The New Jersey Devils deserved a win on Friday night, but the team’s goaltending may have cost them two points in the standings.
NEWARK, NJ – If fans saw that the New Jersey Devils recorded three goals on 35 shots, allowed less than 20 shots and connected thrice on the power play on home ice against the Arizona Coyotes, then Jersey’s team should have collected two points.
Somehow, a “win” wasn’t the result on Friday night at the Prudential Center for the Devils.
New Jersey blew a two and one goal lead and lost to Arizona by a final of 5-3 (empty-net goal).
After the first-period horn sounded off, the Devils outshot the Coyotes 16-6, led 2-1 and saw positive and great energy from skaters such as Jack Hughes, Wayne Simmonds, Taylor Hall and Sami Vatanen. The red and black were swarming, to say the least and controlled most of the offensive pressure.
Vatanen and Hughes both netted power-play goals, while Simmonds created havoc, at his office, in front of the opposition’s net on both first-period goals.
While the Devils allowed a late goal during the game’s first frame, fans couldn’t have asked for a better script to start Friday night’s action.
The second period may not have been as good as the first, but again the Devils skaters showed signs that this team was finally moving in the direction and one that it should have been from the beginning of the season.
Throughout the night, Jersey controlled most of the play, allowed minimal shots and put Arizona goaltender Antti Raanta to work forcing him to make highlight-reel save one after another.
Speaking of goaltenders, Friday was a night that New Jersey goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood would like to forget.
The truth is that the Devils skaters played well enough to at least collect one point in the standings, but considering that Blackwood allowed four goals on 16 shots, New Jersey walked away empty-handed.
However, head coach John Hynes wasn’t fast to point the finger at the 22-year-old masked man.
“Let me put it this way, before I comment on that one (Blackwood’s overall play) I’m going to review the video.”
Blackwood, who was reportedly ill earlier in the week appeared in his third straight start. Prior to the loss, neither he nor Cory Schneider went further than back-to-back starts on the year.
While the fifth-year coach didn’t say anything negative about Blackwood’s play in the losing effort, one can imagine that Cory Schneider receives the nod on Wednesday night when the Devils host the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 P.M. ET, MSG+).
There were two Arizona goals that were arguably not all on Blackwood’s shoulders; a Michael Grabner breakaway which led to a shorthanded goal in the second period; a bad line change and turnover in the neutral zone which led to an odd-man rush goal past a sprawling Blackwood. during the final frame.
Still, in a game where the Devils played some of their best hockey all night, an NHL goaltender is expected to come up with big and timely saves – something Blackwood displayed in the 1-0 shutout victory over Vancouver last Saturday.
One ‘Hughes’ Factor
Jack Hughes displayed his magic again on the team’s power play. The 18-year-old sniped Raanta short side and where the cookies sit on the top shelf.
Devils fans will cringe when they see his name, but New Jersey has been missing a lethal shot such as that one, which fans haven’t witnessed since the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk – it’s true. Over the past two games, Hughes proved he has the potential to score a goal – when the team simply needs one; something that’s haunted the Devils for far too long over the years.
When watching Hughes’ power-play goal from Friday night – this hockey enthusiast sees a resemblance to Buffalo Sabres forward, Jack Eichel.
Both skaters’ have a similar release point when it relates to their wrist shots; their bottom hand on the stick is held higher up than skaters are taught to at a young age, which makes both hands closer together when going to shoot.
That characteristic has become a trend for future superstars at the professional level.
While Hughes is a left-handed shot and Eichel is a right-handed shooter, there’s a baring identity to how they deliver each other’s respective shots to net one sweet goal.
Most fans think Hughes will end up similar to a skater such as Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, but he may just end up more comparable to the 2015 No. 2 overall pick in Eichel – another fellow American skater.