10/17/2017 Game 6 Recap: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils

Well, if the Devils had to have just one nationally televised game this season, I’m glad it was this one. The New Jersey Devils (5-1-0) defeated the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning (5-2-0) in a shootout last night, snapping their four-game winning streak. This was the first game that has gone past regulation for the Devils. New Jersey has won five of six games to start the season for the first time since 2008-09; they also did so in 1995-96 and 2002-23 (sound familiar, anyone?).

This was a hard-fought game on both sides and was one of the best games we’ll probably see all season. Both teams got off to fast starts and were put to the test tonight. Fortunately, the Devils were able to outlast their opposition and pick up two points. They were outshot 34-37. Drew Stafford, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos were named the three stars of the game. The Devils won 53.8% of faceoffs and registered 20 hits; Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman both had good nights in the faceoff circle.

Drew Stafford got New Jersey on the board first just two minutes and 45 seconds into the game; rookies Nico Hischier and Will Butcher picked up the assists. Vladislav Namestnikov tied things up about five minutes later, with assists from his top line teammates Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, two guys you might have heard of. Onrej Palat scored to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead but as the Devils have proven time and time again this season, they won’t go down without a fight. Kyle Palmieri tallied his second goal of the season, with assists from Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique on the man advantage to tie things up again. Brian Gibbons gave the Devils their second lead of the game with 52 seconds to go in the first period; the score was 3-2 in favor of the Devils heading into the first intermission.

Kucherov opened the scoring in the second by scoring his eighth goal of the season, and has scored in each of his team’s first seven games of the season, becoming the sixth player in the NHL’s modern era to do so; a guy named Wayne Gretzky is the most recent. Stamkos gave Tampa Bay the lead late in the second and would head into the intermission with a 4-3 lead. But again, the Devils aren’t done yet. Stafford ties things up on the power play with his second goal of the night with less than five minutes left in regulation after Nico Hischier drew a tripping penalty.

So now the game is tied heading into the last few minutes of regulation. Jake Dotchin “punches” Brian Gibbons, no penalty is called, and Pavel Zacha takes matters into his own hands, going after Dotchin. Zacha receives a roughing penalty and Tampa Bay goes on the power play for the rest of regulation. The Devils’ penalty kill (and Cory Schneider) comes up huge and manages to send the game into overtime. I’d applaud Zacha for protecting his teammate but also wish that a penalty had originally been called on Dotchin.

Both teams manage a pair of shots on goal in overtime, which was played 4-on-4. Then with 48 seconds remaining, Adam Henrique takes a clear, ill-timed tripping penalty against Palat and once again, the Devils go on the penalty kill and again, they somehow miraculously kill it off and send the game into a shootout.

Okay, stick with me. We’re almost there. Both goaltenders had great nights, especially in overtime, and that continued in the shootout. The Devils’ Kyle Palmieri was the only shooter to successfully score and thus win the game. Stafford (NJD), (Brayden) Point (TBL), Hall (NJD), Kucherov (TBL), and (Ryan) Callahan (TBL) also took shots.

Nico Hischier had a great night; he picked up a pair of assists and became the youngest player in Devils history, at 18 years and 286 days old, with a multi-point game since Brendan Shanahan in October of 1987 (18 years and 266 days), per StatsCentre. Hischier had one hell of a game tonight; he had multiple excellent scoring chances but Peter Budaj made big saves each time. He’s doing all of the right things and the goals will come.

As mentioned earlier, NHL rookie scoring leader Will Butcher also picked up his ninth assist of the season, becoming the first rookie defenseman in NHL history to record at least nine assists in his first six career games. Butcher has been in all the right places at all the right times and he’s another player who’s been fun to watch.

It’s also hard to state just how important Cory Schneider is for this team, especially against teams who are offensive juggernauts like the Lightning. The Devils never looked like they gave up after giving up a goal or two. As soon as they fell behind, they worked even harder to score the equalizer or to chip away at the lead. And having Schneider in net gives the team that confidence.

