Devils Finish 2021-22 Season with Loss to Red Wings

The Devils wrapped up the 2021-22 season this past Friday night with a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Prudential Center.

Firstly, I apologize for the lateness of this recap. I just got busy and backlogged and was not particularly motivated to talk about the loss once I knew the outcome.

But, this will put the 2021-22 season in the books as we look forward to next October and the 2022-23 season.

But back to Friday night. The MSG+ broadcast had a few guests at various points throughout the game discussing the past season and the future with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador.

The pregame featured General Manager Tom Fitzgerald as he discussed where the team might go personnel-wise for the offseason without giving too much away. It was obviously too early for him to talk about moves, free agency or the Draft, or even the status of the coaching staff for that matter. All of that will come in due time, but Fitz did speak about wanting to improve the team (duh!) and the bad luck that they were hit with this season.

Fitzgerald has addressed one unrestricted free agent’s future as PK Subban will likely not return to the team next season. No surprise there as PK is a defenseman who is north of 30 and they are going to have to move on from an older player at this point while choosing whether they want to keep someone like Damon Severson in the fold.

Jack Hughes was the guest in the first intermission while Miles Wood was on in the second intermission. They talked about their respective injuries and what they intend to improve upon going into the offseason.

The Devils scratches for game number 82 included Colton White, Reilly Walsh, Andreas Johnsson, Ty Smith, Mason Geertsen, Janne Kuokkanen and Andrew Hammond. Tomas Tatar was also out, although he may still have been battling the illness that was going around the locker room.

Hammond was a scratch with Jon Gillies backing up Mackenzie Blackwood, who made his first start at Prudential Center since January 19 against the Arizona Coyotes.

Blackwood made 30 saves in 34 total Red Wings shots for an .882 save percentage on the night. He made two saves on two shorthanded shots by Detroit and 28 saves on 32 shots at five-on-five play.

Detroit gave us Magnus Hellberg, who had not started in the NHL since 2017 (when he played for the Rangers). He had been playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL for the last few seasons.

In this game, he made 20 saves on 23 total shots by the Devils for an .870 save percentage. He turned aside the Devils’ only shorthanded shot and 19 of their 22 shots at even strength.

Neither team had much going on on the power play. The Wings were 0-for-2 while the Devils were 0-for-1 and neither team even registered a shot on the man advantage.

This was the second meeting in less than a week between these teams as the Red Wings blanked the Devils the Sunday prior 3-0 also at the Rock.

The Devils finished the season wearing their third uniforms in the game, but also special pregame warmup jerseys that are later being auctioned off to benefit the Newark Day Center.

The warmup jerseys were cool in that they were black with the Devils’ “NJ” logo in white on the front without the circle. On each shoulder was an outline of the map of the state of New Jersey. Honestly, it could have been a way to have gone with the third jerseys instead of the direction they did go in.

Some milestones for this game included captain Nico Hischier playing in his 300th NHL game already and Dawson Mercer completing the season by appearing in all 82 games, as a rookie. Congratulations to both of them on those great accomplishments.

Detroit got off to a quick start by scoring just 1:08 into the game.

Oskar Sundqvist gained the Devils zone on the rush and came up the right-wing boards. He dropped a pass to Michael Rasmussen, who cut to the middle as he got by Dougie Hamilton and snapped a shot past Blackwood to make it 1-0 Red Wings. Jake Walman had the secondary assist.

Before the first period was up though, the Devils would answer. This would be a pattern through the game.

At the 17:14 mark, Fabian Zetterlund stepped in from the Detroit blue line as he came off the bench and recovered a turnover just inside the Red Wings blue line.

Zetterlund then passed to Mercer ob the doorstep. Mercer made a move around Hellberg and scored his first goal in 19 games – his 17th of the season – to tie the game at one to take it into the second period.

The Devils did, however, hit the post with just about a minute to go in the first frame, narrowly missing taking the lead.

In the second, the Red Wings retook the lead 6:30 in. It saw Mortiz Seider – the probable Calder Trophy winner for 2022 – shooting through a screen from the Devils blue line with a well-placed shot. He hit both posts and the puck went in behind Blackwood.

Rasmussen (secondary) and Sam Gagner (primary) had the helpers on the goal.

