Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey
The New Jersey Devils arrived in Vegas with a lot of uncertainty. Not just in terms of the direction this season is going to finish, but also with regards to their goaltending situation. Mackenzie Blackwood was injured and not able to dress, leaving Keith Kinkaid as the starter and the Devils having to scramble to get Cam Johnson on a plane from Binghamton to Vegas as soon as possible.
The Devils seemed to get off to a great start, especially with Malcolm Subban starting over Marc-Andre Fleury, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Unfortunately, the old hockey adage “a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey” came true for the Devils yesterday, even though they out-shot the Knights. The Devils still ended up losing in regulation by a final score of 3-2. The highlights from yesterday’s game can be found at the end of this article.
Offensive zone time and pressure were present throughout the game for the Devils. They were able to generate more shots than Vegas in the game. And even though they lost, they did generate a good amount of quality scoring chances to try and tie the game or make the game 3-0 before Vegas came back. Nico Hischier scored the first goal of the game after trying to pass the puck but had the pass blocked and the puck coming back onto his stick. Ben Lovejoy even scored by skating a puck out of the corner and looking like a goal scorer controlling the puck from the corner through the front of the net and using patience to out-wait Subban and bury the puck in the back of the net.
Kinkaid was hot and cold throughout the game. There were times that Kinkaid was making some big saves, especially off of turnovers by Devils’ players in order to keep the lead or keep the tie from being broken. There were also some goals that he should not have let in. For the time being, the net is Kinkaid’s until Blackwood is back and healthy. This will cause head coach John Hynes to have to make a decision as to who to go with based off who starts playing well versus Kinkaid moving back to a backup role. For Kinkaid, while Blackwood is absent, this could be a big stretch of games for his career with the Devils, so he needs to start making saves when his teams need him to.
The absence of Taylor Hall and Marcus Johannson due to injuries could provide Devils fans with a positive feeling of encouragement, as they would have most likely helped yesterday’s outcome be in the Devils’ favor. But the fact is that it is currently next man up with the team right now. Devils fans are seeing it with the goaltending situation and have also seen it at different times throughout the season between the forwards and the defense. While fans can take encouragement knowing how the team has been playing and that the results would most likely be even better with both these players back healthy, the team most certainly is not thinking this way.
The players’ attitude is most certainly next man up and making the most of their opportunities, as we have seen Blackwood start to take advantage of his opportunities. The same can be said for Drew Stafford, who has been scoring and generating offense the past couple games with the opportunity he is being given. Next man up is the thought process in the Devils’ locker room right now, both for the players receiving new opportunities and those at risk of losing their current opportunities.
Final Score and Stats
Score: Devils 2 Knights 3
Shots: Devils 38 Knights 28
Power Plays: Devils 0 for 2 Knights 0 for 2
Faceoffs: Devils 29 (43.3%) Knights 38 (56.77%)
Hits: Devils 30 Knights 29
The Devils will head to upstate New York next for a game on Tuesday night at 7 PM ET against Jack Eichel and one of the current wild card teams in the Sabres and will look to try and keep their recent positive play going.