Ruh-roh. First, the New Jersey Devils lost Nico Hischier and now Jack Hughes to injury.
The Devils played their second game in as many nights on Friday. Michael McLeod and the Devils defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday and made their way to St. Louis to take on the Blues shortly after. It was Vitek Vanecek who got the nod, his third in a row against the Wild. That means Akira Schmid started on Friday against the Blues, his first game action in over a week. Let’s dive into the Devils 4-1 loss against the Blues.
Devils Quick Wrap
A pair of quick goals by the Blues in the first period by Jake Neighbors and Kevin Hayes gave the Blues an early 2-0 lead. However, Curtis Lazar scored his first of the season toward the end of the second period to send the game into the third period with a one-goal difference. Jordan Binnington and the Blues locked down the hampered Devils however, as the Blues deposited two empty-net goals and Binnington stopped all 16 shots he saw in the third period. Binnington ended the contest making 33 saves on 34 shots. Akira Schmid made 31 saves on 33 shots for New Jersey.
Devils Lose Hughes
It’s safe to say that every Devils fan’s nightmare came true on Friday. The NHL leading scorer and New Jersey’s franchise forward Jack Hughes sustained an upper-body injury.
Hughes slid hard into the end boards after gaining the St. Louis zone for a scoring chance. The Devils’ forward hit the right side of his body following the collision and stayed down on the ice for about 20 seconds. Hughes stayed on the bench and took his next shift, a 59-second tour de Enterprise Center, however, headed down the tunnel shortly after and did not return.
New Jersey is already without captain Nico Hischier as he sustained an injury against the Buffalo Sabres a week ago. As a result, the Devils now face the reality that they could be without both of their top six centers early into the regular season.
System Kind of Broke Down, Huh?
Schmid, indeed, did what he could against the Blues to keep them off the board.
The Devils goaltender helped the team in front of him. Unfortunately, New Jersey didn’t help out Schmid.
The Blues’ first goal was certainly a classic defensive breakdown. Kevin Bahl pinched too high, lost an embarrassing puck battle, and allowed a two-on-one chance in which John Marino was left high and dry. As a result, Jake Neighbors beat Schmid on the semi-breakaway.
St. Louis’ second goal, however, is much more problematic. The Devils were hemmed in their own end with the Blues controlling the puck. A shot from the point was initially stopped by Schmid. Yet, Brendan Smith and Jonas Siegenthaler were unable to clear bodies from the top of Schmid’s crease, making minimal effort to do so, and Hayes gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead.
That 'first goal as a Blue' feeling. pic.twitter.com/2W0wgj566A
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) November 4, 2023
Consequently, Siegenthaler and Smith were benched for the remainder of the second period following the dismal effort.
Remaining Devils Not Enough
With no Hughes and Hischier not on the road trip, the Devils had to rely on the remaining cast to try and mount the comeback. Lazar did what he could in the second period, making an excellent effort on the Devils’ only goal of the game.
Despite their losses, New Jersey still has the luxury to ice elite forwards. Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier will now have to take on a heftier load, and to an extent, Tyler Toffoli. That trio of forwards each had strong games on the positive side of the chance differential, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Even before Hughes’ injury, the Devils didn’t have the best start. It’s their second game in back-to-back nights and the Blues certainly looked like they had fresher legs. New Jersey went down 2-0 midway through the game and the comeback was too difficult to mount down their best player.
The Devils were out-shot by the Blues in the first two periods of play. By the end of the 60-minute effort, St. Louis out-shot New Jersey 35-34.
The stars didn’t align for New Jersey to win this one.
- Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier saw their point streaks end at eight and six games respectively.
- Bratt stepped up with the bench short skating for 23:02 on Friday.
- The Devils went 0/1 on the power play.