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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Jack Hughes’ OT-Winner Lifts Devils Past Bruins



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Newark — The Boston Bruins came to Newark looking a bit different in their first meeting with the New Jersey Devils. That was no matter to Jack Hughes who took the game into his own hands in overtime. More on that later.

There’s no Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci after each Bruins legend retired this summer. Charlie McAvoy is on the shelf with an injury. And Taylor Hall is now a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Still, Boston came into New Jersey with arguably the best goaltending duo in the league, something the Devils cannot say for themselves.

Former Devil Pavel Zacha missed this tilt with an upper-body injury. And although Jesper Boqvist is on recall, he was a healthy scratch. The only player facing their former club was Erik Haula who returned to the lineup from injury.

Let’s dive into the Devils’2-1 victory in overtime.

Devils Quick Wrap

Much of the first period saw the Devils and Bruins trading chances back and forth. Momentum swung both ways at separate points of the opening frame until Boston converted on a late-period goal on the stick of Morgan Geekie to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. The middle frame went scoreless, however, the Devils made up for it quickly with a goal by Dawson Mercer that tied the game at one. The Devils and Bruins went to overtime after they couldn’t settle this one in regulation. Jack Hughes streaking to the slot during 3-on-3 play received a pass from Jesper Bratt and beat Jeremy Swayman to secure two points for the Devils.

Vitek Vanecek was strong in the 23-save performance. Jeremy Swayman was as well, stopping 33 pucks.


Rebound Control

The opening frame certainly wasn’t the Devils’ best of the season. However, it wasn’t their worst, either.

Geekie put the Bruins up 1-0 when the Dawson Mercer line became hemmed in their end. The forwards lost a couple of puck battles, as did the defensive pairing of Luke Hughes and Colin Miller.

However, the five Devils on the ice didn’t necessarily give up many high-danger chances. The only reason why Geekie converted at the top of the Devils’ crease was a direct result of a blown save by Vanecek.

A puck on net from above the dots by James van Riemsdyk should have been gloved down by Vanecek who was square to the shot. Instead, he fumbled the puck and left it on the tape of Geekie who scored on the rebound.

Could the Devils have done a better job clearing the defensive zone? Sure. However, this is what’s hindering the Devils. When they need a save, Vanecek isn’t providing them and ultimately, it causes the Devils to trail when they really shouldn’t be.

Vanecek will have to figure out the rebound control, especially when New Jersey is in a crucial matchup with the likes of a team like the Bruins.

To his credit, Vanecek did make a few significant stops later in the game. He actually played really strong throughout the rest of the game. He just has a knack for making mistakes at crucial times.

Did I mention John Gibson is in town this week?

“Hey Timo, There’s a Hockey Game Going On!”

Fans of the Devils have made it very clear that they’re underwhelmed with the production of Timo Meier.

For starters, expecting more out of Meier as the highest-paid forward in New Jersey is understandable. The fact of the matter is that the power forward was extended long-term to score goals. Unfortunately, they’re just not dropping for him right now.

Since his return from injury, Meier has not a single point in five games.

However, when a fan from the stands shouted, “Hey Timo, there’s a hockey game going on,” the timing wasn’t quite right. The Devils forward was engaged, skating well, and creating scoring chances. The truth is he was one of the only Devils doing that.

At the time of the comment, Meier had a positive 4-2 scoring differential and led the Devils with four shots on net halfway through the second period.

He could stand to be a bit more physical and disruptive in the slot when the Devils are on the opposition’s end of the ice. Regardless, through the first 40 minutes of the game, Meier was one of New Jersey’s best chance creators. Maybe he’s not the best fit with Jack Hughes after that line only accrued a 30.13 xGF%, however, he certainly meshed well on Nico Hischier’s line accruing a 66.24 xGF% according to Natural Stat Trick.

P.S. Ruff has been on the record on multiple occasions that Meier isn’t 100% despite playing nightly. Right before he became injured, Meier scored a goal in three straight games. The angst for him to get going is understandable and at some point, the excuses won’t hold up in court, but Meier was one of the stronger players on Wednesday.

Even Strength Hot, Power Play Cold

Contrary to having the best power play percentage in the NHL, the Devils have struggled of late on the man advantage. In their last six games, the Devils have received 15 power play opportunities and have only converted on two of them. They went 0/2 on Wednesday. Perhaps that has to do with Jack Hughes only collecting one point on the man-advantage in that span.

Luckily, the Devils played well at 5-on-5. New Jersey controlled the majority of the play, maintaining puck possession and winning the chance differential 24-20.

It’s not just the offensive stats that were encouraging against the Bruins, either. The Devils played really well defensively which is likely what translated to Vanecek’s strong performance.

The duo of Kevin Bahl and John Marino played exceptionally well. The Devils defensive pair saw most of their deployment against David Pastrnak and the Bruins’ first line. The duo suppressed the Bruins’ first line all night, keeping them off the board in their deployment.

Bahl and Marino accrued an excellent 79.4 CF%, 1.393 on-ice xGF, and 0.362 on-ice xGA, according to MoneyPuck.

It was a close-knit, low-scoring affair between two of the NHL’s best teams, albeit Boston was without a couple of their top guys. Still, it was an encouraging win for the Devils who are now winners in four of their last five games.

Quick Shifts

  • Lindy Ruff ties Ken Hitchcock for fourth all-time in wins with his 849th NHL victory.
  • Per NHL Pr, Jack Hughes “scored his 13th career game-winning goal, surpassing John MacLean and Zach Parise for sole possession of second most in franchise history before age 23. Only Petr Sykora had more (15).”
  • Jesper Bratt extended his point streak to six games with a primary assist on the overtime-winning goal.
  • Vanecek was credited with the secondary assist on Jack’s goal in overtime.
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