Devils Edged by West-Leading Flames

The injury bug has bitten the Devils hard. Their list of injured players reads as a who’s who of the roster and got longer tonight. They are essentially icing the Binghamton Devils’ lineup the last few nights (when you also factor in the trades made at the deadline). The joke in the locker room, as MSG’s Erika Wachter said, was that the team was now the “New Jersey/Binghamton Devils.” Add to that that they were being paid a visit by the Western Conference leading Calgary Flames, winners of six straight, and you had a recipe for disaster.

But New Jersey held strong, only falling 2-1 to the Flames in a game that they were competitive in until the end.

We should start with the aforementioned injuries. Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha remain out while John Quenneville (upper body injury) joined them. Miles Wood is out for four weeks with a fractured ankle suffered in the game against Montreal and Kyle Palmieri is now week-to-week with a lower body injury. Nico Hischier wore an “A” on his jersey to replace Palmieri as an alternate captain.

In addition, Mirco Mueller left tonight’s game after a scary head-long crash into the end boards as he toe-picked on a 2-on-1 early in the third period. He fell and was unable to protect himself when he went into the wall. He was stretchered off of the ice after several moments of him not moving. But he did give the thumbs up sign as he left, so he seems like he is okay in that regard. In the postgame show, Wachter did say that the team announced that he had full feeling in his extremities and was alert. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

With all of that, the team recalled Nick Lappin and Blake Pietila from Binghamton. They also got Sami Vatanen back off of injured reserve, as he had been dealing with a concussion since last month. Will Butcher also was back tonight, playing on the third defensive pairing with Connor Carrick. Steven Santini was the lone healthy scratch with those two d-men making their way back into the lineup.

One defenseman who did play tonight, but not on the blue line, was Egor Yakovlev. He was moved up to forward, playing left wing on the fourth line with Kevin Rooney and Kurtis Gabriel.

The goalie matchup saw Mackenzie Blackwood get his first start for the team since February 2 at Montreal. He stopped 33 of 35 for a .943 save percentage. Facing him was David Rittich for Calgary, who stopped 19 of 20 Devils shots for a .950 save percentage.

On special teams, the Devils did not have a power play until the third period, but they could not convert on any of them, going 0-for-2 with five shots. Their lone goal came shorthanded (they had two shots while killing off penalties, scoring on the one). The Flames were 1-for-4 with the man advantage with seven shots on net. They did not register a shorthanded shot.

All of the scoring came in the second frame, with Calgary getting it kicked off 1:07 into the period. The Devils were killing off a 5-on-3 power play that had carried over from the first period. Damon Severson was called for tripping at 19:03 followed by Blake Coleman going off for high-sticking at 19:34. The Calgary goal, scored by Elias Lindholm off assists from Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, came just as Severson’s penalty had expired and he was stepping back on the ice. Travis Zajac’s stick broke on the play, leaving the Devils with essentially two effective players on the ice. Lindholm tried to make a pass through the crease and the puck deflected in off of Vatanen’s skate, making it 1-0 Flames.

Calgary would double that lead at the 13:52 mark of the second when Mark Giordano scored. It was a nice goal as Gaudreau reversed course and passed to Giordano cutting towards the goal. Giordano took the pass, hesitated on the shot, skated around the Devils’ defender and made a move to the backhand, around Blackwood. It was a beautiful goal and a nice individual effort by Giordano to make it 2-0 Flames.

But the Devils were not completely out of things. At 14:54, Coleman (who ended up with eight minutes in penalties in the game, including a roughing call at 20:00 of the third) took another high-sticking penalty, putting the Devils back on the PK. At 16:47, Kevin Rooney stripped Gaudreau of the puck in his own end, cut to the middle of the ice and beat Rittich to make it 2-1. Rittich got a piece of the puck with his glove, but the shot trickled through to cut the Calgary lead in half.

And that was the final. The Devils pulled Blackwood with about 1:52 left in regulation, but were unable to tie things as the Flames held on.

The Devils were out shot 35 to 20, including being out shot 15 to 5 in the first two periods. They out shot the Flames 20 to 5 in the third. Giordano was the game’s third star for his nice goal while Gaudreau was the first star with two assists on the night. Blackwood was named the second star for standing up to the sheer volume of rubber that he saw.

The Devils did dominate in the faceoff circle, winning 62-percent of the game’s draws. They also led in hits (42-31) and blocked shots (11-10) and had three more giveaways than Calgary at nine to six.

Individually, Andy Greene led in time on ice with 22:28 (one second of PP time and 4:56 on the PK), just edging out Vatanen, who logged 22:12. Up front, Coleman led in TOI, logging 22:08 (including one second on the PP and 31 seconds on the PK) – which is kind of surprising since he was in the penalty box so much.

Zajac led in shots on goal with four. Coleman, Gabriel and Nathan Bastian led in hits with five each. Vatanen blocked three shots to lead in that category, including one late with the Devils’ net empty to save a goal and takeaways were led by Nico Hischier and Rooney with two each.

Next up, the Devils will meet up with their Turnpike rivals when the Philadelphia Flyers come to town for the final meeting of the year between them. That game is on Friday and is the start of a back-to-back. We will have that game for you right here. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below as we always appreciate it.

