Zibanejad Notches Hat Trick as Devils Fall to Rangers

With the bitter cold hockey weather hitting the Northeast this week, it was fitting that two bitter rivals finally began their 2018-19 season series. It took almost five months, but Devils-Rangers was finally here. This was the latest point in a season, according to Steve Cagialosi, that the Hudson River Rivals have met not including a lockout year. But unfortunately for the Devils faithful, a win was not in the cards. The Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3 thanks to a Mika Zibanejad hat trick.

In roster and injury news, goaltender Cam Johnson was sent back to AHL Binghamton and Mackenzie Blackwood was called back up to the big club. He would not get the start as Keith Kinkaid got the nod instead. In addition, Sami Vatanen was placed on Injured Reserve due to a concussion following the hit from Derrick Brassard in the Pittsburgh game. Eric Gryba was called up from Binghamton to take his place on the roster but was a healthy scratch. Kurtis Gabriel was also a scratch. In Vatanen’s place, Egor Yakovlev got the nod to slot in on the blue line for the first time since December 10. In addition to that, Taylor Hall was still not in the lineup. He has now not played in 39 days (since December 23) and it does not seem like he will be ready for Saturday’s game at Montreal as per reports by the MSG+ crew.

Getting back to the Brassard hit on Vatanen, there was no supplemental discipline handed out by the NHL and most agreed that the game misconduct given by the referee on the ice was enough. The hit was just not dirty enough to warrant an extra suspension or anything like that.

In goal, Kinkaid was back for the Devils, stopping 21 of the 25 shots he saw for an .840 save percentage on the night. The Rangers threw out their venerable backstop Henrik Lundqvist who turned aside 19 of 22 Devils shots for an .864 save percentage.

Both teams were 2-for-4 on the power play for the night. The Devils had nine shots while New York had four on the power play. The Rangers also had two shorthanded shots as well. Special teams would, obviously, play a huge role in this game and both teams looked pretty good on the man advantage.

The Devils were in their heritage green, white and red uniforms and looking for their first win in those jerseys this year. Things looked promising early on too. Nico Hischier buried a loose puck in front of Lundqvist that gave the Devils the 1-0 lead just 5:10 into the game. That goal came on the power play while Marc Staal was off for holding.

The Devils doubled their lead a little more than ten minutes later. At 14:58, New York’s Jesper Fast was called for tripping Damon Severson. At 16:18, Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 Devils when he made a beautiful play, diving for a puck that hit the post behind Lundqvist and pool cueing it into the net. The Devils had the 2-0 lead early on and seemed to be cruising.

But then the Mika Zibanejad show began. At 19:53, Johansson took an interference penalty and the Rangers were on the power play. With just two seconds to the first intermission, Kevin Hayes won the offensive zone faceoff back to Zibanejad and he unleashed a bomb on Kinkaid that beat him clean to cut the Devil lead in half at 2-1. Zibanejad would be named the game’s first star while Mats Zuccarello of the Rangers was the second star and Nico Hischier was the third.

In the second period, at 16:36, Zibanejad struck again on the power play. Blake Coleman – one of the Devils best penalty killers – was off for hooking and New York was on the man advantage. Zuccarello made a nice tape-to-tape pass to him at the bottom of the far faceoff circle. He snapped a shot off and the game was tied up at two apiece. Hayes had the secondary assist on this one. This came minutes after Kinkaid made a nice save on Hayes, who had deked two Devils skaters out of their skates and endured Neal Pionk hitting the post behind him.

The game would go back-and-forth in the early stages of the third period. Chris Kreider scored at 4:43 when his shot beat Kinkaid between his left arm and the post. Zuccarello and Zibanejad had the assists on this goal. Zibanejad had factored into every Ranger goal so far on the night.

New York had taken the lead for the first time, but it did not last long. Fifty-three seconds later, Yakovlev was able to find the back of the net when Johansson flushed out the puck on the forecheck and Yakovlev jumped up into the play, firing the puck by Lundqvist to tie it at three.

The game was now in the balance and the Rangers went back to MIka Zibanejad to finish off the Devils. New Jersey could not clear the defensive zone and Zuccarello was able to backhand a pass to Zibanejad in the slot. He skated right in and beat Kinkaid for the game winner and the hat trick. Pavel Buchnevich had the other assist on the goal.

