Champions Crowned at 2019 World Juniors

The medal round got under way at Rogers Arena in Vancouver at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with Russia and Switzerland facing off for bronze while the USA and Finland met for gold.

The Swiss were coming into this afternoon’s game with the Russians looking to win bronze (or medal at all) for the first time since 1998. It has been an unpredictable and wide open tournament so far no doubt, but if you had Switzerland in the medal round prior to the tourney instead of, say, Canada or Sweden, most would have called you crazy.

Still, the Cinderella story came to an end today as Russia won the game 5-2 to win the bronze medal. Kirill Slepets had a hat trick and Nikita Shashkov and Klim Kostin also scored to give them the victory.

Kostin, the Russian captain, did not endear himself to the Vancouver crowd as he pantomimed putting his fingers in his ears after he scored. This was in reference to him getting on the crowd’s bad side in yesterday’s game versus the US when he yelled expletives at the crowd after Russia’s loss. He did apologize for his behavior in that game, but the jury is still out on whether or not it was really sincere.

Switzerland did not get their first shot on goal until about midway through the first period, after Slepets had scored his first of the game at 4:25. In the second period, Valentin Nussbaumer scored for the Swiss to cut the Russian lead to 2-1. Kostin then scored to make it 3-1 before Yannick Bruschweiler scored for the Swiss to make it 3-2. This goal was reviewed for a high stick, but was ruled to be a good goal. That goal came after a remarkable save by Russian goalie Pyotr Kochetkov and a hit post.

Of note was that the Russians were actually offside on their first goal, but Switzerland chose not to challenge it.

The Swiss continued to hang in there, really coming on in the second, but just ran out of gas by the time Slepets scored 6:33 into the third off the rush to make it 4-2. Russia took a few penalties late in the game, putting them down a man when Switzerland pulled goaltender Luca Hollenstein (Devils prospect Akira Schmid did not play) to make it a 6-on-4 man advantage. But Slepets scored a shorthanded goal into the empty net to cap off the Russian victory.

Kochetkov made 34 saves on 36 Swiss shots as Switzerland really settled in offensively after a slow start. Hollenstein made 19 saves on 24 Russian shots.

So Russia finishes with the bronze and Switzerland finishes just out of a medal in fourth place. Russia remains undefeated in bronze medal games at the WJC, now improving to 8-0.

Next up, the main event: USA versus Finland for the gold. This game would feature the two kids who are projected to go one and two in the 2019 NHL Draft (coincidentally to also be held in Vancouver) in Jack Hughes (USA) and Kaapo Kakko (Finland). It also featured Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie of Finland. This game was the first time Finland and the US had ever met each other for gold at the WJC.

The US has won three gold medals in this tournament since 2013, but tonight was Finland’s night. The Finns won 3-2 on a late goal from Kakko, who scored off of a goal mouth scramble.

The US actually scored on the power play early in the game, but the goal was immediately waved off and reviewed. Upon the review, the call on the ice stood as even though Oliver Wahlstrom had scored, Alexander Chmelevski was in the crease and was deemed to have interfered with Finnish goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

With that, the game remained scoreless until the 11:31 mark of the second period when Jesse Ylonen put the Finns up on top off of a one-timer shot off a faceoff on the power play. In the third, Otto Latvala would extend the Finnish lead to 2-0 on a point shot through traffic. The US was in a tough way just six minutes into the third frame.

But the American comeback was on. Just 1:01 after the Latvala goal, Chmelevski scored to cut the Finnish lead in half at 2-1. He scored on a shot from an odd angle that beat Luukkonen. And then, 1:48 after that, Josh Norris scored to tie the game at two, just sniping one from the top of the far faceoff circle.

The game seemed headed for overtime until Kakko scored his goal to put the Finns up 3-2. American goalie Cayden Primeau was pulled with a little over a minute remaining in regulation, but it was not enough and Finland won the gold medal at the 2019 World Junior Championship.

Aarne Talvitie was driven into the boards hard in the first period and was shaken up. He returned but played the rest of the game injured. The Finnish captain and Devils prospect finished the game with 10:54 of ice time and an even plus/minus. He really impressed this tournament and opened some eyes. He will now return to Penn State to continue his NCAA career.

As for the goaltenders, Luukkonen stopped 26 of 28 shots faced while Primeau made 28 saves on 31 Finnish shots.