But again, the Devils tied things later on.

At the 15:38 mark, Jesper Boqvist had his initial shot off the rush blocked by Hellberg. He then used his speed to recover the puck and move it to Hamilton at the point. Hamilton unleashed a bomb that was redirected in front by Nolan Foote and in to knot the game up at two.

This back-and-forth game of cat-and-mouse would continue into the third period.

Detroit took a 3-2 lead 54 seconds into the new frame when Tyler Bertuzzi was stoned in close by Blackwood. Bertuzzi then took his own rebound around the Devils net and pulled three New Jersey defenders to him. He then centered to Joe Veleno, who scored.

Other Wings super-rookie Lucas Raymond had the secondary assist.

The Devils tied it again, however, about 6:03 later.

Here, the Devils won a faceoff in their own zone and the puck was flipped up to Hischier by Jesper Bratt. Hischier dropped to Zetterlund, who walked in a scored on Hellberg to make it 3-3.

Detroit took their final lead of the afternoon when Pius Suter scored a strange game-winner.

At the 10:33 mark, Suter’s shot had seemed to be swept from the Devils goal line by Hamilton just before completely crossing the goal line. It seemed Hamilton had saved a sure goal when the puck trickled behind Blackwood.

Play continued for a few more minutes before we finally hit a television timeout and the officials were able to review the play.

The replay from Toronto showed the puck clearly fully crossed the line immediately before Hamilton swept it away. The call of no-goal on the ice was overturned and it was a good goal with the clock reset to 9:27 remaining in the third.

Suter got credit for the goal with Filip Hronek (secondary) and Jakub Vrana (primary) getting the assists which would go down as the game winning goal for the Red Wings.

It was a strange play that sort of encapsulated the entire season the Devils had this year.

Blackwood would be pulled with about 2:21 to go in regulation for the extra attacker with the Devils using their timeout at that point to give a breather to the players he was going to put out to make their final stand.

The Devils fought to the end, as Hamilton just crushed Bertuzzi as the Red Wing tried to cut back after picking a puck deep in the Devils zone and stuff it into the empty net.

Eventually, thiough, it was just too much. With ten seconds to go in the game, Bertuzzi hit the post on a clear shot at the empty netter. Hischier grabbed the puck and turned up ice only to have it stripped from him at the New Jersey blue line by Gagner. He gave it to Bertuzzi, who iced the game when he finally put it into the empty net for his 30th goal of the year.

And that 5-3 score was it.

The 2021-22 New Jersey Devils finished with a 27-49-6 record, winless in their last six and winless at home since March 27.

In this game, they were outshot 35-23. They won 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Hischier leading the centers with a 75-percent winning percentage personally.

The Devils took four penalty minutes as a team while the Wings had two. The Devils outhit the Red Wings 18 to 14 while Detroit had 18 blocked shots to New Jersey’s ten. Team giveaways saw the Wings with three and the Devils with nine.

Damon Severson once again led all Devils skaters in ice time with 25:31 of total time (including 47 seconds on the power play and 3:05 on the penalty kill). Dougie Hamilton finished second with 23:48 of total time logged – with 1:11 on the power play and 1:27 on the PK.

Amongst the forwards, Hischier led in total time with 19:12 logged, which included 1:13 of time on the PP and 1:52 on the PK. Jimmy Vesey had more PK time with 1:56 out of his 14:46 of total ice time.

Zetterlund (who was named the game’s third star at the end of the night) finished with two points – a goal and an assist. Nathan Bastian had four shots on goal to lead there. Nikita Okhotiuk led in hits with four. Zetterlund and Ryan Graves each had two blocks to lead in that category. Personal turnovers were led by Pavel Zacha with two while personal takeaways were led by Vesey, Mercer, Michael McLeod and PK Subban with one apiece.

And that lowers the curtain on the 2021-22 Devils. We will try to have more news and coverage in the coming days now that I am caught up in game recaps.

We do have Utica Comets embarking on the 2022 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs in the coming weeks as well as the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championship in late May and then the NHL Draft.

We will see you more in the coming weeks! Until then, Let’s go Devils!

