Nico Wins it in OT as Devils Top Wild

Back in December, the Devils came from three goals down to topple the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime. That night, Cory Schneider started and was pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid, giving Kinkaid the W then. Fast forward two months and the script was flipped. The Devils still came from three goals down to win it in OT, but tonight in St. Paul, Minnesota, the goalie who came on in relief was Cory Schneider. When Nico Hischier’s (who coincidentally had the game winner that night against the Golden Knights) shot crossed the Wild goal line at the 3:19 of the OT period, Cory ended a winless drought that goes back to December of 2017. The Devils won 5-4.

Some roster moves to begin with. First, Miles Wood came off of injured reserve and played tonight. Blake Coleman was placed on IR with his injury, retroactive to February 10. Nick Lappin and Steven Santini were healthy scratches and Kurtis Gabriel and Eric Gryba slotted back in. Also, although he was okay after the hit he took last night in Chicago, Brett Seney was a game-time decision and did not play tonight.

In goal, Devan Dubnyk started for Minnesota and made 23 saves on 28 Devils shots for a .821 save percentage. The Devils countered with Keith Kinkaid. He stopped 13 of 17 faced for a .765 save percentage, getting chased following the fourth Wild goal in the second period. Schneider came on in relief and stopped all 15 shots he saw for a 1.000 save percentage. He was challenged and he did not break in getting his first win since December 27, 2017.

On special teams, the Devils were 1-for-4 on the power play with just three shots. Minnesota was 1-for-2 with just a single shot that they scored on on the power play.

It was a special night for Joey Anderson, as he was returning to Minnesota for the first time as an NHLer. He is a native of Roseville, Minnesota and went to college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (where he won an NCAA national championship). His family and friends were in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild had only won one game in February – the game at Prudential Center last weekend. The Devils were looking for revenge six days later in St. Paul.

The Devils were put behind the eight ball early on with Brad Hunt scoring on the power play at 6:07 of the first period. Damon Severson was called for cross checking Jason Zucker (who would be a thorn in the Devils’ side all night) to set up the man advantage. Ryan Suter passed from the point down low to Hunt, who cut in front of the Devils net and beat Kinkaid with a nice move to make it 1-0. Hunt is a seventh defenseman who plays on the Wild power play as a forward. Mikael Granlund had the secondary assist on the goal.

Just 3:41 later, some miscommunication behind the net between Kinkaid and the Devils’ defense led directly to a Minnesota goal. Kinkaid went behind the net to move the puck and hesitated, allowing Joel Eriksson Ek, the Wild forechecker, to come in, steal the puck and bury it on a wraparound. The goal was unassisted and made it 2-0 Minnesota.

The Devils finally got on the board just 26 seconds into the second frame when Marcus Johansson scored unassisted. The puck kind of bounced to Johansson just inside the Minnesota blue line. Johansson spun around and, with the puck on edge, shot it. He beat Dubnyk to cut the Wild lead in half to 2-1.

But just a few minutes later, at 2:33, Nick Seeler would give the Wild back a two goal lead. Nick Seeler shot through a screen from the top of the far faceoff circle and the puck redirected off of Gabriel in front as he tried to block the shot. Hunt and Kyle Rau had the assists and it was 3-1.

Following this goal, midway through the second, Gryba was struck by a puck on the chin, tipped up by Eric Staal inadvertently. Gryba went off for stitches, but would return.

Minnesota would take the three goal lead at the 7:19 mark of the second period when Suter and Jared Spurgeon moved the puck nicely up ice, giving it to Granlund who was able to snipe it up and over Kinkaid’s glove and just under the crossbar. Minnesota now had a 4-1 lead and Kinkaid was out. Cory came in and things were about to change. The Wild would not score again.

The comeback was stalled, however, when a Travis Zajac goal was called back for being played with a high stick. Severson took a shot from the point with 8:55 remaining in the second and Zajac tipped it by Dubnyk. The call on the ice was a good goal, however, Toronto got their look and saw that Zajac had tipped the puck with his stick above the crossbar, the marker for a high stick. The call was then reversed to no goal and the score remained 4-1.

But Will Butcher would get that elusive goal at the 18:10 mark of the second. A Jesper Bratt shot was redirected to Butcher by NIco Hischier. Butcher was all alone in the slot and took the loose puck, scoring to make it 4-2 before the second break.

The third period began with Kyle Palmieri scoring on the power play at 8:16. Spurgeon was off for high sticking Palmieri seven seconds earlier and Bratt won the offensive zone faceoff, tying up his man and Johansson jumped on the loose puck. He got it to the far side of the rink to Palmieri. Palmieri took the puck and wristed it by Dubnyk to make it 4-3.

The Devils were a little more dominating in the third period, as Minnesota took almost half the period to get their first shot on goal.

Then, the unlikely. At 17:16, Kenny Agostino goes cross ice in the Wild zone to Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy then proceeded to fire the puck through Dubnyk’s five-hole, looking like a real goal scorer in the process. Pavel Zacha had the assist on the goal that now had things all tied up at four.

When regulation ended, we were off to overtime. The Wild just dominated the puck in the extra session, with the Devils barely getting a touch at any point. But at 3:19, Palmieri took a shot from an odd angle that forced Dubnyk to make a save and not be able to control the rebound, which Hischier then promptly buried to give the Devils their first win of the road trip and Cory his first win in more than a calendar year.

Nico, with his third OT goal of the year, was named the game’s first star, while Johansson was the second with a goal and an assist. Hunt was the third star.

Statistically, the Devils were out shot 32-28 and out hit 28-16. Minnesota also blocked more shots at 17 to 14. The Devils did win 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs and had less giveaways at eight to Minnesota’s ten.

Damon Severson led all Devils skaters in TOI with 26:20 (including 4:55 on the PP – he did not see any shorthanded time). Johansson led the forwards with 23:59 (4:30 on the PP). Shots were led by Hischier and Palmieri who had four each, hits by Agostino, Wood, Bratt, Johansson and Severson with two each, blocks by Hischier, Zajac, Andy Greene, Butcher and Severson with two each and takeaways by Hischier, Agostino, Pavel Zacha, Johansson and Mirco Mueller with one apiece.