And that is it. Finland wins gold, USA silver and Russia the bronze. Overall, it was a great tournament and we cannot wait to see what goes down next year in the Czech Republic. We will be right back here tomorrow for coverage of the Devils-Golden Knights game from Las Vegas. If you have any comments, please do not hesitate to leave them in the comment section below.

Devils Get First Shootout Win of Season, Down Arizona 3-2

The Devils said that they wanted to try to take at least six of a possible eight points on this road trip. They dropped two in Dallas and were looking to rectify that in Arizona. And they would, winning 3-2 in a shootout to knock off the Coyotes in Glendale.

It was the battle of the penalty kills, as the Coyotes are the number one ranked PK in the NHL and the Devils number two. And sure enough, neither team was able to gain much traction on the power play. The Devils went 0-for-3 with a single shot (they did have three shorthanded shots, however). The Devils kept Arizona 0-for-5 on the PP with six shots on goal. The Coyotes had a 5-on-3 to kill off early in the game and then a four minute high sticking double minor on Brian Boyle late in the game so that skewed things a little bit.

The Devils went with their same lineup as the last few games with the lone exception of Blake Pietila slotting in up front. John Quenneville (who was just named an AHL All-Star along with Mackenzie Blackwood) slotted out at forward. Defensemen Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were the other healthy scratches.

In goal, the Devils announced that Blackwood would get the nod tonight, making his fifth straight start and Keith Kinkaid would start on Sunday in Vegas. A monkey wrench in those plans, however, saw Blackwood go down with a lower body injury early in the game. He ended up playing 15:59, stopping all eight shots he saw. Kinkaid then came on in relief and stopped 15 of the 17 shots fired at him. For the Yotes, Darcy Kuemper turned aside 33 of the 35 Devils shots he saw.

Some milestones for the night saw Jesper Bratt playing in his 100th NHL game, Drew Stafford in his 800th NHL game and it was also Nico Hischier’s 20th birthday. Stafford and Hischier would play crucial roles in this game.

Hischier’s would be scoring the opening goal of the game and it was a weird one. Kyle Palmieri stripped the Arizona skater of the puck in the neutral zone and went in on a 2-on-1 with Hischier. Nico took the puck and fired on net, only for Arizona’s Clayton Keller to crash into the net, dislodging it from its moorings just as the puck was crossing the goal line. The play was reviewed by Toronto with the officials getting together to watch on their tablet. Amazingly a goal was awarded to the Devils as the puck “would have entered the net had it not been deliberately knocked off its moorings.” By the rule, the referee can award a goal at his discretion and it was. The goal came at 1:05 into the game and Palmieri had the lone assist. The birthday boy had scored and the Devils were ahead.

But then came the injury to Blackwood and a relatively cold Kinkaid entered the game. At 16:44 of the first, Pavel Zacha made a costly turnover into the slot, giving the puck up to Conor Garland who scored unassisted, beating Kinkaid to make it 1-1.

The Devils nearly took another lead early in the second period when Pietila seemingly had scored. But upon review, the puck crossed the line after the referee had blown his whistle and play was dead. One break had gone the Devils’ way, but this one would not. It was still 1-1.

The Coyotes would take the lead at the 9:05 mark of the second when Christian Fischer skated in on a 2-on-1 and elected to shoot. He beat Kinkaid between the arm and the body as it trickled through for a 2-1 lead for Arizona. The goal was unassisted. The Devils were now behind the eight-ball if they wanted to salvage something from this game.

Enter Blake Coleman. A good Devils forecheck led to Travis Zajac being able to make a nifty backhand pass to Coleman who stuffed the puck five hole on Kuemper to tie it up at two. Miles Wood had the other assist on the goal.

And from there, the two teams settled in. New Jersey had a Hischier shorthanded breakaway on the four minute double minor PK late in the third and a Zacha shorthanded chance on a Steven Santini delay of game penalty a few minutes later.

This would lead to overtime and two critical plays one early for the Devils and one late for the Coyotes. The early one was Jesper Bratt clearing a sure Arizona goal as he swept it from the goal line after it got by Kinkaid. Kuemper then made three remarkable saves for the Coyotes, including two in succession on Zajac later on in the OT period. The buzzer went on OT and we were on to a shootout.

