The New Jersey Devils were winless at Climate Pledge Arena heading into Thursday night.
We haven’t really been able to say this season that a goaltender has stolen two points for New Jersey. We can say that now, thanks to the efforts of Akira Schmid. More on that later.
Let’s dive into the Devils’ 2-1 regulation win in Emerald City.
Devils Quick Wrap
Thursday night’s matchup started pretty evenly between New Jersey and Seattle. The two sides traded chances, although, the Kraken began to pull away in the chance differential toward the middle of the opening frame. However, it was the Devils who struck first on the stick of Ondrej Palt. Tye Kartye opened the second period by getting Seattle on the board. Simon Nemec’s first NHL goal helped the Devils regain the lead later in the second period. The Kraken poured on the pressure in the third frame with 16 shots on net, however, Schmid shut the door making 37 saves through 60 minutes, collecting his fourth win of the season.
Like it Palat
There’s been a decent amount of criticism thrown Palat’s way ever since he arrived in New Jersey. That’s because of his $6 million cap hit he carries since signing two summers ago.
His first season with the Devils wasn’t all that smooth. Palat’s season was derailed by an injury that kept him out of the lineup for 10 weeks. However, this season’s been a bit different.
The 32-year-old veteran skated into Thursday with three goals and 11 points in 23 games. It’s a bit underwhelming for one of the higher-paid players on the Devils. Yet, whenever you ask someone in the Devils’ locker room if they like playing with Pally, the reply is always a glowing review. The consensus on Palat is he makes everyone else a better player.
Palat’s high IQ started the party in Seattle on Thursday. The veteran forward recognized the rush created by a turnover by Seattle in the neutral zone. He quickly broke into the slot and set up shop.
Pally tally gets us going. pic.twitter.com/irLOBC8gya
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 8, 2023
John Marino with the puck just above the hash marks drew the attention of four Kraken defenders, leaving Palat all alone for a tap-in goal from an excellent shot-pass by Marino.
Points are starting to accrue for Palat. He’s now collected five points (three goals and two assists) in his last seven games. He’s doing a little bit of everything this season and, quite frankly, has been one of New Jersey’s best forwards.
Like He’s Been Here Before
Nemec may very well look back to the American Hockey League.
The former second-overall pick is playing with the poise and confidence of a veteran NHLer. Nemec is defending well, transitioning the puck with authority, and creating offense. As a result, he scored his first NHL goal in Seattle.
With the Devils pressuring in Seattle’s end and the puck below the goal line, Nemec read the play well and took advantage.
Jesper Bratt handled the puck behind Grubauer and drew the attention of three Kraken defenders. With all eyes on Bratt, Nemec slipped into the slot, received the pass from the Devils forward, and fired a shot past Grubauer to regain the Devils’ lead.
Welcome to the league, Simon Nemec! 👏 pic.twitter.com/SYqCoQSGKW
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 8, 2023
It was a display of high IQ from Nemec, recognizing where the attention was drawn and the open ice that was available.
The loss of Dougie Hamilton is certainly a difficult one, but Nemec has thus far seamlessly fit in on the Devils’ top pair. If he keeps this up, it’s hard to imagine him away from the NHL roster.
Faith in Young Blue Liners
You know, for a guy who claimed he didn’t want the blue line to get “too young too fast,” head coach Lindy Ruff had no problem rolling both of his rookie defensemen out more than almost anyone else.
Following the middle frame, no defenseman had more time on ice than Nemec (14:09) and Luke Hughes (14:18). That changed a bit in the third period with the Kraken putting on the pressure, however, Nemec and Hughes ended the night with the third and fourth most time on ice with a respective 20:16 and 19:55.
It’s not a coincidence either. Nemec and Hughes, despite their rookie tags, continue to play with poise and confidence and were among the best players on the ice Thursday night.
Akira Stole the Show
The Devils very likely didn’t deserve to win this game. It’s one of the few times that Devils fans will likely agree with MoneyPuck’s Win O’Meter.
The Devils were out-chanced all night with the Kraken controlling the chance differential 31-18. Their 58.00 CF% and 59.11 xGF% prove that they probably should have had more than just Kartye’s loan goal in the second period.
In the third period alone, Seattle heavily outshot the Devils 16-3, however, Schmid stood tall with the help of a post or two to keep the puck out of the net.
The Kraken were expected to score 3.22 goals, however, Schmid finished the night with 2.22 goals saved above expected.
It’s the first time we can definitively say this season that a Devils goaltender stole a win.
- Nemec’s goal made him the second-youngest Slovakian-born defenseman to score an NHL goal behind only Kristian Kudroc (19 years, 256 days).