Writer’s Twitter: @ChrisMottHockey
The New Jersey Devils came into yesterday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens with a painful loss Thursday night to the New York Rangers at home. The goal coming into Saturday’s contest was to correct their previous mistakes and take advantage of the fact that Carey Price was forced to sit out for the game for voluntarily missing the All-Star Game.
The Devils never had the lead in the game until the end, as they fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 to the Canadiens before winning the game in overtime. Mackenzie Blackwood ended up starting the game yesterday and was a key factor in the Devils victory, as there were times that the Devils would turn the puck over in the defensive zone or fail to clear the puck out of the zone.
The Devils were outshot by Montreal, and at times, the Devils inability to simply get the puck out of the defensive zone was extremely frustrating to watch. Nico Hischier was also an integral part to the Devils’ victory yesterday, as he scored not only the game-tying goal to force overtime, but also the game-winning goal. The win was not a pretty win, but a win is a win at the end of the day.
Nico Hischier continued his red hot recent success and season. He scored against the Rangers last game and then twice against the Canadiens. Yesterday was also the first game that Nico wore an “A” on his sweater as an alternate captain, as he continues to grow and develop as a great player for this organization. Hischier also scored his 15th and 16th goals yesterday in the victory and certainly has a chance to improve on his final season stats from his rookie season.
The positive thing to see with the Devils struggling this season has been the consistent improvement and development with some of the team’s younger players such as Hischier. For those who wonder if playing on a line with Taylor Hall has been a key factor for Hischier’s success, he’s showing that it certainly did help but that he can also be a difference maker on his own.
Mackenzie Blackwood is making a case to stay very clear. He was recently sent down to the AHL so that he could participate in the AHL All-Star Game, which is good for his development and confidence. Blackwood bailed the Devils out on multiple occasions when turnovers were made or there was poor defensive zone coverage. There is very little reason now to keep Blackwood off the NHL roster, and with Cory Schneider’s conditioning stint coming to a close, the scenario of the Devils possibly carrying three goals at the NHL level may occur. That could also mean the possibility of one of either Schneider or Kinkaid being moved at the trade deadline.
Potential trade pieces increase their value. Marcus Johansson was very much involved again with the offense, as he notched an assist on Will Butcher’s first goal yesterday and generated offensive zone time and chances. Brian Boyle also had a solid game for himself, even though he did not find himself on the scoresheet. And although he prefers to stay with the Devils, there are certainly teams who would be interested in his services for a playoff run.
While Kinkaid did not play today, Blackwood’s play only helps to encourage the idea of moving Kinkaid at the deadline too. At the end of the day, the Devils should only make moves if it will help this team and organization in the future. They should not sell just for the sake of selling. The good news is Shero does not do that. He only makes a move when it makes sense and adds value to the team. He will not make a trade for the sake of making a move.
The Devils next game will be Feb. 5 at the Rock at 7PM ET against the Los Angeles Kings. Below are some stats and highlights from the game against the Canadiens.
Final Score and Stats
Goals: Devils 3 Canadiens 2
Shots: Devils 27 Canadiens 39
Hits: Devils 27 Canadiens 28
Power Plays: Devils 1 for 3 Canadiens 0 for 3
Faceoffs: Devils 24 Canadiens 26