Next up, the Devils return home to play the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday in a 6 PM game. We will have coverage of that for you here. Enjoy your weekend and feel free to leave a comment in the section below if you wish.

Hischier the Hero in Devils’ OT Win in Montreal

He just had to keep pace. Nolan Patrick, in the day’s other early NHL game, scored the overtime winner in his game for the Flyers. Nico Hischier topped Patrick’s day by scoring not the just the OT winner in his game, but also the game tying goal in the third period. Nico was the hero of the day as the Devils came away with a 3-2 OT win over the Habs up in Montreal.

But before we get to that, we’ll start with the injuries, which just seem to keep mounting. Travis Zajac was the latest victim of the injury bug, as he did not travel with the team to Montreal following what seems to be a lower body injury versus the Rangers on Thursday. Zajac, a key penalty killer for New Jersey, joins a growing list that includes Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen, Ben Lovejoy, Joey Anderson and others. (Speaking of Anderson, Steve Cangiolosi mentioned during the game that he practiced with the team yesterday and could be close to returning.)

Yes, the Devils are the walking wounded right now, but when someone goes down, it creates opportunity for someone else. Kurtis Gabriel slotted into the lineup to replace Zajac and Blake Coleman was moved up and over to center the second line. Also, Hischier was given the “A” on his jersey to replace Zajac as an alternate captain.

In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood was back and between the pipes. Coach John Hynes felt that he “deserve(d) to have the net today” and they were back to him. He stopped a whopping 37 of 39 shots the Habs threw at him for a .949 save percentage and was named the game’s first star. The Canadiens had a tough situation since Carey Price was suspended for one game for missing the All-Star Game and they turned to Antti Niemi instead. Niemi saved 24 of 27 shots he saw for an .889 save percentage.

This game was also Montreal’s first game in ten days as they were coming off of their bye week. But they were 5-1-0 in their last six prior. One place where the Canadiens have struggled was their power play. They were at 13-percent efficiency coming into this game – good to be tied for last in the NHL. Speaking of the power play, the Devils continued their little roll that they have been on, going 1-for-3 with the man advantage today (four shots) plus adding a shorthanded shot. The Habs were 0-for-3 with seven shots on Blackwood. They also had a shorthanded shot on net.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi got the goal-scoring kicked off for Montreal when he notched one 5:22 into the game. Jordie Benn kept a Devils’ clearing attempt in the zone and Artturi Lehkonen made a slick backhanded pass to Kotkaniemi, who snapped the puck by Blackwood. That made it 1-0 with the Devils behind the eight ball early.

And it would take nearly the entire period to get that one back. Benn went off for tripping at 17:22 and then Shea Weber was nabbed for high-sticking Kyle Palmieri 20 seconds later to put the Devils on a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:40. At the 19:16 mark of the period, Marcus Johansson, Palmieri and Will Butcher finished off a nice passing play with Butcher firing one cleanly by Niemi to even the score. With that, the Devils still had 20 seconds of power play time remaining on the Weber penalty, but they could not convert on that and the first period expired.

At the 14:25 mark of the second, Gabriel took a roughing call when he dropped his gloves following some pushing and shoving post-play, but Nicolas Deslauriers would not engage. Although Montreal would not score on that power play, Phillip Danault did connect just as it expired at 16:33. He redirected a Jeff Petry backhand shot in front to give the Habs the 2-1 lead. Max Domi had the other assist.

But from there on, Blackwood would hold the fort down and Nico Hischier would provide the scoring and the Devils would be on their way to two points.

It began midway through the third when Kevin Rooney got on a loose puck in the Montreal zone, getting it to Nico in front of the net. Hischier then roofed the puck past Niemi to tie things at two. It was a good puck battle win for Rooney and paid off when Hischier finished it.

A scary moment late in regulation as Egor Yakovlev took a shot to the back of the head. He went down and Domi, who was battling with him in front of the Devils’ net, signaled to the Devils’ bench to get the trainer out. Yakovlev had a gash on the back of his head, but seemed to be responding to the trainer on the bench. Hopefully he is okay.

Once regulation expired and we headed to overtime, both teams came out full bore. The Devils only had two OT wins this season (with Hischier getting the OT win at home against Vegas and Drew Stafford icing a shootout win in Arizona) while the Habs were 5-5 in OT games.

Montreal hit a post early as the Devils dodged a bullet, but it was Nico Hischier who would finish things off for the Devils. Mirco Mueller bought time in the neutral zone, then connected with his fellow countryman on a pass. Nico came up the left wing with speed and curled wide, roofing the puck from an odd angle to beat Niemi and give the Devils the 3-2 OT win. For his efforts, Hischier was named the game’s second star. Kotaniemi was the third star of the game.

The Devils were out shot by the Canadiens, 39 to 27, won only 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were out hit 28-27. They did, however, block more shots at 24 to six. New Jersey had more giveaways at 20 to the Habs’ 12.

Individually, Damon Severson once again led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:20 logged (1:45 of PP time and 3:47 on the PK). Hischier led the forwards, stepping up for Zajac with 20:28 (2:53 on the power play and 25 seconds shorthanded). Palmieri and Miles Wood led in shots on goal with four each, Blake Coleman led in hits with six, blocked shots was a three-way tie with Brian Boyle, Andy Greene and Butcher each blocking four and takeaways saw Palmieri, Pavel Zacha and Brett Seney each log one.

Next up, the Devils will take on the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday back in Newark for a 7 PM puck drop. I will be attending this game live, so my report may be a little late in getting up. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below as they are always appreciated. Enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow!

Devils Double Up Kings, Win 6-3

California has not been kind to the Devils over the last few years. They are 1-5-0 against the state’s three NHL clubs in the last two years on the road. The only team they have beaten in that span was the Los Angeles Kings. That continued tonight as the Devils defeated LA, 6-3 at Staples Center.

Firstly, I would like to get some house cleaning out of the way. Some news I did not mention here on the blog in the last few days saw Chuck Fletcher, who was serving as a special assistant to Ray Shero since this past summer, has left the team. He is the new general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, moving down the Turnpike to take over the job last held by Ron Hextall who was abruptly fired last week.

