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!

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.”