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 Face Ups and Downs in Chi-Town

The Devils continued on to Chicago to faceoff with the Blackhawks following their win in Pittsburgh last night.

This second half of the back-to-back in United Center did not… go as well as the game in Pittsburgh for the Devils.

They fell 8-5 to a Blackhawk team that has roughly been on the same par as the Devils this season.

The Devils were concluding the season series with the Hawks, having defeated them in overtime on opening night back at Prudential Center on October 15. A long time ago, to be sure.

Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Christian Jaros remained the healthy scratches with the only change to the Devils lineup coming between the pipes.

Jon Gillies got the start in something that was already determined prior to the back-to-back and how Daws had played in Pittsburgh the night before.

He stopped 29 of 35 Chicago shots for an ,829 save percentage. The Hawks actually ended the game with 37 total shots as they would add two empty net goals later on – obviously more on that later on.

Gillies was equal to both Blackhawks shorthanded shots and three of their six power play shots. Chicago went an insane 3-for-4 on the power play as a team as the Devils’ special teams just had a complete breakdown. At even strength, Gillies made 24 saves on 27 shots.

The Blackhawks made a surprise change in net as well, going with Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen was just coming back from a hand injury suffered on January 22. With that, the Devils thought they would be getting Marc-Andre Fleury but saw Lankinen instead because he was available.

Lankinen stopped 31 of 36 total New Jersey shots for an .861 save percentage on the night. He stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded chance and their only power play shot as the Devils were 0-for-2 on the man advantage as a team. At five-on-five play, Lankinen stopped 29 of 34 New Jersey shots.

Tonight was a milestone for Yegor Sharangovich as he was playing in his 100th NHL game. He would play a role in the scoring as well.

The last time the Devils were in Chicago was December 23, 2019. The result was a 7-1 victory for New Jersey.

Chicago got the scoring started 7:34 into the game when Gillies tried to move the puck up to PK Subban and banked it accidentally off of the side of his own net instead. Ty Smith recovered and tried to get it to Jack Hughes on the breakout, but it was intercepted by the Hawks’ Brandon Hagel right in the middle of the zone. He scored unassisted to make it 1-0 Blackhawks.

But as we would see many times in this game, momentum would shift on a dime.

A little over two minutes later, at 9:41 gone by, Hughes skated the puck from the Devils end and gained the Blackhawks zone. He lost an edge at the Chicago blue line but was able to push it to a supporting Ryan Graves.

Graves kept it in and passed back to Hughes. Hughes took the pass and made a move the Hawks defender to score on Lankinen and tie the game at one.

He followed that up by hitting the post just moments later, in one that he told Erika Wachter of MSG+ that he thought was a sure goal and one that he really wanted.

The Devils would take the lead prior to the first intermission when Sharangovich, playing in his 100th NHL game, as mentioned, scored at 18:55 gone by to extend his personal six-game point streak.

Jonas SIegenthaler threw the puck down low to Hughes, who tried to redirect it by Lankinen. The rebound off of the end boards came back to him and he passed to Sharangovich in front. Sharangovich took the pass and snapped off a quick release of a shot by Lankinen to make it 2-1 Devils.

Thirty seconds into the second period, Michael McLeod laid a big hit on Blackhawks’ defenseman Connor Murphy. Chicago’s Ryan Carpenter stepped in to take on McLeod and the two scrapped.

With McLeod getting the extra two minutes for boarding on Murphy, the Hawks were on the power play.

At 1:34 gone by, Patrick Kane would begin a run of three unanswered power play goals by the Blackhawks when Alex DeBrincat and Seth Jones played catch with the puck at the far half wall and the point. When DeBrincat got it back at the half wall, he made a cross-ice passing seam to Kane. Kane got the puck in close to Gillies and roofed the shot short side to tie the game at two.

That was not the end of those three teaming up with the extra attacker.

Ty Smith had gone off for hooking DeBrincat at 10:52 to put Chicago back with an extra man. At 11:24 gone by, Jones fed Kane at the near side where he was all alone along the wall. He picked stick side to shoot and the shot tipped in off of Damon Severson’s stick as Severson was trying to redirect the puck and sweep it to the corner. DeBrincat had the secondary assist on this goal that gave the Blackhawks the 3-2 lead.

But the Hawks had one more trick up their sleeve this period.

Graves was sent off for tripping Henrik Borgstrom at 12:16 to put Chicago on their third power play of the frame.

The Blackhawks took advantage of this one at 14:09 when Kane made a pass to Hagel from the far wall to the high slot where Hagel buried it to make it 4-2 Hawks. DeBrincat had the secondary assist on this one too.

The Devils had been bitten for three power play goals in this period alone (a season high).

