What just happened?
The New Jersey Devils just ended their winless streak by absolutely giving the Penguins the business in a 5-1 beat down to claim their first road victory of the season. This also is the first game of the season New Jersey has chased an opposing goalie from their net. Sami Vatanen should have had an early goal, but the refs mistakenly blew the play dead before he shot the puck. Brian Boyle getting a hat trick during hockey fights cancer night is nearly as improbable as him scoring his first goal back last season or on hockey fights cancer night, which he also did. If you didn’t have a chance to watch the game, please just go back and watch Boyle’s facial expressions after his goals because they are priceless. From the drop of the puck the Devils were all over the Pens and hopefully this is a win that they can build off of now and get the road monkey off their backs.
- The offense got help. Led largely by the Boyle hat trick, New Jersey got scoring from a lot of unusual characters tonight, and the top line wasn’t overly necessary in this one. Even with the early lead, the Devils still led in high-danger chances 20-10 (17-9 while even strength), which is very impressive given the game script. Will Butcher also quietly got three points. The Gif below sums up Boyle’s performance last night
- Kinkaid played strong. Keith stopped 35 of 36 shots against, and even though the first soft goal seemed like a bad omen, he rebounded well and shut them down the rest of the way. The Penguins generated their fair share of high quality chances, but between some fortunate bounces and solid positioning he held down the crease and gave New Jersey the performance they needed.
- Joey Anderson impressed. Anderson walked away his first career point(an assist on the opening goal) tonight, and looked good in doing so. Anderson had some very well timed shots and was smart with the puck while logging 10:45 of ice time, including a shift on the penalty kill.
- Face-offs still need work. Yes it was against a Penguins team that is incredibly deep down the middle of their roster, but the face-off dot has been the achilles’ heel of New Jersey for quite some time. Outside of Travis Zajac (64%) and technically Marcus Johannson (100% on minimal attempts), the Devils didn’t have another player above 50% in the face off dot. Possession isn’t only 9/10 of the law, its crucial to be a consistent hockey team and the easiest way to gain possession is through the face off circle.
The Devils will now travel out to Ottawa to play the second half of a back to back. Yes the second game of a back to back has the tendency to be brutal, especially given the travel needed in this instance, but maybe they just play completely on adrenaline from this win and keep the train rolling? Ottawa is falling off the tracks a bit now and just aren’t a good team?