Devils Drop Shootout in First Trip to Seattle

It was the second-ever Battle of the Cryptids as the East Coast’s New Jersey Devils traveled to the West Coast to face the Seattle Kraken.

Round one went to the Beasts of the (Pine) Barrens in their home rink way back in October while round two was awarded to the (Puget) Sound Slammers via skills competition, 4-3 in front of a raucous Seattle crowd, 4-3.

The Devils fell in their first trip to the Pacific Northwest (I still maintain that Vancouver, being in British Columbia, is actually a part of the Canadian Pacific Southwest) as their power play outage continued.

The game began, once again, with a special guest. Turner Stevenson – a right winger on two Devils Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2000 and 2003 joined Bryce Salvador and Erika Wachter on the MSG+ pregame show.

He never played with Bryce at any point in either men’s NHL career (although they did scrap when Sal was a member of the St. Louis Blues), so there was not a lot that could be exchanged between them, but was able see some of his former Devils teammates from those Stanley Cup years.

This included having dinner with Martin Brodeur the night before the game and getting to chat with Ken Daneyko prior to going on the air. Stevenson, who, like Daneyko, played junior in Seattle, later retired to the city after his hockey career was over. He coached his sons in youth hockey there and all three of his sons are playing college hockey currently.

Stevenson mentioned that he has not been able to see the Devils play live in years and was definitely looking forward to getting to see Jack Hughes when New Jersey came to Climate Pledge Arena, but could not due to Hughes’ injury.

He mentioned how great the fans have been all season in Seattle rooting for the Kraken who have had a season that was, rather unfairly, projected against the early success of the Vegas Golden Knights. He said that the Kraken are an expansion team and the rules of their Expansion Draft were different from what Vegas was working with, therefore it was almost apples to oranges and Seattle was not guaranteed any success.

But the fans have been there and they have been excited.

This is something that Daneyko knew from his days of playing with the Seattle Breakers of the Western Hockey League from 1981 to 1983. Salvador echoed that as he played in the WHL against the Seattle Thunderbirds a little more than a decade later.

Breakers fans from back then remembered Dano and Sal mentioned his fond memories of Thunderbird fans packing their rink when he played.

This is all an elaborate way of explaining just how loud and involved the crowd was tonight. It most certainly lent a bit of a playoff atmosphere to a game between two teams on the outside looking in.

But, on to the business at hand as we begin with Devils roster moves for the game.

Ryan Graves missed the game as he was out recovering from the stitches he took to the chin following being cut by a skate in the loss in Colorado. Colton White slotted in for him on the backend.

AJ Greer was a healthy scratch along with Mason Geertsen and Jon Gillies. Andreas Johnsson slotted back in as the left wing on the fourth line in place of Greer.

In goal was Nico Daws, who currently stands at ten wins. One more would put him even with Alain Chevrier on the list for Devils goalie rookie season wins. Martin Brodeur tops the list with 27 while Mackenzie Blackwood and Sean Burke are tied next with 22 in their respective rookie years then Chevrier with 11.

Daws did not record the victory tonight but did make 23 saves on 26 total Kraken shots for an .885 save percentage. He stopped six of Seattle’s seven power play shots (they went 1-for-3 on the night) and made 17 stops on 19 even strength shots.

The Kraken had Philipp Grubauer between the pipes and he had basically the exact same game. He stopped 23 of 28 total Devils shot attempts for the same save percentage of .885. The Devils had five power play shots and Grubauer was equal to them (New Jersey was 0-for-3 on the man advantage) while at five-on-five, he stopped 18 of 21 shots.

Of note on this fourth game of the Devils’ five-game road trip was Nathan Bastian making his return to Seattle, where he began the 2021-22 season. He was selected from the Devils roster by the Kraken in the Expansion Draft last summer but was put on waivers around American Thanksgiving and was claimed by the Devils, thus returning him to Newark.

Also, Seattle’s first-ever draft pick, Matty Beniers, the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, who had just signed with the Kraken out of the University of Michigan, was playing in his second-ever NHL game and first in front of the home fans in Seattle. This would become very important later on.

The Devils gained the early advantage just 3:12 into the game when Jesper Bratt scored off of the rush.

Michael McLeod pushed the puck to Johnsson, who got into the Seattle zone and found a seam off the rush to Bratt on the far side. Bratt finished for the goal, which gave the Devils the 1-0 lead and was his 200th NHL point.

The Kraken tied things with 10:49 gone by when Karson Kuhlman got it to Victor Rask down low, he skated it down towards the near Devils corner then passed back to Will Borgen in the middle of the ice. Borgen then ripped a shot that beat Daws to knot the game at one apiece.

The “other” Jesper gave the Devils back the lead about 5:30 later when Jesper Boqvist played give-and-go with Pavel Zacha near the Kraken net. Boqvist had received the puck from Janne Kuokkanen and skated into the Seattle end.

