Hynes Receives Multi-Year Contract Extension

According to a report on NJ.com by Steve Politi and Chris Ryan, head coach John Hynes has been given “a multi-year extension” to his contract, which was set to expire at the end of this season. The term was not disclosed by the team.

Politi and Ryan quoted general manager Ray Shero as saying: “John’s leadership has been instrumental in building both culture and systems that are focused on the development of our players. He has cultivated a group of veteran leaders, while helping our young players develop and gain experience. John is to be commended for the progress the team has made under his direction and this commitment shows that we are confident in the role he will play in our future success.”

Hynes is currently the longest-serving head coach/manager of all the teams in the New York City area. He was hired in June 2015 by Shero right after Shero became GM replacing Lou Lamoriello. Shero hired him from the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, where he was coaching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.

Politi and Ryan mention that Hynes has a 125-122 NHL record as Devils head coach.

Hynes, for his part, was quoted by Politi and Ryan as saying: “Pro sports is an emotional business, but you need a clear plan,” (in regards to owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer’s dedication to building the Devils back into a winner). “Everything doesn’t go on a straight line to the top. There are dips, troubling times, good times, but it’s about the foundation we’re building here.”

Now my take is that there are bound to be plenty of fans who will not agree with this move. But it is important to remember that last season was a bit of fool’s gold. The Devils made the playoffs but they are still in a rebuild. That rebuild needs stability and Hynes gives them that.

Regardless of how you feel about Hynes as a coach, you cannot be firing coaches in the middle of a rebuild because it stunts the development of the younger players. If someone like Nico Hischier, for instance, has two coaches in a year and a half in his ear, that would not help him as a hockey player. Hynes has proven that he works very well with the younger guys and is a good communicator. Young players need that.

Plus, there is the Taylor Hall factor. The reigning MVP has said that he enjoys playing under Hynes and that Hynes has challenged him like no other coach. Those are big words from one of the best players in the NHL. If you fire Hynes, there is almost zero chance that Hall comes back when it is time to re-sign.

You can argue with his strategy, you can argue with his usage of certain players such as Mirco Mueller and you can argue that this is a results-based league where he needs to win. But if you fire him now (which obviously the Devils are not doing), then you have something worse. You have a situation like the Flyers have where team profits and a win-now mentality override good, sound decision making.

Just relax and give this thing time, hopefully it will work out.

Quarterfinal Wednesday at 2019 World Juniors

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship is down to the quarterfinal round today, featuring two games with Devils prospects involved: Sweden versus Switzerland and Finland taking on Canada.

The long day of hockey in British Columbia began with the first game of the best-of-three relegation round at Rogers Arena. In this one, Kazakhstan edged Denmark, 4-3. The Danes finally scored a goal in this tournament after having been blanked in each of their preliminary games. Jonas Rondbjerg scored the first Danish goal of the tournament, tying things up at one at the 9:00 mark of the first period.

However, Kazakhstan was able to hold off the Danes late and take a 1-0 lead in the series with game two being played on Friday.

In the first medal round game, the Swiss met the Swedes in Victoria. Akira Schmid did not play, yielding the net to Luca Hollenstein who was nothing short of brilliant today.

We have talked about the Swedish domination in the preliminary rounds of these World Junior tournaments, but they have not been quite as successful when it has come to the later rounds. That trend continued today as they lost to Switzerland, 2-0. But that is not to say that the Swiss did not play well, they played fantastically in the upset, just beating the Swedes to loose pucks and pushing the pace of the game all the way.

Yannick Bruschweiler scored what would be the game winner 15:23 into the first period. Luca Wyss added a bit of a controversial goal in the second period on the power play. The play should have been called dead on a high stick (not a penalty, just the Swedish clearing attempt being played with a high stick) but it was not. Switzerland continued on in front of the Swedish net and Wyss scored to make it 2-0. And that was the final as Switzerland came away with the upset victory.

Both goalies played well, with Hollenstein notching the shutout – the first time Sweden had been shutout in this tournament since 2006. Both Hollenstein and Sweden’s Samuel Ersson were named their respective team’s players of the game. Hollenstein stopped all 41 Swedish shots while Ersson made 33 saves.

Fabian Zetterlund had four shots on goal (including being stopped on a nice chance while Sweden was on the power play early in the third period), two penalty minutes (an elbowing penalty with about ten minutes remaining in the game) and was a minus-1 in 19:36 of ice time.

