Newark, NJ — On the second leg of a back-to-back, the New Jersey Devils hosted the Arizona Coyotes in their second game of the regular season. It was an ugly tilt that saw the Devils fall to the Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout.
Devils Quick Wrap
Coyotes newcomer, Mathew Dumba, got the scoring started 6:22 into the first period, beating Akira Schmid’s glove side. Schmid had to be strong to keep the Devils within reach at just 1-0 after 20 minutes of play. However, just three minutes into the second period, Sean Durzi’s power-play goal gave Arizona a 2-0 lead. Jesper Bratt cut the Coyotes’ momentum, however, scoring New Jersey’s first goal during 4-on-4 play. After a plethora of penalties in the second period, New Jersey took advantage during 4-on-3 play as Dougie Hamilton tied the game at two. Back on the power play, Bratt scored his second goal of the game to give New Jersey their first lead at 3-2. With just over six minutes remaining in the third period, Nick Schmaltz tied the game once more with Arizona on the man advantage.
The Devils and Coyotes went to overtime, however, it wasn’t enough to settle the score. In the shootout, Karel Vejmelka stopped both Bratt and Timo Meier while Schmid allowed goals to Schmaltz and Nick Bjugstad in the loss.
Schmid ended the game by making 31 saves on 34 shots. Vejmelka stopped 33 of 36 pucks faced.
Another Slow Start
Despite all their success last season, New Jersey had a bad habit of starting games on their heels. Those slow starts crept their way into the Devils season opener on Thursday. That trend continued again on Friday with the Coyotes in town.
New Jersey’s cohesiveness in the preseason hasn’t made itself present in the regular season. In Friday’s first period, the forwards looked disorganized, unable to cleanly transition the puck up the ice and away from danger. Their breakout passes wouldn’t connect and they continued to struggle to set up offense in Arizona’s end of the ice. As a result, Arizona left the first period with a 1-0 lead, outshooting the Devils 14-8 in the opening frame.
New Jersey’s slow start continued in the second period. Just three minutes into the middle frame, Jonas Siegenthaler took an undisciplined interference penalty. With a blast from the point on the power play, Durzi made the Devils pay giving them a 2-0 lead. A chaotic remainder of the period saw the ice tilt more evenly. However, the slow starts have been an anchor in New Jersey through their first two games.
“It’s definitely something we have to work on, (our) start of the game,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff explained. “Where we put the puck, winning the draws, puck possession. I thought we gave pucks away. We were careless with the puck. Our puck management wasn’t good early. That led to led to (offensive) zone time by them. If you don’t manage the puck well, you don’t have it. We didn’t manage it well early. We (eventually) got going but it took until the latter half of the first and into the second (period).”
So… That Second Period…
We can’t talk about this game without asking the following question:
What was that second period?
The middle frame of Friday night’s game lost all of its control after Siegenthaler took an initial tripping penalty that led to eight more infractions between both teams.
Luckily for New Jersey, the Coyotes were just as undisciplined as the Devils. However, Bratt found his scoring touch, scoring once at even strength and then again on the power play, his first and second goals of the season. Bratt collected a third point in the period as well, assisting Hamilton’s goal to tie the game at two.
Regardless, New Jersey got away with killing five out of seven of their own penalties Friday night. They’ll need to clean it up moving forward.
“There were a lot of crazy calls both ways,” said Ruff. “A lot of penalties. It seems like a lot of marginal stuff is getting called so our discipline has to be better.”
It felt an awful lot like Groundhog Day on Friday. Much like the Vitek Vanecek facing the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, the only thing keeping the Coyotes at bay on Friday was Akira Schmid.
Although the preference is to have the Devils play better in front of their goaltender, it’s refreshing to Devils fans that their goaltending is keeping them in games. Through the first two periods of play, Schmid stopped 22 out of 24 pucks he faced. If not for the 23-year-old netminder, Arizona surely could have been leading the game after the second period. According to MoneyPuck, the Coyotes peppered Schmid for about three expected goals against through 40 minutes. After 60 minutes and overtime play, Schmid made 1.59 goals saved above expected.
In his first start of the season, Schmid got back to his calm, cool, and collected ways. He tracked pucks well, his rebound control was excellent, and he even helped New Jersey clear pucks out of the defensive zone. The loss isn’t on him whatsoever, but despite the strong performance, Schmid humbly said he could have made one more save.
“Physically, I felt good,” Schmid explained following his first start of the season. “I think I could have had some better handles. Maybe one more save just because you sometimes need that.”
Bass is Back
General Manager Tom Fitzgerald brought in Tomas Nosek this summer, adding to an already crowded New Jersey bottom six. Between Nosek, Curtis Lazar, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian, New Jersey’s fourth line is bound to have plenty of different looks this season, however, McLeod is likely the only constant.
Lazar drew into Game One of the regular season alongside McLeod and Nosek. In Game Two, Bastian replaced Lazar who would watch from the press box despite playing well the night before. Bastian didn’t start training camp 100% healthy and was eased into play. After a few preseason reps and by the regular season’s second game, Ruff declared Bastian 100% healthy.
Due to a high volume of penalties in the second game of the season, Bastian saw limited ice time. However, he was effective in his 9:15 of ice time. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Devils out-chanced the Yotes 9-8 with Bass on the ice.
Bastian and McLeod continued to do what they do best on Friday night. Bang bodies, forecheck, nag puck carriers, and force turnovers.
- After collecting a pair of goals on Thursday, Hughes collected three assists Friday night.
- New Jersey had three players contribute five or more shots on goal. Jack Hughes (6), Tyler Toffoli (5), and Brendan Smith (5)
- Toffoli, Hughes, and Bratt had another strong game, out-chancing their opponents 17-6, a 73.91 CF%.
- McLeod won 71.4% of faceoffs taking 10 of 14 draws in the dot.