Devils Early Offseason News and Notes

The 2021-22 regular season is in the books for the Devils and we now head into a summer without playoff hockey for the fourth time in five years for New Jersey fans.

May will be giving us not only the first two rounds or so of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (sans the Devils, of course) but also the beginning of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs (prominently featuring the Utica Comets) and the IIHF World Hockey Championship (which has been pushed to the end of the month due to the NHL schedule changes and Covid precautions).

We will begin with the World Championships and who will be taking part in the tournament as it pertains to the Devils.

Catherine Bogart reports that six players will be appearing for their countries in the annual spring-time tourney.

As already announced by the team, head equipment manager of the Devils, Chris Scoppetto will be serving in the same role for the United States at the World Championship.

Joining him on the Team USA roster will be goaltender Jon Gillies, making his first appearance at the tournament. He previously represented the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2013 and 2014.

Team USA will play in Group B in this year’s World Championship.

Switzerland will have Devils captain center Nico Hischier on their roster as well as defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, who was injured with a broken hand back on April 7. Bogart said that he is recovering, however, and should be ready to go for the tournament.

Hischier has played in three World Championships, last playing in last year’s tournament. Siegenthaler also played for Switzerland in that same 2021 edition of the World Championship. He has three appearances overall at this tournament according to Bogart.

Switzerland will play in Group A.

One of the Swiss opponents in Group A will be Canada, who will have defenseman Damon Severson and rookie forward Dawson Mercer on their roster.

For Severson, this will be his second appearance in the tourney (he last played for Canada in the 2019 edition).

Mercer is obviously making his first appearance in the senior version of this tournament. He played for Canada at the World Juniors in 2020 and 2021.

Finally, the Devils will see one more player participating in Group A action. Tomas Tatar will be making an appearance for Slovakia.

Tatar has the most experience in this tournament of any of the Devils-related participants, as this will be his seventh World Championship.

He last played in one in 2019.

The 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship will begin on May 13 and conclude on May 29 and will be played in Tampere and Helsinki, Finland.

Group A will play games at the Helsinki Ice Hall while Group B will play out of the Nokia Arena in Tampere.

The two days of opening games will see the USA play Latvia and Finland play Norway in Group B and Germany clash with Canada Group A all on Friday, May 13. On Saturday, May 14, Denmark will play Kazakhstan, Switzerland will take on Italy and Slovakia will play Germany in Group A while Sweden will face Austria, Czechia will play Great Britain and Latvia will clash with Finland in Group B in a full day of action.

The 2022 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs are another premier attraction going on in the hockey world currently.

They got underway on Monday, May 2 when the Bridgeport Islanders beat the Providence Bruins 2-1 in overtime in game one of their Atlantic Division First Round series played in Providence. Those first round series are best-of-three with Bridgeport taking a 1-0 series lead.

Game two of that series will take place in Bridgeport on Wednesday.

The other first round series will see the Bakersfield Condors play the Abbotsford Canucks in the Pacific Division (game one of that series is currently going on as I write this with no score). The other Pacific Division series will pit the Colorado Eagles versus the Henderson Silver Knights. That series begins Wednesday and the Ontario Reign against the San Diego Gulls, which will also kick off on Wednesday.

In the Central Division, the Rockford IceHogs will play the Texas Stars beginning on Wednesday.

The other Atlantic Division first round series will have the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins play the Hershey Bears starting on Friday, May 6.

The North Division play-in series will have the Belleville Senators against the Rochester Americans starting on Wednesday.

These will help set up the semifinal series with one of the Pacific Division Semifinals yet to be determined with six teams vying for a spot there. The other Pacific Division series will see one of the winners of the first round series against the Stockton Heat.

The Central Division Semifinals will see the Manitoba Moose begin their best-of-five series against the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday while the Chicago Wolves will participate in the other Pacific Division series.

The North Division Semifinals series has the Syracuse Crunch taking on the Laval Rocket starting on Friday and the Comets getting a bye into their semifinal series which will be set up by the first-round winner between Rochester and Belleville.

The Atlantic Division, by contrast, has the Springfield Falcons and the Charlotte Checkers already advancing to the semifinals, but in separate series with their opponents being rounded out by the first-round best-of-threes.

The American League playoffs can be a bit confusing without a flow chart readily available. For our purposes as a Devils blog, the focus is on the Rochester-Belleville series for now as the winner there will move on to the second round to play the Comets in the semifinals.

One other piece of business before we wrap up is that Czech Prospects is reporting via Twitter that Devils goaltending prospect Jakub Malek “has signed a two-year contract with Ilves of the Finnish Liiga.

We will try to keep you as up to date as possible with all of the goings on in the Devils offseason hockey participation leading up to the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery and the Draft itself (which will take place in Montreal on July 7 and 8, 2022).

Devils Drop Shootout in First Trip to Seattle

It was the second-ever Battle of the Cryptids as the East Coast’s New Jersey Devils traveled to the West Coast to face the Seattle Kraken.