Kinkaid was pulled with 1:22 remaining and the Devils had two offensive zone faceoffs but were unable to finish and time simply ran out on the Devils. New York won 4-3.

It was a good game played by both teams, although the Rangers tended to dominate the zone time for most of the game, it seemed. Overall, the backbreaker was probably the late goal scored in the first period as that seemed to be a turning point.

The Rangers out shot the Devils 25-22 while the Devils won 52-percent of the faceoffs and the Devils out hit the Rangers, 11-9.The Devils blocked more shots than the Rangers at 11-9 and had more giveaways at 8-1.

There were some key called penalties, including a Miles Wood goaltender interference call at 13:11 of the second period where Wood was seemingly pushed into Lundqvist that probably should not have been called and a dangerous Pavel Zacha cross-checking/boarding call on a Ranger that probably should have been called late in the game. But the officiating was, overall, good.

Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 25:55 of ice time (4:17 on the power play and 2:31 shorthanded). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 21:04 of TOI (2:45 of PP time and 1:47 of PK time). Severson also led the Devils in shots on goal with four. Hits were led by Blake Coleman with four, blocks by Hischier with two and takeaways by Zajac, Zacha and Mirco Mueller with two each.

Next up for the Devils, it is a Saturday afternoon showdown up in Montreal with the Canadiens. That game is at 2 PM at Bell Centre and we will have coverage for you right here. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Devils Acquire Ryan Murphy from Wild

Ray Shero announced today that the Devils have acquired defenseman Ryan Murphy from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for defenseman Michael Kapla.

The 25-year-old Murphy was drafted 12th overall in the first round by Carolina in 2011. He is a native of Aurora, Ontario and spent five seasons in the Hurricanes’ system. He was in his second season in the Minnesota organization where he was playing primarily in the AHL with the Iowa Wild. There he had three goals, 12 assists for 15 points over 35 games according to the press release on the subject. He also has recorded 12 penalty minutes at the AHL level. It also said that he has played two games at the NHL level this season.

The press release also notes that he has played in 174 NHL regular season games and has eight goals and 34 assists (42 points) and 42 penalty minutes at the big league level. The right-shooting d-man has 17 goals and 92 assists (109 points) over 172 AHL regular season games. He was also a 2015 AHL mid-season All-Star. Playoff-wise, according to the press release, he has one Stanley Cup Playoff game under his belt and five Calder Cup games (where he has notched two assists).

Prior to being drafted, the 5-foot, 11-inch, 185-pound blueliner played junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. He was a member of the OHL All Rookie Team in 2009-10, was twice named to the OHL Second Team All-Star Team (2011-12 and 2012-13) and represented Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championship. All of this information comes directly from the Devils’ press release.

Murphy will report to Binghamton of the AHL where, in a bit of a lateral move, he will replace Kapla. Kapla, 24-years-old, “was in his first full season with the Devils organization.” According to the press release, he had a goal and 15 assists for 16 points with the AHL Devils.

North Division Wins AHL All-Star Classic as Batherson Takes Home MVP Honors

The AHL’s All-Star Challenge took place at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts yesterday. It was a homecoming of sorts for the AHL as they have their headquarters in the city. The All-Stars each put forth a good showing with the North Division (featuring the Binghamton Devils’ John Quenneville and Mackenzie Blackwood) taking it all in the tournament between divisions. It was the North’s second straight victory as they also took the tournament last year.

First up was the round robin. Here games were ten minutes (with a break and goalie change at five minutes) and saw each division play each other once. At the end of the round robin, the teams with the best record met in a six minute championship game.

The first game featured the Central Division taking on the Atlantic Division. The Atlantic took this one 3-1. The Atlantic got goals from Colin McDonald (the Atlantic captain), Trevor Carrick and John Gilmour (who scored into an empty net). Denis Gurianov scored for the Central and he actually scored first in the game to give the Central a quick 1-0 lead that would not last. In goal in this game, Troy Grosenick started for the Central and stopped all six shots he saw. Kaapo Kahkonen then came in and also faced six shots, letting in two. For the Atlantic, Vitek Vanecek stopped all four he saw and Samuel Montembeault – the starter – turned aside two of three.

