Preseason: Devils Down Caps, 4-1

The Devils remained undefeated this preseason, defeating the Washington Capitals 4-1 in Newark tonight.

Let’s get to this.

First, some personnel updates. Ty Smith remains out with an undisclosed injury as he has not played in a preseason game this year and will remain out “for a number of days” according to Lindy Ruff and quoted in an article by Sam Kasan.

Jesper Bratt was sick with a non-COVID-related illness also per Kasan. He was in the lineup tonight versus Washington and did play.

Kasan also reported that the Devils have loaned Chase Stillman back to his Ontario Hockey League team, the Sudbury Wolves. Nate Schnarr has been loaned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League while Brian Flynn and Robbie Russo were placed on waivers, cleared and assigned to Utica. This happened Sunday.

In addition, the Devils claimed defenseman Mason Geertsen off of waivers from the New York Rangers on Sunday. A big blue liner at 6-feet, 4-inches and 227-pounds, he will add toughness and a gritty element to the Devils’ lineup as per Kasan. The 26-year-old Geertsen was slated to be assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL by the Rangers. He has played in 297 career AHL games with Hartford, the Colorado Eagles, San Antonio Rampage and Lake Erie Monsters.

He was originally drafted in the fourth-round – 93rd overall – by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013. He previously played in the Western Hockey League for the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Vancouver Giants.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the business at hand.

In goal, the Devils started Mackenzie Blackwood. He played the first two periods and made 15 saves on 16 shots against for a .938 save percentage. This included making one save on two power play shots and getting all 14 he saw at even strength.

Scott Wedgewood came in for the Devils for the third period. He was equal to all five shots peppered on him – it was a relatively easy night for Devils goaltending. Wedgwood continued his shutout streak from the second two periods of the Islander game on Saturday.

The Caps finished with a total of 21 shots on goal.

For the Capitals, Vitek Vanecek played the whole game and saw 25 Devils shots. He turned aside 22 of them for a .880 save percentage. He let in two goals on four power play shots, got the lone shorthanded shot the Devils sent his way and saved 19-of-20 at even strength. Zach Fucale backed him up while Ilya Samsonov is sidelined with a lower body injury.

The Devils got on the board on the power play at the 19:00 mark of the first. Dawson Mercer streaked up the right side in the Capitals’ zone. Janne Kuokkanen hit him with a pass in the middle as he was cutting towards net. Mercer got the shot off and a trailing Alexander Holtz potted the loose puck to give the Devils the 1-0 lead.

Early in the second period, Michael McLeod made it 2-0 at the 2:39 mark. It saw McLeod drive towards the net and drop the puck for Kuokkanen trailing in the slot. Kuokkanen kind of flubbed his shot but was able to hit McLeod with a pass from his knees. McLeod snapped the puck by Vanecek to double up the Devils lead. Kevin Bahl had the secondary assist.

Washington would get on the board with less than a minute to go in the second (at the 19:18 mark) when, on the power play, Connor McMichael beat Bahl to the outside, taking a sharp angle shot which beat Blackwood to make it 2-1. Garrett Pilon (primary) and Hendrix Lapierre (secondary) had the assists.

That late goal made it 2-1 heading into the second intermission.

In the third, Pavel Zacha would make it 3-1 when the Devils were on the power play. Bratt worked along the near half wall to Dougie Hamilton (who was wearing an “A” tonight) at the point. Zacha was camped out at the top of the far faceoff circle and calling for the puck. Hamilton distributed to him and Zacha took the pass, hesitating with a little toe drag, freezing Vanecek and shooting back against the grain. He scored just under the crossbar as Zacha was showing a new aggressiveness in terms of shooting.

That goal came at eth 5:59 mark of the third.

Jimmy Vesey would add an empty net goal with ten seconds to go (Washington had pulled Vanecek with about two minutes left in regulation) from McLeod and Tomas Tatar to ice the game at 4-1.

The Devils ended the game 2-for-5 on a seemingly vastly improved power play. The Capitals were 1-for-3.

The Devils would end the game winning 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils were edged in hits 17-16, had less blocked shots at 15 to five and had more giveaways as a team at eight to the Caps’ six.

Mercer led the Devils with two giveaways while Zacha led in shots with five. Ryan Graves and Vesey led in hits with three. Blocks were led by Mercer, Hamilton Graves, PK Subban and Christian Jaros who each had one. Zacha led in takeaways with two.

Kuokkanen (two assists) led in points for the Devils. Hamilton led in time on ice with 22:59 while Nico Hischier led the forwards with 19:23 of TOI. McLeod led in faceoff percentage with a 90-percent clip. Hischier and Zacha led in power play ice time with 4:42.

Next up, the Devils will travel across the Hudson River to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers on Wednesday. That game will be shown on MSG+ and we will have a postgame recap for you right here then. See you Wednesday!