Now to the topic at hand. The Devils were looking forward to this California trip as a change of scenery. They had not won a road game since November 15 and needed this trip to regroup. The Kings have been on a downward trend this year, currently standing in last overall in the NHL. They fired coach John Stevens last month and are trying to move forward. The Devils let them hang in there, but were able to put them away when they needed to and won the game.

For the Devils, roster-wise, Mirco Mueller was out as a healthy scratch on defense while Egor Yakovlev got to play another game (he scored his first career NHL goal against Tampa in the last game). Steven Santini and Drew Stafford were the other scratches. LA was missing our old friend Ilya Kovalchuk, out on injured reserve with ankle surgery.

In goal, it was right back to Keith Kinkaid for the Devils following a rough outing against the Lightning. He made 29 saves on 32 Kings shots. Keith was good tonight, stopping Tyler Toffoli on a breakaway late in the second period, shutting the door when Toffoli tried to go five hole. Facing him was Jonathan Quick, who made 29 saves on 34 shots against. The Devils also had an empty net goal and thus finished with 35 shots total.

The Devils got the scoring going at the 13:49 mark of the first period on the power play. Kyle Palmieri scored his first of two on the night en route to being named the game’s second star. It came when Dion Phaneuf was called for high sticking Nico Hischier at 12:01. While on the man advantage, Taylor Hall faked a shot at the top of the far faceoff circle before passing to Palmieri at the near faceoff dot. Palmieri then roofed one over Quick to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. Will Butcher had the secondary assist.

With that power play goal, the Devils had just two goals in 21 power play attempts. On the night they were 1-for-2 with five shots. LA was 0-for-1 with no PP shots but did register a shorthanded shot.

The Kings would not wait long to tie things up. At the 15:41 mark of the first, Brendan Leipsic scored off a shot that he just snapped by Kinkaid. Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez had the assists on that one. That goal came just moments after a non-call on an Anze Kopitar high stick on Kyle Palmieri. With that, we finished the first period where we began it: tied.

But it would only take the Devils 25 seconds into the second to retake the lead. In what would become a wild second frame, Travis Zajac scored unassisted to make it 2-1. It came when Blake Coleman had a couple of swipes at scoring before the puck trickled to Zajac in the slot. He fired and beat Quick and New Jersey had retaken the lead.

However, that would not last long either. At the 6:59 mark of the second, Drew Doughty, Austin Wagner and Adrian Kempe broke in to the Devils’ zone on an odd man rush. Kempe would tip a Doughty pass by Kinkaid to make it 2-2. Wagner had the secondary assist and we were tied up once again.

Then, at the 10:57 mark, Palmieri notched his second of the night from Hall when, on the rush and with the puck wobbling on his stick, Palmieri used Muzzin as a screen and shot through him to beat Quick and make it 3-2 Devils.

The Devils would double up their lead less than two minutes later at 12:28 when Butcher scored from Miles Wood and Zajac. This was a weird one as Butcher’s shot was actually redirected by a Kings player – Phaneuf – changing direction on Quick and clearly handcuffing him.

The Devils now had a two goal lead and that would seem to be in jeopardy with 6:23 remaining in the period when Muzzin had seemingly scored. He shot from a strange angle along the far part of the goal line and the puck seemed to go under the crossbar and in drop down in. Play continued for a few seconds until the Devils touched the puck and a review was initiated by Toronto. The call on the ice was no goal and replays showed that the puck hit the crossbar without entirely crossing the line, hit the far post and came out. The result was that the call on the ice stood: no goal. It was still 4-2 New Jersey.

However, that would not last much longer after the non goal. At 17:37, Kyle Clifford scored unassisted after Kinkaid made a save, then poked the rebound directly to Clifford, who fired one behind him. Kinkaid was trying to get the puck over to Damon Severson, but some miscommunication led to Clifford scoring. The Kings were back within one at 4-3.

That is where it was heading into the third period, where the Devils would finally break away. At 11:06, Nico Hischier scored from Sami Vatanen and Hall to add an insurance goal and make it 5-3. Nico redirected a Vatanen shot by Quick to score this one. This sort of made up for earlier in the first period when Nico had an empty net to shoot on and Kings defenseman Derek Forbort blocked his shot and made a remarkable save for Quick, who was out of position.

Quick would be pulled with about 1:50 left in the game for the extra attacker and, after a few icings and missed opportunities, Blake Coleman would finally bury a shot from long distance into the empty net to give us our final of 6-3. Andy Greene and Severson had the assists on the empty netter.

In the end, four Devils players had multiple point nights: Palmieri (two goals), Zajac (one goal, one assist), Hall (three assists) and Butcher (one goal and one assist). Hall was named the game’s first star. Los Angeles’ Kempe was the third star.

The Devils had a better night in the faceoff circle, winning 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Kings 23 to 18 and had less giveaways at 12 for LA and eight for the Devils. The Kings had more blocked shots at 17-12.

Sami Vatanen led all skaters in time on ice with 24:39 (1:28 on the power play and 16 seconds of shorthanded time) while Hall led the forwards with 19:34 (2:29 of PP time). Vatanen also led in shots on goal with six while Coleman led in hits with seven. Blocks were led by Greene and Severson who each had two and takeaways were led by Hall with one.

Next up, the Devils continue on in California by traveling to Anaheim. The Ducks have been hot of late, winning five straight. That game is an earlier start at 8 PM Eastern and we will have it for you right here.

Devils Earn First Road Win Off Boyle Hat Trick

Coming into tonight’s game at PPG Paints Arena, both the Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins were on three-game losing streaks. Something needed to give for someone. And thanks to a little help from Brian Boyle, it was the Devils who got just what the doctor ordered. Boyle scored a natural hat trick over the course of the first and second periods to help lead the Devils to a 5-1 win in Pittsburgh.