Zacha initially bobbled the pass from Boqvist, but was able to recover and spin around to make to make a blind pass back to Boqvist – who was now camped in the high slot. Boqvist then scored on the pass, roofing it over Grubauer to make it 2-1 Devils.

The second period saw the Seattle pull ahead with two goals.

It began at the 15:20 mark when Yanni Gourde fed Jared McCann, who held onto the puck at the near wall. It was here that the Devils got caught puck watching and overloaded to the near side.

That allowed McCann the time to make a pass through a seam to Carson Soucy, who by now was all alone on the far side and just simply shot the puck into the empty side of Daws’ cage as he was left alone with all the time in the world.

That tied things at two and it only took the Kraken a little over a minute to take the 3-2 lead.

At the 16:57 mark of the second, it was none other than the highly touted Matty Beniers who scored on the power play to do that.

The Devils Kevin Bahl was called for hooking Jordan Eberle at 16:17 and Seattle had the extra attacker.

This included the rookie playing in his second NHL game.

The Kraken won a faceoff deep in the Devils zone and support jumped in to get the puck to Vince Dunn at the point. He fired a very quick wrist shot towards Daws. McCann was able to then redirect that shot over to Beniers at the far post and he tapped it in to make it 3-2 on the power play.

And that 3-2 score would take us into the third period.

This one was seeming to shape up to be pretty much a coast for the Kraken towards two points until 4:55 gone by in the third when former Kraken Bastian won a puck battle behind the Seattle net. He pushed it towards the near corner where McLeod retrieved it. He passed to a pinching Damon Severson who was cutting in backdoor.

Severson got the pass and finished, making it 3-3.

The game then settled into a back-and-forth contest until the horn finally sounded and things had not been decided. It was off to overtime.

The Devils have been pretty good throughout the season in the extra period, going 5-2 this year in OT while the Kraken have accumulated a record of 1-5 in their first season of existence.

The Devils seemed to be pushing a good pace in OT until the 3:45 gone by mark when Zacha was called for a cross-check on Beniers as Beniers was cutting in sharply on Daws’ crease.

Beniers went tumbling into the Devils goaltender, but replays did show Zacha clearly knocking him into Daws with the cross-check.

This put the Devils on the penalty kill for the rest of OT, about 75 seconds of New Jersey being behind the eight-ball essentially.

But enter Kevin Bahl.

The Devils rookie defenseman made a fantastic defensive showing through the kill, repelling Seattle attacks and clearing the puck.

Head coach Lindy Ruff would burn the Devils’ timeout with 21.3 seconds to go in the OT in order to give the Devils penalty killers a breather. And he left Bahl on out of the timeout, just to show the faith he had gained in the young d-man.

When those last 21.3 seconds expired without Seattle converting, we would need a shootout to settle things.

Round one saw the only goal of the skills competition when Ryan Donato, Seattle’s first shooter and the first man up, deked around Daws and went to his backhand, scoring on him.

Tomas Tatar then tried to go five-hole on Grubauer but was stopped to round out that inning.

The second round saw Beniers hit the post on his very first NHL shootout attempt and Bratt get stopped by Grubauer as the Seattle goalie stayed with him all the way and closed the pads on him.

Round three had Daniel Sprong stopped by Daws when Daws closed down everything along the ice and then poke checked the puck away from him.

That left things up to Yegor Sharangovich to keep things going for the Devils. He cut in and beat Grubauer, only to clang the shot off of the crossbar and the Seattle Kraken had the full two points in what was a pretty exciting game to watch in the end.

While taking the point and forcing overtime, the Devils at least staved off another one to their team record 46 regulation losses on the season. That surpassed the previous Devils record of 45 set in 1986-87 as MSG+ play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi pointed out.

Both teams ended the game with 26 shtos on goal. The Devils won 45-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Boqvist led the Devils centers in faceoff percentage overall with 67-percent of his personal draws ending in wins over 16:42 of ice time. Although Hischier had 48-percent while continuing to play in all situations.

Both teams had six PIMs. The Kraken had 27 hits to the Devils’ 16. Blocked shots saw Seattle end with 18 and New Jersey with 14. Team giveaways were relatively low between the teams, with the Devils finishing with six and the Kraken with five.

Ice time saw Severson lead with 24:37 of total time (which included 1:51 on the power play and 2:41 on the penalty kill). Dougie Hamilton led the blue liners in power play time with 3:59 accumulated out of his 22:04 of total TOI.

Up front, Hischier led in total time with 24:15 – included in that were special teams times of 4:14 on the PP and 2:55 on the PK – both of which led the forwards in those categories.

The only Devil with more than one point was McLeod, who notched two assists for two points in the contest.

Zacha led in shots on goal with four. White and Bahl each had three hits to lead there. Bratt, White, Hamilton and PK Subban each led in blocks with two each. Giveaways were led by Subban, Ty Smith, Zacha, Sharangovich, Bastian and Hischier with one apiece while Sharangovich, Bratt and Fabian Zetterlund led in takeaways with one each.