The next game was another East-West matchup as the Pacific All-Stars faced the North All-Stars. The Pacific won this one 4-2, getting on the board first when Joe Gambardella scored. In the second “half” Sheldon Rempal gave the Pacific a 2-0 lead. The North would tie things up when Drake Batherson (who would go on to be named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his performance) scored a pair in the second but the Pacific would fight back for the win. Sean Walker scored the game winner followed by Cooper Marody into an empty net. The goaltenders were busy in this one, Kevin Boyle, starting for the Pacific stopped all four shots he saw while Josef Korenar saw 11 shots and saved nine of them. For the North, Blackwood got the save and saw two shots, stopping one of them. Connor Ingram came on in the second and saved five of seven.

The North stayed on the ice as they took on the Central Division next. The North came out victorious 4-2. John Quenneville had a good game in this one, scoring the opener in the first unassisted. Joel L’Esperance tied it early in the second but Batherson put the North back up when he scored off an assist from Quenneville. But again, the Central tied it when Daniel Carr scored a little over a minute later. The North finally took the lead for good when Reid Boucher scored the game winner. Batherson would add an empty net goal to give the North the win. In nets, Grosenick stopped six of eight while the starter, Kahkonen stopped three of four for the Central. For the North, starter Ingram stopped all three he saw while Blackwood had four saves on six shots.

It was a cross-continent matchup in the next game as the Pacific took on the Atlantic. The Atlantic took this one 5-2, taking an early lead in the first when Gilmour and Ethan Prow scored with a Pacific goal by Francis Perron sandwiched in between. In the second, Gilmour, Andrew Poturalski and Michael Dal Colle scored for the Atlantic while Walker added a late one for the Pacific. The goalies were Korenar starting for the Pacific and making three saves on five shots. Kevin Boyle came in for him and stopped one in four shots taken. For the Atlantic, Vanecek stopped four of five while Montembeault came in and made eight saves on nine shots.

An all-Western Conference battle ensued next with the Central taking on the Pacific. The Central won 5-3. The Pacific took the early lead when Michael Bunting scored just 28 seconds in. Near the closing of the second, Gurianov tied the game at one. The Central took control in the second when Matt Donovan notched two with 20 seconds of each other. Jacob Middleton of the Pacific scored before the Central scored two more: Chris Terry at 4:04 and Daniel Carr into an empty net at 4:33. Walker scored one with less than 15 seconds remaining for the Pacific. Grosenick made seven saves on eight shots while Kahkonen made ten saves on twelve shots for the Central All-Stars. For the Pacific, Boyle made three saves on four shots while Korenar stopped three of six.

Following an all-West game, the East took center stage. The North faced the Atlantic and won 4-1. Nathan Gerbe and Boucher got the North up by two early. Gerbe would score again in the second while Greg Carey notched the only Atlantic goal a few seconds after that. Batherson finished things off to give the North the victory. Blackwood started for the North and turned aside the only shot he saw. Ingram came on in the second and stopped four of five in the winning effort. For the Atlantic, hometown boy Montembeault stopped seven of nine while Vanecek, coming on in the second, made four saves on five shots.

With that, round robin play came to an end and the championship game was set. The Atlantic at 2-1 would take on the North also at 2-1. This game was just six minutes long and saw the North win 1-0 in a shootout. When the game finished with no score, it was up to Blackwood and Vanecek to take on shooters one-on-one in a shootout.

Boucher went first for the North with Vanecek stopping him. Anthony Greco was first up for the Atlantic and he was also stopped. Batherson (North) and Dal Colle (Atlantic) went next and both scored. Gerbe (North) and Poturalski (Atlantic) were stopped in the next round and we were on to round four. Trevor Moore scored on his attempt for the North Division and Carey was stopped by Blackwood on his try to give the North the 1-0 win. In the game itself, Blackwood stopped all three shots he saw and Vanecek stopped all six he saw.

So with that another All-Star game comes to an end. The Devils (both the NHL and AHL versions) fared well, with both of their divisions winning their respective games and their players contributing.

We will see you right here for Devils-Rangers coverage on Thursday. Again, if you wish, please remember to comment on this and any other post on the site. We really appreciate it.

Devils Double Up Penguins 6-3

The Devils have not been a good road team this season, that is well documented. They did not get their first win away from Prudential Center until November 5, which happened to be at Pittsburgh, and have only gotten four more since then. But the key here is that they seem to really match up well against the Penguins. They have played the Pens three times this season and have won all three games. Call it respect, call it getting up for a tough opponent, whatever it is the Devils seem to have the Penguins’ number. Coming out of their bye week, the Devils defeated the Pens 6-3 at PPG Paints Arena.

