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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins dance with Devils in, 5-2, matinée victory

Brad Marchand had a pair of goals as the Boston Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, at Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.

Bruins netminder, Jeremy Swayman (4-2-0, 2.18 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in six games played) made 27 saves on 29 shots against in the win.

Jonathan Bernier (4-2-0, 2.80 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in six games played) turned aside 31 out of 35 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 7-5-0 (14 points) on the season and moved ahead of the Buffalo Sabres for 5th place in the Atlantic Division standings by virtue of games-in-hand (the Bruins have played 12 games, while Buffalo has played 13 games thus far).

New Jersey fell to 7-4-2 (16 points) overall and remained in 5th place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

The B’s also improved to 2-4-0 on the road this season, as well as 16-6-5 in 27 games at Prudential Center.

Trent Frederic (upper body) was the only Bruin out of the lineup due to injury, but head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple adjustments to his lines from Thursday night’s, 5-3, loss to the Edmonton Oilers entering Saturday.

Karson Kuhlman re-entered the lineup in place of Craig Smith on the third line, while Mike Reilly was scratched in place of Jakub Zboril on the third defensive pairing.

Smith and Reilly were joined by Oskar Steen on the short list of healthy scratches for Boston on Saturday. Steen was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday and will likely be on the third line in place of Kuhlman on Sunday against Montréal.

Early in the first period, Jesper Boqvist caught David Pastrnak with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty, yielding the afternoon’s first power play opportunity to the Bruins at 6:37 of the first period.

Boston’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Swayman played the puck outside of the trapezoid for a delay of game penalty at 7:27.

Kuhlman served Swayman’s minor, while the two teams skated at 4-on-4 for about 1:10 prior to an abbreviated power play for the Devils.

New Jersey couldn’t capitalize on the shift in skater strength, though.

Minutes later, Connor Clifton checked Tomáš Tatar away from the puck and received an inference infraction at 10:08. Once again, however, the Devils couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the period, after switching up his bottom-six forwards– demoting Jake DeBrusk to the fourth line after a slow start and promoting Anton Blidh to the third line alongside Erik Haula and Kuhlman– Boston’s third line broke through for the afternoon’s first goal of the game.

Haula (1) sent a rebound off an initial shot by Blidh through Bernier’s five-hole to give the B’s a, 1-0, lead at 17:37 of the first period.

Blidh (1) and Kuhlman (1) tallied the assists on Haula’s first goal of the season (and first goal in a Bruins uniform, as well).

Entering the first intermission, Boston held a, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and led in shots on goal, 14-9.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2) and hits (6-5), while New Jersey led in takeaways (9-6). Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, in the first period.

The Devils were 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Dawson Mercer tripped up Clifton to kick things off in the middle frame with a Bruins power play at 2:58 of the second period.

Late in the special teams action, Marchand (7) wired a shot from the point with eyes through traffic past Bernier to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

Charlie McAvoy (7) and Patrice Bergeron (7) tallied the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 4:10 of the second period.

Jesper Bratt sent a pass to Andreas Johnsson before Johnsson setup Mercer (5) in the slot on a tic-tac-goal to cut Boston’s lead in half as the Devils got on the scoreboard and trailed, 2-1, 28 seconds after Marchand scored his first goal of the afternoon.

Johnsson (5) and Bratt (6) notched the assists on Mercer’s goal at 4:38 of the second period.

For the third time in their last five periods, Boston allowed a goal less than one minute after scoring a goal.

About two minutes later, however, the B’s extended their lead back to two-goals as Marchand worked a pass to Pastrnak for a blast that rebounded off of Bernier’s glove before Marchand (8) collected the garbage and snuck the puck past Bernier’s left pad.

Pastrnak (7) and McAvoy (8) had the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the game– his 50th career two-goal game– and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 6:52.

Less than a minute later, Taylor Hall hooked Alexander Holtz and presented the Devils with a power play at 7:14, but New Jersey wasn’t able to beat Boston’s penalty kill.

Midway through the middle frame, Brandon Carlo cross checked Nico Hischier away from the play and both players cut a rut to their respective penalty boxes– Carlo for cross checking, Hischier for embellishment– at 13:50.

After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams returned to 5-on-5 action without any issue.

In the waning minute of the middle frame, Charlie Coyle banked the puck off of a referee inadvertently, which led to a fortunate bounce for the Devils as Mercer faked a shot and passed the puck off to Bratt (3) for a one-timer goal to pull New Jersey back to within one at 19:24 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 26-18, in shots on goal– including a, 12-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (9-5), hits (14-8) and faceoff win% (59-41) after two periods, while New Jersey led in takeaways (17-9).

Both teams had three giveaways each through two periods.

The Devils were 0/3 and the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Midway through the final frame, Pastrnak got a shot off that ended up loose in the crease after Bernier made the initial save, but in the ensuing scrum Bergeron (6) tapped the rubber biscuit over the goal line to give Boston another two-goal lead, 4-2, at 10:49 of the third period.

Pastrnak (8) and McAvoy (9) snagged the assists on Bergeron’s goal– completing a three-assist afternoon for McAvoy (his first since Jan. 26, 2021, in a, 3-2, overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Seconds prior to the goal, Hall had made incidental contact in Boston’s own zone with Devils defender, Ryan Graves, who was slow to get up and off the ice under his own power.