Defenseman Steven Santini also had a really good night. He led all skaters in ice time at 25 minutes and 40 seconds; Andy Greene came second with 21 minutes and 50 seconds. He and Stafford led the team in shots on goal with five each. He made the right plays and the right passes, and it felt like he has a ton more confidence on the ice. He had a few big hits as well.

Special teams also played a big role tonight. The Devils were able to score on half of their four power play opportunities, and currently have the best power play in the entire league, at 30.8% successful. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy. Their penalty kill still isn’t great (they also keep taking numerous penalties) but they managed to kill all but one of Tampa Bay’s five power plays, including two huge kills at the end of regulation and the end of overtime.

It was a great game between two teams who are fun to watch. They went back and forth, and gave the fans at The Rock (and those watching at home) a real treat. Here’s to hoping they can continue to do so.

The Devils will be back in action later this week with back-to-back games against the Senators and the Sharks on Thursday and Friday.

(I wanted to apologize for this blog post being super late; I have an econometrics midterm today and didn’t get a chance to write the recap while attempting to study).

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10/17/2017 Game 6 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils (4-1-0) will look to pick up another win on home ice when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-0) at The Rock tonight. This will be the Devils’ only televised game of the season. The Lightning played in Detroit last night and made the trip east to Newark right after.

The Devils have gotten off to a great start, winning four of their first five games. They defeated the Rangers in their last game on Saturday night (recap here); Adam Henrique, Miles Wood, and Drew Stafford tallied goals. Their other wins have come against the Avalanche, the Sabres, and the Maple Leafs; their lone loss was against Washington at home, a 5-2 defeat. The Devils have outscored their opponents 21-13.

The Lightning have also gotten off to a great start, winning four straight games and five of their first six; Steven Stamkos, returning from injury, and Nikita Kucherov have found chemistry on the top line. They defeated the Red Wings last night, 3-2; Kucherov (2) and Tyler Johnson both scored goals. They also have wins against Florida, Washington, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis (all but one of those teams made the playoffs last season); their lone loss came against the Panthers. They have outscored their opponents 23-18.

Cory Schneider (3-1-0) will be in net for New Jersey. He has posted a 2.75 goals against average and a .924 save percentage through four games. Peter Budaj will likely start for Tampa Bay (Andrei Vasilevskiy started last night); this would be Budaj’s first start of the 2017-18 season. He posted a 2.80 GAA and an .898 save percentage in seven games with the team last season.

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Hischier-Stafford
Johansson-Henrique-Palmieri
Bratt-Zacha-Noesen/Hayes
Wood-Coleman-Gibbons

Greene-Severson
Moore-Santini
Lovejoy-Butcher

Projected Lightning Lines:
Namestnikov-Stamkos-Kucherov
Palat-Point-Gourde
Kunitz-Paquette-Callahan
Killorn-Johnson

Hedman-Dotchin
Sergachev-Stralman
Coburn-Girardi
Koekkoek

Both teams have excellent power play units. New Jersey is 27.3% successful on the man advantage; Tampa Bay sits just above. The Lightning also have a slightly higher penalty kill rate. The Devils will have to do damage at even strength and minimize the amount of penalties they take (or better yet, not take any). The Lightning are taking more shots per game but are allowing more shots against.

On the Devils’ side, pay close attention to the Top 6. Pavel Zacha, Marcus Johansson, and Jimmy Hayes also need to redeem themselves from Saturday’s game. And it goes without mentioning that the rookies (Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Will Butcher) are also doing good things; they just don’t always show up on the score sheet. Butcher leads the Devils in points with eight; Bratt and Wood lead the team with three goals each.

Tampa Bay’s top line is also hot. Stamkos is injury-free and is tearing up the league alongside Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. Kucherov leads the team in goals with seven; Stamkos leads in assists with eight. The Lightning are getting scoring from each line and their defensemen. Victor Hedman is perpetually one of the league’s best defensemen.