Next up, we’ll do one more late-night start time at 10 PM ET on Monday in Las Vegas as the Devils finish up their road trip against the Golden Knights.

That game should be broadcast on MSG+ and we will have a recap for you once the game is complete.

This should be another good one as the Knights are, much like the Dallas Stars at the beginning of the trip, are fighting for their playoff lives. We will find out if the Devils can impact the Western Conference playoff race in any way then.

In the meantime, have a great Easter Sunday if you are celebrating!

Devils Bring Bastian Back Via Waivers

New Jersey Devils fans have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. Everything from the team’s record as we hit the about-25-percent mark of the NHL season (especially considering the injuries the team has had) to the young guys like Dawson Mercer really hitting their stride.

But today, the Devils added another item to the list.

The Seattle Kraken placed forward Nathan Bastian on waivers this afternoon and he was claimed by the Devils. The Devils bring him back into the fold and he will join the team in Nashville, available to play against the Predators on Friday.

This fulfills a wish that many fans have had since July.

Bastian was selected by New Jersey 41st overall in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft. He was exposed during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and selected by the Kraken as their pick from the Devils’ roster.

As Sam Kasan wrote on the “Inside the Devils Blog,” this move will reunite the fourth line from last season (when Miles Wood returns from injury) on which Bastian had three goals and seven assists for ten points in his NHL rookie season where he played in 41 games.

The line was nicknamed the “BMW Line” informally as it consisted of Bastian, Wood and Michael McLeod. It was, according to Kasan, “often used in defensive situations or in an attempt to change a game’s momentum. Bastian was also a key contributor to the Devils’ penalty-killing unit.”

Bastian will also be reunited with his “Super Buddy” McLeod. The two have been playing together since their days growing up in Mississauga, Ontario and were teammates with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL before being drafted together to New Jersey.

Bastian, according to Kasan, has a total of seven goals and eight assists for 15 points over 60 NHL games in his career. Kasan notes that Bastian “made his NHL debut with the Devils” on January 19, 2019 against the Anaheim Ducks.

This season, while with Seattle, he had a goal and an assist for two point and 31 penalty minutes over 12 games – including the loss at New Jersey earlier this October.

Kasan also reported that the Devils have placed Jesper Boqvist on the Injured Reserve retroactively to November 18 with an upper body injury.

In some other news, today was, of course, Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. With that came the Thanksgiving morning tradition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York City.

This morning featured something that was mentioned on the Devils broadcast on Wednesday that I completely neglected in my game recap last night.

The NHL had a float in the parade sponsored by MassMutual that celebrated diversity in the game of hockey and was a tribute to NHL pioneer Willie O’Ree – who became the first Black player in the history of the league when he suited up for the Bruins on January 18, 1958.

O’Ree is set to have his number 22 jersey retired by the Bruins on January 18, 2022 at the TD Garden prior to a game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

Participating and riding on the float was none other than former Devils defenseman and captain and current MSG+ Devils analyst, Bryce Salvador.

He appeared with Anson Carter (NHL on TNT analyst and former NHL player) and Kevin Hodgson and Rico Phillips (winners of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award).

Both Carter and Salvador got mentions in the opening to the NBC broadcast of the parade.

Phillips, who according to William Douglas, a writer for NHL.com, is a retired firefighter. He won the O’Ree Award in 2019 for his founding of the Flint (Michigan) Inner-City Youth Hockey Program.

Hodgson is the executive director of HEROS which stands for Hockey Education Reaching Out Society) “which” Douglas says, “empowers at-risk youth in cities across Canada.”

Salvador was modeling the Devils’ new third jersey. It was complete with his captain’s “C” on the right side instead of the left, as the “Jersey” wordmark will come up too far on the left side, necessitating a move to the right for the letter. He joked on Wednesday’s MSG+ broadcast that he would be the first person seen wearing the jersey on television.

They were also joined by country musician Mickey Guyton – “who was the first Black female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in the country music category” according to Douglas.

The float traveled a two-and-a-half-mile route through Manhattan according to Douglas and had Guyton performing along the way.

It was officially themed “Winning Winter Together” and Douglas mentioned that it “featured a giant snowman goalie towering over a community pond made of skateable synthetic ice.”

Prior to the parade, Carter (who is also the co-chair of the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee), Salvador, Phillips and Hodgson (who Douglas notes won the O’Ree Award in 2021), hosted a hockey “clinic for 50 members of Ice Hockey in Harlem and Hockey in New Jersey, Hockey Is For Everyone affiliates, at the Sharpe James/Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation & Aquatic Center in Newark on Saturday.”

Douglas said that the league “is donated $5,000 to each organization [Ice Hockey in Harlem and Hockey in New Jersey] on behalf of MassMutual to help them manage operational challenges due to COVID-19. MassMutual is matching the donation.”

We will see you right here tomorrow for coverage of the Devils game at Nashville at 6 PM. Again, a reminder that that game will be streamed on ESPN+.