Berner vacated the crease with 2:33 remaining in the game for an extra attacker, but briefly returned to the net before leaving once more around 1:33 left in regulation after New Jersey iced the puck.

Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, used his timeout after a stoppage in play with 1:21 remaining in the action so that assistant coach, Mark Recchi, could drum up a plan to rally his team and tie the game.

Bruins assistant coach, Chris Kelly, had other ideas, however.

In the last minute of regulation, Bratt turned the puck over on a giveaway to DeBrusk’s skates, leading DeBrusk (3) to gain control of the puck, skate forward and hit the empty twine from the center ice logo on an unassisted effort.

DeBrusk’s empty net goal cemented a, 5-2, victory for Boston at 19:06 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-29, despite trailing the Devils in shots on goal in the third period alone, 11-10.

The B’s exited the building with the lead in blocked shots (25-8), hits (16-11) and faceoff win% (54-46), while New Jersey left their home ice with the advantage in giveaways (8-4).

As there were no penalties called in the third period, the Devils finished Saturday afternoon’s effort 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2 on the skater advantage.

Boston improved to 6-3-0 (2-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 6-0-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when leading after one period and 5-1-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

New Jersey, meanwhile, fell to 4-4-1 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-4-1 (1-3-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-4-1 (1-3-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins return home Sunday to host the Montréal Canadiens at TD Garden for the first time since the 2019-20 season before having five days off prior to their next road game in Philadelphia next Saturday (Nov. 20th).

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Your Team Will Rise/Fail: 2021-22 Standings Projections

It is time. The 2021-22 season is upon us.

Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.

And then Wednesday’s games happened too.

Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.

Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.

The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).

A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.

Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.

In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.

Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.

In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.

However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.

As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.

We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.

For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.

The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).

Will Colorado finally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?

Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:

No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?

The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.

Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.

Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.

The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.

Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.

Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?

The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.

Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.

As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.

Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?

I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.

You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.

If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.

The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.

Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.

Can Arizona avoid the basement?

Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.

That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).

Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.

Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?

Yes, really.

The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.

That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.

It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.

Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.

Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?

The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.

Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.

Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.

If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.

That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.

Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.

Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?

Eh, it’s hard to say.

The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.

Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.

Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.

It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.

Is this the toughest division to project?

Absolutely.

The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.

The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.

The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.

What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?

They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.

There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?

What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?

I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.

Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.

Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.

First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.

What does this mean for the Leafs?

Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.

The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.

No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.

A lot and not a lot has changed since then.

Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.

So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.

That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.

Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?

No. Let’s be realistic here.

The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.

In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.

In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.

That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.

Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.

Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.

A little more patience won’t hurt them.

The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.

It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…

At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.

Hopefully.

Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?

Probably not.

I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.

The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.

That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.


Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.

Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

New Jersey Devils 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 19-30-7, 45 points

7th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the third-straight year

Additions: F Tomas Tatar, D Ryan Graves (acquired from COL), D Dougie Hamilton, D Christian Jaros (acquired from SJS), G Jonathan Bernier

Subtractions: F Nathan Bastian (expansion, SEA), F Christoph Bertschy (NL), F Brandon Gignac (signed with Laval, AHL), F Mason Jobst (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Mikhail Maltsev (traded to COL), F Nicholas Merkley (traded to SJS), F Brett Seney (signed with TOR), F Ben Street (DEL), D Will Butcher (traded to BUF), D Connor Carrick (signed with SEA), D Josh Jacobs (signed with CAR), D Ryan Murray (signed with COL), D David Quenneville (SHL), D Colby Sissons (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NSH), G Corey Crawford (retired), G Aaron Dell (signed with BUF)

Still Unsigned: G Gilles Senn (NL, NJD reserve list), G Evan Cormier

Re-signed: F A.J. Greer, F Janne Kuokkanen, F Yegor Sharangovich, F Marian Studenic

Offseason Analysis: The Devils, like Chicago, turned some heads in the first half of the 2020-21 season. Unlike Chicago, New Jersey wasn’t really anywhere near the top of the standings in their division, but at least Yegor Sharangovich’s emergence and Ty Smith’s performance was a welcome reception for a team that’s yearning for more.

Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood are all growing in their roles and looking for supporting cast members that haven’t been traded in recent years (think Blake Coleman, Kyle Palmieri and others) as the winds of change sweep through the Devils organization.

Now, it appears, is the time for New Jersey to blossom into something. What that something might be remains to be seen, however.

Sharangovich signed a two-year extension worth $2.000 million per season as a solid bridge contract after putting up 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) in 54 games in his first NHL season after starting the 2020-21 calendar in the Kontinental Hockey League with Dinamo Minsk, where he had 17-8–25 totals in 34 games.

His speed is impressive, but his hands and quick shot might be even more so.

Zacha may have led the team in scoring with 35 points last season, while Hughes trailed with 31 points, but Sharangovich was tied with Jesper Bratt for the third-most points on the roster. Few people outside of New Jersey could’ve seen that coming.

On defense, Smith was a welcome addition to re-igniting some semblance of an offense from the backend.

That said, P.K. Subban managed to score 19 points in 44 games and was on pace for about 27 points in a regular 82-game schedule.

After bottoming out with 18 points in 68 games in 2019-20, Subban’s rise back to relevance times out pretty well entering a contract year for 2021-22– and with Dougie Hamilton locked up via free agency to a seven-year deal at Subban’s $9.000 million cap hit, a little healthy competition might just be the thing that he needs.