Some roster news to begin. Cam Johnson was called up from Binghamton to back up Keith Kinkaid tonight, as Mackenzie Blackwood was down in the AHL playing in the All-Star Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts. The team wanted to give him the opportunity to do that which is why he was sent down. Other call ups for the Devils include Egor Yakovlev, who was scratched tonight and Kurtis Gabriel – also a scratch. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy was placed on Injured Reserve retroactive to January 15. Miles Wood was activated off of IR and played tonight (primarily on the second line with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman), recording an assist in the game. Taylor Hall, as per Bryce Salvador of MSG+, has been working out back in New Jersey and should be back in the line up later in the week. Not sure if he means the Ranger game or what, but that is certainly good news.

Keith Kinkaid had not registered a win since January 4. But he was well rested coming out of the eight day break the Devils had and played well toinght. He made 37 saves on 40 shots against for a .925 save percentage in getting the W. Opposing him was Matt Murray, who stopped 26 of 32 Devils shots total for a .813 save percentage.

Special teams-wise, the Devils were 2-for-5 on the power play with six shots. They also registered three shorthanded shots and scored on one of them. Pittsburgh was 0-for-5 on the power play with seven shots. They also had five shorthanded shots, scoring on one of them.

The Devils got the scoring kicked off when Travis Zajac, who would go on to have a great night with four points in being named the game’s first star. He scored at 13:08 of the first period and scored shooting through a screen off of a nice feed from Wood. Steven Santini had the secondary helper. It was 1-0 Devils about halfway through the first.

Damon Severson would double the Devils up 1:45 later. On this goal, he jumped up into the play, took a pass from Blake Coleman, and was all alone in the slot. He beat Murray for his fourth point of the year versus Pittsburgh this season. Zajac had the other assist. Coleman, with two points on the night, would be named the game’s second star. The Devils had the 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Early in the second, at the 2:26 mark, Sami Vatanen was called for holding Jake Guentzel’s stick and the Pens were on the power play. At the 3:30 mark, Brian Boyle scored his fourth goal in the PPG Paints Arena this season when he found net shorthanded from Pavel Zacha. Zacha stole the puck from Evgeni Malkin just inside of the Pittsburgh blue line, shielded the puck and sent a one-handed pass to Boyle (who was going to the net). Boyle had a hat trick in his last game in this building and had given the Devils a 3-0 lead tonight. Zacha would finish the game with a goal and an assist (like Coleman) and was named the game’s third star.

Just as the penalty ended, however, Derick Brassard scored for the Penguins when Marcus Petterson faked a shot and passed to Brassard, who was cutting backdoor. This goal came at the 4:28 mark and Juuso Riikola had the other assist. It was now 3-1 Devils.

But Coleman would put New Jersey back up by three at the 12:57 mark of the second. It came off of a broken play as Zajac settled down a bouncing puck and dished to Coleman, who sniped one upstairs over Murray’s glovehand. Will Butcher had the secondary and the Devils were up 4-1 going into the second break.

Then the turning point: at the 9:12 mark of the third period, Brassard hit Vatanen high, Vatanen was cut by his face shield and Brassard took a game misconduct penalty for elbowing. He was gone and the Devils were on a five minute extended power play. The All-Star, Kyle Palmieri, who was teammates with Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang the other night in San Jose, scored first on the PP. His came off of a quick passing play between Marcus Johansson, Zajac and Palmieri. Palmieri was cutting backdoor and sniped the puck in past Murray. This made it 5-1 Devils.

Matt Cullen would add one shorthanded at 12:30 when Kinkaid settled the puck down behind his net on a lackadaisical play and Cullen, who became the oldest player in Penguins history to play a game tonight, cut in and stole it, going ot the front of the net and shooting upstairs over Kinkaid’s glove. That cut it to 5-2 and was scored unassisted.

But the Devils would get that one back at 13:37, scoring another power play when Pavel Zacha was wide open at the bottom of the far faceoff circle as the Pens overloaded to one side of the ice on the PK. Zacha took a pass from Andy Greene and scored, making it 6-2 New Jersey.

Bryan Rust would get one more for Pittsburgh, at 18:03, when he took a pass from Malkin and got in behind the Devils’ defense. He went backhand through the five hole to beat Kinkaid give us our final of 6-3. Brian Dumoulin had the other assist on this one.

