A lot of things need to go right in order for this NHL season to be complete, and even more, needs to go right in order for a team to be successful. This evening a young Devils team took on the 2019-2020 President’s Trophy winner in the Boston Bruins. While the Devils scratched and clawed all game but in the end, the Devils fell short in a shootout for the second consecutive opening day.
The Devils came out ib the first period and left something to be desired. They looked like the Devils team of last year with blind passes and overall carelessness with the puck. In fact, New Jersey was credited with 16 giveaways in the first period alone. While I’m sure most Devils fans did not expect this team, with a lot of new faces to come out looking like a well-oiled machine, I’m also sure they did not expect them to look like that. There were a lot of new moving parts coming into this game including but not limited to a new coaching staff headed by Lindy Ruff so the unfamiliarity with the system could have caused the Devils struggles but that is just speculation. At the end of the period, after being outshot 16 to 4 the Devils trailed by one after a powerplay goal by Brad Marchand.
I suppose 1st-year head coach Lindy Ruff must have given the Devils players a stern talking to during the intermission because they came out of the locker room and looked like a completely different team. They looked inspired. They placed to their strengths. The use of youth and speed is what got this team back into the game. While this effort did not result in a goal you could just feel the momentum swinging. They cleaned up the turnovers and spent less time in the defensive zone. They also used their speed to make a few defensive plays and get a few breakaway chances. While the Devils cleaned up their play they couldn’t solve Tuukka Rask.
Here is where the Devils really started to look like a solid unit. They played solid defense and put consistent pressure on the Bruins. This pressure forced Boston to leave tired bodies out on the ice to defend against the relentless attack. About halfway through the period, Miles Wood tied the game at one with a snapshot over Rask’s glove. However, Boston would answer quickly with their second power-play goal following Miles Wood’s second goaltender interference penalty of the game. This goal would come off the stick of Nick Ritchie.
Following that goal, the Devils began to play a more physical style of hockey. Their biggest forward, Nathan Bastian, on the ice for most of the remaining period. This forced Boston to commit a few too many turnovers which eventually led to rookie defenseman Ty Smith netting his first career goal in a crazy sequence. Both goals were assisted by 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes.
For those who have never experienced an overtime game at the NHL level, it is one of the most nerve-racking things on the planet. Both teams are reduced to three players and whoever posses the puck controls the game because of the extra space. The Devils possessed the puck for a majority of the overtime period and had multiple breakaway chances from the likes of Jack Hughes and Kyle Palmieri. Once again the Devils’ speed was a major factor as most of their breakaway chances came off of sticks in passing lanes.
The Devils youth looks really solid. Second-year players Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev made impacts on both ends of the ice while rookie Yegor Sharangovich showed elite speed and almost scored. However, I think one player that is being massively overlooked is MacKenzie Blackwood. The recently signed goaltender stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced including 15 of 16 in the first period. The Devil’s youth shined through tonight and the future seems to be bright in New Jersey.
I only saw two major issues from tonight’s performance and that was several miscues with simple passes and the continued woes on the powerplay. The passing can and will be fixed as these guys play with each other more. However, the thing that has me concerned is the powerplay unit. They did not score on all four of their opportunities tonight. This is also coming off a season in which the powerplay unit converted at just an 18% clip.
Overall the Devils played well tonight and should be happy that they got a point against a solid Bruins team. While I’m sure all the players and coaches alike would have rathered a victory but things could’ve gone worse for New Jersey.