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!

Devils Sign Tomas Tatar

The Devils came to terms today with unrestricted free agent forward Tomas Tatar. He signed a two-year contract worth an average annual value of $4.5 million.

The contract is worth $9,000,000 and the breakdown is $3,750,000 in 2021-22 and $5,250,000 in 2022-23.

The 30-year-old was with the Montreal Canadiens for the last three seasons starting in 2018. Last season, he played in 50 games and scored 10 goals and 20 assists (totaling 30 points) and was third in scoring among the Habs’ forwards.

He has participated in 625 games over his ten-year career with the Detroit Red Wings, Vegas Golden Knights and Canadiens. He has 176 goals and 201 assists for 377 points (a .60 point per game clip) to go with 224 penalty minutes.

He had seven straight years of 19 or more goals coming into this season (a shortened year) according to the Devils’ PR team who put out the press release. Over that seven-year span, he also had eight or more power play points (19 in 2014-15 was his career high).

The Ilava, Slovakia-native was the Wings’ second round pick, 60th overall in 2009. He played in the Detroit system with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) before hitting the NHL. He won a Calder Cup with the Griffins in 2013, winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP along the way.

Before coming to the NHL, he played with HK Dukla Trencin and HK Dubnica in his native Slovakia. He also played for Slovakia internationally at the 2009 and 2010 World Junior Championship, the 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2019 World Championship where he won a silver medal in 2010 and 2012. He was an alternate captain for the Slovaks in the other years. He also participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey – he was on the runners-up, Team Europe).