Devils Fall in Season Finale to Flyers

This is it. The end of what became, for Devils fans, a miserable season. But, as most Devils fans can see, it is also the nearing the end of an era. We are in a good position to be better next year as the young core matures a little more and General Manager Tom Fitzgerald adds pieces as we get into the summer and nearer the Draft.

But for now, it was still a loss. The Devils dropped the 2020-21 season finale 4-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was a season that saw 24 Devils go on the COVID protocol list: a league high according to Bryce Salvador. Injuries played their part too, but not as much as losing that manpower to the COIVD virus.

Even tonight, the Devils were without Ty Smith, Mackenzie Blackwood (who took a few bumps in the Saturday game at the Islanders) and PK Subban (who was one of those 24 players on the COVID list and ended up missing the final month of the season due to it).

It was generally the same lineup as the game over the weekend against the Isles. The only difference was Scott Wedgewood getting the start between the pipes. It was announced earlier this week that Wedgewood was the Devils’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. He came in as a late signing hoping to act as a mentor to some of the young goalies in the organization and instead – due to the retirement of Cory Crawford – was thrust into a position as almost the de facto backup to Blackwood.

Tonight, he stopped 27-of-31 shots for an .871 save percentage. He turned aside all three Flyers shorthanded chances and four of their five power play shots. Philly went 1-for-4 on the man advantage. He stopped 20-of-23 at even strength.

Facing him was Brian Elliott who just played in his 500th NHL game. This was game 501 and, in getting the win, stopped 23-of-25 Devils’ shots for a .920 save percentage. He got the Devils’ only power play shot as New Jersey was 0-for-2 on the power play. He stopped 22-of-24 at even strength.

Pavel Zacha got the scoring kicked off, ending the year with 17 for the Devils as, at 3:29 into the game, he took a backhanded pass from Nico Hischier as a loose puck had bounced onto Hischier’s stick. Zacha was cutting backdoor and tipped the pass from Nico into the net to make it 1-0 Devils. Jesper Bratt had the secondary assist. That goal tied Zacha for the team lead in goals with Miles Wood.

The Devils doubled their lead at 5:21 of the first period when a Will Butcher shot was blocked by Nicolas Aube-Kubel. It came right to the stick of Janne Kuokkanen who shoveled it past Elliott to make it 2-0 Devils. Yegor Sharangovich had the secondary assist on the goal.

However, before the frame was out, the Flyers would get one to cut the lead in half that would be a portent of things to come.

At 13:44 Kevin Hayes sneaked the puck past the Devils’ defense on the rush. Joel Farabee had gotten behind and took the pass, going backhand/forehand to beat Wedgewood and make it 2-1 Devils. Wade Allison had the secondary assist.

From there, it was all Philly as the Flyers scored four unanswered to win the game.

In the second period, Sean Couturier scored 10:06 in when Travis Konecny passed to Claude Giroux, who made a really nifty redirection with his right skate to Couturier at the side of the net. Couturier laid it in. It was a really good soccer-style play with great awareness from Giroux.

In the third, the Flyers got a power play goal from James van Riemsdyk at 12:25. Giroux passed through the box to Couturier at the far half wall. He shot on net and van Riemsdyk tipped the shot by Wedgewood to make it 4-3 Flyers.

Farabee got their first and he got their last of the night when Hayes made a pass across to Allison. He shot and Wedgewood made a nice blocker save. Unfortunately, the rebound came to Farabee and he deposited it to get himself to 20 goals on the year and give the Flyers a 4-2 lead.

The Devils would pull Wedgwood, but that would be our final, 4-2.

Team stats saw the Flyers outshoot the Devils, 31-25. The Devils won 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Michael McLeod leading the centers with a 64-percent personal winning percentage. The Flyers outhit the Devils, 19-9. The Devils had more blocks at 20-14 and less turnovers at seven to the Flyers’ 13.

Individually, shots were led by Damon Severson with three, hits by Nate Bastian with four, blocks by Ryan Murray and Severson with four each and takeaways by Andreas Johnsson, Sharangovich, Zacha, Kuokkanen and Bratt with one each.