Hamilton had 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 55 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, which was down from his .852 points-per-game production in 2019-20, when he had 14-26–40 totals in 47 games prior to injury.

At .764 points-per-game in 2020-21, though, and being only 28-years-old, Hamilton is in the peak of his defensive prime and should be a power play specialist– quarterbacking New Jersey’s defense for a long time in the new-age era of two-way defenders.

Plus Hamilton is four years younger than Subban, so there’s less risk of things backfiring up front in Hamilton’s tenure with the Devils than Subban’s tumultuous drop in production from Nashville to New Jersey.

It’s a risk worth taking for a team that’s looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2018, when Taylor Hall went on his Hart Memorial Trophy winning MVP of the regular season run prior to being eliminated in five games in the 2018 First Round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Hall is a member of the Boston Bruins these days– a team the Devils went 5-1-2 against last season.

The additions of Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier via free agency should shore up depth in the middle-six and in the crease where Mackenzie Blackwood and Scott Wedgewood looked fine, but in desperate need of veteran leadership– especially as Blackwood continues to emerge in the league.

New Jersey General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald, shouldn’t have to worry about any unexpected retirements like how Corey Crawford signed with the Devils before retiring prior to the 2020-21 season getting underway.

Offseason Grade: A-

Fitzgerald added one of the better free agents in the market to his roster and still has about $12.100 million in cap space to work with, which is the only reason why the Devils didn’t get an “A” since it seems like they could’ve done a little more.

Nobody’s really expecting New Jersey to make a deep run, but they should align themselves with better chances at playoff contention given the moves made this offseason.

For a team that’s been out of a serious run since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, it’s about time that the Devils get back into the playoff picture and adding Hamilton to New Jersey’s core certainly speeds things up by making the Devils a desirable destination at least.

Whereas other teams in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division are expected to falter, New Jersey’s stock is starting to rise so right about now would be the perfect time to buy in.

Ideally, they should be in wild card contention.

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NHL Nick's Net

Devils down Bruins, 4-3, in overtime

For the first time this season on home ice, the New Jersey Devils forced a comeback after trailing in the second period and won as they defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-3, in overtime Tuesday night at Prudential Center’s final home game of the 2020-21 season.

Mackenzie Blackwood (13-16-4, 3.05 goals-against average, .902 save percentage in 33 games played) made 33 saves on 36 shots against in the win for New Jersey.

Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-6-4, 2.53 goals-against average, .905 save percentage in 19 games played) turned aside 17 out of 21 shots faced in the overtime loss.

The Bruins fell to 31-14-7 (69 points) on the season, but remained in control of 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Devils improved to 18-28-7 (43 points) overall and stuck in 7th place in the division.

Boston finished their regular season series with New Jersey 3-3-2 overall in 2020-21.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Tuesday, while Kevan Miller (maintenance) and Jakub Zboril were removed from the lineup as Brandon Carlo returned to action from his most recent oblique injury that he sustained on April 1st against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mike Reilly returned in Zboril’s place on the third pairing with Connor Clifton after missing Monday night’s game due to being “pretty banged up,” to paraphrase B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy.

Cassidy made one change among his forwards, inserting Trent Frederic on the fourth line in place of Karson Kuhlman.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Swayman served as Halak’s backup on Tuesday– giving Tuukka Rask the night off as the playoffs draw near.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Moore, Kase, Rask, Steven Kampfer, Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller.

Matt Grzelcyk tied up Miles Wood away from the puck and yielded the game’s first power play to the Devils as Grzelcyk cut a rut to the penalty box for interference at 4:16 of the first period.

New Jersey was not successful on their first skater advantage of the night, but Boston began a run of three consecutive infractions as Grzelcyk was the first to commit a minor infraction, then Clifton slashed Yegor Sharangovich at 6:42 and finally, Charlie McAvoy tripped Sharangovich at 8:39– resulting in three seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage for the Devils.

New Jersey’s two-skater advantage quickly dwindled down to a regular 5-on-4 power play, but not for long as Pavel Zacha (14) wired a one-timer past Halak off of the ensuing faceoff while Clifton was set to exit the sin bin and McAvoy was in the box.

Jack Hughes (19) and Nico Hischier (3) tallied the assists on Zacha’s first goal of the game as the Devils took a, 1-0, lead thanks to the power-play goal at 8:42 of the first period.

As Clifton’s minor expired, McAvoy was freed from the box thanks to Boston’s penalty kill allowing a power-play goal against and the game resumed at full strength.

Moments later, Nathan Bastian hooked Brad Marchand and cut a rut to the box at 11:27, presenting the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night.

The B’s did not convert on the skater advantage, however.

Entering the first intermission, the Devils led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 15-9, in shots on goal.

New Jersey led in blocked shots (5-1) and giveaways (2-0), while Boston held the advantage in hits (13-5) and faceoff win percentage (68-32).

Both teams had four takeaways each, while the Devils were 1/3 and the B’s were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Nicholas Merkley kicked off the second period with a hooking infraction at 3:36 and presented Boston with their second power play of the game.

This time, Patrice Bergeron (21) fired a one-timer over Blackwood’s glove from his usual spot as the bumper on the power play to tie the game, 1-1.

