Devils Early Offseason News and Notes

The 2021-22 regular season is in the books for the Devils and we now head into a summer without playoff hockey for the fourth time in five years for New Jersey fans.

May will be giving us not only the first two rounds or so of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (sans the Devils, of course) but also the beginning of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs (prominently featuring the Utica Comets) and the IIHF World Hockey Championship (which has been pushed to the end of the month due to the NHL schedule changes and Covid precautions).

We will begin with the World Championships and who will be taking part in the tournament as it pertains to the Devils.

Catherine Bogart reports that six players will be appearing for their countries in the annual spring-time tourney.

As already announced by the team, head equipment manager of the Devils, Chris Scoppetto will be serving in the same role for the United States at the World Championship.

Joining him on the Team USA roster will be goaltender Jon Gillies, making his first appearance at the tournament. He previously represented the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2013 and 2014.

Team USA will play in Group B in this year’s World Championship.

Switzerland will have Devils captain center Nico Hischier on their roster as well as defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, who was injured with a broken hand back on April 7. Bogart said that he is recovering, however, and should be ready to go for the tournament.

Hischier has played in three World Championships, last playing in last year’s tournament. Siegenthaler also played for Switzerland in that same 2021 edition of the World Championship. He has three appearances overall at this tournament according to Bogart.

Switzerland will play in Group A.

One of the Swiss opponents in Group A will be Canada, who will have defenseman Damon Severson and rookie forward Dawson Mercer on their roster.

For Severson, this will be his second appearance in the tourney (he last played for Canada in the 2019 edition).

Mercer is obviously making his first appearance in the senior version of this tournament. He played for Canada at the World Juniors in 2020 and 2021.

Finally, the Devils will see one more player participating in Group A action. Tomas Tatar will be making an appearance for Slovakia.

Tatar has the most experience in this tournament of any of the Devils-related participants, as this will be his seventh World Championship.

He last played in one in 2019.

The 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship will begin on May 13 and conclude on May 29 and will be played in Tampere and Helsinki, Finland.

Group A will play games at the Helsinki Ice Hall while Group B will play out of the Nokia Arena in Tampere.

The two days of opening games will see the USA play Latvia and Finland play Norway in Group B and Germany clash with Canada Group A all on Friday, May 13. On Saturday, May 14, Denmark will play Kazakhstan, Switzerland will take on Italy and Slovakia will play Germany in Group A while Sweden will face Austria, Czechia will play Great Britain and Latvia will clash with Finland in Group B in a full day of action.

The 2022 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs are another premier attraction going on in the hockey world currently.

They got underway on Monday, May 2 when the Bridgeport Islanders beat the Providence Bruins 2-1 in overtime in game one of their Atlantic Division First Round series played in Providence. Those first round series are best-of-three with Bridgeport taking a 1-0 series lead.

Game two of that series will take place in Bridgeport on Wednesday.

The other first round series will see the Bakersfield Condors play the Abbotsford Canucks in the Pacific Division (game one of that series is currently going on as I write this with no score). The other Pacific Division series will pit the Colorado Eagles versus the Henderson Silver Knights. That series begins Wednesday and the Ontario Reign against the San Diego Gulls, which will also kick off on Wednesday.

In the Central Division, the Rockford IceHogs will play the Texas Stars beginning on Wednesday.

The other Atlantic Division first round series will have the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins play the Hershey Bears starting on Friday, May 6.

The North Division play-in series will have the Belleville Senators against the Rochester Americans starting on Wednesday.

These will help set up the semifinal series with one of the Pacific Division Semifinals yet to be determined with six teams vying for a spot there. The other Pacific Division series will see one of the winners of the first round series against the Stockton Heat.

The Central Division Semifinals will see the Manitoba Moose begin their best-of-five series against the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday while the Chicago Wolves will participate in the other Pacific Division series.

The North Division Semifinals series has the Syracuse Crunch taking on the Laval Rocket starting on Friday and the Comets getting a bye into their semifinal series which will be set up by the first-round winner between Rochester and Belleville.

The Atlantic Division, by contrast, has the Springfield Falcons and the Charlotte Checkers already advancing to the semifinals, but in separate series with their opponents being rounded out by the first-round best-of-threes.

The American League playoffs can be a bit confusing without a flow chart readily available. For our purposes as a Devils blog, the focus is on the Rochester-Belleville series for now as the winner there will move on to the second round to play the Comets in the semifinals.

