This was not pretty. The Devils traveled up to Toronto to take part in the Hall of Fame Game during the Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend and got obliterated, 6-1.
Martin Brodeur is the headliner for the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 and, as such, there was a huge ceremony before the 21st annual Hall of Fame Game, which the Leafs host each year around this time. Monday is the actual induction ceremony, but there is also a legends of hockey game that ex-players like Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Brodeur himself will be participating in on Sunday. All of this makes up the festivities that accompany the induction ceremony. Today, Marty got his Hall of Fame ring and his plaque was unveiled as he and the other new inductees met with the media.
The current Devils as a team enjoyed a private tour of the Hall of Fame and dinner in the Great Hall. A special treat for players who normally are in and out of Toronto and do not get the time to take in the sights.
The ceremony beforehand was very well done. Past members of the Hall of Fame were introduced followed by this year’s inductees like Gary Bettman, Martin St. Louis and Brodeur introduced last. Afterwards, there was a little ceremony for Remembrance Day (or Veterans Day here in the States) with Canadian military veterans of World War II introduced and a moment of silence before the national anthems.
Then it was time for the game to start and things did not go as planned for the New Jersey Devils. We will get to that in a moment, but first some lineup changes. Jesper Bratt made his long awaited season debut after suffering a broken jaw in Sweden earlier this preseason. Stefan Noesen also returned to the lineup following injury. Bratt was a minus-3 with three shots on goal, two hits and a blocked shot in 12:57 of total ice time (1:25 on the power play and nine seconds on the penalty kill).
The healthy scratches for the Devils were Jean-Sebastien Dea, Drew Stafford and Egor Yakovlev.
In goal, Keith Kinkaid went for New Jersey, making 26 saves on 32 Toronto shots. He was brilliant in the first period as the Maple Leafs just kept pressuring the Devils and Kinkaid bailed them out time and again. But things went off the rails in the second and third periods.
For the Leafs, Frederik Andersen started and he was great all game. He stopped 38 of the Devils’ 39 shots. The big Danish goalie was quick with the leather all night, robbing Taylor Hall a few times, including midway through the third when Nico Hischier made a nice pass to Hall, who collected it through his legs and was stopped in tight.
On the power play, New Jersey went 0-for-3 with five shots while Toronto was 0-for-4 with four shots. The Devils added in two shorthanded shots while the Leafs had none.
The teams were wearing special Hall of Fame Game patches on their uniforms as things were ready to get started.
As mentioned, the Maple Leafs had a ton of early chances that Kinkaid was able to stop. But it was the big offseason signing for Toronto that came through. John Tavares took a tic-tac-toe pass from Ron Hainsey and Morgan Rielly to pot his ninth of the year and make it 1-0 at 12:24 of the first period. Things seemed in control for the Devils only down by one going into the first break, but they were about to spiral into some crazy territory with the coming of the second.
Just 1:52 into the second, Nazem Kadri scored a quick shot off of a turnover in the Devils’ zone that made it 2-0. Patrick Marleau had the lone assist on the goal, the 600th assist of his NHL career.
Connor Brown made it 3-0 when he scored at 5:07 from Par Lindholm and Hainsey. This goal resulted from just good puck movement by the Leafs.
Travis Zajac scored what, at the time, seemed to get New Jersey back into things at 7:23 of the second when he scored from Blake Coleman. That made it 3-1 and the Devils were seemingly clawing back into the game. Nobody at that time could have foreseen that this would be the Devils’ only goal. It came when Coleman won a puck battle in the near corner and into the front of the net. Zajac was there to clean up what Daneyko called simply a “hard working goal.”
But that is where the Devils would leave it as Toronto would just continue to pile it on. They picked right back up at the 15:44 mark of the second when Andreas Johnsson scored after the puck deflected off of two Devils sticks in front and he was able to put it right in. Jake Gardiner and Lindholm had the assists here. That made it 4-1 and was Johnsson’s first of the season.
Rielly would make it 5-1 not too long later at 17:27 when he scored a weird one. A Devils clear was blocked at their blue line and Kadri kept it in the zone. Rielly then lobbed it in from long distance and it beat Kinkaid, who was screened on the play as well.
Tyler Ennis would add one more unassisted in the third period at 12:01 when he just maneuvered around the Devils defense and Kinkaid to put it home and make it 6-1.
The Leafs nearly had the extra point as Kadri again kept the puck in the zone with 6:04 to go in the third. He lobbed one in on Kinkaid and Marleau redirected it in. However, during a league review, it was decided that Marleau played the puck with a high stick and there was no goal. The score reverted to a mere 6 to 1.
And that was our final. The Devils outshot the Leafs (39-32), outhit the Leafs (39-23) and had less giveaways (22 for Toronto to the Devils’ nine) but won 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs and generally pushed the play all night.
Individually, Sami Vatanen led the team in ice time with 20:37 (1:53 on the PP/1:18 on the PK). Taylor Hall led all forwards with 17:51 (2:39 on the PP and 41 seconds on the PK) TOI. Hall also led in shots on goal with five while Ben Lovejoy led in hits with six. Andy Greene led in blocks with four and takeaways were led by Greene and Coleman with two apiece.
Next up, on Sunday, the Devils travel to Winnipeg to finish out this road trip from hell against the Jets at 7 PM. Since the end of the game in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Devils have been outscored 13-4 and now find themselves one game under NHL .500. But there is no real need to panic. The team (and its fans) just need to take it one game at a time (as cliche as that is) and climb back into things and turn the year around. Every team and season have their ups and downs. Hopefully the Devils are just getting their downs out of the way early in the season.