David Pastrnak (25) and Grzelcyk (13) had the assists on Bergeron’s power-play goal at 4:36.

Moments later, Pastrnak hooked Wood and cut a rut to the box at 7:49, but Boston’s penalty kill managed to kill off Pastrnak’s minor infraction without issue.

Late in the period, Taylor Hall dropped a pass back to Grzelcyk for a shot before the puck deflected off of Hall’s (8) leg and found its way into the back of net– giving Boston their first lead of the night in the process, 2-1.

Grzelcyk (14) and David Krejci (30) had the assists on Hall’s goal at 14:02 of the second period.

As Hall was passing through Blackwood’s “no fly zone”, New Jersey’s head coach, Lindy Ruff, used a coach’s challenge on the grounds that he believed Hall had made contact with the Devils’ netminder and therefore interfered with Blackwood’s ability to make a save.

Video review confirmed that Hall, in fact, had never touched Blackwood, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty against New Jersey, which was served by Jesper Boqvist at 14:02.

Though Boston did not score on the ensuing power play, they entered the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 27-13, including a, 12-4, advantage in the second period alone.

After 40 minutes of action, the Devils held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4) and takeaways (6-5), while the Bruins led in hits (18-10) and faceoff win% (64-36).

Both teams had four giveaways each as New Jersey was 1/4 and Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Bovqist (4) tied the game on a loose puck that was initially shot by Damon Severson, then blocked by McAvoy.

Severson (16) and Marián Studenič (1) had the assists on Boqvist’s garbage goal from the doorstep as the Devils tied the game, 2-2, at 9:10 of the third period.

Boston answered back in a hurry as Sean Kuraly (4) redirected a shot pass from Pastrnak with his skate as he was skating backwards through the low slot towards the goal line to put the B’s ahead, 3-2, at 10:42.

Pastrnak (26) and Reilly (26) had the assists on Kuraly’s goal, but the Bruins didn’t have the lead for that long.

Once again, New Jersey tied things up as Sharangovich (16) sent a wrist shot clean past Halak on a breakaway under the Bruins goaltender’s blocker less than two minutes after the B’s took the lead.

Severson (17) and Kevin Bahl (2) notched the assists on Sharangovich’s goal as the Devils tied the game, 3-3, at 12:41 of the third period.

There were no more goals, nor any penalties as the two clubs necessitated overtime to determine a winner on Tuesday night.

After regulation, the Bruins and Devils were tied, 3-3, on the scoreboard, while Boston held the advantage in shots on goal, 36-19, including a, 9-6, advantage in the third period alone.

New Jersey led in blocked shots (11-9), takeaways (9-8) and giveaways (10-6), while the B’s led in hits (26-18) and faceoff win% (64-36).

As there were no penalties called in overtime (despite a delayed penalty waiting to be called against Boston that was ultimately negated by New Jersey’s game-winning goal), the Devils finished 1/4 and the Bruins went 1/3 on the power play on Tuesday.

About midway through the extra frame, Zacha (15) waltzed through the lot slot and pulled the puck to his backhand before elevating a shot over Halak’s glove side– leaving the Bruins goaltender in a fit of rage afterward as he skated off the ice and took out his frustrations on his stick.

Hughes (20) and Will Butcher (9) celebrated their assists on Zacha’s second goal of the game, as well as the, 4-3, win.

Meanwhile, reality had set in for Boston’s backup goaltender as Halak made his first start since April 3rd– amidst an appearance on the league’s COVID protocol list, as well as the emergence of Swayman as Boston’s likely backup netminder entering the postseason– Tuesday night’s effort did not help his case for a regular role with the Bruins.

New Jersey finished the night with a, 2-0, advantage in shots on goal in the overtime period alone, but trailed Boston in total shots on goal, 36-21.

The Devils also wrapped up Tuesday night’s action leading in blocked shots (11-10) and giveaways (10-7), while the Bruins finished the game leading in hits (26-18) and faceoff win% (64-36).

The B’s fell to 3-5 in overtime (7-7 past regulation) this season, while the Devils improved to 4-2 in overtime and 4-7 overall past regulation in 2020-21.

Boston also fell to 8-9-4 (3-3-3 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 5-8-3 (2-5-3 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 22-0-3 (9-0-1 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is now 15-10-2 (7-8-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 13-3-1 (7-2-0 at home) when leading after one period and 2-22-2 (1-13-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins return home to host the New York Rangers on Thursday and Saturday before taking on the New York Islanders in the final home game of the regular season on May 10th.

Boston concludes the 2020-21 regular season on the road against the Washington Capitals on May 11th.

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Deadline Deals NHL

Analysis: Isles are all-in on deep run with Palmieri, Zajac trade

Wednesday night, the New York Islanders dealt forwards, AJ Greer and Mason Jobst, a 2021 1st round pick and a conditional 2022 4th round pick to the New Jersey Devils for forwards, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

Zajac had been on the radar of Islanders General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, since last season when New York nearly brought in Zajac from the Devils and Zach Parise from the Minnesota Wild at the 2020 trade deadline.

This year, Zajac waived his no-trade clause to go to the Islanders.

Palmieri, meanwhile, adds a significant component to New York’s scoring prowess with captain, Anders Lee, out for the rest of the regular season (at least) due to injury.

New Jersey retained 50% of both Palmieri and Zajac’s salary in the transaction.