Round one went to the Beasts of the (Pine) Barrens in their home rink way back in October while round two was awarded to the (Puget) Sound Slammers via skills competition, 4-3 in front of a raucous Seattle crowd, 4-3.

The Devils fell in their first trip to the Pacific Northwest (I still maintain that Vancouver, being in British Columbia, is actually a part of the Canadian Pacific Southwest) as their power play outage continued.

The game began, once again, with a special guest. Turner Stevenson – a right winger on two Devils Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2000 and 2003 joined Bryce Salvador and Erika Wachter on the MSG+ pregame show.

He never played with Bryce at any point in either men’s NHL career (although they did scrap when Sal was a member of the St. Louis Blues), so there was not a lot that could be exchanged between them, but was able see some of his former Devils teammates from those Stanley Cup years.

This included having dinner with Martin Brodeur the night before the game and getting to chat with Ken Daneyko prior to going on the air. Stevenson, who, like Daneyko, played junior in Seattle, later retired to the city after his hockey career was over. He coached his sons in youth hockey there and all three of his sons are playing college hockey currently.

Stevenson mentioned that he has not been able to see the Devils play live in years and was definitely looking forward to getting to see Jack Hughes when New Jersey came to Climate Pledge Arena, but could not due to Hughes’ injury.

He mentioned how great the fans have been all season in Seattle rooting for the Kraken who have had a season that was, rather unfairly, projected against the early success of the Vegas Golden Knights. He said that the Kraken are an expansion team and the rules of their Expansion Draft were different from what Vegas was working with, therefore it was almost apples to oranges and Seattle was not guaranteed any success.

But the fans have been there and they have been excited.

This is something that Daneyko knew from his days of playing with the Seattle Breakers of the Western Hockey League from 1981 to 1983. Salvador echoed that as he played in the WHL against the Seattle Thunderbirds a little more than a decade later.

Breakers fans from back then remembered Dano and Sal mentioned his fond memories of Thunderbird fans packing their rink when he played.

This is all an elaborate way of explaining just how loud and involved the crowd was tonight. It most certainly lent a bit of a playoff atmosphere to a game between two teams on the outside looking in.

But, on to the business at hand as we begin with Devils roster moves for the game.

Ryan Graves missed the game as he was out recovering from the stitches he took to the chin following being cut by a skate in the loss in Colorado. Colton White slotted in for him on the backend.

AJ Greer was a healthy scratch along with Mason Geertsen and Jon Gillies. Andreas Johnsson slotted back in as the left wing on the fourth line in place of Greer.

In goal was Nico Daws, who currently stands at ten wins. One more would put him even with Alain Chevrier on the list for Devils goalie rookie season wins. Martin Brodeur tops the list with 27 while Mackenzie Blackwood and Sean Burke are tied next with 22 in their respective rookie years then Chevrier with 11.

Daws did not record the victory tonight but did make 23 saves on 26 total Kraken shots for an .885 save percentage. He stopped six of Seattle’s seven power play shots (they went 1-for-3 on the night) and made 17 stops on 19 even strength shots.

The Kraken had Philipp Grubauer between the pipes and he had basically the exact same game. He stopped 23 of 28 total Devils shot attempts for the same save percentage of .885. The Devils had five power play shots and Grubauer was equal to them (New Jersey was 0-for-3 on the man advantage) while at five-on-five, he stopped 18 of 21 shots.

Of note on this fourth game of the Devils’ five-game road trip was Nathan Bastian making his return to Seattle, where he began the 2021-22 season. He was selected from the Devils roster by the Kraken in the Expansion Draft last summer but was put on waivers around American Thanksgiving and was claimed by the Devils, thus returning him to Newark.

Also, Seattle’s first-ever draft pick, Matty Beniers, the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, who had just signed with the Kraken out of the University of Michigan, was playing in his second-ever NHL game and first in front of the home fans in Seattle. This would become very important later on.

The Devils gained the early advantage just 3:12 into the game when Jesper Bratt scored off of the rush.

Michael McLeod pushed the puck to Johnsson, who got into the Seattle zone and found a seam off the rush to Bratt on the far side. Bratt finished for the goal, which gave the Devils the 1-0 lead and was his 200th NHL point.

The Kraken tied things with 10:49 gone by when Karson Kuhlman got it to Victor Rask down low, he skated it down towards the near Devils corner then passed back to Will Borgen in the middle of the ice. Borgen then ripped a shot that beat Daws to knot the game at one apiece.

The “other” Jesper gave the Devils back the lead about 5:30 later when Jesper Boqvist played give-and-go with Pavel Zacha near the Kraken net. Boqvist had received the puck from Janne Kuokkanen and skated into the Seattle end.

Zacha initially bobbled the pass from Boqvist, but was able to recover and spin around to make to make a blind pass back to Boqvist – who was now camped in the high slot. Boqvist then scored on the pass, roofing it over Grubauer to make it 2-1 Devils.

The second period saw the Seattle pull ahead with two goals.

It began at the 15:20 mark when Yanni Gourde fed Jared McCann, who held onto the puck at the near wall. It was here that the Devils got caught puck watching and overloaded to the near side.

