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 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!