Devils Get Swept Over Weekend Following Loss to Detroit

First off, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had been a bit under the weather the last few days (non-COVID related, as it has to do with my thyroid issues that I was hospitalized for last September) and had been putting it off knowing the outcome. As a result of this, obviously, the Ottawa game recap from April 26 will be pushed back a day, but I am recording it.

Anyway, last Sunday (April 24), the Devils hosted the Detroit Red Wings and were shutout 3-0 completing a three-game homestand where they went winless as well as a back-to-back where they were also swept.

The Devils were once again hit with a flu bug going through their locker room as that was reason for Jesper Bratt’s absence the during the Carolina game on Saturday.

For this game, Nico Hischier was out with a non-COVID related illness as he joined Colton White, Fabian Zetterlund and Mason Geertsen as the scratches.

Due to a recording snafu (namely the Devils’ website and app claiming the game was going to be shown on MSG+2 and me setting the DVR as such… only for the game to be shown on MSG and my just getting to change it in time during the pregame), I did not get to see Jonas Siegenthaler’s appearance on the pregame show with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador. However, I did hear that he mentioned his hand is healing and that he hopes to represent Switzerland at the World Championship next month.

Otherwise, as far as the Devils lineup, nothing much was different. The only real change was that no one slotted in for Nico up front and that Ty Smith was back in on defense, thus the Devils going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the game.

In goal, Andrew Hammond started and played pretty well, he just did not get any goal support. He stopped 21 of Detroit’s 22 total shots for a .955 save percentage. He turned aside both Red Wings power play shots – the Wings were 0-for-3 on the power play as a team. He stopped 19 of the Red Wings’ 20 even strength shots.

Detroit finished the game with 24 shots total following two empty net goals later on in the game.

For the Wings, Alex Nedeljkovic had the crease and stopped all 17 shots New Jersey thew his way in getting the shutout. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play for the afternoon without mustering a shot on the man advantage.

In the booth for the Devils there was a one-game change as well. Steve Cangilosi was in Orlando, Florida calling the New York Red Bulls MLS game against Orlando City for ESPN. In his place in Newark was New York Knicks radio play-by-play man Ed Cohen filling in. I thought he did well overall. He is a pro and was truly prepared and he and Ken Daneyko meshed pretty good although Dano seemed a bit bumpy early on, just adjusting to a new partner for the game.

The Wings have already finished their home schedule, having lost to Pittsburgh the day before this game. Both of these teams will wrap up the 2021-22 season on Friday at Prudential Center.

Detroit broke the score open 15:48 into the game when Andreas Johnsson turned over the puck in the Devils zone. Smith tried valiantly to recover it and clear, but where the puck was lost essentially allowed Oskar Sundqvist to just skate in and chip it by Hammond after Tyler Bertuzzi had settled it down for him.

This gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead and would actually go down as the game-winner which would hold up, although not without some attempts to change that.

The second period saw Dawson Mercer stopped early on in front on the power play midway through the period.

Late in the second, with 43.6 seconds to go, the Devils had seemed to finally breakthrough and tie things.

Yegor Sharangovich shot from up top with Nathan Bastian as a body in front of Nedeljkovic. The puck went in and everything seemed routine.

Red Wings coach Jeff Bashill took a second and then requested his coach’s challenge to ask the officials to look for offside as the Devils were entering the Detroit zone.

Initially, everything seemed fine as the angle that MSG showed had Bastian and Sharangovich entering the zone legally.

The problem was that this was a rare case of the puck carrier being the one to go in offside! Damon Severson actually passed the puck back to Sharangovich a split second prior to entering the zone himself. Thus, he was the one offside and the goal was called back.

And it would continue for the Devils in the third.

Pavel Zacha missed the net on a breakaway early on in the third before being stopped by Nedeljkovic right after on the doorstep.

The Devils got a bit of revenge when the Wings had seemed to double their lead with 7:56 left in the third period.

Danny DeKeyser took a shot from the point that seemed to be tipped by Adam Erne in front by Hammond. Erne and Devils defenseman Ryan Graves had been jostling for position in front of the Devils net and Erne then bumped Hammond enough that a review overturned the goal.

It was found that Erne had impeded Hammond’s ability to get himself set and make the save and that it was not Graves pushing him into Hammond that had called this.

Detroit had the goal called back and it remained 1-0.

Hammond was pulled with 2:38 to go in regulation and Bertuzzi scored into the ensuing empty net with about two minutes to go from Sundqvist and DeKeyser (who had won the puck battle along the boards to get the puck out of the Red Wings zone).

The Devils attempted again, pulling Hammond with just over a minute to go in the game and this allowed Erne to recover a turnover in the neutral zone and give the puck to Michael Rasmussen, who scored the Wings’ second empty netter of the game, on his backhand, to make it 3-0, our final.

