Devils’ Defense Struggles in First Prospects Challenge Game

Image courtesy of Bill Wippert/Buffalo Sabres.

Game Summary

The New Jersey Devils started this year’s Prospect Challenge in Buffalo on the wrong foot. A lineup which showed a lot of talent in the forward group, while lacking defensively (see the tweet below for the lineup in case you missed it) performed exactly how you’d think it would. 

It started early when the Sabres scored just 30 seconds into the contest. Buffalo prospect Kyle Olson put home a juicy rebound after Gilles Senn was forced to make a tough save thanks to a Colby Sissons’ turnover. The Sabres quickly followed this up with another score courtesy of a 2-on-1 rush, with Sissons being the only man back. Luckily for the Sabres’ fans in attendance, they netted one more on their 12th shot of the period, making it 3-0 heading into the first intermission.

The Sabres were able to tally three more goals in the second period, one of which came on the power play. This would be the last period Devils’ goaltender Gilles Senn played as his night was done after only making 13 saves on 19 shots. Luckily for the Devils, the second period was not all negative as first overall pick Jack Hughes tallied a power play score (see video above). 

Akira Schmid entered the game in the third and it seemed like a whole different contest. The Devils added three goals in the final period which made the final score of 6-4 a bit more respectable. Jesper Boqvist made a beautiful play as he made a defender miss, then sniped home the second goal of the game (see video above). Defender Colton White (assists to Mitchell Hoelscher and Graeme Clarke) and Joey Anderson (assists to Colton White and Brandon Gignac) both tallied power play goals later in the period. Akira Schmid stopped all 11 shots he faced. Also worth noting, Michael Vukojevic – who was the Devils’ best defender last night – got into a scrap during the third period (video below).

The Good

Jack Hughes

Forward Jack Hughes showed exactly why he was taken first overall. He displayed his great stick-handling, as well as his elite vision, as he set up his teammates on numerous occasions (see video below for an example). He was ultimately rewarded as he tallied a goal himself on a play where he caused a turnover then snapped one home. Another aspect of Hughes’ game that was on display was his ability to avoid hits. Overall, to the surprise of no one, it was a solid night for the first overall pick.

Defenseman Michael Vukojevic was also involved in a scrap during the 3rd period.

Jesper Boqvist

Forward Jesper Boqvist – who most recently played overseas in Sweden – has a huge training camp upcoming as the Devils will need to decide whether to keep him on the NHL roster or elect to send him back to his team in Sweden. Luckily, for both parties, he started the preseason off on the right foot. He was noticeable on both sides of the puck as he created turnovers on defense and chances on offense. As you can see in the video above, his goal in the third period was brilliant. It was certainly a step in the right direction for the youngster from Sweden.

Brandon Gignac

Forward Brandon Gignac picked right up where he left off last season in Binghamton. He generated several chances at even strength and even had a great chance while serving on the penalty kill in the first period. Gignac was easily the Devils’ best player in the first period which featured a number of negatives. He was eventually rewarded for his hard work on both ends of the ice with an assist on the Devils’ last goal of the game. Overall, a solid start for Gignac.

Akira Schmid

As mentioned above, the Swiss goaltender did not enter the game until the third period. The towering netminder showed the success he experienced at the World Junior Championship tournament earlier last season was no fluke. He made stops on all eleven shots he faced, with many of them being of high quality. Hopefully, coach Mark Dennehy rewards Schmid with a start today against Boston as it would be great to see how he performs with more work. Nonetheless, a great start to the weekend for Schmid.

The Bad

Colby Sissons

Sissons struggled mightily all-season last year for Binghamton. These struggles carried over as he was miserable against the Sabres. He was the reason for the first goal against as he turned the puck over right in front of the net. You can even peg the second goal on him as well as he put out a dismal effort on a 2-on-1. His struggles continued as the game progressed. Hopefully, he can rebound against the Bruins.

Gilles Senn

It was unfortunate to see how poorly Senn performed as he will most likely be a large part of the Binghamton Devils this season. He was given the nod and gave up three goals in each of the first two periods. All-in-all, he only made 13 saves which translated to a .684 save percentage. Now, the defense in front of Senn was by no means great. However, a majority of the six goals he gave up could have been stopped. It’ll be interesting to see if the Devils give him another shot against Boston.

Next Game: Today @ 3:30 PM vs. Boston, Stream on newjerseydevils.com (blackouts apply)

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