Philadelphia — The New Jersey Devils made their way down to Broad Street to take on the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night.
The Flyers struck first, quickly getting on the board just over two minutes into the first period. Bobby Brink skated the puck below the Devils’ hashmark and fed Wade Allison for the easy tap-in to take a 1-0 lead. Curtis Lazar tied the game toward the middle of the first period, however, on a nifty assist from Tyce Thompson. With the clock ticking down in the opening frame, Timo Meier found Alexander Holtz in the slot and the 21-year-old Swede didn’t miss as New Jersey took a 2-1 lead.
The middle frame went scoreless despite a few chances on each end of the ice. Flyers goaltender Carter Hart made key saves on Holtz and Erik Haula, while Vanecek did the same on the Devils penalty kill.
The third frame looked as though it was going to be similar to the second. However, with about three minutes left in regulation, Rhett Gardner found the puck in the slot and tied the game.
Haula called game in overtime, beating Hart over his left shoulder on a nifty assist from Dawson Mercer. Vanecek ended the 60-plus minute effort by making 29 saves on 31 shots. Hart stopped 19 of 22 pucks faced.
Sloppy Start for New Jersey
Typically, we’re used to the Devils setting the tone and controlling the pace. However, in Philadelphia, the Flyers staying true to their identity applied their grinding style of hockey. New Jersey found themselves a bit on their heels, thus Allison scoring quickly. In an effort to push Philly back, Cal Foote made a pinch play that left Michael Vukojevic all alone in a high-danger area and the Flyers made him pay.
Minutes later, the Devils couldn’t stave off the Flyers momentum as Thompson headed to the penalty box for tripping. The Devils were able to kill off the penalty. However, even Nico Hischier couldn’t escape a sloppy first period. The Devils captain took a tripping penalty just under the 15-minute mark of the first.
A few failed clearing attempts in their own zone forced Vanecek to step up and make a save he shouldn’t have had to as well. The good news is it’s still just the preseason and only 50% of the regular season roster was on the ice. Better to work these things out now than on October 12th.
Tyce Thompson Continues Making a Case for Himself
Okay yes, we just spoke about how Thompson put himself in the box for tripping when the Devils were already on their heels. However, Thompson surely made up for his penalty. Exiting the box, the 24-year-old forward pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and started an odd-man rush the other way. Displaying incredible patience, Thompson fed Lazar through a defender back door for an easy tap-in to tie the game.
“He’s got good foot speed,” said Lazar explaining what makes Thompson stand out. “He’s got that offensive touch. What I’ve been impressed with is his willingness to mix it up. He plays hard and plays strong. Tyce plays both ends of the ice. That’s the stuff that you need to do. He’s got a great attitude. We love seeing him around here having fun. Those types of guys, they’re energetic, but when you have that skill that he does, I guess it runs in the family. It’s pretty cool to see.”
Thompson has been able to make himself noticed positively this September. During Saturday’s contest, Thompson led all of New Jersey with 55.56 CF% and was second with a 49.89 xGF%, according to Natural Stat Trick.
He’s been unafraid to bang bodies, he forechecks well, and has an offensive flare about him that could certainly work in New Jersey’s bottom six somewhere.
Thompson survived a round of cuts already. Utica is set to open its training in the upcoming week. We’ll see if Thompson can remain with the varsity squad.
Meier, Hischier, & Holtz Blunder
The one line that Head Coach Lindy Ruff has kept together all preseason is Meier, Hischier, and Holtz. Ruff continues to preach chemistry and the trio certainly continues to build it. Holtz’s second goal of the preseason is the second time Meier has fed him while streaking through the slot.
Their analytics weren’t great, suggesting the line was out-chanced 6-17. The eye test suggested they didn’t play as bad as that sounds. However, coach Ruff wasn’t impressed with the trio on Saturday.
“Honestly, I don’t think the line was that great (tonight),” Ruff explained. “In the previous game, they were really good. But, I thought all three of them didn’t get much done. They took advantage of one really good opportunity.”
It’s one preseason game at the end of September. It’s nothing to be overly concerned about just yet. The good news is they were able to strike early in the game. Even the best of lines in the NHL have off nights. The good news is it’s not on Holtz alone as the Devils prospect still appears to have the inside track to a roster spot.
- The wo goals Vanecek gave up isn’t even a blemish on his record. He remained calm in the crease and made a few big saves for New Jersey. With three preseason games remaining, Vanecek and Akira Schmid both look strong.
- Brendan Smith’s rough preseason continues. He lost a puck battle behind Vanecek’s net late in the third that directly resulted in the tying goal. He’s yet to turn things around.
- The Devils are 4-0-0 in the preseason.