Sweden is now out and Switzerland will move on in the tournament as they have finally taken the next step. Their opponent would be set in the next game.

That game was Canada versus Finland from Vancouver, the other Devils-centric game being played tonight. And this one was a doozy.

The game was tied at zero heading into the second period where Ian Mitchell scored to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead. Things were rolling along for Canada until Finland pulled Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, their goaltender, with about a minute to go in the game. With 47 ticks of the clock left to go, Aleksi Heponiemi scored to tie it up and send it to overtime.

Just 1:14 into the OT session, Eeli Tolvanen of Finland was called for hooking and a penalty shot was awarded to Canada. Max Comtois was denied by Luukkonen and play continued on. It would only take 4:03 for the Finns to claim victory from there. Toni Utunen scored from Aarne Talvitie and Heponiemi to move Finland on to the next round against the Swiss.

Ty Smith for Canada finished a minus-2 in 26:20 of ice time, which led all Canadian skaters. Talvitie had the assist, four shots on goal, was a plus-2 all in 24:12 of ice time for the Finns. In that shocker of a finish, the Canadians go home and Finland will play on against the Swiss for a medal.

Luukkonen had 24 saves on 25 shots while Canada’s Michael DiPietro stopped 32 of the 34 Finnish shots thrown at him.

In the other bracket and back at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Team USA defeated the Patrik Elias-assistant coached Czech Republic, 3-1. The US got goals from Noah Cates, Josh Norris and Alexander Chmelevski in the win. Martin Kaut scored the lone Czech goal. The winner of this game would get the winner of the Russia-Slovakia game.

Goaltending-wise for this game, the US fired 41 shots at Lukas Dostal, who made 38 saves. The Czechs mustered just 19 shots and Cayden Primeau got 18 of them.

And that led us to the final game of the quarterfinal knockout round from Vancouver. While Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland gave us lots of drama and upsets, the Russian game went about as you would expect. They beat the Slovaks 8-3 to power through to the semifinals.

Russia got goals from Grigori Denisenko, Stepan Starkov, Alexander Alexeyev, Nikita Shashkov, Kirill Slepets, Ilya Morozov and two from Klim Kostin. Slovakia got a goal from Martin Fehervary in the third and one from Milos Roman late in the game. The Russians used their coach’s challenge to look for offsides on the Roman goal and were not successful. That set up a Slovak power play (Russia was assessed a delay of game penalty) on which Michal Ivan scored. That gave us our final of 8-3 as the Slovaks will go home and the Russians will play the Americans in the semifinal round.

In goal, Russia’s Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves on 35 Slovak shots. Slovakia’s Juraj Sklenar made 22 saves on just 30 Russian shots.

So that sets up our matchups for Friday. We will, of course, have coverage of that here then along with the Devils-Coyotes game, which is also on Friday. See you then!

Devils Battle, But Lose to Stars 5-4

The Devils battled back from two two-goal deficits only to give up a goal late and fall to the Stars 5-4 in Dallas. The Devils were looking for a fourth straight win for the first time since the beginning of the season, but were denied thanks to two goals each from Miro Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin.

It has been an eventful week so far in Dallas, one that began with their CEO publicly and profanely calling out the Stars’ two best players, Seguin and Jamie Benn, and ending with the announcement that the city would host the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.

In Devils news, Taylor Hall was placed on injured reserve retroactive to December 23 as per Amanda Stein on Twitter. Because it is retroactive to December 23, Hall can be brought back at any time, he did not, however, make the trip with the team to Dallas. Blake Pietila and Egor Yakovlev were recalled from Binghamton of the AHL. They were both healthy scratches joining Mirco Mueller.

Hall was also named the Devils’ representative to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game at San Jose later this month. Kyle Palmieri was also named a potential injury replacement as per Steve Cangialosi on Twitter. Congratulations to both of them on this well earned honor.

Between the pipes, the Devils went back to Mackenzie Blackwood for their first game of 2019. Blackwood was under siege most of the night from Dallas, stopping 35 of 40 shots on him. Facing him was Ben Bishop, someone who the Devils have had some trouble with of late. He stopped 30 of the 34 shots thrown his way.

Kyle Palmieri scored the Devils’ first goal of the new year just 3:41 into the first, his 20th of the season and also his 100th in a New Jersey Devils uniform. It came after Travis Zajac was able to hold the blue line for the Devils, get the puck to Andy Greene, who made a nifty pass to Palmieri. Palmieri then tipped the pass into the Dallas net to make it 1-0. Unfortunately for the Devils, they would lose Greene to injury later in the game.