Overall, the Devils were out shot 40 to 32, won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs and held a slight edge in hits at 38-37. The Devils had more blocked shots too, 22 to nine and less giveaways at seven to Pittsburgh’s four.

Individually, Greene led all skaters in ice time with 23:01 tot al (includes 59 seconds on the PP and 8:32 on the PK). Zajac led the forwards with 19:34 of total time (3:33 on the power play and 4:57 shorthanded). Vatanen led in shots on goal with five, Coleman led in hits with seven, Santini led blocked shots with four and Coleman and Palmieri both led in takeaways with one each.

Next up, the Devils and Rangers finally get it on during the 2018-19 season. The two rivals have not yet faced each other this season, but on Thursday at The Rock, that will change. We will have that for you right here, and will try to get the AHL All-Star Game up tomorrow as well. Until then, enjoy your week and don’t forget to leave a comment if you like. It is always appreciated.

West Wins AHL All-Star Skills Competition

The American Hockey League presented their All-Star Skills Competition earlier tonight from the Massmutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts with the Western Conference coming away with the victory 17-14 over seven events. The Binghamton Devils were represented by goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and forward John Quenneville.

The first event of the evening was the Puck Control Relays as players skated a puck through cones set out on the ice. The first two races were team-based while the final two were one-on-one between two skaters.

First up, the Western Conference team of Jordan Kyrou (San Antonio Rampage), Sheldon Rempal (Ontario Reign) and Kyle Capobianco (Tucson Roadrunners) faced off with the Eastern Conference’s Drake Batherson (Belleville Senators), Sebastian Aho (Bridgeport Sound Tigers) and Christian Wolanin (Belleville – he is the son of former Devil Craig Wolanin). The West was awarded a goal on this one, winning the heat.

The East took the second race, with Andrew Poturalski (Charlotte Checkers), Ethan Prow (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) and Trevor Moore (Toronto Marlies) defeating the West’s Francis Perron (San Jose Barracuda), Cooper Marody (Bakersfield Condors) and Andrew Agozzino (Colorado Eagles).

The next two heats were one-on-one with the East taking both. Nathan Gerbe (Cleveland Monsters) defeated Erik Brannstrom (Chicago Wolves) in Race #3 and Anthony Greco (Springfield Thunderbirds) beat Cal O’Reilly (Iowa Wild) in Race #4.

The East had taken three of the first four goals and were up 3-1 after one event. Next up was the Fastest Skater, with two goals on the line (player with the fastest time and fastest average time for the team).

The East took the fastest individual skater, as Greco won in a AHL-record time of 13.251. However, the West took the best average time as Sean Walker of Ontario recorded a time of 14.057, Denis Gurlanov of the Texas Stars completed the course in 13.703 and Kyrou got a time of 13.520. Brendan Guhle (Rochester Americans) with 13.648 and John Gilmour (Hartford Wolf Pack) with 14.428 rounded out the East’s times.

The East was up 4-2 heading into the Rapid Fire event. The object here was for two shooters to fire ten pucks (five for each shooter) at a goalie and score as many as they could.

The first goalie up was Josef Korenar (San Jose) who faced the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ Colin McDonald and Charlotte’s Trevor Carrick. He stopped six of ten. Blackwood was up first for the East, facing Curtis Lazar (Stockton Heat) and Daniel Carr (Chicago). He stopped four of ten. Iowa’s Kaapo Kahkonen took the net from there, facing former Devil Reid Boucher of the Utica Comets and Jordan Szwarz of the Providence Bruins. He made eight saves. Vitek Vanecek (Hershey Bears) faced Joel L’Esperance (Texas) and Chris Terry (Grand Rapids Griffins), making six saves. Kevin Boyle of the San Diego Gulls was next, stopping six against the Syracuse Crunch’s Cory Conacher and Alex Belzile of the Laval Rocket. Connor Ingram of Syracuse faced Logan Shaw of the Manitoba Moose and Michael Bunting of Tucson and stopped four shots. Troy Grosenick of the Milwaukee Adirmals stepped into the shooting gallery, making eight saves against Michael Dal Colle of Bridgeport and Calle Rosen of Toronto. And finally was Sam Montembeault of the hometown Thunderbirds who stopped six of Joe Gambardella (Bakersfield) and Rempal’s shots.

