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 and Sens Play Crazy One as Ottawa Prevails in Overtime

I said I would get to this game and have a post written!

Anyway, the Devils traveled up to Canada’s national capital to begin their last road trip of the season and fell in a strange one, 5-4 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators.

For New Jersey, the game saw a new addition and some returns to the lineup.

First, the highly anticipated debut of defenseman Reilly Walsh. Walsh was recalled from Utica and finally got to make his National Hockey League debut tonight, wearing number 8. Walsh was supposed to make his NHL debut earlier in the season in Detroit against the Red Wings along with Nikita Okhotyuk, but that was put aside when COVID hit the team and the two got sick.

He was healthy tonight, though, and got the nod as he was on a blue line that saw the return of Ty Smith to the lineup as well. PK Subban and Okhotyuk were healthy scratches along with Tomas Tatar, Colton White and Jon Gillies.

Nico Hischier remained out of the lineup up front while dealing with a stomach bug. Mason Geertsen and Fabian Zetterlund slotted in with the forwards. This game was Geertsen’s first appearance in the Devils lineup since March 31 at Boston and played on the fourth line with Michael McLeod centering him.

Another return to the lineup was between the pipes.

Mackenzie Blackwood made his long-awaited return following an extended layoff with the heel injury that has given him trouble all season long. He said in his postgame presser that his foot did feel a lot better than it had, although, basically, work needs to be done this summer on it. This was his first start since January 19 against the Arizona Coyotes.

He made 29 saves on 34 total Senators shots for an .853 save percentage. Special teams remained a problem as he let in the single shorthanded shot he saw (the 14th shorty the Devils have let in this season) and two of Ottawa’s four power play shots. The Sens went 2-for-3 on the power play as a team. He stopped 27 of 29 at five-against-five.

Facing him was Anton Forsberg for the Sens. He had a bigger workload, making 37 saves on 41 total Devils shots for a .902 save percentage. He nabbed all three Devils power play shots – with New Jersey going 0-for-2 as a team on the man advantage. At even strength, he made 34 saves on 38 shots.

Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen was special guest on the MSG+ pregame show with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador. He discussed his players making the jump from the AHL to the NHL this season as well as how the Comets feel their chances will be heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs after they clinched the American League’s North Division last week.

The Devils were trying to stop a three-game losing skid and notch a rare victory North of the Border tonight.

But it was Ottawa that jumped out to the lead. It came very late in the first period – with 17 seconds remaining the frame to be precise.

Just prior to this, with the Devils on the power play, Ty Smith had hit the post on a sequence that saw Yegor Sharangovich right in front ot put the rebound off of the post in, but he was unable to get to the puck in time.

At 19:13 gone by in the period, Janne Kuokkanen was called for holding Erik Brannstrom, a call which was made following a missed Devils too many men on the ice call. It was a make good call for the Sens, but the Devils did dodge a bullet initially anyway.

So, at the 19:43 mark and still on the power play, Tim Stutzle passed from the point to Brady Tkachuk, who was camped at the post to Blackwood’s left. He made a one-touch pass to Thomas Chabot at the other post and Chabot just tapped the puck right in to make it 1-0 Ottawa.

That set the stage for a wild second period.

The Sens would take a two-goal lead 11 seconds into the second frame when Drake Batherson scored his first of two on the night.

Tkachuk was behind the Devils net and went down to his knees, still able to make a pass to Bahterson cutting in front of Blackwood. Batherson gathered the puck with his skate and got it to his stick blade, shooting and scoring to double the Ottawa lead.

Travis Hamonic had the secondary assist and the goal, though separated by the first intermission, was scored 28 seconds after the first Ottawa goal back at the end of the first period.

The Devils would take another nine or so minutes, but they would get on the board, cutting the Senators lead in half at 2-1.

The Devils won a faceoff in their own zone and Walsh moved the puck ahead to Fabian Zetterlund, springing him up the right side. He broke into the Ottawa end with Nolan Foote. Zetterlund faked a shot and made a slick pass to Foote. Foote received the pass and just whipped a shot by Forsberg to make it 2-1.

Zetterlund had fought for the puck through the neutral zone after getting the pass from Walsh – who got his first NHL point on the play, so congratulations to him!

Ottawa retook their two-goal lead at 16:41 gone by on the power play due to Tim Stutzle.

Damon Severson was called for a high-stick against Josh Norris to give the Sens the man advantage for two minutes and Stutzle converted Norris passed from the far half wall to Tkachuk, who was cutting through the crease in front of Blackwood. Blackwood stopped his chance, but the rebound came right to the German rookie and he scored to make it 3-1 Sens.

Tkachuk now had the primary set up on all three Senators goals.