If the Islanders advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the 4th round pick becomes a 3rd round pick in either 2022 or 2023, with New York having the choice between the two to send to the Devils.

New Jersey General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald, in the meantime, hopes both now former Devils players (Palmieri and Zajac) will go on to win Stanley Cup rings with the Islanders in 2021, and that he’ll receive the 32nd overall pick in this year’s first round in the process.

New York is in “win-now” mode, while New Jersey is looking to sell expendable parts and build around their youth in Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Ty Smith and Mackenzie Blackwood.

Palmieri, 30, had 8-9–17 totals in 34 games for the Devils this season prior to being traded on Wednesday and has 183-172–355 totals in 595 career NHL games for the Anaheim Ducks and Devils since being drafted in the 1st round (26th overall) by Anaheim in 2009, and making his league debut in 2010-11.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound, Smithtown, New York native carries a $2.325 million cap hit for the Islanders and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

He set career-highs in goals, assists and points in 2015-16 with the Devils with 30-27–57 totals in 82 games and had a career-high tying 27 assists the following season in 80 games with New Jersey.

Since reaching the 30-goal plateau, Palmieri has had four consecutive seasons with at least 20 goals (five if you include the 30-goal season) entering 2020-21.

In 38 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Palmieri has 8-7–15 totals, including three points (one goal, two assists) in five games with New Jersey in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Zajac, 35, had 7-11–18 totals in 33 games with the Devils this season prior to being traded to the Islanders and has 202-348–550 totals in 1,024 career NHL games since making his debut in the 2006-07 season.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Zajac was drafted by the Devils in the 1st round (20th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound center has reached the 20-goal plateau twice in his career, establishing career-highs in goals (25), assists (42) and points (67) in 82 games with the Devils in 2009-10, and had 19 goals in 80 games in 2018-19, including 12 points on the power play.

Zajac carries a $2.875 million cap hit through season’s end for New York and has 11-17–28 totals in 57 career postseason games, including 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 24 games en route to New Jersey’s 2012 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

He most recently had a goal and an assist (two points) in five games in the 2018 First Round with the Devils in their 4-1 series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Greer, 24, has not played in the NHL since the 2018-19 season with the Colorado Avalanche, in which he had 1-1–2 totals in 15 games.

Drafted in the 2nd round (39th overall) by the Avs in 2015, Greer made his league debut with Colorado in 2016-17, and has 1-5–6 totals in 37 career NHL games (all with the Avalanche).

He was traded to the Islanders on Oct. 11th last fall for Kyle Burroughs and has spent parts of the last five seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) for San Antonio, Colorado and Bridgeport, where he had 1-1–2 totals in 10 games for the Sound Tigers thus far in 2020-21 at the time of the trade.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Joliette, Québec is a pending-restricted free agent at season’s end and has a $700,000 cap hit.

Jobst, 27, has yet to appear in an NHL game in his professional playing days and was undrafted.

After four seasons at Ohio State (NCAA-Big Ten), he signed a two-year deal with the Islanders on April 2, 2019, and has spent the last two seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL).

He had two assists in six games with Bridgeport this season prior to being traded to New Jersey and 5-8–13 totals in 44 games for the Sound Tigers last season.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound native of Speedway, Indiana is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and carries a $792,500 cap hit.

Both Greer and Jobst are expected to report to the Binghamton Devils (AHL).

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NHL Nick's Net

Devils ring in 2020 with, 3-2, shootout win over Bruins

The New Jersey Devils completed a, 3-2, shootout victory comeback over the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center on Tuesday afternoon to close out 2019.

Mackenzie Blackwood (13-10-5 record, 2.85 goals against, .907 save percentage in 30 games played) made 28 saves on 30 shots against for a .933 SV% in the win for the Devils.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-3-5, 2.20 GAA, .930 SV% in 17 games played) stopped 42 out of 44 shots faced for a .955 SV% in the shootout loss.

Boston fell to 24-7-10 (58 points) on the season, but remained in command of the Atlantic Divison, while New Jersey improved to 14-19-6 (34 points) and stayed in 8th place in the Metropolitan Division.

The B’s also fell to 10-6-2 on the road this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Torey Krug (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (lower body), Connor Clifton (upper body) and David Krejci (lower body) on Tuesday.

Miller has now officially missed half of the season, since Boston played their 41st game of the regular season in New Jersey.

As a result of the numerous injuries on the blue line for the B’s, Jeremy Lauzon was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Monday.

Lauzon has 1-9–10 totals in 35 games with Providence this season and made his season debut with Boston on the second defensive pairing with Matt Grzelcyk at his side.

Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) was assigned to Providence on Monday in what might be a conditioning stint, if not just a return to playing action with a plethora of depth forwards seeking playing time in Boston.

Kuhlman has not played since being injured in Toronto on Oct. 19th.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made changes to his lineup from Sunday night’s, 3-2, victory against Buffalo.

Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle and Brett Ritchie were moved up to the second line, while Jake DeBrusk slid down to the third line left wing slot as Par Lindholm and David Backes drew back into the lineup.

Meanwhile, on defense, Lauzon was paired with Grzelcyk and John Moore remained with Steven Kampfer, while Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo earned first pairing duties.

Danton Heinen was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Tuesday.

Devils defender, P.K. Subban, caught Sean Kuraly without the puck and was assessed a minor penalty for interference at 1:17 of the first period.