New Jersey had yet to win a shootout this season, but that was about to change. Arizona went first and Alex Galchenyuk missed the net. Kyle Palmieri scored on his chance to finish out the first round. Kinkaid then made a crucial save on Nick Cousins and Drew Stafford got the game winner in the second round to end it for the Devils.

They had fought back and gotten the two points in the desert. The Devils out shot the Coyotes 35 to 25 and won 54-percent of the game’s draws. The Yotes out hit the Devils 39 to 27, but the Devils had more blocked shots at 17-11 and less giveaways at 12 to Arizona’s 13.

Individually, Andy Greene led in minutes with 24:17 (including 7:17 on the penalty kill) and Zajac led the forwards with 20:40 (2:51 on the power play and 3:15 shorthanded). Coleman led in shots on goal with a career high eight while fellow Texan Stefan Noesen led the hit parade with four. Blocked shots were led by Sami Vatanen with four and Zajac, Coleman and Palmieri each had a takeaway to lead in that category.

Next up, the Devils travel to Vegas to take on the Golden Knights while remaining in the desert. That game is on Sunday at 4 PM eastern and we, of course, will have coverage for you right here.

Semifinals at 2019 World Junior Championship

Today would set the stage for the gold medal and bronze medal games at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. In addition, there was a relegation as Kazakhstan defeated Denmark to remain in the tournament for 2020 with the Danes moving out.

Sayan Daniyar and Davyd Makutski scored in the first period to make it 2-0 Kazakhstan and then Artur Gatiyatov scored two empty netters in a span of 1:32 which gave the final of 4-0.

It was not for trying though. Denmark threw 25 shots at Demid Yeremeyev, dominating the shot totals. Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev was equal to all 25 of those shots in getting the shutout. Danish goalie William Rorth saw only 16 shots and stopped 12 of them.

Kazakhstan sweeps the relegation series and Denmark will be moving down to the 2020 IIHF U20 World Championship Division I Group A. Germany, who won that division this year, will be promoted to take the Danes’ place. Next year’s World Junior Championship takes place in the Czech Republic. According to an article on the IIHF website by Dhiren Mahiban, 2020 “will be the seventh time Kazakhstan plays in the top group. They played in the top division from 1998-2001 and in 2008 and 2009 prior to this year’s event.”

In comparison Denmark had been in the top group since 2014 according to Mahiban. Mahiban mentioned that they relegated Belarus last year and had made it to “the quarter-finals the three times before.”

With that bit of business out of the way, we moved to the games that would set the medal round, with the US taking on Russia and Finland facing Switzerland later in the night.

The first gold medal game participant was set when the USA defeated Russia, 2-1. Russia had an early goal disallowed when the puck was redirected in off of a Russian skate. There was no kicking motion, but in the IIHF any time a puck goes in off of a skate it is no goal. The US dodged one bullet but it would not be the last.

A few minutes after the disallowed Russian goal, Oliver Wahlstrom scored to make it 1-0 US. Alexander Chmelevski would make it 2-0 just four minutes into the second period and that was all the Americans needed in the end.

Russia would get on the board when Grigori Denisenko scored at the 13:36 mark of the second. Early in the third period with Russia on the power play, the US dodged another bullet. A Russian shot rolled behind American goalie Cayden Primeau on edge and along the goal line. It never crossed the line and was cleared out by the American defender. Russia would pull goalie Pyotr Kochetkov with about a minute to go in the game, but the US held on to win.

Primeau turned aside 34 of the 35 Russian shots while Kochetkov stopped 25 of 27 American shots.

The USA will now play for gold on Saturday and their opponent in the gold medal game would be decided by the Finland-Switzerland game taking place a few hours after the Americans won their game.

And this one was the exact opposite of the USA-Russia game. It was a 6-1 blowout in favor of Finland. The Finns got goals from Jesse Ylonen, Henri Jokiharju and a pair from Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie in the first period. The Swiss got one from Philipp Kurashev to make it 4-1 at the end of one.

But the Finns added two more in the second period, one from Aleksi Heponiemi and one from Rasmus Kupari to ice it at 6-1.

Akira Schmid started for the Swiss, making 27 stops on 33 Finnish shots. Finnish goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 16 saves on 17 shots in a relatively easier night.