At the 12:31 mark, Benn responded for the Stars as he scored off a pass from Alexander Radulov, who had gone wide around the net while shielding the puck and passing to Benn in the slot. Benn scored and ended Blackwood’s shutout streak at 135:26, tying the game at one. Benn, too, would be lost for the game for Dallas after taking a hit from Miles Wood in the second period. John Klingberg had the secondary assist on his goal.

That hit came at 2:05 of the second when Wood would draw a five minute major for interference against Benn. The teams would play 4-on-4 as Esa Lindell and Stefan Noesen were off for roughing and John Klingberg of the Stars was called for cross checking. Once those three minor penalties ended, Dallas would be on a three minute power play (the Wood call).

At the 3:21 mark of the second period, while 4-on-4, Miro Heiskanen used a head fake and a deke to skate around Blackwood to make it 2-1 Stars. He got assists from Tyler Pitlick and Roman Polak.

By 6:38, the minors had expired and the Wood power play kicked in. With Dallas up 5-on-4, Tyler Seguin sniped one by Blackwood from Radulov and Klingberg. That goal made it 3-1 Stars.

On the power play for the night, the Devils ended up 1-for-4 with nine shots. Dallas was 1-for-3 with six shots as well as two shorthanded shots.

The Devils were down by two but the comeback was on once Jesper Bratt grabbed a loose puck off the rebound of a Nico Hischier breakaway at 11:08 of the second. The puck was on end and Bratt was able to shoot it by Bishop to cut the lead to 3-2 Stars.

But the Stars would grab back the two goal lead when Seguin scored his second of the game at 12:24 from Radulov and Valeri Nichushkin. Seguin was able to roof a pass from Radulov by Blackwood to make it 4-2 Dallas.

The Devils looked down and out, but this recent three game winning streak has really energized the team and has them more confident than ever and it showed. Drew Stafford made it 4-3 when he broke in on a 2-on-1 with Brett Seney and went to a backhand-forehand move to beat Bishop. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 4-3 at 17:21.

And amazingly, the Devils would tie things before the end of the second period. It came when the Devils were on the power play due to Heiskanen going off for a holding call against Bratt at 18:09. With the Devils on the man advantage, Brian Boyle redirected a Butcher shot from the point to tie the game at four. Zajac had the other assist and the game was knotted going into the second intermission.

But the game winner would come just 6:27 into the third period when Heiskanen scored his ninth of the year and second of the game from Roope Hintz to give us our final of 5-4. That goal came on just as a delayed penalty was about to be called on the Devils.

New Jersey would pull Blackwood with about 1:30 remaining in regulation but were stopped again and again by the Stars. The final horn sounded and the Stars had won, with Heiskanen being named the first star, Seguin the second and Radulov, who had three assists, the third.

Final team stats saw the Devils outshot 40 to 34 (at one point, the Devils went 22:46 without a shot on goal in this game), the Devils win 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the Devils out hit the Stars 31-23, and out block Dallas, 17-14. Dallas had more giveaways at 13 to the Devils’ 11.

individually, Sami Vatanen led all skaters with 23:17 of ice time (including 2:12 of PP time and 27 seconds of PK time) while Zajac led the forwards with 21:08 (4:12 of PP/1:49 of PK). Zajac and Boyle co-led in shots with five apiece, Blake Coleman, back in his old stomping grounds, led in hits with seven. Zajac led in blocked shots with five and Nico Hischier led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will travel to the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes in the two team’s first meeting of the year. That game is at 9 PM eastern and we will have all of the coverage for you right here.

Last Day of Prelims at 2019 World Juniors

The final day of the round-robin preliminary round of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got underway on New Year’s Eve 2018 and ended on New Year’s Day 2019.

In the earliest game involving a Devils prospect, Fabian Zetterlund and Sweden took on Kazakhstan. Sweden won 4-1 with Kazakhstan only mustering 11 shots on goal all night.

Emil Bemstrom got the scoring started in what was a three-goal first period for the Swedes. Rasmus Sandin and Nils Lundkvist rounded out the Swedish scoring in the first.

After a scoreless second period, Kazakhstan finally got on the board when Batrylan Muratov scored with about ten minutes left in the game. Kazakhstan had a chance to cut the lead in half possibly when they were up 5-on-3 when Sweden’s Lucas Elvenes went off for tripping at 12:55 and then Sandin was called for delay of game at 13:29. They could not convert and the Swedes added another one from Sandin with less than a minute to go in the game to give us the 4-1 final.