The Bruins capitalized on the ensuing power play when David Pastrnak unloaded a shot on a one-timer that trickled through Blackwood, but slowed before reaching the goal line.

As a result, Brad Marchand (20) ensured the puck reached the twine by tapping it in from the crease and gave Boston the, 1-0, lead on the power play.

Pastrnak (30) and Grzelcyk (9) had the assists on Marchand’s power play goal at 2:03.

Both teams swapped chances for the rest of the opening frame, but no more penalties were called or goals scored heading into the first intermission.

Boston led New Jersey, 1-0, on the scoreboard and held the advantage in shots on goal, 14-10.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (7-4), while the Devils had the advantage in giveaways (4-2), hits (8-4) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

Both teams had one takeaway aside and the Bruins were 1/1 on the skater advantage, while New Jersey had yet to see any time on the power play.

Marchand went to the box nine seconds into the second period after tripping up Devils forward, Nikita Gusev, but New Jersey couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Moments later, Kuraly worked the puck down low and squibbed it through Blackwood into the crease and off Sami Vatanen’s skate, whereby Joakim Nordstrom (4) poked the loose puck over the goal line to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Kuraly (12) and Carlo (9) tallied the assists on Nordstrom’s goal at 4:27 of the second period and Boston led, 2-0.

Almost midway through the middle frame, New Jersey sustained offensive zone pressure for a solid few minutes.

The Devils re-entered the attacking zone on a quick break while the Bruins were in the midst of a line change, as Blake Coleman dropped the puck back to Gusev for a give-and-go back to Coleman (12) for the one-timer goal at 8:58.

Gusev (16) and Vatanen (16) had the assists on Coleman’s goal as New Jersey cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Travis Zajac went to the penalty box for tripping Marchand at 9:07, but Boston’s resulting power play was short lived as Grzelcyk tripped up Nico Hischier at 9:20.

The two sides played 1:47 of 4-on-4 action before the Devils had an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play.

Entering the second intermission, the Bruins led the Devils, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 23-22, in shots on goal– despite New Jersey holding the, 12-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (9-6), while the Devils led in takeaways (4-3), giveaways (8-4), hits (15-7) and faceoff win% (55-45).

New Jersey went 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage after 40 minutes played.

Lauzon opened things up in the final frame of regulation with an interference minor against Miles Wood at 2:34 of the third period.

New Jersey didn’t score on the ensuing power play.

Almost midway through the third period, Nordstrom tripped up Mirco Mueller and was sent to the sin bin at 7:55, but once again the Devils couldn’t convert on the skater advantage.

A few minutes past the midpoint in the third period, Jesper Bratt (8) tipped in a shot from Subban by standing right in front of Halak– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Subban (5) and Hischier (15) notched the assists on Bratt’s goal at 13:11 and New Jersey was in full swing with momentum on their side.

Neither team took another penalty until overtime and the two teams finished regulation tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard with the Devils leading in shots on goal, 41-28– including a, 19-5, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (15-13), takeaways (9-8) and faceoff win% (51-49), while New Jersey led in giveaways (14-5) and hits (19-13).

The Devils were 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into overtime.

Cassidy started Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and Moore in the extra frame for Boston, while Alain Nasreddine began overtime with Hischier, Damon Severson and Vatanen on the ice.

Late in the overtime period, Bratt hooked Kuraly and was assessed a minor infraction at 4:48.

As a result, Cassidy used his timeout with 11.6 seconds left in overtime to drum up a plan if the Bruins won the ensuing draw and could muster a shot on goal before time expired.

At the horn, the B’s and Devils were heading for a shootout, tied, 2-2, through 65 minutes of action.

New Jersey finished the effort leading in shots on goal (44-30), giveaways (14-5) and hits (19-13), while Boston led in blocked shots (16-14).

The two sides were even in faceoff win% (50-50), while the Devils went 0/4 and the Bruins went 1/3 on the power play.

Nasreddine elected to shoot first in the shootout and sent Gusev out to face Halak in the opening round, but Gusev shot the puck square at the B’s goaltender.

Cassidy responded with Coyle to kick things off for Boston in the shootout, but Coyle missed the net after deking and losing the puck off his forehand while losing an edge in front of the crease.

Jesper Boqvist shot second for New Jersey and fired a shot directly at Halak.

Pastrnak was next up for Boston, but was denied by Blackwood as the Devils goaltender made a glove save while falling as Pastrnak stickhandled the puck and let it fly.

Devils forward, Kyle Palmieri, began the third round of the shootout with a shot off Halak’s glove and wide.

Palmieri was followed by Marchand in the third round of the shootout and for once the Bruins winger didn’t opt for a five-hole attempt.

Instead, Marchand rang the post over Blackwood’s blocker.

Through three rounds of the shootout, the two clubs were knotted, 0-0.

Wayne Simmonds began the fourth round of the shootout with an attempt at wrapping the puck around Halak’s outstretched legs, but Halak shut the door between the post and his skate.

Cassidy sent out DeBrusk to break up the deadlock, but DeBrusk crashed the net with speed and was denied by Blackwood’s leg pad as the New Jersey goaltender cut down on the angle of DeBrusk’s approach by playing out of the crease a little.

Just as it seemed like a shootout from hell, the Devils elected to utilize Jack Hughes’ skillset in the fifth round of the shootout.

