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 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.”