Some things to get to first as Devils captain Andy Greene was playing in his 800th NHL game tonight in a well-deserved milestone. It was also Pittsbugh’s Hockey Fights Cancer Night, with three cancer survivors in the lineup for both teams: Brian Boyle, who survived leukemia and the Pens’ Phil Kessel (testicular cancer) and Olli Maatta (who survived thyroid cancer). This made it all the more fitting for Boyle’s accomplishment on the night. Also, the Devils were wearing special decals on the back of their helmets that said “Stronger Than Hate” in solidarity with the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh which was the target of an attack late last month.

Also, roster-wise, Joey Anderson was back in. He would go on to notch his first NHL point in the game. Kurtis Gabriel was out, as were Eddie Lack and Egor Yakovlev as the healthy scratches. As for those not-so-healthy ones, Stefan Noesen is still on injured reserve with an upper body injury and Steven Santini and Jesper Bratt remain out with fractured jaws. Noesen and Santini did not travel with the team while Bratt did.

Pittsburgh is always a threat, as they are tied for first in the league with 3.75 goals per game. How would the Devils handle the threat of Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby et al?

The answer was simply to score early and often. But also good goaltending. Keith Kinkaid stopped 35 of 36 shots on the night. The Pens threw out Matt Murray to start and he stopped 23 of 27 Devils shots. Casey DeSmith came in in relief in the third period and stopped 11 of 12 Devils shots. The Devils finished the game with 39 shots on goal.

Another key for the Devils were special teams, with the Devils going 2-for-4 on the power play and the Penguins being held 0-for-3. The Devils had three total shots on their power plays while Pittsburgh had five. Both teams ended with one shorthanded shots on goal. The Devils actually ended the game on the penalty kill when Boyle was called for hooking Carl Hagelin at 18:20 of the third period.

The Devils opened the scoring 2:24 into the game, with Will Butcher scoring from Anderson (his first NHL point) and former Penguin Jean-Sebastien Dea. The goal came when Dea won the faceoff deep in the Pittsburgh zone and Anderson took the puck, curled out from behind Dea and shot with the puck ending up on Butcher’s stick. He shot and beat Murray stick side to earn his first even strength point of the season. That made it 1-0 Devils.

The Penguins would have some push back, with Jamie Oleksiak scoring off of a laser beam, beating Kinkaid short-side. He got assists from Maatta and Jake Guentzel. That goal tied the score at 9:24 of the first.

The Devils would retake the lead before the end of the first period, though with Boyle setting things in motion for his hatty. He scored what would be the game winner at 12:27 from Ben Lovejoy and Dea. Anderson tried a wraparound and the puck squibbed over to Dea. He passed back to Lovejoy at the far point. Lovejoy fired and the puck appeared to go in cleanly through Brian Boyle’s screen, with the goal originally being credited to Lovejoy. But Boyle would get credit for the goal when it was apparent that he tipped the puck past Murray. That made it 2-1 Devils and they never looked back.

Boyle would complete his hat trick beginning at 7:38 of the second period. This one made it 3-1 and came on the power play from Kyle Palmieri and Butcher. Maatta was in the box for hooking Miles Wood and just seven seconds into the man advantage, Butcher went point-to-point with Palmieri, who fired on net. His shot was redirected in front by the big Boyle to give him his second of the game.

He would complete the hatty as a natural hat trick – three straight goals scored uninterrupted – at 19:40 also on the power play. He got assists from Taylor Hall and Butcher. It was set up when Patric Hornqvist gave Sami Vatanen a vicious cross check to the throat. That set off a melee that ended with Mirco Mueller and Jack Johnson also taking matching roughing penalties after Crosby went after Mueller and Johnson jumped Mueller when he threw some punches at Crosby. When the dust settled the Devils had the power play and Boyle would put them up 4-1. It came when Boyle fired a shot from the near faceoff circle with the rebound bouncing out to Hall at the far half wall. Hall found a seam and passed to Boyle, who was still camped out at the faceoff circle. He let loose from the dot and beat Murray glove side to extend the Devils’ lead to three goals.

Boyle’s hat trick was the first of his NHL career and the first Devils hat trick in Pittsburgh since John Madden and Randy McKay each scored four goals there on Ocotber 28, 2000. This info comes from Steve Cangialosi on the MSG+ broadcast.

DeSmith would come in to start the third period and it would not take the Devils long to get one by him. Just 19 seconds into the third frame, Travis Zajac scored his fourth of the season from Damon Severson and Marcus Johansson to give us our final of 5-1. That one developed when Johansson dropped the puck for Severson at the far wall. Severson then found an open seam and fed Zajac, who finished into a wide open near side of the net. For Johansson, that assist was the 200th assist of his NHL career.

So to recap, Boyle ended the night with three goals, JS Dea had two assists and Butcher finished with a goal and two assists. Not a bad way to break out of a funk. As you would imagine, Boyle was the game’s first star, Butcher the second while Dea was the third star in his return to Pittsburgh. But it was a total team effort, really.

The Devils ended the game having won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs but were outhit 49-44. They did block more shots at 22-15.

Vatanen finished the night with the most ice time with 21:34 (1:38 on the power play and 49 seconds on the penalty kill) while Hall led all forwards with 17:40 (including 3:48 on the PP). Shots on goal were led by Hall, Boyle, Zajac, Blake Coleman, and Lovejoy who all had four. Boyle led in hits with eight while Greene led in blocks with four. Dea beat his old team with two takeaways on the night to lead that category.

Next up, it is a very quick turnaround, as the Devils are playing their first of twelve back-to-backs this season. They play again tomorrow night in Ottawa against a Senators team that has been up-and-down this year. Puck drop tomorrow is 7 PM and we will have the recap for you right here.

Butcher Named to All-Rookie Team; Devils Lose Two More Free Agents

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day yesterday – as well as a happy Canada Day back on July 1 if you are up north.

Some little tidbits to get to that may have slipped through the cracks the last week or so.

First, Will Butcher was named to the 2017-18 NHL All-Rookie Team. The Devils blueliner had five goals and 39 assists for 44 points in his rookie campaign. He finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting but did make the cut for the first team All-Rookie team.