One team was predicted to reach (and possibly win) the Stanley Cup; the other was predicted to finish at the bottom of the league. Both teams have had a few surprises and they’re fun to watch.

Be sure to tune into NBCSN if you can tonight as the Devils try and pick up another win; puck drops at 7:30PM.

10/14/17 Game 5 Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers

Happy birthday to me! The New Jersey Devils (4-1-0) defeat their Hudson River rivals, the New York Rangers (1-5-0), by a score of 3-2 to pick up their fourth win in the first five games of the regular season. The Devils were outshot 31-19. Keith Kinkaid, Will Butcher, and Rick Nash were named the three stars of the night.

It was a battle of the backup goaltenders tonight and Keith Kinkaid came out on top. He won the game for the Devils. He stood on his head and made 29 saves, posting a .935 save percentage in his first appearance of the regular season. With the amount of pressure that the Rangers put on the team, had Kinkaid not played as well as he did, the score could have and would have been much, much worse. Ondrej Pavelec made 16 saves and posted an .842 save percentage.

The first period was scoreless, the Rangers outshooting the Devils 14-3. All three shots on goal were from defensemen (Damon Severson had two, Steven Santini had the third). The Devils then took control of the game in the second, outshooting the opposition 12-3.

Rick Nash got the Rangers on the board first, but Adam Henrique would tie the game with his second goal of the season (and first since the season opener). Brian Gibbons picked up the assist. Miles Wood would score his third goal of the season on a deflection, with assists from rookie defenseman Will Butcher and Ben Lovejoy; he and Jesper Bratt lead the team in goals with three each.

Drew Stafford would score the game-winning goal on the man advantage, with assists from Butcher (who now has eight) and Nico Hischier. Butcher leads the Devils in points and all rookies in scoring (Bratt is second). Kevin Shattenkirk would give the Rangers some life with his second goal of the season in the last minute of regulation but the Devils were able to secure the win.

It was a close, hard-fought game. New Jersey had rough first and third periods, and didn’t play a full 60 minutes. They had a bad night in the faceoff circle, winning just 42.9% of them. They scored just once on five power play opportunities but killed all three of their own penalties. Stafford and Santini led all Devils in shots on goal with three each. Captain Andy Greene spent the most time on ice (25:44), playing a full four minutes more than the next (Severson with 21:05).

Another thing worth mentioning is that Marcus Johansson, Pavel Zacha, and Jimmy Hayes were benched during the second period and did not play for the entirety of the third. Johansson had a bad giveaway during the second and all three of them had difficulty finding their footing tonight. Hayes played just six minutes and 56 seconds, Zacha five minutes and 35 seconds, and Johansson four minutes and 48 seconds. The Devils played with nine forwards for the rest of the game but this hopefully won’t become a persistent problem.

All-in-all, the Devils took a step forward from last night’s game against the Capitals but they still have a lot of work to do. They have to play a complete 60 minutes and up the pressure as the game goes on. They can’t sit back if they have a lead but they’re a young team and they’ll learn. It’s a long season.

But for now, it’s time to enjoy beating the Rangers.

10/14/17 Game 5 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers

The New Jersey Devils (3-1-0) and New York Rangers (1-4-0) are both looking to bounce back from losses last night when they face off against each other tonight in a renewed Hudson River rivalry.

The Devils fell to the Capitals for their first loss of the season last night (Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri tallied their first goals of the season); the Rangers lost 3-1 to the Blue Jackets (Kevin Hayes was the lone goal scorer). Their lone win came in a 2-0 shutout win against the Canadiens on Sunday.

Keith Kinkaid and Ondrej Pavelec will get the starts in net for their respective teams tonight; both are playing their first games of the regular season. Kinkaid has a lifetime 23-27-8 record, a 2.68 goals against average, and a .912 save percentage. Pavelec has a lifetime 152-159-47 record, a 2.87 GAA, and a .907 save percentage. Just in case you were curious, Pavelec was a 2005 Atlanta Thrashers draft pick and played with Atlanta/Winnipeg for his entire career before signing a one-year contract as a free agent with the Rangers this past offseason.