Talvitie’s final stat line read: the two goals, six shots on net and a plus-2 rating in 18:36 of ice time.

Next up, the gold medal game on Saturday with the United States taking on Finland. Also, the bronze medal game between Russia and Switzerland will take place tomorrow. We will have recaps right here for you at the conclusion of the two games.

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!

Blackwood Records Second Straight Shutout, Devils Beat Canucks 4-0

Two days ago, Mackenzie Blackwood got his first NHL shutout. He became the sixth Devils rookie goalie to record a shutout joining the likes of Sean Burke and Martin Brodeur (the only two younger goalies to do it, respectively). Today, he upped the ante, earning his second consecutive shutout and in doing so becoming the first Devils goalie to do so since Marty Brodeur in April of 2010 and the first ever Devils rookie to record back-to-back shutouts. He also became the first NHL rookie goalie to turn this feat since John Gibson on December 29 and 31, 2015 – three years to the exact days. His shutout streak now stands at 125:55 as the Devils notched the 4-0 win at Prudential Center over the Vancouver Canucks.

And with all of that, the Devils have won three straight for the first time since the first three games of the season.

On this New Year’s Eve, Vancouver came in having gathered 15 points in their last ten games, going 7-2-1. The Devils stopped them cold, weathering a storm in the second period where the Canucks dominated. It was a good game for New Jersey and one where ten different Devils recorded points.

The Devils were still without Taylor Hall (day-to-day, lower body) and Marcus Johansson (who is skating but remains on injured reserve). The team also made the decision to assign defenseman Egor Yakovlev to Binghamton of the AHL. Mirco Mueller was the lone healthy scratch for the Devils.

As for the goaltending matchup, Blackwood made his third consecutive start for the Devils after it was announced earlier today that he was the NHL’s third star of the week for the week ending yesterday. He was also this game’s first star come the end of the night. He saw 25 Vancouver shots and turned them all aside. Opposing him was Anders Nilsson. He made 19 saves on 23 Devils shots.

While the big story for the Devils has been goaltending, there was another aspect of their game that, not coincidentally since goaltending plays a big part in it, has been great of late. That is their penalty killing. They held the Canucks 0-for-4 on the man advantage with just three shots. The Devils themselves went 2-for-3 with five power play shots and also added two shorthanded shots.

The Devils’ goals came in bunches: two in the first period and two in the third. The first goal was scored 12:03 into the game by Brian Boyle from Drew Stafford and Brett Seney. It happened when Boyle found Stafford’s rebound on the doorstep and buried it five-hole to record his tenth of the season for the game winner. It was 1-0 Devils and that was all they needed.

It became 2-0 on the power play when Miles Wood scored on the power play at 18:12 of the first from Sami Vatanen and Jesper Bratt. Vancouver’s Bo Horvat went off for tripping Seney and the Devils had their first power play opportunity of the afternoon. Bratt passed out of the near corner to Vatanen at the far point. Vatanen gave to Wood near the top of the near circle and he rocketed a shot upstairs to double the Devils’ lead.

New Jersey had to brace themselves for an attacking Canucks team in the second period, but Blackwood was there to close the door when needed. The third goal of the game came just 1:31 into the third period also on the power play when Vatanen scored from Wood and Damon Severson. This had been setup the previous period when Markus Granlund tripped up Nico Hischier leading to a Devils power play that would commence after a period of 4-on-4 (Vancouver was already on the PP) and carry over to the third.

On this goal, Wood broke into the Canucks’ zone on the rush and dropped the puck for a trailing Vatanen. He one-timed a shot from just inside the blue line that beat Nilsson stick side. It may have been deflected by Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler. It was now 3-0 Devils.

Pavel Zacha would put a bow on 2018 when he scored 2:05 later from Stefan Noesen and Steven Santini. Zacha, as per the coaching staff, has been shooting more of late and using his offensive weapons. This has translated into goals like the one he scored today when Noesen criss-crossed through the neutral zone, gained the offensive zone and dropped to Zacha just inside the Canucks’ blue line. Zacha fired the puck by Nilsson and made it 4-0 in what would be our final. That was also the final Devils goal of the 2018 calendar year.