Hughes dangled the puck and got Halak to commit to a hybrid stance before firing a shot below Halak’s glove and inside the post for the first goal of the shootout– putting New Jersey in command.

Not to be outdone, noted Bruins fourth liner, Chris Wagner, was sent out to tie the shootout and did just that after a nifty dangle to his backhand before roofing the puck over Blackwood and through the top-shelf– tying the shootout, 1-1, after five rounds.

In a grand twist from the other night’s own-goal in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Severson was sent out onto the ice to try to give New Jersey control of their own destiny and the Hockey Gods responded in kind.

Severson deked and scored a goal that was reminiscent of Wagner’s only about a minute prior with a backhand that he elevated over Halak to put the Devils ahead in the shootout, 2-1.

With the game on his stick, Bergeron had to score to extend the shootout, but Blackwood snagged the puck out of mid-air with his glove– denying Bergeron of yet another shootout goal.

No. 37 in black and gold hasn’t scored a shootout goal in about five calendar years as the Devils emerged with the, 3-2, shootout victory on home ice.

The B’s fell to 18-1-2 when having a two-goal lead at any time this season and fell to 0-6 in shootouts this season, while New Jersey improved to 2-4 overall past overtime.

The Bruins fell to 17-5-6 when scoring the game’s first goal, 15-3-2 when leading after the first period and 13-0-4 when leading after two periods this season.

Boston kicks off 2020 with a two-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday and Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before making a quick visit to Nashville to face the Predators next Tuesday.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #174- Coaching Conundrums

Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #173- Rage Against The Other Team

The Philadelphia Flyers are all the rage these days, the Carolina Hurricanes are still causing a storm, what’s bedeviling the New Jersey Devils and, uh, is Sergei Bobrovsky still good?

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

B’s, Rask, shutout Devils, 3-0, in home opener

Tuukka Rask picked up his first shutout of the season, while Brad Marchand had a milestone night at TD Garden in the Boston Bruins’, 3-0, victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

Rask (3-0-0, 1.33 goals against average, .957 save percentage in three games played) turned aside 31 shots out of the 31 shots he faced for his 1st shutout of the season and 46th of his career.

New Jersey netminder, Cory Schneider (0-2-0, 3.31 GAA, .897 SV% in three games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against (.906 SV%) in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 4-1-0 (8 points) and moved into sole possession of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Devils fell to 0-3-2 (2 points) on the season and 8th place in the Metropolitan Division.

Boston also improved to 14-2-1 in their last 17 home games against New Jersey.

Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were the only Bruins skaters out of the lineup due to injury.

Meanwhile, Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, reinserted Brett Ritchie on the third line with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle, while scratching David Backes in the process.

Backes joined Par Lindholm and Steven Kampfer as the B’s trio of healthy scratches in the press box.

Early in the first period, Marchand (4) gave the Bruins with the game’s first goal with a shot off from the point that deflected off of Devils defender, Damon Severson, and went past Schneider while Patrice Bergeron was screening the New Jersey goaltender.

David Pastrnak (4) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 3:33 of the first period.

Just past the midpoint of the opening frame, Joakim Nordstrom (1) tallied his first goal of the season in just his second game of the year since returning from injury.

Chris Wagner got a piece of the puck in the low slot, but it bounced off his stick towards Nordstrom, whereby the left winger pocketed the loose puck to give Boston a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 11:22.

Wagner (1) and Sean Kuraly (2) had the assists on Nordstrom’s goal.

Moments later, Kuraly went to the penalty box for hooking Devils forward, Miles Wood, at 15:24, but New Jersey wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

With less than 20 seconds left in the period, New Jersey defender, Mirco Mueller, was penalized for interference against Coyle and the Bruins went on their first power play of the night at 19:43.

Boston’s skater advantage, however, would extend into the second period as the B’s weren’t able to capitalize on the power play by the end of the first 20 minutes.

After one period of play, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 15-10, in shots on goal. Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2) and hits (11-2), while New Jersey led in takeaways (5-4).

Both teams had two giveaways each and were split in faceoff win percentage, 50-50.

The Devils and B’s were both 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.

Connor Carrick kicked things off in the middle frame with a tripping minor after the New Jersey defender brought down Karson Kuhlman at 6:12 of the second period.

Boston did not score on the ensuing skater advantage and followed things up with a penalty of their own at 9:19, as Brandon Carlo was caught behind the play and hooked Jack Hughes.

The Devils were powerless on their second power play of the night.

Midway through the second period, Pastrnak served Boston’s bench minor for a faceoff violation delay of game penalty at 13:52.

New Jersey couldn’t muster anything on the resulting skater advantage and Pastrnak was freed from the box without any issue.

Late in the period, Kyle Palmieri tripped Charlie McAvoy and was sent to the sin bin with an infraction for tripping at 18:59.

Less than 20 seconds into their third power play of the night, Boston scored as Bergeron (1) scored his first game of the season, following up on a loose puck from point blank with a backhand tap-in after Jake DeBrusk got the initial chance that rebounded.

DeBrusk (1) and Marchand (3) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal, giving Marchand 300 assists in his career as a result.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 3-0, while the Devils led in shots on goal, 25-24, including a, 15-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Boston led in every other statistical category entering the second intermission, including blocked shots (8-6), takeaways (8-7), giveaways (9-4), hits (21-8) and faceoff win% (55-45).

