Preseason: Devils Prevail in Washington

And just like that, the 2021-22 NHL season has gotten underway for the Devils.

First off, I am fully aware of the Mackenzie Blackwood situation. I wanted to reserve comment until someone with some sources identified him, It seems Blackwood beat us to the punch and outed himself. I will see what I want to say (if anything) and will talk about it at a later time.

Instead, we will talk about tonight’s preseason tilt between the Devils and the Washington Capitals in DC.

In goal, we got our first look at at Jonathan Bernier in net. He got the start and played the first two periods. Nico Daws played the third for the Devils. Bernier made 13 saves on 17 shots against (including 12-of-13 at even strength, 0-for-2 on the power play and 1-for-2 shorthanded) for a .765 save percentage.

Daws stopped all ten shots he faced – all at even strength.

For the Caps, Zach Fucale got the start and played the first two periods. He stopped 12-for-15 total (9-for-12 at even strength, 2-for-2 on the power play, 1-for-1 shorthanded) for an .800 save percentage.

Ilya Samsonov relieved him in the third and stopped 6-of-8 total (6-of-7 at 5-on-5 and let in the only power play shot he faced) for a .750 save percentage.

Jack Hughes was wearing an “A” tonight as a sign that management is starting to see potential in his leadership abilities, even if it is a preseason game.

Yegor Sharangovich picked up right where he left off, scoring the first goal of the preseason for the Devils 5:49 into the game. It came when Sharangovich cut in behind the Washington defense, taking a pass from Alexander Holtz and burying it over Fucale’s glove. That made it 1-0 Devils. Nikita Okhotiuk had the secondary assist.

In what would become a tit-for-tat tend throughout the night, the Caps immediately responded with John Carlson scoring at the 9:01 mark to tie the game at one apiece. It came with the Capitals shorthanded and saw Carlson poke the puck away from Nico Hischier just inside his own blueline and was off to the races. He skated in on a 2-on-1 and shot just under the crossbar, beating Bernier shorthanded to tie the game at one heading into the second period.

In the second, Jack Hughes gave the Devils back the lead just 45 seconds in. This came when Hughes picked off an own-zone D-to-D pass by Michal Kempny near the near faceoff dot. He cut in front and beat Fucale just under the crossbar to make it 2-1 Devils. That goal, like the Carlson goal, was unassisted.

But Washington would tie things again at the 3:15 mark. Carlson, this time on the power play, blasted a bomb from the point, with Evgeny Kuznetsov feeding him from the halfwall. The puck hit the post and bounced in off of Bernier’s backside to make it 2-2. Anthony Mantha had the secondary assist – cross ice to Kuznetsov.

But midway through, the Devils would again take the lead. Holtz, at the 12:33 mark, broke into the Washington zone on a 2-on-1. He took the shot himself, absolutely snapping it by Fucale to give the Devils back the 3-2 lead. Damon Severson had the primary assist while Sharangovich helped out with the secondary.

That lead lasted less than 30 seconds, however, as at 13:00, TJ Oshie was sprung behind the Devils’ defense by Hendrix Lapierre and shot under the catching glove of Bernier, beating him to make ti 3-3. Kempny had the secondary assist.

The Caps would take their first lead of the night when Mike Vecchione scored a power play goal with less than a minute to go in the second. Connor McMichael lost the puck on the entry and Lapierre picked it up after it was lost in a scramble in the slot. Vecchione got it and shot, beating Bernier to make it 4-3 Caps. Note that McMichael actually did not get credit for an assist here.

The Caps took the 4-3 lead into the third but it was not to last for them.

Dawson Mercer scored 5:35 into the frame from Andreas Johnsson (complete with new Anglicized last name). Mercer cut near the halfwall on the near side to the top of the near faceoff circle. He then powered towards the goal, shooting from an off angle and scoring – tying the game at four apiece.

This set up the dramatic (as dramatic as a preseason game can actually get) finish. With a little less than two minutes to go in regulation, Hischier gave the Devils the late 5-4 lead.

The Devils won a faceoff deep in the Washington end. Damon Severson ended up with the puck, finding Hischier down low. He kind of drifted unmarked towards the goal mouth and scored what was actually a very fast power play goal. A 4-on-4 had just expired with Nolan Foote coming out of the box and the Devils were on the man advantage for what amounted to three seconds before Hischier scored the goal.

Washington would pull Samsonov for the extra attacker, but time would simply expire on them.

The two teams did a quick shootout practice session, which Holtz “won” for New Jersey.

Holtz, with a goal and an assist and Sharangovich, with a goal and an assist, each tied for the team lead with two points each.

Sharangovich led in shots with four, hits were led by Mark Jankowski, Foote, Severson and Okhotiuk with two each. Jonas Siegenthaler led in blocked shots with three while Hughes had two takeaways, leading there. Kevin Bahl, Christian Jaros, Hughes, Foote and Jankowski each had the distinction of leading in giveaways with one each.

Teamwise, the Devils were outshot, 27-23, only won 34-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were 1-for-5 on the power play, had 18 team hits (just as many as the Capitals), 13 blocks to Washington’s eight and six giveaways to the Caps’ seven.

Next up, the Devils will face the rival New York Rangers on Friday, October 1 at 7 PM at Prudential Center. See you then!

Devils Get Ready for Busy Preseason

The NFL is well into its preseason and time is dwindling down on the NHL’s offseason, here is a look at what the preseason has in store for the New Jersey Devils.

Things get underway on September 10 when rookies report to camp, followed seven days later by veteran NHLers on September 17.

The Devils have released a detailed schedule of events on their website. When rookies show up on September 10, they will arrive at AmeriHealth Pavilion in Newark at 7 AM for their physicals and general media availability. They are then scheduled to shuffle off to Buffalo at 12:30 PM.

The following day will see a rookie practice from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at First Niagara Center. The next day, the 12th gives the rookies a morning skate from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM and then a scrimmage against Connor McDavid and the Buffalo Sabres at 7 PM at First Niagara Center.

That Sunday, the 13th, Devils rookies will take on the Boston Bruins at Harborcenter in Buffalo with a morning skate from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM and the game at 7 PM.

The team will then return to Newark on Monday, September 14 and are scheduled for an off day on the 15th. Wednesday, the 16th sees the Alumni Association Charity Golf Classic teeing off at 9:30 AM at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station, New Jersey.

Thursday the 17th, veterans report to camp and will have their physicals done at 7 AM. Both veterans and rookies will then be available for Media Day later on the 17th at AmeriHealth Pavilion. The next day see the first full squad practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

Actual preseason games kick off on Sunday, September 20 when the team travels to Providence, Rhode Island to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center to take on the Bruins at 7 PM in a neutral site game. The team then travels the next night to Madison Square Garden for a contest against the Rangers at 7 PM.

September 23, the Devils return to the Islanders new home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the first time in a year (the teams have played games there the last two preseasons – it becomes the official home of the Islanders this year). Faceoff is 7 PM. Friday, September 25 marks the Devils’ preseason home opener at Prudential Center when the Isles come to town at 7 PM. The Rangers come in the next night, the 26th, for another 7 PM faceoff.

The Devils close out their preseason schedule with a pair against the Flyers on September 30 and October 2. September 30’s game is at 7 PM at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly while the October 2 game is at the Rock at 7 PM. Broadcast information, if any, for preseason games will be announced at a later date.