New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were bested in all three games of week five. They need to keep things afloat for Jack Hughes’s return.(image from Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports)

New Jersey Devils Recap: Week 5

Is this hip sinking? Week five for the New Jersey Devils was a bad one. After a great week four, the team went 0-2-1 in three games against Eastern Conference opponents, dropping them in the Metropolitan standings a couple of spots. The story of this week was the constant struggle of putting pucks on and in the net. New Jersey was outshot in two of the three games this week. The Johnsson-Mercer-Bratt line continues to shine, but it remains the only trio that can score at a consistent rate. The Devils continue to miss Jack Hughes badly. I miss Jack Hughes badly. His recovery process is going well but going winless in a week is not the recipe for success while he is out. The Devils look like they are struggling to keep the ship afloat in his absence, and I fear this losing streak may continue into next week as the opponents do not get any easier.

The Games

11/13/21: vs. Boston Bruins [2-5 L]

The Bruins showed a calm, veteran presence in this game against the Devils, who remain the NHL’s youngest roster. Their stars were able to create space against the inexperienced redshirts. The Perfection Line did their thing all night, with help from 22-year-old Jeremy Swayman in net.

Boston scored the only goal of the first when Erik Haula and the fourth line struck for his first of the year. Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman were credited with their first assists, too. The Perfection Line made it 2-0 early in the second period. Brad Marchand scored his seventh of the year from Charlie McAvoy and Patrice Bergeron. Marchand would get his eighth goal later in the period while on the powerplay, but Dawson Mercer scored a goal in between to get New Jersey on the board.

With just 36 seconds left in the second, Mercer would make another great play by finding Jesper Bratt for a one-time shot that beat Swayman’s glove. It was Bratt’s third goal of the year and Mercer’s fifth assist.

The third period started 3-2 in favor of the Bruins, and the Devils came out buzzing. Chance after chance was stopped by Swayman, who saved 27 of 29 on the night. The Devils had an odd-man rush developing and Ryan Graves trailed the play beautifully. It looked like a sure game-tying goal, but the puck bounced over his stick and the Bruins broke out the opposite direction. David Pastrnak was able to skate past two Devils defenders, and Jonathan Bernier made a great stop on him. Unfortunately, the puck was loose in the crease, and Bergeron beat everyone else to it and banged it home. This was pretty much the dagger, even with 9:11 left in regulation. Graves was shaken up on the play and was forced to miss the rest of the contest after colliding with a Bruin once the puck hopped his stick.

Jake DeBrusk made it official with an empty netter with less than 60 to play, and Boston made it 10 straight games with a point at the Prudential Center with the 5-2 win.

11/14/21: @ New York Rangers [3-4 L/SO]

The New Jersey Devils did not play particularly well against the New York Rangers Saturday, but they found themselves in the game the entire way. The Devils were outshot 41-27 in Madison Square Garden, yet they made it all the way into a seven-round shootout. There was also some good news, as Graves played the entire game after being shaken up the night before.

Bratt got the scoring going on a breakaway goal at the 15:23 mark of the first period. After taking a pass from P.K. Subban, Mercer slung a rocket of a pass that split three Rangers in the neutral zone to hit Bratt perfectly in stride. Bratt made no mistake on his fourth of the year, firing it right through Alexander Georgiev’s five-hole.

The second period was all New York. Multiple Devils penalties saw the Rangers get extended time in the New Jersey zone. Adam Fox scored an unassisted goal…or a goal assisted by Damon Severson. Severson tried clearing the puck through the middle of the ice, but the reigning Norris Trophy winner pick it off and made his backhanded shot look effortless to tie it at one.

Alexis Lafreniere would score eight minutes later at 11:24 just seconds after a Jimmy Vesey slashing minor ended. New Jersey would get their own powerplay, however, and they capitalized. Dougie Hamilton entered the offensive zone right as ex-Devil Kevin Rooney blew a tire. Hamilton was able to walk down the left side and absolutely picked a goal right above Georgiev’s shoulder for a beauty to tie it 2-2.

Kaapo Kakko got his first of the year in the third period. It always sucks watch him succeed, especially in a game where Hughes isn’t there to show him up. Kakko’s goal was pretty sweet, but he made contact to Mackenzie Blackwood’s head as he was driving the net. Lindy Ruff opted not to challenge to goal for goaltender interference, and Blackwood had to eventually leave the game for concussion protocols. Bernier came on in relief and stopped all eight shots he faced.

Pavel Zacha tied the game late in regulation on his own rebound on a rush with Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar. The goal with 2:44 left was enough to push the game to overtime, and after each team exercised some speed and skill, it ultimately went all the way to a shootout.

The shootout lasted seven frames, and as a Devils fan, it was agonizing to watch for all seven. Each time the Devils scored, the Rangers had an answer, including twice where New York got “must-have” goals from Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Chris Kreider, the leading goal scorer for the team, eventually ended it, sealing a 4-3 win for the blueshirts. It was the first time since 2012 in which the New Jersey Devils scored at least three times in the same shootout, yet they still found a way to lose it.

11/18/21: @ Florida Panthers [1-4 L]

Mackenzie Blackwood cleared all concussion tests and was back in net against the Panthers on Thursday. Both teams put up insane shot numbers, but Florida used a big second period to win.