A strange play late in the game as Vancouver’s Antoine Roussel pushed Severson into Blackwood with Severson’s skate going into Blackwood’s midsection. Blackwood was okay, but Roussel then proceeded to drop his gloves and attack Severson with Severson not being ready to fight. For his efforts, Roussel was given a two minute roughing minor that put New Jersey on the power play and a ten minute misconduct penalty.

Statistically, the Devils were out shot by Vancouver 25-23, won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had a whopping 32 hits to the Canucks’ 18, blocked ten more shots than the Canucks (18-8) and had 11 giveaways to Vancouver’s three.

Individually, Sami Vatanen, who was named the game’s third star, led the team in ice time with 22:27 (1:56 on the power play and 2:23 shorthanded) while Travis Zajac led the forwards (19:27, including 2:38 on the PP and 3:22 on the PK). Wood, who was the game’s second star, led in shots with four, Blake Coleman led in hits with five, Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four and Kyle Palmieri and Vatanen each registered a takeaway to lead there.

Next up for the Devils, they hit the road to begin 2019. They will be in Dallas to take on the Stars on January 2, Wednesday at 8:30 PM eastern. We will have coverage right here then but will also continue coverage of the 2019 World Junior Championship here tonight. Until then, Happy New Year and everybody have a safe and healthy 2019!

Swiss, Russians Put on a Show at World Juniors

The USA-Sweden game last night at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship was going to be a hard act to follow. And with only two games today, it was probably not going to be equaled. Although the drama was not quite the same as last night’s last minute heroics for the US, the Switzerland versus Russia game seemed to include a little bit of everything else.

Akira Schmid got the start in Vancouver and he made 34 saves. Russia won the game 7-4 however.

The game started off on a strange foot as Switzerland’s Marco Lehmann scored just 49 seconds into the first period. The goal was reviewed by the IIHF to check for goalie interference, but the call on the ice stood: we had a good goal. The Swiss had immediately jumped out to the 1-0 lead.

Valentin Nussbaumer would make it 2-0 at the 9:06 mark to really put the Swiss in the driver’s seat. Less than ten minutes in and the Swiss had seemingly taken control of the game. It was a good position to be in.

However, Kirill Marchenko would cut the lead in half and get Russia back into things when he scored at 14:27 of the first period. This goal seemed initially to be offsides, however while the Russian skater did enter the zone before the puck, he had firm control of it behind him, therefore there was no offsides and the goal counted.

The second period, one that will go down as one of the wildest periods I have personally ever seen in a hockey game, started innocently enough. Lehmann scored his second of the game to give the Swiss a 3-1 lead. He chipped the puck over the shoulder of Russian goaltender Danil Tarasov.

That goal was 5:46 into the period and 21 seconds after that, Dmitri Samorukov scored unassisted to make it 3-2.

Then a pretty scary moment as, on a 2-on-1, a Swiss skater went crashing skates first into Tarasov. He seemed to be clutching his left leg and the worst was thought: that he got cut by the skate blade. He was checked out by the Russian trainer, however, and was okay. He remained in the game.

A few minutes following that, Grigori Denisenko scored for the Russians to tie things up at three on the power play. Then the real weirdness began.

Switzerland’s Lehmann was hauled down on a breakaway not once, but twice. The officials got together and initially signaled that there would be a penalty shot for the first trip and a two-minute minor penalty for the second. However, it was then ruled that the Swiss would get two penalty shots instead. It was a strange call, as really only the trip where Lehmann was in the clear should have been the penalty shot, but was a moot point anyway as Switzerland missed both penalty shots.

As if that was not weird enough, with Russia still on a power play from before the penalty shots (Sandro Schmid was off for high sticking for Switzerland), Ivan Muranov was caught butt-ending a Swiss player in the midsection. He got a five minute major for butt-ending and a game misconduct and was thrown out. Now, with the Russian power play expiring, the Swiss would be on the power play for a little more than four minutes.

However, it was the Russians who took control on that penalty kill. Kirill Slepets scored unassisted and shorthanded off of a turnover in the Swiss zone to make it 4-3 Russia. From there, Russia basically opened the floodgates.

Alexander Alexeyev scored at the 6:38 mark to give the Russians a 5-3 lead. Switzerland’s Yannick Bruschweiler notched one 35 seconds after that to cut the lead to 5-4 and pull the Swiss back into it, but that was as close as they got.