Butcher was signed as a college free agent last summer after choosing not to sign with the Colorado Avalanche. The Denver University product put up three power play goals of his five lamp lighters and was a plus-1 to go with eight penalty minutes.

Now, the development of Will Butcher leads me directly to the second part of this post. The Devils loss of a certain free agent. Jacob MacDonald, who was an AHL mid-season All-Star last year representing Binghamton declined to re-sign with the Devils organization and moved to the Florida Panthers.

As Chris Ryan of The Star Ledger mentioned in a tweet to a fan when asked why the Devils did not keep MacDonald, it was basically that MacDonald’s path to the NHL was blocked by Butcher. Ryan said in the tweet that MacDonald is going to get the NHL “as an offensive defenseman and someone who’s going to run the power play. When he looks at the Devils’ depth chart and sees Will Butcher, that path is much tougher in NJ.”

Obviously, this is not too much of a hit to the Devils. MacDonald, for all of the buzz that has surrounded him, has not yet played an NHL game and is 25-years-old. Butcher is the much better, younger option there.

One other free agent that the Devils let walk was Brian Gibbons. Gibbons came in as somewhat of a stop gap last season, but performed over his head. He was given a one-year, $1 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks.

There has been a segment of the Devils’ fanbase that has been a little bit worried due to a lack of deals made by New Jersey this offseason. There are two main things to keep in perspective here. One, it is only July 5. Training camp does not even begin for about two and a half months. Two, there just were not that many good free agents for what the Devils need out there. Would landing John Tavares have been a good move? You bet, but he was not talking to divisional rivals largely, it seems, out of respect to the Islanders (keep in mind that that is just merely speculation on my part there). Would John Carlson have been a great signing? Of course, but he never even made it to free agency, with Washington locking him up almost as soon as they finished their Stanley Cup parade. Would Calvin de Haan have been at least a good consolation prize? Yes, but he chose Carolina for more term and money than it seems the Devils would have been willing to commit to the oft-injured d-man (again, speculation here).

The main point is just to relax. Ray Shero is no dummy. He has a plan and he is sticking to it. The Devils are not just spending to spend. Free agency is a very dicey way to build a team. The shrewd GMs do it through the Draft and trades. Remember, it was a summer trade that got us the reigning NHL MVP.

Plus, you have the youngsters like Joey Anderson and Michael McLeod, amongst others, who will be looking to make a push this camp. Even 2018 first rounder Ty Smith could make a big impact in camp and make the opening night roster. You just never know.

Ray will get the job done in making this team better for next season. This much I am very sure of.

Worlds: USA Wins Bronze Medal; Swiss Win Silver in Epic Contest with Swedes

The medal round lived up to everything it should have in the 2018 IIHF World Championships. The US won bronze over Canada following a third period scoring outburst and the Swedes successfully defended their gold medal by beating the Swiss in a game that went to a shootout to decide a winner.

First, the bronze medal game. The Americans took on Canada and came away with the third place finish, winning 4-1.

Following a scoreless first, the US got on the board first with a power play goal 6:40 into the second period. Joel Edmundson went off for roughing at the 5:14 mark, almost immediately after Canada’s Ryan Murray had come out of the box following a cross checking minor. Chris Kreider scored for the Americans off assists to Dylan Larkin and Alex Debrincat. It was 1-0 US.

But Canada would get the equalizer with just under two minutes remaining in the second. Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored from Bo Horvat and Kyle Turris. It was now 1-1 going into the third and it seemed as if we had a real game on our hands.

But the final frame would belong to the Americans and it was again a lack of discipline by the Canadians that would make it so. The game was still tied when at 12:29, Ryan O’Reilly took an interference call. On the ensuing American power play, Nick Bonino scored from Patrick Kane to break the stalemate and put the US up 2-1. That would prove to be the game winner.

Canada pulled goaltender Curtis McElhinney for the extra attacker at 16:58 and Anders Lee scored into the empty net from Charlie McAvoy at 17:45. It was 3-1 USA with time running out for the Canadians.

McElhinney was pulled again at the 17:55 mark and again the US scored into the vacated cage. This time Kreider notched his second of the game unassisted at 18:18. That made it 4-1 and that was your final. The US claimed bronze in the tournament, winning a medal following a great start. Canada finishes fourth.

Keith Kinkaid made 24 saves on 25 Canadian shots in the winning effort while McElhinney stopped 33 of 37 American shots.

Will Butcher had four shots on goal and was an even plus/minus in 19:39 of time on ice over 29 shifts. Blake Coleman was an even plus/minus in 11:49 over 21 shifts. Brian Gibbons did not dress for the game.

Meanwhile, the later game at Copenhagen’s Royal Arena was to decide the first and second place finishers. It was underdog Switzerland versus the undefeated Team Sweden. It was a tall order for the Swiss, but one that they would be up to.

The Swiss got on the board first when Nino Niederreiter scored at the 16:38 mark of the first period. He got assists from Roman Josi and Kevin Fiala.

But that lead would last less than a minute, as at the 17:54 mark of the first, Gustav Nyquist scored from Mattias Ekholm to knot things up at one going into the first intermission.

But Nyquist would play a role in the Swiss retaking the lead. Just 1:23 into the second frame, he took a two minute high sticking penalty and Timo Meier scored from Enzo Corvi and Josi on the resulting power play. That goal came at 3:13 and gave the Swiss the 2-1 lead.

But Sweden would return the favor on their own power play late in the second. At 13:56, Corvi took a holding penalty and Mika Zibanejad made Switzerland pay. He scored from Oliver Ekman-Larsson to tie things at two. And that was it for the scoring in regulation and overtime.

Switzerland and Sweden played through 20 minutes of the third with no more scoring and five minutes of the OT period with no one breaking the stalemate. And so it would take a shootout to decide who got gold and who got silver.

Sven Andrighetto kicked things off by scoring on Swedish goaltender Anders Nilsson to give the Swiss the lead in the shootout. Zibanejad then missed his shot and Kevin Fiala was topped by Nilsson. Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni stopped Rickard Rakell on Sweden’s next attempt. Corvi was stopped on his try and then Sweden would finally get one through. Ekman-Larsson beat Genoni on his try to tie up the shootout. Gaetan Haas missed his try and Filip Forsberg converted on his to put Sweden ahead. Swiss survival was on the stick of the game’s first goal scorer, Niederreiter. But Nilsson stopped him and the Swedes claimed gold.

