Last night’s overtime loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks was the fourth game in a row where the New Jersey Devils failed to register a win. To put things in perspective, the Devils haven’t won a regulation game since November 12th, and their last win was on 11/23 versus the Leafs. Remarkably, three out of their last four losses were post-regulation defeats so the Devils managed to pick up points over that span. The silver lining to last night’s matchup was the play of Travis Zajac, who had a big night when he registered a hat-trick, giving him his sixth seventh, and eighth goals of the season. Zajac opened the scoring at 3:13 of the first period, which was a lead the Devils maintained going into the second period. Marcus Kruger tied things up off a laser of a wrist shot 1:02 into the second period, only for Zajac to score his second of the game on the power play, and reclaim the Devils lead halfway into the second. The Hawks went into the third period with a 3-2 lead after scoring two unanswered goals from Artem Anisimov and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Zajac’s third of the game came at 8:49 into the third period, which was enough to force the game into overtime. Marian Hossa sealed the deal for the Blackhawks 1:31 into post-regulation play for his 12th of the season, and handed the Devils their fourth consecutive loss.
It was another game that ultimately had an unfavorable outcome for New Jersey, and there were some notable takeaways from last night’s matchup worth noting.
Travis Zajac…In addition to the tremendous performance he put on last night, a lot of Devils fans would be surprised when they realize that Zajac currently leads the team in scoring with eight goals and 18 points. Offensive production has always been Zajac’s biggest demeanor in recent years, and surrounding him with productive players like his current line mates (Cammelleri, Palmieri) is paying dividends. His recent surge in offensive production is making Zajac a more complete player, who now has four goals and eight points in his last five games.
Special teams kicking in…While the Devils had some disciplinary issues last night, their penalty kill and power play units held their own. The Devils went a perfect four-for-four on the penalty kill, and scored on one of their two power play opportunities. This should be encouraging considering how the Devils had a very sluggish performance on special teams early this season. Despite scoring against the 30th-ranked penalty kill, the Devils will take goals anywhere they can get them from, and could build on this power play success.
Hall’s Physicality…The main reason New Jersey acquired left wing Taylor Hall was to give the Devils a scoring boost, which he’s obviously managed to help with. One of the most overlooked aspects of Hall’s game however, is his physicality. Hall (along with Zajac) co-led the Devils in hits last night with three apiece. While he’s only averaging a hair over one hit per game, Hall’s physical game comes out when it seems to be warranted most like last night. It’s the little things like that, which don’t show up on the scoresheet that give the Devils the boost they need to make games like last night’s as close as they were.