One other piece of business before we wrap up is that Czech Prospects is reporting via Twitter that Devils goaltending prospect Jakub Malek “has signed a two-year contract with Ilves of the Finnish Liiga.

We will try to keep you as up to date as possible with all of the goings on in the Devils offseason hockey participation leading up to the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery and the Draft itself (which will take place in Montreal on July 7 and 8, 2022).

Devils String Second Together Second Road Win in Arizona

For the majority of the 2021-22 season, the Devils have had the hardest of times getting wins outside of Newark. Road wins were few and far between.

Suddenly, they are two-for-two on their five-game trip out west. Following a 3-1 downing of the Dallas Stars on Saturday, they continued on to Glendale, Arizona where they won their second straight game 6-2 over the Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes are the only team below the Devils in the overall NHL standings at the moment and the Devils were actually avenging a loss earlier in the season in New Jersey where the Yotes won 4-1.

The Devils this season achieved having four 20-goal scorers on their roster. Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich have each notched at least 20 in 2021-22. This is the first time since 2011-12 that the team has had at least four. Back then, it was Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson and Petr Sykora as the five who topped that number. That certainly points the Devils in the right direction.

But back enough about the future or the past. Back to tonight. The Devils roster tonight saw Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Andreas Johnsson out as healthy scratches while Andrew Hammond was sitting while Jon Gillies was the backup on the bench.

Nathan Bastian was back in the lineup as he returned from his hip injury that was suffered last week against the New York Islanders.

In goal, the Devils were going with Nico Daws who made 19 saves on 21 total Arizona shots for a .905 save percentage. He stopped four of the Coyotes’ five power play shots and 15 of their 16 at even strength. The Yotes finished the night at 1-for-4 on the power play as a team.

The Coyotes went with their own rookie in Karel Vejmelka, who made 32 saves on 38 total Devils shots for a nightly save percentage of .842. He stopped New Jersey’s only shorthanded chance and all ten of their power play shots. At five-versus-five play, he made 21 saves on 27 shots. The Devils as a team went 0-for-5 on the power play.

Some random notes from the night include referee Cody Beach working his first NHL game tonight as per Devils play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi. The Coyotes also had two players making their NHL debuts tonight – including Nathan Smith – who this past weekend was playing in the NCAA Frozen Four for Minnesota State.

Arizona also have a rookie defenseman in Cam Dineen, who is a native of Toms River, New Jersey.

And finally, this might very well be the Devils final visit to Glendale as the Coyotes are scheduled to make their move to the new arena being built on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona next season.

That arena will only seat about 5,000 for hockey which the team and the NHL generously terms as “intimate.” They are going to play there until at least the 2024-25 season as they attempt to get a new building erected in Tempe.

The Coyotes were, strangely, in their (alternate?) maroon “howling coyote” uniforms. I note this one mainly because I had thought that the Coyotes wee back to their “Kachina” logo uniforms full-time, so this one threw me for a loop initially.

It looked like those uniforms would be a good choice in terms of luck for the night initially, though.

Just 1:13 into the game, the Yotes took an early 1-0 lead. This goal saw the Devils unable to clear the puck from their zone and Nick Ritchie eventually got it behind the Devils net. He moved it to Nick Schmaltz, who got it to Travis Boyd in front, who scored from the slot to make it 1-0.

The Devils would equalize by the middle of the first period, though, and it was a big one.

At the 10:51 gone by mark, Nico Hischier skated through the neutral zone and into the Arizona end and used amazing hand-eye coordination to calmly settle a bouncing puck down. He then breezed past Phil Kessel and passed to Fabian Zetterlund, who finished for his first NHL goal.

Sharangovich had the secondary assist and the game was now tied as it would be heading into the second period.

From there, the Coyotes had a streak of bad luck as they just started to hit posts left and right. It began late in the period when Kessel hit the pipe while driving up the left side and would see Arizona hit another one even later on.

Early in the second period, with 16:40 to play, Dawson Mercer and Bratt poked away at puck in front of the Coyotes net and Vejmelka stopped Mercer on a nice glove save. Mercer and Bratt celebrated as if the puck had gone in, but the officials waved the goal off immediately on ice. There was a brief review done of the play – which seemed to show the Arizona goaltender actually catch the puck behind the goal line – but the call remained no goal and we played on.

The Devils, however, would get that 2-1 lead. With 5:24 gone by in the second, AJ Greer won a puck battle behind the Arizona net. It jarred loose to Bastian, who then banked it off the boards to Kevin Bahl at the point. It was put on a tee for him and he drove it by Vejmelka for his first NHL goal.