New Jersey was 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.

Aside from Kevin Rooney going over the boards and into Boston’s bench after missing a hit on DeBrusk early in the third period, not much happened in the third period.

Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, was penalized for holding against Nico Hischier at 11:15 of the third, but the Devils failed to capitalize on the power play yet again.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-31, including an, 8-6, advantage in the third period alone), blocked shots (13-11), giveaways (10-7), hits (23-11) and faceoff win% (54-46).

New Jersey went 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/3 on special teams with the skater advantage.

Chara played in the 1,490th game of his NHL career, passing Wayne Gretzky for 23rd all time. Phil Housley is next on the list with 1,495 career NHL games played.

Rask became the first goaltender to record a shutout in Boston’s home opener since Gilles Gilbert on Oct. 11, 1979 and just the fourth netminder to do so in franchise history, while recording the most saves in a shutout performance by a Bruins goaltender in a home opener since the statistic began being tracked in the 1955-56 season.

The B’s host the Anaheim Ducks Monday afternoon in Boston’s first matinee meeting of the season, then the Tampa Bay Lightning pay their first visit to TD Garden on Thursday before the Bruins travel to Toronto for a home and home series on Oct. 19th in Toronto and Oct. 22nd in Boston.

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New Jersey Devils 2019-20 Season Preview

New Jersey Devils

31-41-10, 72 points, 8th in the Metropolitan Division

Missed the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons

Additions: F Nikia Gusev (acquired from VGK), F John Hayden (acquired from CHI), F Wayne Simmonds, F Ben Street, D Dakota Mermis, D P.K. Subban (acquired from NSH), D Matt Tennyson

Subtractions: F Kenny Agostino (signed with TOR), F Kurtis Gabriel (signed with PHI), F Adam Helewka (KHL), F Nick Lappin (signed with STL), F Stefan Noesen (signed a PTO with DAL), F Blake Pietila (signed with ANA), F John Quenneville (traded to CHI), F Eric Tangradi (KHL), D Jeremy Davies (traded to NSH), D Ryan Murphy (KHL), D Steven Santini (traded to NSH), D John Ramage (KHL), D Egor Yakovlev (KHL), G Cam Johnson (signed with Milwaukee, AHL)

Still unsigned: F Drew Stafford, F Pavel Zacha, D Eric Gryba, G Eddie Lack

Re-signed: F Brandon Baddock, D Will Butcher, D Connor Carrick, D Josh Jacobs, D Mirco Mueller

Offseason Analysis: Ray Shero is an active General Manager and he was quite the active dealer this offseason– most recently acquiring Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2020 3rd round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick, while also sending Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 2nd round pick to the Nashville Predators to acquire P.K. Subban in June.

Gusev signed a two-year deal worth $4.500 million per season to begin his NHL career at the age of 27, while Subban joins New Jersey with three years remaining on his eight-year, $72 million contract that he originally signed as an extension with the Montreal Canadiens on August 2, 2014 before being traded to Nashville in June 2016.

Shero then went on to sign Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5.000 million contract in free agency in an effort to bolster New Jersey’s top-six forwards.

Taylor Hall is a pending-unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

It’s not known whether or not the 2018 Hart Trophy winner has any desire to stay with the Devils or not, but Shero’s making every effort to keep his team relevant for what’s likely to be the rest of Hall’s prime.

Adding Jack Hughes with the 1st overall selection in the 2019 Draft is sure to help, while Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt come into their own among the forwards and Will Butcher (signed to a three-year extension this offseason worth $3.733 million per season) and Subban lead the new-age Devils blue line from the backend.

Pavel Zacha, the 22-year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic, scored 24 points in 70 games in his rookie season of 2016-17 and 25 points in each of the last two seasons (8-17–25 totals in 69 games in 2017-18 and 13-12–25 totals in 61 games in 2018-19).

Zacha is currently an unsigned-restricted free agent who should fit under New Jersey’s $8.712 million in currently available cap space, but shouldn’t be more than a one or two-year bridge deal as he has yet to prove himself of a larger role and the Devils are looking to avoid restricting themselves from next summer’s negotiations with Hall, Simmonds and others.

The one thing Shero hasn’t touched– mostly because he can’t– is goaltending.

Cory Schneider has a $6.000 million cap hit and three-years remaining on his contract and is coming off a career-worst, 3.06 goals against average and .903 save percentage in 26 games played as an NHL regular goaltender.

Mackenzie Blackwood emerged with a hot start to the season in 2018-19, but was limited both by the lack of protection in front of him, as well as injury, to just 23 games and a 2.61 GAA and a .918 SV% in his rookie campaign.

Blackwood’s .918 SV% is promising, but his 2.61 GAA is more endemic of an anemic defense the Devils are looking to get more out of– hence the addition of Subban.

Offseason Grade C+

New Jersey played it safe this offseason by not overpaying for a free agent (Simmonds), while keeping the term short and sweet– leaving the door open for further relations if it is mutually beneficial, but also at risk of being left for someone else if Simmonds looks to cash-in on a superb 2019-20 season elsewhere.

Shero bolstered his defense out of necessity, but might not have a playoff-ready roster without more work to be done. If the Devils were a yearly playoff contender, this offseason would look much better than it actually is. Sadly, it’s just a little above average for a team in transition from free-fall to “stable” rebuilder.