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Zacha-Palmieri
Johansson-Hischier-Bratt
Wood-Henrique-Hayes
Gibbons-Coleman-Noesen

Greene-Santini
Moore-Severson
Mueller-Butcher

Projected Rangers Lines:
Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
Nash-Hayes-Zuccarello
Vesey-Desharnais-Miller
Grabner-Carey-Cracknell

McDonagh-Holden
Skjei-Smith
Staal-Shattenkirk

(I never realized how many defensemen the Rangers have whose last names start with an ‘S’… huh.)

There are no other injury updates. Drew Stafford could return to the lineup for New Jersey tonight; he suffered a lower body injury in the season opener against the Avalanche. No word yet on whose spot he would take in the lineup.

Rookies Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher currently lead all Devils in points with six each; Bratt also leads in goals with three while Butcher has the most assists (six). Look for Hall and Palmieri to stay hot.

Zibanejad and Zuccarello lead the Rangers in points with five each; Zibanejad leads all Rangers in goals with five and Zuccarello leads in assists with four. Look for both of them to play big roles tonight.

The Devils will have to find a way to limit their penalties and take advantage of the Rangers’. New Jersey has the slightly better power play but New York has the slightly better penalty kill (which isn’t saying a whole lot because both teams’ penalty kills are in the bottom six of the league). The Rangers are also averaging more shots on goal.

New York has also not had very good first periods so far this season so the Devils can and should try to get off to a quick start, if at least to just quiet the MSG crowd. They’ll have to continue to throw the puck in front of the net and take shots on goal. They have to play smart and fast, and just stick to their game. New York is not as formidable as they used to be but this game is far from a guaranteed win.

But I’m hoping for a birthday win today! Puck drops at 7PM.

10/13/17 Game 4 Recap: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

Well, it was going to happen eventually. The New Jersey Devils (3-1-0) are handed their first loss of the season by the Washington Capitals (3-1-1) at The Rock on this Friday the 13th. This is New Jersey’s first loss of the regular season and they have not beaten the Capitals on home ice since 2014. They were outscored 5-2 and outshot 28-23. Cory Schneider made 23 saves, posting an .821 save percentage; Braden Holtby made 21 saves (.913 save percentage).

T.J. Oshie (2), Alex Ovechkin, Jakub Vrana, and Nicklas Backstrom all tallied goals for Washington, while Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri scored their first goals of the season for New Jersey. Palmieri’s goal was the 100th of his NHL career. He and Will Butcher had the assists on Hall’s power play goal; Damon Severson and John Moore picked up the assists on Palmieri’s goal. Butcher is now tied for the team lead in points with six and leads all Devils with six assists. Palmieri and Blake Coleman (who had a pair of fights tonight) led the team in shots on goal with four; Steven Santini had three. Backstrom, Oshie, and Palmieri were named the three stars of the game.

New Jersey had a good night in the faceoff circle, winning 59.1% of them. Adam Henrique, Pavel Zacha, and Marcus Johansson all had winning faceoff percentages tonight. They scored once on the man advantage (had four chances) but killed just two of Washington’s four power play opportunities. They had 20 penalty minutes (as opposed to Washington’s 30) so taking penalties was a problem for both teams. The Devils were just unable to capitalize.

Schneider didn’t look bad. He’s had a strong start to the season but the defense took a few steps back tonight. They had a few blocked shots but they didn’t cover as much ice as they probably should have. They also probably shouldn’t have left Ovechkin alone in the second period on the power play because he’ll score from that spot every single time and he will make you regret it. Oshie and Backstrom both had great nights as well.

The penalties really killed New Jersey. They should have taken fewer and tried to capitalize more on the opportunities that they had.