Sweden won 3-2 and the Swiss took home the silver. Genoni made 35 saves on 38 Swedish shots while Nilsson stopped 25 of 27 Swiss shots on net.

Mirco Mueller had two shots on goal and was a minus-1 in 28:58 of ice time over 41 shifts.

Congratulations to all of the teams, and in particular, the Swiss. They played extremely well in this tournament. They definitely showed that they belonged and made some upsets along the way. We will see you here back tomorrow as we cover the Swift Current Broncos and the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Memorial Cup round robin tournament.

Worlds: USA To Play For Bronze; Switzerland To Play For Gold

The United States will face Canada for the Bronze medal while Switzerland is guaranteed a medal playing in the gold medal game.

The Americans were humiliated 6-0 by the powerhouse Swedes in their semifinal game. The Swiss meanwhile, upset the Canadians 3-2 to move on in their semifinal. The finals are set with USA and Canada meeting again for bronze while Switzerland will face Sweden in the gold medal game.

First, the US game. This one was a rout, plain and simple, as Keith Kinkaid and the Americans just ran into the buzzsaw that is the Swedish team.

Viktor Arvidsson got the scoring kicked off at the 14:43 mark of the first when he beat Kinkaid off assists from Jacob de la Rose and Filip Forsberg. That made it 1-0 Sweden and they never looked back.

Kinkaid took a tripping penalty at the 17:32 mark of the first that was killed off. But the US, strangely, had more trouble on the power play. Just 3:36 into the second, former Devil Adam Larsson took a double minor for high sticking, setting up a four minute power play for the Americans. Instead, at 7:09, Magnus Paajarvi scored shorthanded from Mikael Backlund. It was now 2-0 Sweden.

And it continued. At 9:11, Johnny Gaudreau took a frustrated slashing penalty which set Sweden up on the power play. Patric Hornqvist converted on that from Backlund and John Klingberg. Now it was 3-0 Sweden.

Mattias Janmark made it 4-0 before the end of the second when he scored at 10:16 from Rickard Rakell.

With a little bit less than ten minutes left in the game, the US desperately pulled Kinkaid to try to get something going. Arvidsson ended up scoring his second of the game into an empty net. Mika Zibanejad had the lone assist.

Adrian Kempe would add insult to injury by scoring the sixth and final Swedish goal at even strength to put things away with just under three minutes left in the contest. Backlund racked up another point with the lone assist.

The US would end the game on the power play when, at 18:42, Kempe and Dylan Larkin went off for coincidental roughing minors. However, with ten seconds remaining, Backlund was called for slashing to put the US up a man, 4-on-3. Unfortunately, that was not enough and 6-0 was your final.

Kinkaid stopped 14 of 20 shots on goal while Swedish goalie Anders Nilsson was a perfect 41-for-41.

Will Butcher had a shot on goal and was a minus-2 in 20:32 of ice time spread over 27 shifts. Blake Coleman had a single shot on goal and was an even rating in 13:46 of ice time over 20 shifts. Brian Gibbons did not dress for this game.

So the US will now play for the bronze medal against rivals Canada tomorrow due to the results of the next game.

That game was Switzerland versus Canada in the other semifinal. And, as opposed to the US-Sweden game, this one was a real nailbiter.

The Swiss jumped out to the early 1-0 lead when Tristan Scherwey scored from Ramon Untersander and Dean Kukan. Canada found themselves down early, and it would take seven minutes and twenty seconds into the second frame for them to tie things. Bo Horvat got it even from Pierre-Luc Dubois and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

However, less than a minute after Horvat tied things, some miscommunication between Canadian goalie Darcy Kuemper and Joel Edmundson led to Edmundson taking a hooking penalty behind the Canadian net. Switzerland was now on the power play and it was Gregory Hofmann who converted here. He scored from Kevin Fiala and Sven Andrighetto to give Switzerland back the lead, 2-1 at 9:40 of the second period.

And that is how things would stay until the third when Canada got into more penalty trouble. Just 3:11 into the third stanza, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took a hooking penalty that led to a Gaetan Haas goal (assists to Andrighetto and Raphael Diaz) to put the Swiss up by two, 3-1.

Canada would make things interesting late in the third. At 13:51, Noah Rod was called for slashing, putting Canada up a man. When that was killed off, and with less than three minutes left in the game, the Canadians pulled Kuemper to make it a 6-on-5 and with 33 seconds elapsed with the extra man, Colton Parayko cut the Swiss lead to one when he scored from Connor McDavid and Brayden Schenn.

Canada would try pulling Kuemper again, but to no avail. Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni withstood 45 Canadian shots, making 43 saves and held on for the win. Kuemper made 14 saves on 17 Swiss shots. Genoni was amazing, keeping the Swiss in the game in the face of a flurry of Canadian offense – most of the third period, in particular, was played in the Swiss zone.

Mirco Mueller was an even plus/minus in 19:55 of ice time over 33 shifts. He was also named one of the three outstanding players for the Swiss for the tournament.

Next up, the Swiss get the undefeated Swedes in the gold medal game. They are guaranteed a medal, as they get the silver should they lose. That game will be played tomorrow. It should be a good game as the Swiss have been the story of the tournament and could give the Swedes a run for their money. We will see you tomorrow with all of the action.

Americans and Swiss Both Advance to Semifinals

Both the US and Switzerland will be moving on in the 2018 IIHF World Championships. The US defeated the Czech Republic in their quarterfinal game 3-2 while the Swiss downed Finland by the same score.

The Americans jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning when Patrick Kane scored 10:36 into the first period from Derek Ryan. The US doubled their lead a little over a minute later at the 12:19 mark when Cam Atkinson scored from Nick Bonino and Johnny Gaudreau. That gave the Americans a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.