And that puts a cap on the 2020-21 New Jersey Devils season. We will have coverage all summer of things like the Expansion Draft (the Seattle Kraken officially entered the NHL about two weeks ago – making their final expansion fee payment) and the Draft as well as free agency.

Stay safe this summer!

Devils Squeak by Isles 2-1

The Devils played in what (could be) their penultimate game at the Nassau Coliseum (again) and took the powerful Islanders down 2-1 to continue Mackenzie Blackwood’s personal five-game win streak.

It was the first meeting between the Devils and Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac as Islanders. There were talk of mixed emotions and “weirdness” but once the game got going it settled into Islander versus Devil and nothing more.

Some roster moves for the night as Miles Wood was announced at game-time that he would play. Tyce Thompson and Nolan Foote slotted in for him and Nick Merkley up front. Ty Smith remains out with injury, so Matt Tennyson was in for him again.

The Isles are in their resting players for the playoffs mode so no Andy Greene or Jordan Eberle.

With Wood out, Pavel Zacha wore an “A” on his chest as an alternate captain.

In goal, the aforementioned Blackwood got the nod for the Devils. He stopped 32-of-33 Islander shots for a .970 save percentage on the night. He stopped New York’s only shorthanded shot and all five of their power play shots – the Isles were 0-for-2 on the man advantage. He turned aside 26-of-27 at even strength.

For the Isles Semyon Varlamov was between the pipes and stopped 23-of-25 Devils shots for a nightly .920 save percentage. He stopped the only Devils shorthanded shot and their lone power play shot as New Jersey went 0-for-1 on the power play. At even strength he turned aside 21 of the 23 Devil shots fired at him.

The Isles were in their blue alternate uniforms (the ones with the big “NY” on them) and looking to avoid only their fourth loss on home ice this season.

Zacha got the scoring started as he notched his 16th of the year at 14:11 of the first. Nico Hischier protected the puck in the near corner, and it squeezed out to Jesper Bratt, who immediately got it to Zacha in front. Zacha snapped a quick release by Varlamov to make it 1-0 Devils. He used a very quick release on this shot, not even thinking and just shooting, showing the growth in Zacha’s game.

The Isles tied things 5:35 into the second when Anthony Beauvillier grabbed the puck in his zone and started the breakout. He gave to Brock Nelson just as they were entering the New Jersey zone. Nelson went cross-ice to Scott Mayfield. Mayfield threw it towards the net and it went in off of Beauvillier’s leg as he was crashing the Devils’ net. It was now 1-1.

But the Devils would retake the lead as Michael McLeod put home the game-winner at 15:31 of the second. It happened when Ryan Murray got the puck at the point. They had rotated and Damon Severson was down by the Isles’ goal line. He went cross-ice as he found McLeod cutting towards the net backdoor. McLeod shoveled the pass in and made it 2-1 Devils.

And that would stand up.

A scary moment right after Varlamov was pulled with 1:24 left to go in regulation. An Islander player, following through on a shot clipped a crouching Jesper Boqvist in the nose. IT was not high-sticking but Boqvist did leave the game with a bloody nose.

Following one final icing call after McLeod tried for the empty net with 1.1 seconds to go, the Devils won the defensive zone draw and the final was in.

The Devils were outshot by New York 33-25, won a dismal 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs (with McLeod winning 69-percent to lead the centers). New Jersey was outhit 33-16 and had more giveaways at nine to the Isles’ five. The Devils did lead in blocks 24-19 (including a huge one by Hischier late in the game with the Isles pressing hard in the Devils’ zone and the extra attacker on).

Murray led in ice time with 21:12 while Jack Hughes led het forwards with 18:41.

Will Butcher led in shots with four, Nate Bastian led in hits with four, blocks were led by Murray with five and takeaways led by Severson with two.

Next up, the Devils stay on the Island, as they play the second of back-to-back games against the Isles. Puck drop for that game on Saturday is 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here then.

Until then, stay safe everyone!