Devils Make Deals at Deadline Then Defeat Habs

Today was a busy day for the Devils and GM Ray Shero. On NHL Trade Deadline day, they shipped off another two cogs in the system and then went on to defeat the Montreal Canadiens at home 2-1.

The first domino fell earlier this morning when news broke that goalie Keith Kinkaid was being sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fifth round pick in 2022. Keith is an upcoming UFA and, quite frankly, with the way he had been underperforming this season, to get anything for him was gravy at this point. That being said, he (along with Taylor Hall) was amazing last season in getting the Devils into the playoffs and that should never be overlooked. Kinkaid really did contribute a lot to the Devils in his time here.

As early as that trade occurred, another one helped to close out the deadline. Marcus Johansson was traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for a second round pick in 2019 and a fourth round pick in 2020. This was a good deal as well as the Devils now posess ten picks in the 2019 Draft in Vancouver and, through these deals and the ones that sent Brian Boyle to Nashville and Ben Lovejoy to Dallas, got five picks alone at the deadline. Draft picks are great assets that can turn into players or trading up at the Draft. This year is also a pretty deep draft, so the more picks the better for the Devils.

WIth the trades and some injuries, there was a little bit of turmoil in the lineup tonight. A bunch of callups from Binghamton including Nathan Bastian, Mike McLeod, Egor Yakovlev, Mackenzie Blackwood and John Quenneville. Add to that that Connor Carrick, who was obtained in the Ben Lovejoy deal, was making his Devils debut and that there were some injuries and you had a whole new lineup for the Devils. In addition, Brett Seney and Joey Anderson were sent down to Binghamton.

Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher were both missing as they are day-to-day with lower body injuries. Add Pavel Zacha to that and you had quite a bit missing. Add in even more as the Devils also lost Miles Wood (who was hit in the ankle by a Damon Severson shot midway through the first period) and Quenneville in the game tonight.

After sorting all of that out, it is important to remeber that they did have a game tonight. To paraphrase Ray Shero from during an interview with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador on the MSG pregame show, these moves will allow the younger players to come in and show management what they have.

In goal, Cory Schneider got the nod, coming off his first loss in five games at the Rangers on Saturday. He made 34 saves on 35 Montreal shots for a .971 save percentage. Facing him as the Devils went for the season sweep of the Canadiens was Carey Price, who stopped 20 of 22 for a .909 save percentage.

On the special teams, the Devils finished the night 0-for-5 on the power play with four shots. They also had a shot on the penalty kill. Montreal was 0-for-4 on the power play with five shots. They also had four shorthanded shots, scoring on one of them.

Nathan Bastian got the goal scoring going when he notched his first NHL goal at the 12:35 mark of the first period. It happened when Yakovlev went D to D with Carrick at the point. Carrick then shot and Bastian, cutting by the crease, tipped the puck past Price to make it 1-0 Devils. In addition to Bastian scoring his first NHL goal, Carrick also got his first point as a Devil on the play and his first of two on the night.

In the second period, Kurtis Gabriel doubled the Devils’ lead to two when he scored 3:06 in. Kevin Rooney worked the puck out of the corner up high to Carrick at the point. Carrick shot and Price made the initial save, but Gabriel was there for the rebound and backhanded the puck by Price to make it 2-0 Devils. Carrick, who wore number 5, had his second assist on the night and ended up being named the game’s third star. Bastian was the second star and Cory Schneider, with the win, was the first. Getting back to Carrick, this was his first two point night since opening night when he was with the Stars.

The Habs got on the board at the 6:30 mark of the third period when the Devils were on the power play. Artturi Lehkonen was called for elbowing Blake Coleman at 5:40 in a play that saw Coleman shaken up. On the ensuing power play, Travis Zajac lost control of the puck just inside the Canadiens’ blue line and Paul Byron grabbed it. He was then off to the races on a breakaway, just beating the backchecking Damon Severson in a footrace. He beat Cory short side to cut the New Jersey lead to 2-1. Phillip Danault had the lone assist on the goal.

Byron was in the thick of it late in the game as he clipped Kyle Palmieri in the knee behind the play with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Byron took an interference penalty on the play, which put the Devils on the power play to end the game, but Palmieri was still upset about the incident and the two had words after the final buzzer sounded with their respective teams trying to keep them apart.

But 2-1 was the final score as the Devils took the season series of three games from Montreal and won their fifth straight over the Habs.

In the game, the Devils were out shot by the Canadiens, 35-22 and Montreal won 51-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils had more hits at 24-10 and more giveaways at 8-5. Both teams each blocked 11 shots.

With all of the young players in the lineup, ice time was pretty evenly distributed for the forwards with Coleman logging the most with 25:45 (including 1:56 on the power play and 4:37 on the PK). Severson logged an impressive 27:05 of TOI (including 6:04 on the PP and 5:12 killing off penalties) as his game and responsibilities continue to grow.

As for the other stats, Nico Hischier, Bastian and Carrick each led in shots on goal with three each. Hits were led by Gabriel with six, blocks by Carrick with three and takeaways by the Jersey boys, Kenny Agostino and Kyle Palmieri, with two each.

Next up, the Devils will face a stiff test as the red hot Calgary Flames come into town on Wednesday. The Flames have had a good season so far and the Devils will try to deny them two points which would go a long way in cutting off their hopes of winning the Pacific Division. We will have coverage of that for you right here and, once again, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below as we really appreciate them.