But the second frame belonged to the Czechs. They battled back into the game and tied things up. Michal Repik got the rally started when he scored 4:56 into the stanza. He got assists from Radek Faksa and Radko Gudas on that one.

At 10:32, Charlie McAvoy of the US was given a slashing penalty and the Czechs were on the power play. It only took 23 seconds for Martin Necas to convert from McAvoy’s Boston teammate David Pastrnak and Filip Hronek. The game was now tied up and to make matters worse for the US, Connor Murphy was assessed a slashing penalty at 18:30, which would give the Czechs 30 seconds of power play time on fresh ice in the third.

But the US killed that one off and, in fact, it was Kane who was the hero. He scored at even strength from Ryan at the 6:58 mark of the third to give the US a 3-2 lead.

The Czechs would pull goalie Pavel Francouz to try to get the equalizer, but it was not to be. The Americans held on and advanced in the tournament.

Keith Kinkaid made 24 saves on 26 Czech shots while Francouz made 28 saves on 31 American shots.

Will Butcher had a shot on goal and was a plus-1 in 21:01 of ice time over 30 shifts. Blake Coleman had two shots on goal and was a plus-1 plus/minus over 11:14 of time on ice. He spread that out over 15 shifts. Brian Gibbons did not dress for the game.

The US will now play Sweden, who defeated Latvia 3-2 in their quarterfinal, in the semifinals on May 19 at Royal Arena in Copenhagen.

Meanwhile in the later game at Herning, Switzerland was making history. They upset the Finns, 3-2 to make their way to the semifinals as well.

The Swiss actually fell behind early in this one. Markus Nutivaara scored for the Finns at the 7:01 mark of the first period from Miika Koivisto and Mikko Rantanen. It was 1-0 Finland going into the second frame.

But the Swiss would come roaring back in the second. Enzo Corvi tied things at one from Kevin Fiala and Nino Niederreiter at the 9:13 mark. At 12:32, Joel Vermin gave Switzerland the 2-1 lead when he scored from Timo Meier.

Thirty-six seconds after the Vermin goal, Gregory Hofmann gave the Swiss their insurance goal when he scored from Simon Moser and Michael Fora. It was now 3-1 Switzerland going into the third.

The Finns were allowed back into things when, at the 7:22 mark of the third, Fora took a four minute double minor for high sticking. Just 58 seconds into the ensuing power play, Rantanen scored from Veli-Matti Savinainen and Sebasitan Aho to cut the Swiss lead to one.

Finland would pull goaltender Harri Sateri for the extra attacker with about 1:30 left in the game, but to no avail. Switzerland held on and came away with the 3-2 upset victory.

Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni made 32 saves on 34 Finnish shots while Sateri made 24 saves on 27 Swiss shots.

Mirco Mueller had two shots on goal and was a plus-1 in 22:28 of ice time spread over 38 shifts.

Next up for Switzerland, they play the Canadians in the semifinal. That game also takes place at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen and results from Canada beating the Russians 5-4 in overtime in their quarterfinal. That game also takes place on May 19.

Swiss Defeat France While US Dealt First Loss at Worlds

Team Switzerland got back on track with a 5-1 win over France in the last day of preliminaries at the 2018 IIHF World Championships. At the same time, it took all tournament, but the US was dealt a blow going into the medal rounds by losing 6-2 to Finland, their first defeat of the tournament so far.

We will begin with the high note at Royal Arena in Copenhagen. Switzerland got the goal scoring kicked off 12:21 into the first period when Gregory Hofmann scored from Gaetan Haas and Mirco Mueller to make it 1-0.

At 15:09, the Swiss would double their lead when Enzo Corvi scored to make it 2-0. He got assists from Nino Niederreiter and Timo Meier. The end of the period would kind of set the tone for the game as the French got into some penalty trouble.

First, with four seconds remaining in the period, Hugo Gallet was called for slashing. Then, 5:36 into the second, Alexandre Texier and Kevin Hecquefeuille both received hooking minors at the same time to put the Swiss up on a 5-on-3 man advantage. But the penalties did not hurt the French until the 15:22 mark when Valentin Claireaux was called for tripping. On the power play, Ramon Untersander converted to make it 3-0 Switzerland. Corvi and Roman Josi had the assists.

In the third period, Kevin Fiala scored just 2:21 in to make it 4-0 Switzerland and the rout seemed to be on. But France would get one right back when Guillaume Leclerc scored at 3:10 from Florian Chakiachvili and Jordann Perret to cut the Swiss lead to 4-1.

The Swiss would then get into some penalty trouble of their own when, at 9:39, Noah Rod took an elowing minor. That was killed off and at 12:09, Corvi went off for goalie interference. That would prove the final dagger for the French though, as Simon Moser scored shorthanded at 13:46 from Joel Vermin and Mueller.

That made it 5-1 and, though the French would get another shot on the power play when Mueller went off for high sticking with about a minute left in the game, that was it. Five to one was your final and the Swiss end the prelims on a winning note.

Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni made 19 saves on 20 shots while French goalie Florian Hardy stopped 29 of 34 Swiss shots on goal. Of note was that dressing as the backup for the Swiss in this game was Devils prospect Gilles Senn. It was his first time dressing in the tournament.

As for a Devil who did play, Mirco Mueller had the two assists for two points and was a plus-4 in 18:16 of total ice time, over 33 shifts.

Since the top two teams in Group A (Russia and Sweden) are playing each other later today, it should not have much bearing on the Swiss. They should get into the medal rounds with 12 points (three regulation wins, one overtime win, one overtime loss and two regulation losses and a 25-19 goal differential). The Swiss will likely play Finland in the first part of the medal rounds. Finland, as we shall see, won Group B with a win over the Americans.

Meanwhile, over in Herning, the Americans had a crucial game with the Finns to determine who would win Group B. It would come down to number of regulation wins in this tightly contested group.

The Finns got off to a quick start courtesy of Sebastian Aho. He struck first at 10:17 into the first period, beating Keith Kinkaid off an assist from Veli-Matti Savinainen. He would then connect almost seven minutes later when he scored from Markus Nutivaara at 17:15. By the end of the first period, it was 2-0 Finland.