After all of that, the West took home a point, having scored 28 goals to the East’s 20. This set us up for the Hardest Shot contest next.

Greg Carey of Lehigh Valley won this one with a best shot of 100.4 MPH. Again, the player whose team wins gets a goal as well as the team with the highest averge speed. The East won both as Quenneville nailed a 98.1, Guhle hit 99.4 and Carrick hit 99.4. The West had Andrew Campbell of the Rockford IceHogs (99.5 MPH), Matt Donovan of Milwaukee (96.0), Lazar (92.9) and Jacob Middleton of San Jose (96.4). It was now 6-3 in the total score in favor of the East.

The Accuracy Shooting event was next with teams earning a point for the player with the fewest attempts to break all four targets as well as the most hit targets in the fewest attempts. Individaully, Perron (4-for-6) and Boucher (4-for-6) tied to earn a point for both the East and the West. The East won the overall event, hitting 12 targets in just 19 attempts total. Poturalski was 4-for-7, Moore was 2-for-8 and Prow was 2-for-8. For the West, Carr was 3-for-8, L’Esperance was 2-for-8 and Terry was 3-for-8.

With the East up 8-4 and only two events to go, the West needed to kick things into high gear to pull out a win. Next up was the pass and score, which saw players breaking in on 3-on-0’s on the goaltender and trying to score as much as they could in three attempts.

Blackwood went first, facing O’Reilly, Agozzino and Capobianco. He blanked them on all three attempts. Korenar faced Batherson, Aho and Gerbe and made a single save. But those two goals were the only ones the East would record in this event. Vanecek let in two against Brannstrom, Marody and Walker and Kahkonen shut the door on Wolanin, Gilmour and Dal Colle. Ingram also shut out Gurianov, Bunting and Gambardella while Conacher, Szwarz and Rosen failed to score on Boyle. The West’s shooters of Donovan, Middleton and Shaw got one through on Montembeault to put the West up 3-2 and Grosenick shut the door in the final round on McDonald, Carey and Quenneville to give the West the 3-2 win. Since each individual goal scored in this event counted for a total point, the East was now up 10-7.

The final event was the Breakaway Relay. Here too, each individual goal scored counted. Mackenzie Blackwood made three saves on five shots as he faced Kyrou (who scored), Lazar (save), L’Esperance (goal), Rempal (save) and Perron (save). Vanecek made two saves in the third round for the East, Ingram made two in round five and Montembeault made two saves in round seven. For the West, Korenar made four saves in round two and Kahkonen pitched a shutout in round four. Round six featured Boyle in net and John Quenneville shooting. Quenneville’s shot was saved and Boyle made two saves. Finally, in round eight, Grosenick made four saves against the East to put the West on top 10-4.

With that, the West pulled in front on the big board with 17 goals to the East’s four. And that was it. The AHL All-Star Classic is tomorrow night on the NHL Network. The Devils are playing and I will, of course, have that here. But I am recording the AHL game and should have a recap of that up (with info on how Quenneville and Blackwood do) on Tuesday night.

Palmieri, Metro Division Win 2019 All-Star Game

The 2019 NHL All-Star mini tournament was played last night at the SAP Center in San Jose. It featured another good showing from the Metropolitan Division in the divisional-based tournament-style game. The Metro won, defeating the Central Division in the final 10-5.

To refresh some memories, the game now consists of three mini games all within the context of a period in a larger game. So the first period/game (Central versus Pacific) set up one half of the final (the third period/game) while the second period/game (Metro versus Atlantic) gave us the second participant in the finals. Each period was split into two ten minute “mini periods” with the teams switching ends and goalies going into the new period. It was all contested three-on-three.

The first game, won by the Central 10-4, saw the Colorado Avalanche attendees dominate. Mikko Rantanen scored the opener and Gabriel Landeskog the second goal. Rantanen would go on to pot two in the first game while Landeskog had a hat trick. Other goal scorers for the Central were Roman Josi, Patrick Kane (with two), Mark Scheifele and Ryan O’Reilly. The Pacific got goals from hometown favorites Erik Karlsson (twice) and Brent Burns as well as Johnny Gaudreau. With that, the Central moved on to its first-ever All-Star Game final since the current format was adopted. The Pacific, much to the chagrin of the San Jose fans in the building, went home.