They would get one goal back before the second intermission when Jesper Bratt continued his torrid pace and scored his third goal in two nights.

At the 17:43 mark of the second period, the Devils won a faceoff in their own defensive zone. Siegenthaler banked it around the boards to Severson, who made a saucer pass tape-to-tape from the Devils goal line to Bratt, who was in behind the Chicago defense and on his way to scoring a breakaway goal five-hole.

He had seen Dawson Mercer stopped in close on Lankinen early in the second and Nico Hischier try too many moves on a breakaway midway through the second only for both to be stopped. Bratt decided to just shoot and ended up beating Lankinen to make the score 4-3 Blackhawks.

And so it was on to the third period.

Things began with Siegenthaler scoring his first goal as a New Jersey Devil 8:36 into the period.

Tomas Tatar got it back to Siegenthaler at the Chicago blue line. Siegenthaler pinched in to keep the puck in the zone and simply threw it towards net, ending up roofing it over Lankinen. Dougie Hamilton had the secondary assist on the goal that tied the game at four and ended up being Siegenthaler’s third point of the game (he notched that goal and two assists).

But once again, momentum.

At the 14:04 mark, Kirby Dach scored for the Blackhawks when Graves attempted to pinch into the Chicago zone and got caught with Murphy chipping it over his stick and to Dach, who was off to the races. Dach went to his backhand and scored on Gillies to give Chicago back the lead at 5-4. Jones had the secondary assist on the goal.

Just 11 seconds later, the Blackhawks struck again. Carpenter this time took a pass from Mackenzie Entwistle, who had been hauled down on the left side after gaining the Devils zone. Entwistle still managed to move the puck to Carpenter, who made a nice move around Gillies in front and scored to make it 6-4 Chicago. Jones again had the secondary assist.

Things were beginning to fall apart for the Devils.

They had one more left in them, however, at 15:45 of the third when Bratt scored his second of the contest.

The Devils won an offensive zone draw and the puck got back to Hughes at the point. He found Severson down low and hit him with a pass. Severson then made a heads-up pass to Bratt camped out at the near faceoff circle. Bratt scored to cut the Chicago lead to 6-5.

Then all hell broke loose.

Gillies was pulled with just over two-minutes to go in regulation. At the 18:37 mark, Kane completed his hat trick by scoring into the empty net unassisted. That made it 7-5.

After the ensuing faceoff at center ice put the puck back in play, Gillies vacated his net again and this time, Hagel scored the empty netter to complete his hat trick at the 19:32 mark from Sam Lafferty and Jones.

Hagel had been tripped up as he was cutting in on the empty cage by Subban. Hagel scored the goal, falling into the net along with the puck – his first NHL hat trick – but the Blackhawks took offense to Subban pulling him down to try to prevent the goal.

Dach went after Subban and both men received roughing penalties. Hagel then stepped in with Subban and a few punches were exchanged. Both Hagel and Subban took roughing penalties and Subban was also given a ten-minute misconduct.

It was a strange end to a strange game with Chicago claiming the 8-5 victory.

The Devils were outshot as a team 37-36. They did win 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Sharangovich leading the way with a personal 67-percent winning percentage.

As a team, the Devils finished with 27 penalty minutes while Chicago had 13 total penalty minutes. The Devils outhit the Blackhawks 26 to 19 while the Hawks had 18 blocked shots to the Devils’ 15. On team giveaways, New Jersey had 12 while the Blackhawks had 15.

Severson again led all Devils skaters with 22:59 of total ice time (including 2:10 of power play time and 3:09 of time on the penalty kill). Siegenthaler logged 3:37 on the PK in his 22:08 of total time to lead in that special teams category while Severson’s 2:10 led the d-men on the power play.

For the forwards, Jack Hughes led everyone with 19:23 of total ice time which included 2:10 of PP time – which tied him with Bratt for power play time (Bratt logged a total of 18:25 of TOI). Shorthanded, Sharangovich led with 2:30 of PK time out of his 18:25 of total TOI (which also included 41 seconds of power play time).

Hughes and Siegenthaler each had three points for the Devils with Hughes notching his goal and two assists while Siegenthaler had a goal and two assists as well. Bratt (two goals) and Severson (two assists) also had multi-point nights.

Hughes also led in shots on goal with five. Nathan Bastian had five hits to lead in that category. Blocks were led by Siegenthaler with three. Personal giveaways were led by Smith with two while Tatar and Severson each had two personal takeaways to lead there.

Next up, Monday is Hughes Battle Bowl II as Quinn Hughes and the resurgent Vancouver Canucks with visit Prudential Center to take on Jack Hughes and the Devils at 7:30 PM.

That game will be shown on MSG+ and we will have coverage for you right here following the game.

Until then, enjoy your weekend everyone!