The Devils were still hanging around, however, and would cut the Ottawa lead to one once again before the period was over.

With six seconds left in the second period, Smith dished the puck to Pavel Zacha cutting in front towards the doorstep. Forsberg stopped his backhand shot, but Foote was sneaking around by the far post and just tucked the rebound in past Forsberg to make it 3-2.

This all set up a dramatic third period.

The drama built when Stutzle scored his second of the game – a shorthanded goal – to put the Sens up 4-2.

Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin was called for cross-checking Walsh at the 5:12 mark of the third to put the Devils on the power play (which could be just as dangerous of late for the Devils than their opponents).

Sure enough, at 6:34 gone down on the big clock, Stutzle picked off a Sharangovich pass at the Ottawa blue line while Sharangovich was attempting to help the Devils gain entry into the Senators zone. Stutzle was then off to the races, cut in alone on Blackwood and went to his backhand. He beat Blackwood unassisted to give the Sens a 4-2 lead.

The Devils would then storm back for the next two to tie the game and send it off to overtime.

At 7:29, a little less than a minute than the Ottawa goal by Stutzle, Jesper Bratt had recovered the puck and moved towards the middle of the ice in the Sens zone. He dished aside to Zacha, who ripped a shot from off the right-wing and by Forsberg to make it 4-3.

The Devils would fight back fully to tie things at the 10:15 mark of the third. On this one, the Sens turned the puck over to Severson at their own blue line and he was able to keep play alive in the Ottawa zone.

Severson made a heads up pass to Sharangovich down low, who then cut in towards Forsberg from the near side. He backhanded the puck in between Forsberg’s five-hole to tie the game at four each.

The Devils then gave two major indications that they may be able to hang on and win the game.

The first was late in the third when Dylan Gambrell was stopped on a breakaway by Blackwood.

The second sign extended between the latter part of the third period and into the OT session.

With 54 seconds to go in regulation, Dawson Mercer was called for cross-checking Norris. This put the Devils down a man to end the game and for a little more than a full minute should the game get to OT.

It did and the Devils would wind up killing the whole thing.

What it took was an amazing individual effort from Batherson to win the game for the Senators.

With 3:17 gone by in OT, Batherson skated one-on-one with Smith isolated in the Devils zone. Batherson made a toe drag move on Smith as the Devils defenseman lost his edge and fell down. Batherson then beat Blackwood in close on his backhand to win the game for the Sens 5-4.

Stutzle and Brannstrom had the assists on Batherson’s beauty of a game-winner.

The Devils outshot Ottawa 34 to 41. The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s draws with Michael McLeod leading in personal percentage with 62-percent (winning eight of his 13 faceoffs) and Zacha winning 11-pf-22 (50-percent) of his.

The Devils accumulated six penalty minutes while the Senators had just four minutes.

It was a hard-hitting game with the Sens outhitting New Jersey 32 to 24. Ottawa also had 17 blocked shots to the Devils’ eight. Team giveaways saw the Devils with seven to the Sens’ 11.

Zacha (a goal and an assist) and Foote (two goals) each had multiple point nights for the Devils.

In terms of ice time, Ryan Graves led all Devils skaters with 25:06 (which included 3:27 of time killing penalties). Dougie Hamilton spent the most time amongst Devils blue liners on the power play at 3:01, out of his total ice time of 22:12, spent on the man advantage.

Dawson Mercer led the forwards with 19:47 of total TOI (including 2:22 on the PP – tied with Bratt for most power play time for the forwards – and 28 seconds on the PK). McLeod led the forwards with 1:51 of PK time out of his 12:13 of total time on ice. He also played ten seconds on the PP.

Foote and Zetterlund tied in most shots on goal for the Devils with five each. Severson and Nathan Bastian led in hits with three each. Smith and, in his first career NHL game, Walsh, led in blocks with two each. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich, Foote, Zacha, Janne Kuokkanen, Walsh, Smith and Severson all with one while forced turnovers were led by Sharangovich with one.

Next up, the last Devils road game of 2021-22 as the Devils visit Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow in a rematch from last Saturday.

Early news for that game is that Alexander Holtz has been recalled from AHL Utica and will join the team down in Carolina. Also, the Canes clinched the Metropolitan Division regular season championship with their win over the Rangers on Tuesday at the Garden.

I will be late on this one as well, as I actually have tickets to the New York Giants Draft Party up at MetLife Stadium and will be attending that tomorrow. I will be recording the game and will try to have a recap up as fast as possible.

The game will be broadcast on MSG (not MSG+ as the Devils website and app insist) – at least that is what I am hoping since that is what my DVR is set for. We shall find out. Puck drop is 7 PM.

In the meantime, enjoy your Thursday everyone!