The second period was cleanly played with no penalties, but the Finns did add a goal to their lead to make it 3-0 when Mikko Rantanen scored from Nutivaara and Mikael Granlund. This would set up a chaotic third frame.

It began 5:15 in when the US was given a too many men on the ice bench minor. Marko Anttila converted on that power play from Sakari Manninen to make it 4-0 Finland. Things were not looking good for the Americans.

At the ten minute mark, though, Miika Koivisto went off for tripping and the US was on the power play. 1:18 later, they pulled Kinkaid for the 6-on-4 man advantage and it paid off when Patrick Kane scored to make it 4-1. Charlie McAvoy had the lone assist.

The Americans dug their hole a little bit deeper, however, when Dylan Larkin was called for tripping at 12:06 and Kasperi Kapanen scored on the power play to make it 5-1. Eeli Tolvanen and Savinainen had the assists.

The US would get one right back, though, less than a minute later when Derek Ryan scored from Kane and Chris Kreider. That made it 5-2 and the Americans pulled Kinkaid again at the 15:16 mark of the third.

Unfortunately, Aho struck once more, netting an empty net goal and completing the hat trick at 16:45. He got and assist from Tommi Kivisto. That madee it 6-2 and that was your final.

The Americans took consecutive penalties with time running out, Blake Coleman was called for goalie interference at 17:13 and at 19:11, Neal Pionk went off for high sticking, killing off the US chance for a comeback.

Keith Kinkaid made 30 stops on 36 Finnish shots while Harri Sateri made 35 saves on 37 shots against.

Will Butcher had two shots on goal and was a minus-2 over 18:39 of time on ice spread over 23 shifts. Blake Coleman had the goalie interference minor, two shots on goal and was an even plus/minus over 9:25 of ice time with 13 shifts. Brian Gibbons had two shots on goal and was an even rating in 8:28 of TOI over 13 shifts.

The Americans will finish in second place in Group B with 16 points (the same as Finland) with four regulation wins, two overtime wins, no overtime losses and a regulation loss. The Finns win the group due to having one more regulation win than the US, despite both teams tying in the points ledger.

With the first part of the medal rounds being crossover between groups, the US will likely play the Czech Republic in their next game, who finished third in Group A.

The quarterfinals for both the Swiss and the Americans get underway on May 17.

One final order of business: congratulations to Devils prospect and Swift Current Bronco Colby Sissons. The Broncos won the Western Hockey League and will now be playing for the Memorial Cup. Their first game is against the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan on May 19 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. We will have coverage of the Memorial Cup and the two teams featuring Devils prospects (the Hamilton Bulldogs and Marian Studenic are the other) right here for you.

Kane Scores Twice as US Defeats Norway

Following their blowout of Korea, Team USA was on a roll in the World Championships. Today, they knocked off Norway 9-3 on the strength of two goals from Patrick Kane.

Scott Darling and Keith Kinkaid split the duties for the US, making a combined 23 saves on 26 Norwegian shots. Henrik Haukeland and Lars Haugen made a combined 39 saves on 48 American shots. Kinkaid played the first two periods for the US, giving up one goal and leaving with an 8-1 lead. Haugen got the start for Norway and was pulled in the second period after giving up five.

Kane scored the first two goals of the game, the first at 8:24 of the first on the power play while Martin Roymark was in the box for boarding. Charlie McAvoy and Cam Atkinson had the assists on that goal.

His second came also on the power play – Tobias Lindstrom was off for hooking – and Kane converted at 12:18, after just seven seconds on the man advantage. Alex Debrincat and Atkinson had the assists.

At the 15:25 mark, McAvoy picked up his second point of the early going when he scored from Debrincat. The US had a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.

Just prior to the end of the first period, at 19:11, Norway’s Mathis Olimb was called for holding, which put the Americans back on the power play going into the second. And just 1:03 in, Dylan Larkin connected, unassisted, to make it 4-0.

At 7:00, Norway would get one back when Kristian Forsberg beat Kinkaid. Lindstrom had the lone assist. That made it 4-1.

Then there was some scary stuff, as the Americans’ Tage Thompson was called for an illegal check to the head and neck area at 8:07 he also received a ten minute misconduct, so Anders Lee served the high hit penalty. The US, however, would notch one as the penalty expired at the 10:38 mark. Alec Martinez scored from Larkin to make it 5-1.

It was at this point that Haugen was pulled in favor of Haukeland.

Different goalie, same result for Norway, however. At 16:40, Lee scored for the US from Larkin and Johnny Gaudreau to make it 6-1.

That was followed up roughly three minutes later at 19:08 by an Atkinson goal from Nick Jensen and Kane. That one made it 7-1 at the end of two as the US was really making sure their goal differential (a crucial stat in this tournament) was padded.

Darling came in for the Americans in the third period and it only took Colin White 2:50 to score. He got assists from Nick Bonino and Connor Murphy to make it 8-1.

Then the US got into some penalty trouble. At 4:17, Neal Pionk took a hooking call. Seven seconds later, Murphy was called for delay of game and the US was two men down. The Norwegians would get one back on the 5-on-3, as Ken Andre Olimb scored from Alexander Bonsaksen and Jonas Holos. That made it 8-2.

A minute and four seconds after the Ken Andre Olimb goal, Mathis Olimb scored at even strength from Lindstrom and Christian Bull. That made it 8-3.

But the Americans would add one final one at 17:27 of the third when Pionk scored from Bonino and Chris Kreider to make it the final 9-3.

For the other Devils who played in the game, Will Butcher had a shot on goal and was a plus-1 in 18:24 over 22 shifts. Blake Coleman was an even plus/minus in 14:49 of time on ice over 16 shifts. Brian Gibbons had a shot and was an even plus/minus in 6:06 over nine shifts.

The US continues on in first place in Group B, with 16 points and four regulation wins and two overtime wins. Their goal differential also leads the group at 37-10. Next up for them, preliminary play concludes on May 15 against Finland. This game will be crucial, as the Finns currently stand behind the Americans in second place in Group B. We will have that for you here as well as the Switzerland-Sweden game later today.