The Devils looked good in their one-game week one, but how do they stack up against this week’s opponents?
The first week of the New Jersey Devils’ 2021-22 season is over, but that just meant one game for them. They opened their season at home against the Chicago Blackhawks and came away with an exciting overtime win.
This game was great from top to bottom: superstar defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored a goal in his Devils debut, top rookie Dawson Mercer got his first career NHL point, and Jack Hughes scored twice, including a beautiful backhander for the game-winner.
What makes this win even more impressive is the fact that the Devils are hurt badly right now, especially their defense.
Alternate captains Damon Severson and Miles Wood as well as LHD Ty Smith and the team’s number one goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood all have not made their season debuts yet.
The good news is that RHD Severson is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday.
The Devils are going to be much busier in week two, playing three games in the span of six days. While this is the case, the Devils’ three games could be much tougher and the team has the ability to come out of the second week of the season 4-0.
vs. Seattle Kraken — Tuesday
The Devils are set to play their first-ever game against the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday. The Kraken have probably been better than many expected, but are still trying to find their identity.
Something the Devils must look out for is how competitive this Kraken team is. For the most part, they’ve exhibited a lot of fight and keep almost every game close.
That means the Devils can’t sit back on whatever lead they might have because who’s to say Seattle won’t come back. The Devils will have to be on their toes for the entire 60 minutes and can’t afford to have even a single poor period.
Speaking of sitting back, that’s been one of the Kraken’s biggest issues so far in this young season. The third period has been a problem for them, that’s when they stop applying pressure and play poor defensively.
Not only do the Devils have to be on top of their game throughout, they must be smart enough to pay attention to the Kraken’s weaknesses and capitalize on their mistakes. That should result in an easy win for them.
Another point worth mentioning is the fact that the Kraken’s game against the Devils on Tuesday will be their second of a back-to-back. Meanwhile, the Devils are well-rested, not having played since Friday.
It isn’t confirmed, but this could be how the Devils line up against Seattle on Tuesday:
vs. Washington Capitals — Thursday
The Devils’ game against the Capitals on Thursday will be their toughest of the season yet. The Capitals have looked pretty good in this young season, but have been relying heavily on the great Alex Ovechkin as well as their shining goaltender, Vitek Vaněček.
It’s infinitely easier said than done, but if the Devils can defend Ovechkin well and prevent him from getting as many open shots as he’s used to, there’s no reason they can’t come away with a win.
This game will tell us a lot about this young but promising Devils team.
Players to watch based on career numbers vs. Washington:
Nico Hischier: 12 GP, 5 G (1 PP), 11 PTS
The Devils captain has an impressive resume against the Capitals, averaging nearly a point per game. Hischier should be noticeable in the teams’ first matchup of the season.
Janne Kuokkanen: 7 GP, 1 G, 3 PTS
Thanks to the realignment of divisions, Kuokkanen saw a lot of the Capitals in his first full NHL season and recorded three points in seven games. This could be his first big game of the season.
Yegor Sharangovich: 7 GP, 3 G, 3 PTS
Like Kuokkanen, Sharangovich saw the Capitals often in his rookie season and scored an impressive three goals against them. Sharangovich is always a dangerous goal-scorer and he’ll be a guy to monitor on Tuesday.
Tomáš Tatar: 20 GP, 7 G (1 PP), 17 PTS
One of the Devils’ newest acquisitions, Tatar, has a very impressive resume against a Capitals team that’s almost always excellent. He knows how to score and defend against them.
Tatar will be the leader of the pack on Tuesday.
Jimmy Vesey: 13 GP, 5 G (2 PP), 8 PTS
For a guy who doesn’t do a whole lot of scoring, Vesey has actually fared pretty well against the Capitals in his career, recording a point in most of his games against them.
Tuesday would be a great time for him to tap into that ability and experience.
vs. Buffalo Sabres — Saturday
The Buffalo Sabres were, by far, the worst team in the NHL in 2021 and dealt with a great deal of drama during the offseason involving their former captain, Jack Eichel.
However, they aren’t playing like it to kick this season off.
The Sabres have actually been quite excellent and while their play might not be sustainable, they’ve been very difficult to play against and are showing a lot of toughness and grit on the ice.
The Devils need to watch for Buffalo’s penalty kill, which has been very good, so far.
They also need to watch for the Tage Thompson-Victor Olofsson line. That’s been the team’s hottest line and the Devils will need to shut them down in order to win this game.
Players to watch based on career numbers vs. Buffalo:
Jonathan Bernier: 13 GP, .907 SV%, 2.58 GAA, 7 PP GA
Bernier has had success in net against the Sabres in his career. He has respectable numbers against them, although the seven power play goals against is a little eye-catching.
The Devils will be in good hands if he gets the nod for this game.
Jesper Bratt: 15 GP, 5 G (2 PP, 1 SH), 14 PTS
Bratt has seemingly done it all against the Sabres. He puts up points at even-strength, on the power play, and short-handed against them. Expect to see the RW all over the place in this one.
Dougie Hamilton: 22 GP, 8 G (4 PP), 17 PTS
Hamilton, an elite offensive-defenseman, has done a great job of getting on the scoresheet when he plays the Sabres, especially on the power play.
The Sabres have done well on the penalty kill, but will definitely have their hands full having to deal with Hamilton and co. on special teams.
Janne Kuokkanen: 7 GP, 2 G, 6 PTS
Kuokkanen played some of his best hockey last season against the Sabres and while several of his teammates have done well throughout their careers against this team, Kuokkanen can provide some nice firepower in the bottom-six on Saturday.
Yegor Sharangovich: 7 GP, 2 G, 4 PTS
Sharangovich recorded a respectable four points in seven games against the Sabres last year and, as usual, is a guy to look out for.
P.K. Subban: 44 GP, 5 G (4 PP), 23 PTS
Subban has faced the Sabres far more than any of his teammates and knows what to expect. He’s been very successful against them, especially on the power play.
Like Hamilton, he’s another Devils defenseman who could give the Sabres’ great penalty kill a very tough time.
Jimmy Vesey: 9 GP, 5 G (1 PP), 7 PTS
Vesey knows what it takes to score against the Sabres and has done very well against them throughout his career. The fact that the Devils have so many bottom-six forwards who have done well against the Sabres is a nice advantage.
Vesey will look to be especially impactful against his former team.
Pavel Zacha: 18 GP, 6 G (4 PP), 16 PTS
Zacha has found success, especially on the power play, against the Sabres. This could easily be the game that gets him going since he almost always plays quite well against them.