That allowed McCann the time to make a pass through a seam to Carson Soucy, who by now was all alone on the far side and just simply shot the puck into the empty side of Daws’ cage as he was left alone with all the time in the world.

That tied things at two and it only took the Kraken a little over a minute to take the 3-2 lead.

At the 16:57 mark of the second, it was none other than the highly touted Matty Beniers who scored on the power play to do that.

The Devils Kevin Bahl was called for hooking Jordan Eberle at 16:17 and Seattle had the extra attacker.

This included the rookie playing in his second NHL game.

The Kraken won a faceoff deep in the Devils zone and support jumped in to get the puck to Vince Dunn at the point. He fired a very quick wrist shot towards Daws. McCann was able to then redirect that shot over to Beniers at the far post and he tapped it in to make it 3-2 on the power play.

And that 3-2 score would take us into the third period.

This one was seeming to shape up to be pretty much a coast for the Kraken towards two points until 4:55 gone by in the third when former Kraken Bastian won a puck battle behind the Seattle net. He pushed it towards the near corner where McLeod retrieved it. He passed to a pinching Damon Severson who was cutting in backdoor.

Severson got the pass and finished, making it 3-3.

The game then settled into a back-and-forth contest until the horn finally sounded and things had not been decided. It was off to overtime.

The Devils have been pretty good throughout the season in the extra period, going 5-2 this year in OT while the Kraken have accumulated a record of 1-5 in their first season of existence.

The Devils seemed to be pushing a good pace in OT until the 3:45 gone by mark when Zacha was called for a cross-check on Beniers as Beniers was cutting in sharply on Daws’ crease.

Beniers went tumbling into the Devils goaltender, but replays did show Zacha clearly knocking him into Daws with the cross-check.

This put the Devils on the penalty kill for the rest of OT, about 75 seconds of New Jersey being behind the eight-ball essentially.

But enter Kevin Bahl.

The Devils rookie defenseman made a fantastic defensive showing through the kill, repelling Seattle attacks and clearing the puck.

Head coach Lindy Ruff would burn the Devils’ timeout with 21.3 seconds to go in the OT in order to give the Devils penalty killers a breather. And he left Bahl on out of the timeout, just to show the faith he had gained in the young d-man.

When those last 21.3 seconds expired without Seattle converting, we would need a shootout to settle things.

Round one saw the only goal of the skills competition when Ryan Donato, Seattle’s first shooter and the first man up, deked around Daws and went to his backhand, scoring on him.

Tomas Tatar then tried to go five-hole on Grubauer but was stopped to round out that inning.

The second round saw Beniers hit the post on his very first NHL shootout attempt and Bratt get stopped by Grubauer as the Seattle goalie stayed with him all the way and closed the pads on him.

Round three had Daniel Sprong stopped by Daws when Daws closed down everything along the ice and then poke checked the puck away from him.

That left things up to Yegor Sharangovich to keep things going for the Devils. He cut in and beat Grubauer, only to clang the shot off of the crossbar and the Seattle Kraken had the full two points in what was a pretty exciting game to watch in the end.

While taking the point and forcing overtime, the Devils at least staved off another one to their team record 46 regulation losses on the season. That surpassed the previous Devils record of 45 set in 1986-87 as MSG+ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi pointed out.

Both teams ended the game with 26 shtos on goal. The Devils won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Boqvist led the Devils centers in faceoff percentage overall with 67-percent of his personal draws ending in wins over 16:42 of ice time. Although Hischier had 48-percent while continuing to play in all situations.

Both teams had six PIMs. The Kraken had 27 hits to the Devils’ 16. Blocked shots saw Seattle end with 18 and New Jersey with 14. Team giveaways were relatively low between the teams, with the Devils finishing with six and the Kraken with five.

Ice time saw Severson lead with 24:37 of total time (which included 1:51 on the power play and 2:41 on the penalty kill). Dougie Hamilton led the blue liners in power play time with 3:59 accumulated out of his 22:04 of total TOI.

Up front, Hischier led in total time with 24:15 – included in that were special teams times of 4:14 on the PP and 2:55 on the PK – both of which led the forwards in those categories.

The only Devil with more than one point was McLeod, who notched two assists for two points in the contest.

Zacha led in shots on goal with four. White and Bahl each had three hits to lead there. Bratt, White, Hamilton and PK Subban each led in blocks with two each. Giveaways were led by Subban, Ty Smith, Zacha, Sharangovich, Bastian and Hischier with one apiece while Sharangovich, Bratt and Fabian Zetterlund led in takeaways with one each.

Next up, we’ll do one more late-night start time at 10 PM ET on Monday in Las Vegas as the Devils finish up their road trip against the Golden Knights.

That game should be broadcast on MSG+ and we will have a recap for you once the game is complete.

This should be another good one as the Knights are, much like the Dallas Stars at the beginning of the trip, are fighting for their playoff lives. We will find out if the Devils can impact the Western Conference playoff race in any way then.

In the meantime, have a great Easter Sunday if you are celebrating!