It was just not a good night all around for the Devils (which is fine, it happens). Washington did look like the much better team even though New Jersey were right behind them. They didn’t fall too far behind until Pavel Zacha received a four-minute minor penalty for high sticking Dmitry Orlov and things sort of fell apart from there. It was a chippy game with both teams combining for 50 penalty minutes, as mentioned earlier. There were a ton of big hits and a few fights, and it really makes you wonder what it would take for someone to get banned for life from playing in the NHL.

There isn’t a whole to complain about. They didn’t show as much fight as they have the last few games. They were unable to utilize their speed. They weren’t as noticeable. But it could’ve been much worse. They’re still a young team. It’s still early in the season. After all, they’re just four games in and they’ll have a chance to bounce back tomorrow night against the rival Rangers, who are currently 1-4-0. On to the next one.

10/13/17 Game 4 Preview: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

It’s Friday the 13th and the New Jersey Devils (3-0-0) take on the Washington Capitals (2-1-1) at the Prudential Center tonight. The Devils will look to remain undefeated to start the regular season. Just as they had a tough test on Wednesday against Toronto, they will have an equally challenging task against the Capitals.

The Devils have won three straight games against the Avalanche, the Sabres, and the Maple Leafs, outscoring their opponents 16-6. This is the first time the Devils have scored 16 goals in the first three games of the regular season since they scored 17 to start the 1991-92 season. Cory Schneider has been excellent.

The Capitals were handed their first loss of the season on Wednesday by Pittsburgh, falling to the Pens 3-2. Alexander Ovechkin and Christian Djoos tallied goals, while Braden Holtby made 33 saves. The Caps have looked pretty good and are not to be underestimated.

Schneider (3-0-0) has started the previous three games and will likely start in net for New Jersey tonight. Coach John Hynes has said that Schneider and Keith Kinkaid will split the back-to-back, which means that Kinkaid will play tomorrow night against the Rangers. Schneider’s sample size is three games but his goals against average is 2.00 and his save percentage is .948%. Holtby (2-1-0) will likely get the start in net for the Caps and he has been outstanding; he has a 2.00 GAA and a .932 save % through three games this season.

The Devils will likely stick with the same lineup as Wednesday’s game against Toronto. Kyle Palmieri made his return after suffering a lower body injury in the season opener. Marcus Johansson will also face his former team for the first time during the regular season, although the teams played each other twice during the preseason (the Devils won both games by a score of 4-1).

Tom Wilson will return to Washington’s lineup and play his first regular season game; he was serving a four-game suspension for boarding St.Louis’ Sam Blais during the preseason. This was his second player safety violation of the season.

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Zacha-Palmieri
Johansson-Hischier-Bratt
Wood-Henrique-Hayes
Gibbons-Coleman-Noesen

Greene-Severson
Moore-Butcher
Mueller-Santini

Projected Capitals Lines:
Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Vrana
Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie
Connolly-Eller-Wilson
Chiasson-Beagle-Smith-Pelly

Orlov-Niskanen
Orpik-Carlson
Djoos-Ness

Jesper Bratt currently leads the Devils in goals (3) and points (6), while Will Butcher has the most assists (5), both Devils rookies. Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha, both in their second NHL seasons, tallied a pair of goals each in Wednesday’s victory against Toronto.

Alex Ovechkin has gotten off to a hot start, leading the Capitals and the National Hockey League in goals and points with eight. He had back-to-back hat tricks in the opening games of the season. Christian Djoos scored the first NHL goal of his career in the loss to the Penguins.

New Jersey has scored a shorthanded goal in each of their three games this season, including a 3-on-5 goal on Wednesday. Both teams have taken an abundance of penalties over the past few games and the Devils will have to take advantage. Both teams have looked good on the power play early on: the Devils are 30.8% successful while the Caps have been 23.1% successful. New Jersey has killed 83.3% of penalties; Washington has killed 80.0%. New Jersey is also somehow averaging 33.7 shots/game while Washington is averaging just 24.8 shots/game, the lowest in the league.