Hamilton continued his sniping spree by beating Spencer Knight over the shoulder to make the game 1-0 midway through the first period. Carter Verhaeghe responded with just seven seconds on the clock with his fifth of the year. It was a massive momentum swing for the Panthers as they entered the first intermission tied at one.

Eetu Luostarinen scored early in the second as once again the Devils were bested by a fourth line. Ryan Lomberg and Partic Hornqvist assisted, and the score sat at 2-1 in favor of Florida.

The biggest moment of the game came about a minute and a half later. Jonathan Huberdeau received a long pass from Anthony Duclair right at the Devils blue line and scored on a partial breakaway. Ruff challenged the play for offsides, and as replays were showing, it was clear that both of Huby’s skates were over of the line as he received the pass behind it. Head referee Wes McCauley shocked the whole arena when he announced that the goal was going to stand to push the Panther lead up to two. Apparently, if a player has possession of the puck, he can enter the offensive zone while skating backwards, regardless of where his skates and the puck is positioned. I understand the rule, but, in my eyes, Huberdeau never had full possession of the puck until he was fully inside the offensive zone. The goal should not have counted, and it was yet another momentum swing in favor of Florida. The Panthers are too good to be receiving home-cooking calls.

The game already felt over as nothing was going New Jersey’s way. Duclair put the nail in the coffin four minutes later from Huby and Aaron Ekblad. Bernier relieved Blackwood at that point. Blackwood played fine stopping 23 of 27, but Spencer Knight was just better. Knight was marvelous down the stretch as he saved 45 of 46 shots, and he earned the first star of the game for his brilliant effort.

Storylines

The New Jersey Devils were supposed to play the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday this week, but double digit positive COVID-19 test in the Senators’ organization forced the league to postpone at least three of their upcoming games. Unfortunately, the Devils were one of the three, and a makeup date is set to be announced at a later time.

The Utica Comets are still on fire. They now share the AHL record for most wins to start a season. The Rochester Americans also won 11 straight to begin the 1984-85 season. Utica plays the Charlotte Checkers, who are on a three-game win streak, Friday night at home. My guess is the arena will be close to, if not, full as the Comets look to make history.

Fabian Zetterlund made his NHL debut for the Devils against Florida. The 2017 third-round pick had nine points in 10 AHL games but was held off the scoresheet in NHL game #1. It looks like he’s still with the big-league squad ahead of the game against Tampa Bay, which makes sense considering they have not left the state of Florida. He registered 9:33 of ice time without any special teams appearances and was a +1.

Mason Geertsen, a 26-year-old rookie, has now appeared in five New Jersey Devils hockey games. I get that he’s a versatile, big, and tough dude, but he stinks. The team is 1-2-2 in games he has played in this year. That one win came against Seattle in game #2, and he was on the ice for just 3:07, while spending 15 minutes in the penalty box. He has just one shot on the season and a -1 rating. I think it’s time we stop playing him, right Lindy Ruff? He only averages 6:59 time on ice anyway, and he makes no difference in the game. Send him down. Maybe he can help Utica out.

The Devils are supposed to be getting a new alternate jersey this season. A screenshot was leaked of access being granted to the public to buy the new jersey, but no images of the jersey itself were on the page. Could the Devils finally be going with a black alternate? Or will they bring back the green they wore back in the 80s? If you know me at all, you know that I’m always excited to see new uniforms in any sport.

Three Stars

  1. No one was all that great this week besides Jesper Bratt. He had two goals and two assists, bring his totals up to four and seven, respectively.
  2. Jonathan Bernier deserves some credit. Although he put out a 0-1-1 record, Bernier played well in all three games this week. He had to come in relief of Blackwood twice and stopped all 22 shots in doing so. He finished week five with a .930 save percentage.
  3. Dougie Hamilton is just really fun to watch. He continues to fire away at the net, registering 11 shots in three games. He cashed in on two of those shots to bring his goal total up to five for the year, tying him for second in the NHL among defensemen.

Standings Update

The New Jersey Devils gained just one point this week, dropping them down to sixth in the Metropolitan division and out of the second wild card spot by one point. New Jersey’s record is now 7-5-3. The division finally has a team below .500 as the Islanders sit at 5-6-2, but they have played all 13 games on the road as the finishing touches get put on their new arena. They finally play their first home game this weekend. Still, Carolina, Washington, and the Rangers seem to be the three teams to beat.

The Week Ahead

New Jersey has just two games on the schedule this week. The first will be Saturday against the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning are a tough team to beat, and their record is 9-3-3. They have won their last three, while the Devils have coincidentally lost their last three. The team won’t play again until Wednesday. They come back home to play the Minnesota Wild, who are tied atop the Central division with an 11-5-0 record. I’m sure Minnesota is happy they extended Kirill Kaprizov because he now leads the team with 15 points. He recently just put up his best game of the season – scoring a goal and adding three assists in a 7-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

Read the New Jersey Devils recap from week four here.

Read the New Jersey Devils season preview here.

Check out Vendetta Sports Media on YoutubeTwitchTwitter, and Instagram!