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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Daws Leads Devils to First Back-to-Back Victories in 2023-24

Nico Daws won his second game in as many nights, Timo Meier scored the game-winning goal in the third period.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Back-to-back wins for the New Jersey Devils? In this economy?

You bet.

The Devils faced the Nashville Predators in their second game in as many nights on Tuesday. One of the many grueling storylines of the 2023-24 season has been New Jersey’s inability to collect points in the second half of back-to-back contests. However, the Devils are finally mostly healthy for the first time in a long time. As a result, New Jersey is piling up points down the stretch and find themselves inching closer and closer to playoff position.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 4-2 victory over the Predators.

Devils Recap

The Devils went to an early penalty kill and as a result, fell behind 1-0 on the stick of Ryan O’Reilly less than five minutes into the first period. The Devils largely dominated the remainder of the first and quickly got on the board in the second thanks to Jack Hughes. Yet, Tommy Novak answered for the Preds and they regained their one-goal lead heading into the final frame. Nashville’s lead in the third period wasn’t for long after Nico Hischier tied the game at two just two minutes into the third period. Then, finally, for the first time since December, Timo Meier scored to give the Devils their first lead. The Devils captain hit the empty net to secure New Jersey’s victory as they took two points back to Newark.

Nico Daws won his second game in as many nights making 30 saves on 32 shots.


Fast Start

The Devils were scored on first, yet for once it was the exception to the Devils’ rule for this season.

The Predators went to an early power play due to a high stick by Tomas Nosek. Daws left a fat rebound that O’Reilly pounced on to give the Preds a quick lead.

However, outside of the penalty kill, the Devils pretty much dominated the first period. An easy indicator of their Devils’ dominance was the positive 22-12 shot differential at the end of the opening frame. The Devils put more low-quality than high-quality shots on net in the opening 20 minutes, however, Juuse Saros was still forced to make 1.25 saves above expected.

Pucks on net are never a bad thing. Yet, the Devils only had about six quality chances below the dots and in the slot on Nashville’s end of the ice. Just a little more havoc in the slot will go a long way for New Jersey.

Neutral Zone Breakdown

The Predators’ second goal of the game resulted from an unfortunate breakdown in the neutral zone.

It started with Timo Meier transitioning the puck over Nashville’s blue line. However, although he entered the zone, four Predators collapsed in on Meier, and Roman Josi stripped him of the puck.

Mistake No.1.

Colin Miller retrieved the loose puck in the neutral zone but stopped moving his feet in the process. His attempt to dump the puck into the Predators’ zone was thwarted by Cody Glass and the puck wound up back on Josi’s stick who found a streaking Tommy Novak heading toward New Jersey’s end of the ice.

Mistake No.2.

The biggest mistake happened before No. 1 and No.2 even started. John Marino headed to the bench for a change before the puck could get deep into Nashville’s zone. When the puck was intercepted as a result, Brendan Smith just hopping over the boards couldn’t recover to make up for the ground given up by Marino’s miscue heading to the bench. As a result, Novak headed for a breakaway opportunity and cashed in to regain the Predators’ lead.

Mistake No.3.

In short, get pucks in deep, move your feet, and don’t opt for a change until the puck is at least below the dots.

Fuel, Fire, Timo Meier

Timo Meier most definitely turned in his best performance of the season.

You could see the player the Devils believed they were acquiring last year beginning to come to his true form since returning from his second injury stint.

Tuesday night felt like the Meier arrived.

The Swiss power forward did a little bit of everything. He scored once on four shots, he created chances for his linemates, he threw three hits, and he blocked shots. There were even quite a few shifts where Meier took over shifts and dominated the puck en route to creating chances for his line.

By the end of regulation, Meier netted the game-winning goal by cleaning up the garbage in the crease.

According to Natural Stat Trick, Meier created a whopping positive 14-6 scoring chances. Among those 14 chances, eight were created in high-danger areas. That reflected in Meier’s 78.08 xGF% by the end of the Devils’ contest with the Preds.

This is the Timo Meier the Devils were waiting for. This is the Timo Meier the Devils need to sneak back into the playoffs.

Rust? What Rust?

Tip of the cap to Nico Daws. Before Monday night, the Devils’ goaltender last suited up on Jan. 25th, almost three weeks in between starts.

That kind of gap in play is bound to create some rust on a player who hasn’t seen regular game action, right?

Not for Daws.

On Monday, Daws secured the victory recording 27 saves on 28 shots. On Tuesday, he started again and was even stronger making 30 saves and one save above expected according to MoneyPuck.

The Devils hadn’t won back-to-back games all season to this point. Now, the Devils finally collected four points in two nights and did so with the same goaltender in net on consecutive nights. Daws’ play continues to paint him as the Devils’ best option moving forward. He certainly proved that as he helped the Devils get off to a great start this week.

“He showed us he can win hockey games,” head coach Lindy Ruff said following the 4-2 victory.

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