New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils made big strides this week into proving that they are ready to compete with the favorites of the Eastern Conference. They went 3-0-1 with lopsided wins over the Panthers and Islanders. (image from Adam Hunger/AP Photo)

New Jersey Devils Recap: Week 4

The New Jersey Devils played their best week of hockey in week four going 3-0-1. They won three straight to finish the week and took seven of a possible eight points. In the first three games of week four, the Devils were able to come back and earn at least one point in each. After a sluggish start to the California road trip, the boys were able to end it on a high note by going 1-1-1 before playing the first two of three consecutive home games.

The Games

11/5/21: @ Los Angeles Kings [2-3 L/OT]

Devils fans on the east coast were forced to stay up late to watch their team take on the Los Angeles Kings Friday. And for the ones who did, how did you not fall asleep during the first 39:58 of this game?

The game was scoreless until Adrian Kempe scored his third of the season from Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar with just two seconds remaining in the second period to put the Kings ahead 1-0. Jesper Bratt would answer from Andreas Johnsson and Nico Hischier only 3:19 into the third to tie it at one, however.

The contest’s pace started to pick up, and there were a handful of good chances from both teams, but the netminders remained stingy. The Devils goalie on the night was Mackenzie Blackwood, who was recently activated off IR and got his first start of the year. He was brilliant until an Arthur Kaliyev shot from the left wing snuck under his armpit and fluttered into the net. Kaliyev’s powerplay goal at 16:20 was his third tally on the season, with Andreas Athanasiou and Matt Roy assisting.

It looked like Kaliyev’s marker would be the backbreaker for the New Jersey Devils. Lindy Ruff pulled Blackwood with under two minutes to go as the Devils gained pressure in the Kings’ zone. With 24 seconds remaining in regulation, Pavel Zacha let a wrister rip from the right circle and it got through Cal Peterson to tie the game 2-2 and send it to overtime. The goal was Zacha’s sixth of the year, and Ryan Graves and Jesper Bratt assisted.

Unfortunately, the Kings won the game 42 seconds into the extra frame. Ty Smith decided to get fancy behind his own net and was stripped off the puck by Phillip Danault, who made an easy pass to Alex Iafallo in the slot. Iafallo’s one-time shot beat Blackwood clean, and there was nothing he could do about it. Los Angeles won 3-2, but the Devils earned a point even in their third consecutive loss.

11/6/21: @ San Jose Sharks [3-2 W/SO]

I didn’t watch much of this game, to be honest. I was at an Arizona State vs. USC football game, but made sure I watched the late stages, because it was another fun battle between teams from opposite sides of the country.

Jonathan Bernier got the start in net for New Jersey, and he looked solid. Like the night before, there was no scoring in the first period. Rudolfs Balcers scored less than five minutes into the second, but Ryan Graves responded late in the period. Nico Hischier gave him a beautiful feed as Graves was joining the rush, and Sharks’ goalie James Reimer was completely frozen and out of position.

The third frame started in a 1-1 tie, but Jonathan Dahlen tallied his fifth goal of the season on an early powerplay from former Devil Nick Merkley and Brent Burns. However, New Jersey dipped into their late magic stash again when Janne Kuokkanen scored an unassisted goal with 2:54 remaining. Overtime was fairly boring, with only a couple of high-danger chances resulting for either team.

The shootout was entertaining as hell. Logan Couture went and scored first for San Jose, but Jesper Bratt answered him by getting a forehanded shot to barely squeak over the line after Reimer got a good chunk of it with his right pad. Tied at one, Balcers, Alexander Holtz, and Timo Meier all could not convert, and it was up to Damon Severs– wait what? Ruff sent a defenseman out to take the largest shot of the game?! Yes, yes, he did, and it somehow paid off. Severson, who took three third-period penalties the night prior, made a gorgeous move ad roofed his shot underneath the bar to win the game 3-2. It was one the coolest moments of the season so far and winning the last game of the Cali trip was a much-needed confident boost for a team currently without their two best players (Hamilton and Hughes).

11/9/21: vs. Florida Panthers [7-3 W]

The Devils upset on of the league’s top teams on Tuesday in the Florida Panthers. The Panthers entered the game 10-1-0 coming off a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Monday. New Jersey put up their highest goal output on the young season with seven.

Florida jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first, but goals from Johnsson and Hischier late in the period saw the Devils lead 2-1 at the start of the second period. The Panthers scored on their first two shots of the period, but again the Devils responded. Johnsson and PK Subban scored to make it 4-3.

