It was an eventful night in Madison Square Garden despite the absence of some of the New Jersey Devils’ best players. Starting for the New York Rangers was Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko, Brady Skjei, and Jacob Trouba. Yet within the first minute of the contest, Nico Hischier tipped a Sami Vatanen shot into the net to put New Jersey up 1-0. After that, it was kind of a nerve-racking period, with the Devils quickly finding out that New York’s powerplay is not to be challenged. Sans outstanding play from Cory Schneider, things could have gone south quickly for New Jersey. We also saw prospects doing everything they can to make the team. Brandon Baddock fought Micheal Haley for a hit on Connor Carrick, and Kevin Rooney fought Nick Jones for a cheap shot on John Hayden. Neither of them knocked their opponents out at center ice in MSG, but it was great to see the young players stick up for each other. Late in the period, the Devils went up 2-0 as Mikhail Maltsev intercepted a pass, split the defensemen and scored a Pavel Datsyuk-esque goal from his knees.
In the second, the Rangers ramped up their efforts, almost scoring before Damon Severson took an interference penalty on Micheal Haley. On this powerplay, they scored off a one-time snipe by Panarin, who was fed by Kakko and Trouba. Fortunately, the Devils signed a Russian scorer of their own, Nikita Gusev, who responded off of a one-time pass from Brandon Baddock halfway through the period.
Things were seemingly back on track until Ty Smith tried to play the puck behind the net with Cory Schneider standing there. Hopefully this was just a miscommunication between Schneider and Smith, however, I can’t help but point out that Smith can be lackadaisical with the puck at times.
The third period was generally sloppy, but worth watching for the flashes of excellence. After 27 saves in two periods, Evan Cormier, a Devils fourth-round draft pick in 2016, took over for Schnieder to play the last twenty minutes. About four minutes in, Brett Seney capitalized on a great effort from John Hayden, protecting the puck and forcing a backhand on his way to the net. This was the insurance the Devils needed, as midway through the period, Lias Andersson made it a one-goal game off of a rebound. The last ten were stressful, but the Devils secured the win with key play from Kevin Rooney and John Hayden.
Obviously New Jersey’s roster is going to be a very hard one to make, so it was good to see young guys doing everything they can to secure a spot. John Hayden and Mikhail Maltsev proved they are not to be overlooked as big forwards that can provide scoring opportunities. Brendan Baddock, in just nine minutes of playing time, got an assist and fought the Rangers’ Haley. The only two players that we really can’t tell where they stand is Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian. The pessimistic Devils fan sees those names and thinks that they’re draft busts, but maybe they deserve a chance to play with skill players. After all, Miles Wood didn’t exactly impress last night, let alone help McLeod’s case to be on the team. Nor did Ty Smith, coughing up the puck behind his own net to tally a minus one for the Bastian-McLeod line. Lucky for us, Cory Schnieder demonstrated he’s ready to come back, saving 27 of 29 shots in just 40 minutes