Pavel Shen scored through Schmid’s five hole to make it 6-4 and Vitali Kravtsov scored 1:08 later to make it 7-4, which was our final. Switzerland pulled Schmid with about two minutes to go in the game in an attempt to get things going, but to no avail.

It was a very entertaining game and takes us into tomorrow. The Swiss are done with preliminary play, finishing with a 1-0-1-2 record and four points in four games in Group A. They had 11 goals for and 12 against for a goal differential of minus-1.

Tomorrow, the Swedes kick off the day against Kazakhstan. Then the big one as the Russians faceoff with the Canadians and then the night cap as Team USA faces the Finns. We will have coverage of all of that here for you as well as the Devils-Canucks game at 1 PM.

2019 World Juniors: Day Three

It was another busy day in British Columbia at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships with four games involving Devils prospects on the docket. Let’s get to it.

In the early game at Rogers Arena, Switzerland notched a shutout against Denmark. Akira Schmid did not play in this game as Luca Hollenstein made 21 saves on the Danes, who continue to struggle in this tournament. Philipp Kurashev had a hat trick for the Swiss and Simon le Coultre added one to give the host Swiss the 4-0 win. Switzerland will next take on the Russians on Sunday (December 30) in Group A action.

Moving over to Victoria and the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Finland defeated Slovakia 5-1. Aarne Talvitie had an assist on the game’s second goal by Santeri Virtanen, which made it 2-0 Finland. The Finnish captain’s stat line read an assist, two penalty minutes (a tripping penalty 15:40 into the second period that resulted in the lone Slovakian goal of the game by Milos Roman less than a minute into the penalty), a shot on goal and a plus-1 rating all in 16:30 of total ice time. Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 22 saves on 23 Slovak shots in taking the win. Finland’s next opponent is the United States on New Year’s Eve in what will be the late game on that night. If you are planning to stay up, you could catch some World Junior action between Team USA and the Aarne Talvitie and the Finns if you so choose on the NHL Network here in the States. You could do worse, that’s for sure.

In the later game in Group A in Vancouver, Canada took on the Czech Republic and the Canadians just continued to roll in the tournament. They defeated the Czechs 5-1 to remain atop Group A. Ty Smith had an assist (on Brett Leason’s goal at 11:32 of the first period, the one that would go down as the game winner), two shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating in 9:48 of total ice time.

In addition to the Leason goal, Maxime Comtois, Alexis Lafreniere, MacKenzie Entwistle and Morgan Frost all had tallies for Team Canada. Ondrej Machala had the lone goal for the Czechs. Canada chased Czech goalie Jiri Patera in favor of Jakub Skarek in the third period. Next up, the Canadians look for a test on New Year’s Eve when they take on Russia in the conclusion of Group A preliminary round play.

The final game on the slate saw Sweden putting their prelim winning streak on the line against the Americans in Victoria. It was a clash of the top two teams in Group B. Both teams with six points, but the US leading on goal differential coming into the game plus-7 to Sweden’s plus-4.

Sweden took the lead early and often with Filip Westerlund, Rickard Hugg, Emil Bemstrom and Erik Brannstrom scoring over the first two periods and early into the third to give them the 4-0 lead. But the US would not die so easily. They scored three straight from Mikey Anderson on the power play, Ryan Poehling and another from Poehling with the goaltender pulled.

That set up a dramatic play with 22.8 seconds remaining where Poehling went to the net and finished off a natural hat trick to tie it at four. The Americans had miraculously come back to tie things up after being left for dead all evening. The Swedes’ streak was on the line as we headed to overtime.

US goalie Kyle Keyser made a huge save early in the OT session (which is five minutes of three-on-three for the prelim round) but the Swedes were opportunistic and Adam Boqvist won it off a 2-on-1 with 1:09 left in the OT to preserve the Swedish streak at 46 straight prelim wins.

Fabian Zetterlund ended the game with one shot on net and an even plus/minus rating in 12:54 of ice time. The Swedes also take over first place in Group B on points. The Swedes will now take on Kazakhstan on New Year’s Eve.

Overall it was an exciting day of action at the World Juniors. The USA-Sweden finish is one that has to be seen to be believed and it is just too bad that the Americans could not complete the comeback in overtime.

We will see you tomorrow here with more coverage of the 2019 World Junior Championships.