In the third, Zacha and Smith scored, and Jimmy Vesey potted an empty netter. Thirteen different Devils registered a point Tuesday, and with the game being nationally broadcasted on ESPN+, it showed the hockey world that the Devils can play with the big boys.

11/11/21: vs. New York Islanders [4-0 W]

Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup on Thursday, but the story of the game was Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood shined in a 4-0 shutout over the Isles. He made 42 saves, passing Martin Brodeur for the franchise lead in shutouts with 40 or more saves with three.

The scoring was kicked off at 12:12 in the first period on a shorthanded goal by Kuokkanen from Hischier and Subban. It was New Jersey’s second shorty of the year. Tomas Tatar scored a lucky goal on the powerplay with 50 seconds left in the second, when Dougie Hamilton’s one-timer, which was sailing wide by a good five feet, hit off his leg and ricocheted past Ilya Sorokin to make it 2-0.

The Johnsson-Mercer-Bratt line was at it again as Mercer scored his fourth on the year while the other two assisted at 5:46 in the third. Hamilton added insurance late with a one-timer from Graves and Vesey that beat Sorokin cleanly. It was the perfect way for the Devils to cap off an exciting week. They have five more games in a row against Eastern Conference teams before they play a pair of Central division teams around Thanksgiving.

Storylines

Miles Wood will be out indefinitely after undergoing hip surgery. Wood missed almost the entire preseason due to what the team was calling a lower-body injury. He has begun the rehab stage and both the team and Wood expressed their frustrations during the entire process. Wood was tied for the team lead with 17 goals last season and was second in shots.

After going 0/8 on the powerplay in the first two games of the week, the Devils went 3/6 in the final two. Getting Hamilton back to quarterback the first unit was huge for the final game of the week was big for the team.

I’m giving Alexander Holtz a C+ through his first four NHL games. He was quiet on the scoresheet, registering only one assist, but was given the opportunity to play on the top line with Hischier and Zacha. He had a few chances and was unfortunately robbed each time. Still, he’s let a few wicked wrister fly, showing why he is one of the top prospects in the organization.

Another top prospect has been making some noise at the collegiate level. Luke Hughes is up to six goals and seven assists as a DEFENSEMAN(!!) for the University of Michigan in just 12 games. This kid just turned 18 and is currently posting a +16 rating. It looks like he might be ready for NHL action as early as next season.

The New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, are a perfect 8-0-0-0 to start the season. That is pretty wild considering the team won just seven games all last season as the Binghamton Devils. Nico Daws and Akira Schmid have been the goalies. Daws is 5-0 with a 2.00 GAA and Schmid has a 1.31 with a .953 save percentage, and that is with multiple players in front of them bouncing up and down from the big leagues.

Yegor Sharangovich has been a healthy scratch for the two home games this week. He’s off to a slow start this season with just three assists in 11 games as he has lost his spot in the top six.

Three Stars

  1. This week, the captain of the New Jersey Devils showed us why the front office decided to give him a seven-year extension worth over $50 million. Nico Hischier was everywhere in the four games. He registered a goal and four assists, all while being +5 and winning 63% of his faceoffs.
  2. Did I mention Mackenzie Blackwood is back? Not only is he back, but he’s back to playing at a high level. Even he said he still wasn’t at 100% yet, but he made several difficult and timely saves while going 2-0-1 in his first three games of the season. He saved 103 of 109 shots, which equates to an impressive .945 save percentage. It’s super nice to have G1 back.
  3. Ryan Graves was quietly dominant in four games this week. Without Dougie Hamilton by his side in the first three, Graves held down the fort as the Devils’ top defenseman. Among d-men, he led the team in total shifts in three of the four games, while racking up his first goal of the season and two assists. He was also +3.

Standings Update

The boys are starting to move up the standings. The Devils have now earned points in four straight games, winning their last three. With a 7-3-2 record, New Jersey sits in sole possession of fourth place in the Metropolitan division and first in the Eastern Conference wild card race. They trail the Rangers and lead the Lightning by on point each in those respective categories.

The Week Ahead

The New Jersey Devils have four games next week, including back-to-back games on the weekend versus the Bruins at home and then the short road trip northeast to play the Rangers. The team is 1-0-1 in the second game of back-to-backs, so far. The New York game is the only divisional game of the week, and the Devils have only walked out of a divisional matchup without a point once this season. Next up is Tuesday back at home against the Ottawa Senators, who have lost nine of their last 10 (including six straight) after being 2-1-0 after their first three. Finally, the week ends with the first half of a Sunshine State trip against the Florida Panthers, who the Devils play just one more time this year – and we’ll have to wait until April 2 to see that one.

Read the New Jersey Devils recap from week two here.

Read the New Jersey Devils season preview here.

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