Preseason: Devils Blow Past Rangers, 7-1

The Devils returned to the Prudential Center for the first time this season for their second preseason game of 2021-22. They came away with a 7-1 blowout win over their rivals, the New York Rangers.

We will begin in the nets where Jonathan Bernier got the nod to start in what was a gametime decision by coach Lindy Ruff. Nico Daws was backing him up and it was thought that he might see some game action, but Bernier ended up going the distance. He made 24 saves on the Rangers’ 25 shots against. He turned aside three of the Rangers’ four power play shots and both of their shorthanded attempts. He was 19-for-19 at even strength and had a .960 save percentage.

New York started Igor Shesterkin for the first half of the game. He was equal to 16 of the 20 Devils shots he saw for an .800 percentage. He did not see a shorthanded shot from the Devils, got two of the three power play shots he saw and was 14-for-17 at even strength. Adam Huska, a former UCONN Husky, was equal to 11 of the 14 total shots he saw, including one of two power play shots and 10-of-12 even strength shots. The Devils did not register a shorthanded shot on him. He finished with a .786 save percentage. The Devils totaled 34 shots on goal on the two New York goalies.

Dougie Hamilton made his Devils debut tonight, playing just as well as advertised. He wore an “A” on his jersey for the game.

The Devils scored early and often. PK Subban got the festivities off right when he scored 4:29 into the first period. Michael McLeod dug the puck out of the near corner and got it to Subban at the near point. Subban let loose a bomb that looked like it may have been tipped in front by Chase DeLeo, who was a screen in front with Tyce Thompson. It actually went in off of Rangers’ defenseman K’Andre Miller’s leg, but DeLeo did notch the secondary assist.

About two minutes later, at the 6:34 mark, Subban loaded Alexander Holtz up for a one-timer at the far faceoff circle. The shot was blocked but it bounced right to the stick of Janne Kuokkanen who was cutting into the high slot. Kuokkanen put the rebound home to make it 2-0 Devils. This goal came on the power play.

Thompson made it 3-0 at the 12:50 mark of the first when he grabbed a loose puck behind the Rangers’ net and wound it around the boards to Hamilton at the near point. Hamilton put the shot on net and Thompson, who had gone to the front to provide a screen, dove to put the rebound into the net.

Before the frame was out, Mika Zibanejad would get the Rangers on the board when he scored at the 16:41 mark on the power play. It came extremely fast into the man advantage for New York. Barclay Goodrow moved the puck from the far half wall to Nils Lundkvist at the point. He had a look and moved it to Zibanejad at the near half wall. He blasted a one-timer by Bernier to get the Rangers on the board before the first frame was expired.

But that was all they would get. Bernier shut the door on them from there on out.

In the second period, newly acquired Devil Tomas Tatar made it 4-1 when on a delayed penalty against the Rangers, he pinched up the far boards and cut up the wall towards the circle. He shot and beat Shesterkin off assists from Colton White (primary) and Pavel Zacha (secondary).

That was basically it for Shesterkin as he finished his night and Huska came in.

In the third, the Devils came alive. It started at the 7:26 mark when Zacha scored on the power play. It was tic-tac-toe from Tatar to Hamilton to Zacha at the far circle. Zacha snapped off a shot to make it 5-1 Devils. The Devils ended the game 2-for-4 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-5 with their only goal coming on the man advantage.

After this goal was the moment that the game (a preseason game!) will be remembered for. With Lauri Pajuniemi right at the doorstep, Bernier dove across his crease, left to right, and made a spectacular glove safe at point blank range. That helped keep it 5-1 and was certainly a highlight reel save.

The Devils would score their last two right in succession. At the 16:34 mark of the third, Jimmy Vesey scored against his former club unassisted when he grabbed a turnover by the Rangers in the neutral zone. HE flew in up the right-wing boards and had a partial 2-on-1. Instead, he elected to shoot and snapped a shot by Huska to make it 6-1.

Less than one minute later, Dawson Mercer grabbed a loose puck off of a turnover just inside the Devils’ blue line and was off on a breakaway. He made a nifty move to beat Huska and score making it 7-1, our final. That goal was also unassisted.

Team stat-wise, the Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were outhit 23-14, had less blocks at six to the Rangers’ nine, but had two less turnovers at 14 to New York’s 16.

Individually, Tatar, Hamilton and Subabn each had two points. Tatar and Subban with a goal and an assist each and Hamilton with two assists. Subban also led in shots with six. Vesey, Miles Wood and Jeremy Groleau each had three hits to tie for the lead in that category. Thompson and White each had two blocks, leading there. Takeaways were led by Wood and Jesper Boqvist with two each. Zacha and Wood both had three giveaways. McLeod led all Devils centers in faceoff percentage with 67-percent.

Next up, tomorrow, the Devils will travel to Bridgeport, Connecticut to face the Islanders at 2 PM. That game is only streaming via the Devils radio app. I will try to do what I can to get the recap written and up in a timely fashion.

Until then!