In goal for the Central, Pekka Rinne stopped eight of nine shots while Devan Dubnyk made 19 saves on 22 shots. The Pacific had 31 total shots. In goal for the Pacific, John Gibson made two saves on nine shots while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped six of nine. The Central ended with 18 shots on goal.

Overall, there were nine players on the Central with a multi-point game here.

In the second game, the Metro defeated the Atlantic in the Eastern Conference showdown. The Metropolitan Division won this one, 7-4, advancing to the finals to face the Central.

Sidney Crosby scored the first goal of the game (his first of two) and Seth Jones also had two (with Kyle Palmieri getting a helper on his first one) in the Metro’s win. This was a see-saw matchup that saw the lead change hands a few times before the Metro really settled in. The other goal scorers for the Metro were Crosby’s Pittsburgh teammate, Kris Letang, Sebastian Aho and Cam Atkinson (Palmieri was playing on the third unit with a pair of Columbus players in Atkinson and Jones). The Atlantic got goals from Jack Eichel, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Skinner and John Tavares in a losing effort.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist made five saves on seven shots while Braden Holtby stopped 11 of 13 for the Metro. The Atlantic finished up with 20 shots on net. Jimmy Howard and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced a combined 26 Metro shots and Howard made nine saves on 13 shots against while Vasilevskiy made ten saves on 13 shots as well.

It was on to the finals for the Central Division and the Metropolitan Division. Here, the Metro team switched their jerseys to the white aways.

Speaking of the jerseys, while they did not look all that nice, in my opinion, being mostly black and white with some “slate grey” thrown in as an accent, they did have some cool innovation. The Adidas-made jerseys were created in conjunction with Parley Ocean Plastic, which used recycled and upcycled marine waste plastic (waste such as plastic bottles that made their way to the oceans) to create the materials for the jerseys according to SportsLogos.net. It is a cool thing and really fits with the California/Silicon Valley theme of this All-Star Game. To use technology to help turn waste that could potentially damage our planet into something useful.

Anyway, on to our final. This one saw the Metropolitan come away with the $1 million in prize money that was to be divided among the members of the winning team. The Metro won this one 10-5. Mat Barzal kicked off the scoring followed by Claude Giroux, Letang, Palmieri and Crosby to build up a 5-0 lead for the Metro.

Landeskog would get the Central on the board and Rantanen would make it 5-2. Crosby would add another to make it 6-2 and O’Reilly would cut the lead in half to 6-3. But then the Metro would get three unanswered from Aho, Atkinson and another from Barzal (into an empty net) to make it 9-3. The Central would add two in a mini rally (another from Rantanen to make it 9-4 and one from Blake Wheeler to make it 9-5) and Atkinson would finish off the scoring with a goal from Jones to make it 10-5.

This game was unique in that it featured only the third penalty shot in All-Star Game history. Seth Jones took it when he was hauled down by Patrick Kane with 4:09 to go in the game. He would not score and, in fact, no one has ever converted on a penalty shot in All-Star play.

In goal, Rinne and Dubnyk faced 22 shots combined from the Metro, with Rinne stopping six of ten and Dubnyk six of 11. For the Metro, Lunqvist stopped all six shots he saw and Holtby made 12 saves on 17 shots as the Central Division threw 23 shots at Metro goaltending total.

Crosby took home the Most Valuable Player honors with two goals and three assists for five points in this game plus two goals and an assist in the Atlantic game. He finished with five goals and eight points in the game as a whole. Palmieri finished the game with a goal and an assist for two points in his first ever All-Star showing.

Those two will get it on Monday as the Devils head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins then. We will have that for you right here. Until then, enjoy your weekend everyone!

Palmieri Participates in 2019 NHL Skills Competition

The 2019 NHL Skills Competition was presented last night from San Jose. There was, as usual, a full slate of events with Devils All-Star Kyle Palmieri taking part in the Shot Accuracy event. The winner of each event would take home $25,000. We had a few repeat winners from years past in a few events.

After the player introductions, which were done by divisional team, the Skills Competition was off an running. Up first was the Fastest Skater event featuring Kendall Coyne Schofield of the US Women’s National Team (she became the first-ever woman to compete in the NHL Skills Competition), finishing with a time of 14.346, Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars – 13.914), Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes – 14.526), Elias Petterson (Vancouver Canucks – 13.930), Cam Atkinson (Columbus Blue Jackets – 14.125), Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres – 13.582), Mat Barzal (New York Islanders – 13.780) and your winner for the third straight year, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers with a winning time of 13.378.