Zetterlund’s stat line read: five shots on goal and a plus-1 rating in 22:24 of ice time.

In goal, Sweden’s Olle Eriksson Ek stopped ten of the 11 Kazakhstan shots. Kazakhstan’s Denis Karatayev was a little more busy, making 52 saves on a whopping 56 Swedish shots on goal. He was solid considering the amount of work he had.

Sweden finishes the tournament in Group B with 11 points (three wins, one overtime win and no losses) and a 16-8 or plus-8 goal differential. Kazakhstan finishes Group B play winless with four losses and a 5-28 or minus-23 goal differential.

In the primetime game being played in Vancouver, the Canadians and the Russians squared off in a New Year’s Eve Group A showdown. Canada would be without the services of Jared McIsaac, who was suspended for one game for a high hit to the head of a Czech player in their game on December 29. The IIHF has a zero-tolerance policy against checks to the head saying that there is no such thing as a good hit to the head, and the hammer came down on this one.

This game was an exciting one (provided you were not rooting for Canada). Following a first period where Cody Glass scored just 2:20 into the game to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead and Grigori Denisenko scored 3:31 later to tie it for the Russians, things settled in. The two teams played a defensive struggle with occasional offensive outbursts such as the end of the second period that saw time expire as Canada was scrambling to get the puck past Russian goalie Pyotr Kochetkov. They did not and we played on tied into the third.

And in the third period, Pavel Shen scored with nine minutes remaining in the game to put Canada behind the eight-ball for the first time in the tourney. Russia led 2-1 and, following a desperate attempt by the Canadians to tie things, won the game by that score. The loss stunned the 17,556 in attendance at Rogers Arena, most of whom were obviously Canadian partisans.

Russia peppered Canadian goalie Michael DiPietro with 31 shots and he made 29 saves. Russia’s Kochetkov also faced 31 shots and stopped 30 of them.

Devils prospect Ty Smith had one shot and was an even plus/minus in a team-leading 23:15 of ice time.

Canada finishes prelim play with nine points (3-0-0-1 record) and a 23-5 or plus-18 goal differential. Russia wins Group A with 12 points (a 4-0-0-0 record) and a 15-6 or plus-9 goal differential.

The game that would take us into the new year was being played over in Victoria in the prelim finale. It was Finland versus the USA with the winner guaranteed to avoid both Canada and Russia in the crossover medal round.

This game was a little more free-wheeling than the Canada-Russia game in comparison. The US was able to come away with the win, 4-1.

USA’s Jason Robertson got the scoring kicked off with nine seconds remaining in the first period. John Madden’s son, Tyler, scored midway through the second to put the US up 2-0, handcuffing Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Ryan Poehling, the hero from the other night, scored 5:02 later through the five hole to make it 3-0.

The Finns actually had a goal waved off early in the second period, that would have tied it up at one. But the US persisted on and Madden scored a second goal early in the third period that was also reviewed. There was question as to whether or not the puck was kicked into the net. After review, the call on the ice of a good goal stood. It was 4-0 USA.

Finland got one back late in the third when Jesse Ylonen tipped a Urho Vaakanainen shot past US goaltender Cayden Primeau. Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie had the secondary assist on that goal.

So with that win, the US will now remain in Victoria, their “home rink” where they have played all of their games thus far, and be the second seed in Group B.

Talvitie’s stat line read: the assist, two shots on goal, a plus-1 plus/minus and 12 minutes of penalties (a two minute boarding call and a ten minute misconduct early in the game) all in 11:40 of ice time.

US goalie Primeau stopped 27 of the Finns’ 28 shots while Luukkonen stopped 35 of 39 American shots on goal.

The US finishes in second in Group B with seven points behind only Sweden’s eleven. The US went 3-0-1-0 and had a goal differential of 18-9 or plus-9. Finland finishes third in Group B with six points (2-0-0-2) and a goal differential of 11-7 (plus-4).

I believe as it stands now, Denmark and Kazakhstan will face each other in the best-two-out-of-three relegation series, Russia will play Slovakia, Sweden will play Switzerland, Canada will play Finland and the USA will play the Czech Republic in the medal round quarterfinals.

We will have coverage of the Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland games here as those are the games most relevant to the Devils. In the meantime, happy new year and have a safe and healthy 2019!