It was only the second time this season that the Devils had been shutout with the other time coming in November at Anaheim when the Ducks beat them 4-0.

The Devils were outshot 24-17 and won only 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Michael McLeod won 56-percent of his draws to lead in that category.

As a team, the Devils had six total penalty minutes while the Wings had four. The Devils outhit Detroit 17 to 14 and had more blocked shots at nine to the Red Wings’ five. The Wings had eight team giveaways to the Devils’ six.

Severson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 22:18 of total time accumulated (which included power play time of 1:53 and PK time 4:12). His shorthanded time was tops amongst the defensemen while his PP time was equal to Smith’s and second only to Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton had 2:07 of power play time out of his 20:18 of total TOI.

Sharangovich led the forwards with 21:40 of total time on ice (including 1:56 of power play time and 1:53 of shorthanded time). Jesper Boqvist and Tomas Tatar both led in power play time amongst the forwards with 2:03 of power play time. Boqvist also led all forwards in 2:18 of PK time. Tatar logged a total of 17:27 of ice time while Boqvist had 18:25 logged.

Sharangovich also led the Devils in shots on goal with five. Nikita Okhotiuk and Graves led in hits with three each. Blocks wee led by Johnsson, Bastian, Sharangovich, Mercer, Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Hamilton, Smith and PK Subban who all had one. Okhotiuk had two personal giveaways to lead there while Okhotiuk, Tatar and Zacha each had one personal takeaway to lead that category.

Next up, the Devils played at the Ottawa Senators on April 26. That game is in the can for me and I will have the recap up tomorrow if everything breaks right.

That game featured the first NHL call-up for Utica Comets defenseman Reilly Walsh and the possible return of Mackenzie Blackwood to the Devils’ goal.

In one other piece of news, the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has nominated Devils center and captain Nico Hischier as the Devils nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy “is given annually to the … National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport” as per Amanda Stein, who reported the news for the Devils’ official website.

Hischier endured a rough 2020-21 season as he “suffered a leg injury while training in Switzerland and missed training camp and the start of the year. That same season he also entered the NHL Covid Protocol, once again missing time. His string of bad luck continued when in March, he underwent surgery to repair a frontal sinus fracture after a puck deflected into his face in the Feb. 27 game against the Washington Capitals” as reported by Stein.

Because of this, he only notched 11 points over 21 games in 2020-21 – including six goals and five assists.

He rebounded in 2021-22 with 21 goals and 38 assists for 59 points, setting new career highs through 69 games played.

Congratulations to Nico Hischier on this nomination. Stein says that the winner will be announced during “the 2022 NHL Awards between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.”

Zajac Named for Masterton Trophy

Each year, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player in the NHL who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. According to an article on the Devils’ website by Amanda Stein, this year’s Devils nominee is Travis Zajac.

The award has been won by a Devil twice and by three players in franchise history. Brian Boyle was the last Devil to do it in 2018. Ken Daneyko won in 2000 and Glenn “Chico” Resch won the trophy as a Colorado Rockies player following the 1981-82 season.

Stein mentioned the reasons behind naming Zajac the Devils’ nominee in her article. The announcement was made on Tuesday by the New Jersey chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

Zajac, as Stein mentioned, is the longest tenured New Jersey Devil and serves as a mentor towards a team made up mostly of young players.

In more tangible terms, he notched his 335th career assist on February 9 according to Stein, putting him in a tie on the Devils’ all-time list in that category. On that date, he also moved into third overall on the all-time points list for the franchise with 521 points. He finished the season in fourth place on the Devils’ all-time goals scored list with 195 (Stein mentions that on January 12, he scored goal 192 to put him in fifth place on that list). He also played in his 934th game on November 2, tying him with John MacLean for fifth in games played with the franchise. He would finish the year all by himself at fourth on that list with 991 games played – all for the Devils – with 1,000 games a distinct possibility for next season barring any injuries.

The NHL will announce the winner of the Masterton Trophy at a later date. However, with the season officially ending last week, the records for the 2019-20 season are in the books and the regular season awards have been given out.

The Boston Bruins, with 100 points and the best record in the league, have won the Presidents’ Trophy. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak of the Bruins won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the goaltenders (playing a minimum of 25 games) on the team with the fewest goals scored against. Another Bruin to win an award was David Pastrnak, who shared the Maurice Richard Trophy as top goal scorer in the league with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Both men lit the lamp 48 times in the shortened season.

Finally breaking the Boston stranglehold on regular season awards was Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, who won the Art Ross Trophy as leading points scorer. Draisaitl had a dream season playing with Connor McDavid and ended the year with 110 points total (43 goals and 67 assists).

The rest of the NHL’s awards will be doled out whenever the season ends and the league can reschedule the awards show. This will likely be in the fall following the sprint that will be the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.