Bahl’s first NHL goal came against the team that drafted him and traded him to the Devils in the Taylor Hall trade back in 2019.

The Yotes would find another post midway through the second, but the floodgates were about to open on goals late in the frame.

It began when the Coyotes tied things on the power play at the 18:38 mark. This was set up by Ty Smith being sent off for slashing Barrett Hayton at 18:01 to set things up.

From here, Matias Maccelli got the puck to Shayne Gostisbehere at the near point. Gostisbehere then sent the puck to Schmaltz at the top of the far faceoff circle where the Devils had overloaded to the other side of the rink.

This gave Schmaltz all the time in the world to walk in, set and shoot the puck by Daws to tie the game at two.

This was an extremely short-lived tie, however.

At 19:14 gone by, Tomas Tatar dumped the puck into the Arizona zone and Vejmelka went behind his goal to play it. He tried to reverse it around the wall way from the oncoming Tatar and instead it was intercepted by Jesper Bratt at the far wall.

Bratt then threw the puck towards the near side of the net where Tatar collected the pass with his skate and shot into Vejmelka’s now-vacated net all in one motion to give the Devils back the lead.

And that would be the game-winner.

Jesper Boqvist would add an insurance goal 22 seconds later when PK Subban got he puck on net. Janne Kuokkanen got a shot on Vejmelka that bounced up and Boqvist was able to put in behind the Coyotes netminder. That made it 4-2 Devils.

The Devils added two more in the third period with both coming off of the stick of Sharangovich.

The first one came at 15:36 gone by in the third when Hischier took an outlet pass, broke into the Yotes’ zone and dropped a pass to Zetterlund just inside the Arizona blue line.

Zetterlund then passed up ahead to Sharangovich cutting towards Vejmelka’s goal cage and he finished the pass to make it 5-2 Devils.

Sharangovich notched his second goal of the night a the 17:05 mark when Bahl pinched in behind the Coyotes net and put a pass in front. The puck bounced off of an Arizona player’s skate and right to Sharangovich who promptly scored to make it 6-2. Hischier had the secondary assist on the goal that was Sharangovich’s 22nd of the year.

That second Sharangovich goal came at 4-on-4 play as the Coyotes Michael Carcone (tripping) and Ty Smith (embellishment) were off for coincidental minors at 16:03.

The Devils would actually finish the game on the power play as Ritchie was called for roughing Greer at 18:55. They would not convert, but when the final horn sounded, Daws became the first of the seven goalies used by the Devils this season to record ten wins – an amazing feat for a rookie who was not expected to play many, if any, NHL minutes this season.

The Devils finished with 38 shots to the Yotes’ 21. The faceoffs were nearly split in half with the Devils winning 49-percent of the game’s draws.

Michael McLeod led the centers in faceoff win percentage with 71-percent – although he only played 8:17 on the night.

Arizona finished the game with a dozen penalty minutes accumulated as a team while the Devils had ten. The Devils landed 30 hits to the Coyotes’ 23. Blocked shots saw the Devils with 14 and the Coyotes with 12. Team giveaways had New Jersey with just eight to Arizona’s whopping 20 on the night.

Dougie Hamilton led all Devils skaters with 21:23 of total ice time. This included 5:45 of power play time and 10 seconds of time on the penalty kill. That was by far the most time a Devils defenseman spent on the man advantage, but on the PK, Ryan Graves played 4:55 out of his total of 20:46 to lead there.

Up front, Hischier led in total ice time with 21:03 (which included 5:34 on the PP and 2:49 on the pK). On special teams, only Bratt (5:39 out of his 16:20 total TOI) had more power play time and only Sharangovich (3:40 out of his 19:34 of total TOI) had more shorthanded time entrusted to him. Sharangovich also logged 2:44 on the power play.

In terms of points, the Devils flexed their guns tonight. Hischier had three assists for three points, Sharangovich had two goals and an assist for three points, Zetterlund had a goal and an assist for two points and Bahl had a goal and an assist for two points as they all recorded multi- point nights.

In terms of shots on goal, Greer led with five. Hits saw Bastian, Greer and Bahl each lead with four. Blocks were led by Graves with six. Personal giveaways were led by Sharangovich and Mercer with two each while personal turnover recoveries saw Hischier and McLeod lead with two as well.

The Devils next stop is a little steeper of a climb. They travel to Denver to take on the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche. That game will be at 9 PM on MSG and we will have coverage for you at the conclusion of action.

Until then, enjoy your week everyone!