Shea Theodore shot by Kinkaid to make it 3-2. Alex Tuch had the other assist.

Flash forward to the third period when the Devils would pull Kinkaid while on the power play (Reaves was off for tripping) and had the 6-on-4 for a few seconds. They did not score, but caught a break when Reaves came out of the penalty box and tried to shoot for the empty net. His shot went down the rink and over the glass without being tipped. That was a delay of game penalty and Reaves was right back in the box. The Devils were back on the power play and with Kinkaid pulled again, ended the game on a 6-on-4. But they were unable to score and 3-2 was our final.

On special teams, the Devils penalty kill continued to dominate, keeping Vegas 0-for-2 with the man advantage with four shots. The Devils did not get a power play until the third period (the Reaves tripping call) and also went 0-for-2 with six shots on goal.

The Devils out shot the Knights by ten, 38-28, including out shooting them 20-6 in the third period. The Devils also won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Knights by one, 30 to 29. Both teams had 17 blocked shots and Vegas has more giveaways, 8-2.

Individually, Andy Greene edged out birthday boy Will Butcher (20:42) and Damon Severson (20:23) for the most TOI among skaters with 20:55 (including 2:54 on the PK). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 19:15 (2:33 on the PP and 2:32 shorthanded). Kyle Palmieri led in shots on goal with seven, Blake Coleman led in hits with six, Brian Boyle led in blocked shots with four and Palmieri and Lovejoy led in takeaways with two apiece.

Next up, the Devils shuffle off to Buffalo on Tuesday as the Devils are back in the Eastern time zone to take on the Sabres. We will have that game for you right here and, as always, if you have any comments, please do not hesitate to voice your opinion in the comment section below.