The Devils have to win, right? After all, it is Friday the 13th. They’re playing at home in front of an energetic crowd. Both teams are playing well and it’ll be a good, hard-fought game so make sure you tune in. Puck drops at 7:30PM.

10/11/17 Game 3 Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The New Jersey Devils (3-0-0) remain undefeated in the regular season as they defeat the (previously undefeated) Toronto Maple Leafs (3-1-0) by a score of 6-3. The Devils are now the last remaining undefeated team in the Eastern Conference. This is the first time they’ve started a season with a 3-0-0 since 2014-15.

The Leafs lost in regulation at home against New Jersey for just the second in their last 16 meetings, per StatsCentre. In addition, it’s also the first time the Devils have scored six goals on the road at Toronto since a 7-2 win back in 1988 (February 14); Pat Verbeek, a 1982 Devils draft pick (43rd overall) had a pair of goals.

Cory Schneider, Miles Wood, and Pavel Zacha were named the three stars of the game; Wood (2), Zacha (2), Gibbons, and Coleman scored for the Devils while New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk, Dominic Moore, and Auston Matthews tallied goals for the Leafs.

Where should we start? Cory Schneider had his best game in a while, making a career-high 47 saves on 50 shots against, posting a .940% save percentage. He stood on his head and kept his team in the game all night long, making crucial saves especially in special team situations. In three games, he has looked like vintage Cory Schneider and he is here to stay.

Miles Wood, the second star of tonight’s game, scored a pair of goals just one minute and 38 seconds apart to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. This is the second two-goal of his NHL career. His first goal was a nice deflection off of an absolute snipe from his Boston College teammate Steven Santini while his second was a breakaway, something he did a lot last season but couldn’t always finish.

Pavel Zacha is playing on the top line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri but had yet to take a shot on goal entering today’s game. Not to fear: he scored his first goal of the season, a power play goal, on his first shot of the season. If he can get going and gel with Hall and Palmieri, the top line could be lethal.

Adam Henrique also had an excellent night. He won 55% of his faceoffs and had the most time on ice behind Andy Greene. He had a two-assist night and led the Devils in shots on goal with five. He also got into a scrum with Matt Martin to protect Jesper Bratt. He should have received a penalty shot for a questionable tripping no-call. Henrique is taking several steps forward this season after having a less-than-memorable season last year.

This is the first time the Devils have scored 16 goals in the first three games of the season since they scored 17 in 1991-92. At the moment, they are averaging a little above five goals per game. But an important thing to remember is that they’re also taking more shots on goal than they used to. They took 31 shots on net tonight and have consistently been sending pucks to the net, whether or not they can go in.

The Devils have now scored a shorthanded goal in each of their last three contests. They scored shorthanded on a 5-on-3 penalty kill tonight. They killed six of Toronto’s eight power play opportunities. However, they only won 44.2% of faceoffs and scored just once on their five power plays.

And because it feels good (even though it’s only October and we’re three games into the season), here are the current Eastern Conference and league standings…

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 10.31.07 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-11 at 10.31.23 PM

And I know it’s early. I get that. It’s just exciting. The team looks faster, sharper, and more energetic, and Devils fans aren’t the only ones who are noticing. The rest of the league and its fans are too.

Tonight was a big test for the Devils and they passed. This weekend’s games against the Capitals (at home) and the Rangers (at MSG) will be another. They’ll be fun.

10/11/17 Game 3 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The New Jersey Devils (2-0-0) continue their road trip with a Wednesday night game against the undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs (3-0-0) in the first of three meetings between these two teams. Cory Schneider (2-0-0) and Frederik Andersen (3-0-0) will likely be in net for their respective teams; Schneider has looked sharp and has stopped 63 of 66 shots against for a .955 save percentage while Andersen has stopped 83 of 93 shots against, posting an .892 save percentage.