Hurricanes Finish Playoff Jockeying with 6-3 Victory Over Devils

Well, I’m still a game behind here, but here is the recap of the game from Thursday. As mentioned, I was at the New York Giants Draft viewing at MetLife Stadium on April 28 and, thus had to record the Devils’ visit to Raleigh.

I put this off for as long as I could (and got to see the Mets’ combined no-hitter on TV on Friday to boot!) but now is my reckoning: the final two games of the Devils’ 2021-22 season.

The Devils roster shuffles continued as the season wound down. Alexander Holtz was recalled from the Utica Comets and played tonight mainly on the top line with Jesper Boqvist centering and Jesper Bratt on the left side of an all-Swedish line.

Holtz had played seven games at the NHL level already this season in his callup earlier in the year.

Another player returning to the lineup was Jimmy Vesey, who had not played since suffering a bone bruise in his leg against the Rangers back on April 5. He was a game-time decision as per Erika Wachter was was out due to Andreas Johnsson coming out of the lineup due to injury.

Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Reilly Walsh were the healthy scratches (Nikita Okhotiuk slotted back in on defense in his place – Walsh was simply given the night off) while Johnsson, PK Subban, Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar were all out with the flu bug that has been rampaging again throughout the Devils locker room.

The Devils started Andrew Hammond tonight and he played 47:32 before being pulled in favor of Jon Gillies after giving up Carolina’s sixth goal. Mackenzie Blackwood, who got the start the prior game at Ottawa, should start the final game of the season versus Detroit, so Hammond and Gillies were the tandem for this game.

Hammond made 24 saves on 30 total Hurricanes shots for an .800 save percentage in the game. He did not let in Carolina’s lone shorthanded shot against him and was equal to all five of their power play chances. At even strength, he stopped 18 of 24.

Gillies came in and played the final 12:28 of the game and pitched a shutout, stopping all six shots he faced, including a shorthanded shot and all five at five-against-five.

Carolina finished the game with five power play shots and two shorthanded shots and were 0-for-3 on the man advantage. They ended the game with 36 shots on Devils goaltending.

The Canes countered with Antti Raanta as they are dealing with some goalie problems of their own heading into the playoffs. Frederik Andersen has been injured which means that Raanta has been pretty much auditioning for the starting goalie position.

Raanta stopped 27 of the Devils total of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900 in the game. He stopped the Devils’ lone power play shot and 26 of the 29 he was peppered with at even strength.

The Devils finished the game 0-for-2 on the power play team-wise.

The Hurricanes were playing their final game of the season: number 82 before they begin the playoffs this coming Monday. Thus, they were sitting and resting some key players like Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin.

The Canes had already clinched the Metro Division with a win over the Rangers earlier in the week at Madison Square Garden and are looking to do some damage once the postseason begins.

For the Devils, this was their final road game of the year as they will close out with one more game (already played on Friday) against the Red Wings at Prudential Center.

This was also Dougie Hamilton’s first game back in Carolina since signing as a free agent with the Devils last offseason.

The Canes, even while sitting some of their best, wasted no time in getting on the board and piling on against New Jersey.

They notched their first 4:44 into the game when Damon Severson was taken down hard on Carolina’s hard forecheck. No penalty was called on the play (which could have borderline been a trip) and the puck was turned over to Jepser Kotkaniemi. He got it back to Brendan Smith at the near point. Smith went D-to-D with Ethan Bear and Bear shot from the far point. His shot deflected in off of a Devils player and by Hammond to make it 1-0 Carolina.

The Hurricanes made it 2-0 less than a minute later with 5:33 gone by with a nearly mirror image of the first goal.

The Canes came in on a hard forecheck and the Devils were not able to clear. Kotkaniemi forced the puck on a turnover and got it to Ian Cole at the far point. He then gave it to Martin Necas at the near point. Necas’ shot then deflected in off of Dougie Hamilton’s stick and by Hammond to double up the Carolina lead.

Almost the exact same goal as the first one, just flipped around.

The Canes were not done in the first period either.

They continued their onslaught with 12:53 gone by in the first when Ty Smith turned the puck over to Necas in front of the Devils net. Necas just waited and passed to Kotkaniemi at the far post. Kotkaniemi dunked it in to make it 3-0 Carolina.