The Puck Control event was next. This one consists of three parts: the stickhandling, cone control and the gates. Stickhandling is through a series of pucks set up in a straight line that the players had to stickhandle through and the cone control features players carrying the pucks around pylons. The gates sees each player trying to lift the puck through lighted gates of three varying heights.

Patrick Kane was first and the Blackhawks All-Star finished with a time of 28.611 seconds. Petterson was next finishing in 43.622 seconds. Jeff SKinner of the Sabres finished the course in 35.407 while Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets completed it in 32.161. Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche had a time of 33.425, Claude Giroux of the Flyers finished it in 30.270 seconds and John Tavares of the Maple Leafs in 35.210. The winner for the second straight year, though, was Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames with an amazing time of 27.045 seconds. He had less trouble with the gates portion of the event, which allowed him to finish with such a quick time.

The goalies got in on the action as the Save Streak event was next. This one saw goalies facing consecutive breakaways from members of the opposing division come at them in waves. They basically had to stop as many shots as they could facing the eight shooters. The division captains went last and if they were stopped, the streak would continue for as long as the goalie could fend off the shots.

Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators was first versus the Pacific Division and finished with a streak of two. Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning went next, setting the early standard against the Metro Division. He made eight straight saves for the early lead. Kyle Palmieri was stopped on his attempt as a shooter. John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks was next against the Central Division. He finished with a streak of three. Braden Holtby of the Capitals made two straight saves against the Atlantic Division shooters.

In the next round of goalies, Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild made seven straight saves against the Pacific Division, nearly tying Vasilevskiy’s top record. Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings was next, stopping two Metropolitan Division shooters. Palmieri was stopped for the second save in that streak.

The defending champ, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights was next and stopped six straight Central Division stars, which meant that we would not get a repeat champ in this event.

Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers would go on to win it, stopping twelve Atlantic Division All-Stars. Lundqvist is the oldest All-Star participating in the game and he came away with the victory in this event.

The Premier Passer event was next and this one is a little bit tricky for the players. The three parts are the breakout pass, the mini nets (which saw players having to saucer pucks into small nets set up behind obstacles – a hard proposition which is very hard and made for some tedious moments watching on TV) and the target passing.

Erik Karlsson of the hometown Sharks was first up. He finished the course with a time of 1:58.824. That time should tell you what we are dealing with in terms of the difficulty here. It took Mikko Rantanen of the Avs 2:17.379 to finish, Sebastian Aho of the Hurricanes finished in 1:18.530 while Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues finished in 1:25.897. Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators completed it in 1:40.568. Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers was next with the eventual winning time of 1:09.088. Roman Josi of the Predators finished in 1:47.128 and Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers was done in 1:34.611.

The Hardest Shot competition was next up and this one is pretty straight forward. Seth Jones of the Blue Jackets kicked the first round off with a 99.4 MPH shot. John Carlson of the Caps hit 102.8 for his eventual winning shot. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning hit 96.2 MPH and Brent Burns of the Sharks missed the net.

In the second round, Burns hit 100.6 MPH, Stamkos 93.1 MPH, Jones 95.1 MPH and Colonia, New Jersey-native Carlson, 100.8. Carlson won with his first shot’s 102.8 MPH mark.

The final event of the evening was the Accuracy Shooting which featured Palmieri. David Pastrnak of the Bruins won this one with a time of 11.309. Palmieri went second and posted a 20.209 time. Drew Doughty of the LA Kings finished in 13.501, Auston Matthews (who switched from his Maple Leafs jersey into a Patrick Marleau All-Star jersey to honor his teammate, who used to play for the Sharks) posted a time of 31.256, Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets finished in 18.585 while Kris Letang of the Penguins got a 12.683 mark – just off the pace Pastrnak had set. Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning completed the contest in 19.076 and Joe Pavelski of the Sharks finished with a time of 14.423.

Overall, it was a great night of action and congrats to all of the All-Stars participating. Tomorrow we will have the actual All-Star Game recap up for you with coverage of how Kyle Palmieri does.

East Wins ECHL All-Star Tourney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackwood Named ECHL Alumnus of Month for December

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite Late Surge, Devils Fall to Ducks 3-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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