The Devils are coming off of 4-1 and 6-2 wins against the Colorado Avalanche and the Buffalo Sabres. Rookie Jesper Bratt currently leads the Devils in goals (3) and points (5), while Taylor Hall has the most assists (3). The team has looked faster, sharper, and more physical. The identity they have been trying to build and cultivate is shining through.

The Maple Leafs defeated the Jets 7-2, the Rangers 8-5, and Chicago 4-3 (game went to overtime). Auston Matthews leads the team in points (5) and is tied in assists with Tyler Bozak (3). Several players share the team lead in goals with two apiece: Matthews, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Nikita Zaitsev, Patrick Marleau, and Zach Hyman.

Kyle Palmieri will return to the Devils lineup since being sidelined with a lower body injury; Drew Stafford (lower body injury) will not. Brian Boyle and Michael McLeod remain in New Jersey.

Projected Devils Lines:
Hall-Zacha-Palmieri
Johansson-Hischier-Bratt
Wood-Henrique-Hayes
Gibbons-Coleman-Noesen

Greene-Severson
Moore-Butcher
Mueller-Santini

Schneider

The Leafs are expected to go with a similar lineup to the ones they’ve been using.

Projected Leafs Lineup:
Hyman-Matthews-Nylander
Van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Marner
Marleau-Kadri-Komarov
Martin-Moore-Brown

Rielly-Hainsey
Gardiner-Zaitsev
Borgman-Rosen

Andersen

Jesper Bratt and Auston Matthews are both two players to watch tonight. Both lead their respective teams in points (five). Matthews has not hit his sophomore slump while Bratt has gotten off to a quick start during his rookie season. Matthews will continue to play on the top line alongside Zach Hyman and William Nylander. Bratt will play on the Devils’ second line alongside Marcus Johansson and fellow Devils rookie, Nico Hischier, who picked up his first NHL point in the team’s last win.

Toronto is the toughest matchup for New Jersey thus far. The Leafs have and will continue to get goals from every single line and individual player. There is no shortage of offense on this team. They’re fast, sharp skaters with a ton of skills and they’re definitely a team that no one should be underestimating.

Just a heads-up: I probably won’t be watching the game tonight because my beloved New York Yankees are playing Game 5 of the ALDS tonight (and I have a microeconomics quiz tomorrow morning but that’s less important). If you are tuning in, puck drops at 7:30PM! It should be a good game.

10/9/17 Game 2 Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. Buffalo Sabres

The New Jersey Devils (2-0-0) pick up their second win of the season in as many games played against the Buffalo Sabres (0-2-1), defeating them by a score of 6-2. Jesper Bratt and Marcus Johansson had breakout games for the Devils, while Evander Kane scored both Buffalo goals. Bratt, Johansson, and Kane were named the three stars of the game. Cory Schneider looked sharp in his 23-save performance and made a couple of huge saves.

The Devils took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, on goals from Stefan Noesen and Brian Gibbons, their first of the season.  Jesper Bratt scored a shorthanded goal in the second and Marcus Johansson followed with his first as a Devil; Bratt and Johansson would score a second time that period. New Jersey took a 6-1 lead into the second intermission and allowed just one more Sabres goal. Five of the six Devils goals came at even strength (the sixth was shorthanded).

Nine different Devils found their way onto the score sheet today. Bratt and Johansson had a pair of goals and an assist; Gibbons had a goal and an assist; and Taylor Hall and a pair of assists. Gibbons led the team in shots on goal with five (Blake Coleman had four). Nico Hischier also picked up his first career NHL point. John Moore led all skaters in time on ice with 20:26.

Jesper Bratt made quite the first impression in his first NHL game but showed no signs of slowing down in his second. He has been excellent on the penalty kill as well as in all other situations. He currently leads all Devils scorers with five points. He is also the first player in franchise history to tally five points in the first two games of his NHL career, per NHL Public Relations. Although he’s only played two games, if he keeps playing the way he has been, he won’t be sent down to the OHL after his nine-game trial period.