Things were already looking dire for the Devils. But Fabian Zetterlund made sure they would at least end the first period on a somewhat positive note.

A little over a minute after the Kotkaniemi goal, at 13:55 gone by, Pavel Zacha cut through the middle of the ice and dished off to Zetterlund on the right-wing side as they entered the Carolina zone.

Zetterlund cut back towards the middle to use Zacha as a screen and scored. Damon Severson had the secondary assist.

The Devils actually continued their assault at the midpoint of the second period. Zetterlund hit the crossbar on a breakaway where he had Raanta beaten. This had come just after Hammond had come up with a big right pad save on Brett Pesce at the other end.

A few moments after Zetterlund hit iron, Vesey clanged one off the post following a faceoff win by the Devils in the Carolina zone.

But it was still the Hurricanes who would get the only marker of the second period.

At the 17:27 mark, the Canes won a faceoff in the Devils zone with Vincent Trocheck winning the draw and the Devils’ Yegor Sharangovich inadvertently pushing the puck to Teuvo Teravainen after he tied Trocheck up.

Teravainen simply walked to the middle of the ice all alone, picked a spot and beat Hammond to make it 4-1 and take us into the third period.

The first half of the third period was completely dominated by the Canes.

Just 3:14 into the frame, Sebastian Aho gave to Seth Jarvis, who walked into the Devils zone, briefly losing the puck at the blue line, but beating Kevin Bahl to the puck in a foot race.

He then skated up the right side and deked Severson out of his skates before passing to Steven Lorentz, who finished for the Hurricanes to make it 5-1.

Jordan Martinook make it 6-1 at 7:32 gone by in the third when Derek Stepan wound the puck around the wall to Brady Skjei at the near half wall. He just threw the puck towards Hammond’s net and Martinook was there to tip it by the beleaguered Devils goalie.

It was following that goal that Hammond’s night was done and Gillies came in for what would likely by his last action of the season.

That might have sparked the Devils a bit, as Jesper Bratt scored at the 14:17 mark to make it 6-2.

It came Zacha gained the Carolina zone and dished to Nolan Foote. Foote then fed Bratt for a one-timer off the rush. The primary assist was Foote’s first NHL assist and the goal was Bratt’s 26th of the year – tying him with Jack Hughes for the team lead for 2021-22.

The Devils still had one more in them at the 15:44 mark of the third when the puck came down low to Nathan Bastian behind the Canes’ net. He came out from behind and centered to Vesey on the doorstep. Vesey was able to chip the puck over Raanta’s shoulder and score in his first game back for the Devils.

A too many men on the ice bench minor called on the Devils at 19:25 meant that New Jersey was going to finish the game killing a penalty. Time then ran out and that was that.

The Devils were outshot 36 to 30 and won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Zacha won 75-percent of his faceoffs to lead Devils skaters in the faceoffs won category.

The Devils wound up with six penalty minutes in the game while the Hurricanes accumulated four PIMs. The Devils outhit Carolina 19-11 and the Hurricanes had 14 blocked shots to the Devils’ ten.

Team giveaways saw the Devils end up with four while the Canes had eight.

Hamilton led in total ice time by one second with 21:28 logged (including 2:05 on the power play and 1:46 on the penalty kill). Severson had 21:27 of total ice time (including 1:48 of PP time and 2:37 of PK time) while Ryan Graves led in PK time with 2:44 out of his 19:30 of total TOI (he also had six seconds on the power play).

Among the forwards, Zacha led in total ice time with 18:25 logged (including 2:09 on the power play and 1:50 shorthanded). Janne Kuokkanen had more shorthanded time with 2:17 out of his 15:09 of total TOI while Bratt had more power play time at 2:12 out of his 15:51 of total ice time.

Zacha – with his two assists – was the only Devils with a multi-point night. Vesey, Sharangovich, Bratt and Boqvist all had three shots on goal to lead there. Hits were led by Michael McLeod with four. Bahl led in blocks with three. Personal turnovers were led by Severson and Bratt with two each while personal takeaways were dominated by Dawson Mercer with five.

Next up, the final game of the 2021-22 season for the Devils (which was played last night) as the Devils hosted the Detroit Red Wings in Newark.

As I am again behind, I did record that game and should have it up sometime later today or so.