Marcus Johansson also played one heck of a game. He, Bratt, and Drew Stafford tore up the preseason on the same line, and looked as if they would continue that success. With Stafford temporarily sidelined with a lower body injury, Bratt and Johansson have been just fine. Johansson is coming off of a career season with the Capitals and has gotten off to a great start.

Hall and Schneider also looked phenomenal. Hall did all of the little things right. He was fast, quick, made passes, took shots. He is doing everything that the Devils expect him to do and then some (and I wore my Hall shirsey today for good luck so I’m not saying that I played a role but I played a role). Schneider made 23 saves on 25 shots and stood on his head for a full 60 minutes. Miles Wood also got in on the action with a fight against Buffalo’s Nate Beaulieu in his first game of the season.

Here’s a quick summary of some stats: the Devils went 0/4 on the man advantage and killed all but one of the Sabres’ four power play opportunities. They won 50.9% of faceoffs. They outshot Buffalo 31-25. They’re still doing well across the board despite special teams taking a backseat today.

All-in-all, it was a good team win. It’s their first road win of the season. KeyBank Center is always a difficult arena to play in because the crowd is incredible. These wins will build their confidence going into the rest of the week, when they face the Maple Leafs, Capitals, and Rangers. And whether or not the Devils make the playoffs this season, the team is fun to watch again.

The Devils did travel to Toronto tonight; they will face the Atlantic Division-leading Maple Leafs Wednesday night.

(I’m sorry for this being so late; I had to go to class in the middle of the third period and just had a moment to write.)

10/9/17 Game 2 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Buffalo Sabres

Good morning! The New Jersey Devils will look to make it two straight wins today in an afternoon tilt with the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. The Devils are coming off of a 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche in their home (and season) opener on Saturday; Adam Henrique, Jimmy Hayes, Jesper Bratt, and John Moore all tallied goals while Will Butcher picked up their assists. Bratt’s goal was his first in the NHL.

The Sabres are 0-1-1 and are hungry for their first win of the season; they fell in a shootout to Montréal and lost 6-3 to the Islanders. Evander Kane leads Buffalo in points with four; Jack Eichel has three. Jason Pominville also scored a pair in their season opener to Montréal.

Cory Schneider will be in net today for the Devils; Chad Johnson will likely be in net for the Sabres. Schneider posted a 40-save performance on Saturday. Keith Kinkaid will also see some time this week as New Jersey has a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday.

New Jersey’s lineup will stay almost the exact same as the one from Saturday’s opener. I expect Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout to be healthy scratches for a second straight game, unless Coach John Hynes decides to go the 11F/7D route. Miles Wood was also a healthy scratch but may be inserted into the lineup due to injuries to Kyle Palmieri (lower body) and Drew Stafford (lower body), both of whom traveled with the team to Buffalo but did not practice yesterday. Brian Boyle and Michael McLeod also remain sidelined.

Buffalo’s Justin Falk (undisclosed) and Zach Bogosian (lower body) also remain sidelined. Kane, Eichel, and Pominville will play on the team’s top line and will test the Devils’ defense.

I would usually discuss both team’s statistics here but there isn’t a huge sample size for either team. The Devils have the best power play in the league at the moment, at 75% efficiency (3/4) (Toronto falls second at 50%), and are 100% on the penalty kill. The Sabres also have a perfect penalty kill but are just 11.1% successful on the man advantage and have allowed three short-handed goals over the last two games.

Keys for the Devils: scoring on even strength is one. Three of the Devils’ four goals came on the power play and the fourth was scored short-handed, and while that’s a positive sign for special teams, they often won’t win games if they can’t score 5-on-5 goals as well. They will also need to continue to put shots on net; the team had a combined 39 shots on goal against Colorado (Hayes and Taylor Hall had seven each). They’ll also have to keep the penalties to a minimum and take advantage of faceoffs.

It should be a good one. The Devils will look to keep the momentum going against Buffalo and pick up their second win in as many games; puck drops at 3PM.