Hockey, Devils Ground Flyers 3-0
Devils’ New (Third) Jerseys Do the Trick as Team’s Confidence Gets A Boost By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Out with the losing and in with the new…new (third) jerseys I should specify.
On Wednesday night December 8, 2021, the New Jersey Devils debuted their NEW (third) jerseys in a 3-0 victory over the Flyers at Prudential Center. Did Martin Brodeur’s new jersey design score goals for the team? No. Did the jerseys prevent the Flyers from scoring? Again, the answer’s no. But the jerseys did bring a more energetic atmosphere to the rink and that made the difference.
“I think a lot of the guys like them,” Mackenzie Blackwood said after the game. “They’re really sharp.”
“The guys are pretty fired up,” P.K. Subban said Wednesday morning. “It’ll be a special night.” He was right. The Devils played fired up and it helped boost the team’s confidence.
After Monday’s shootout loss to the Senators multiple players made it a point to talk about how a team’s confidence can be taken away by losing and that they just needed to focus on being ready to work and compete.
The message Wednesday was more direct.
“We should be desperate,” P.K. Subban told reporters in the morning. “No one should be comfortable.” Subban continued by explaining, “during the start of the season we got on a little bit of a run, I think it’s that confidence of going out and knowing that you’re going to get points, you’re going to win hockey games. For us, I think we need to get that swagger back into our game.”
Head Coach Lindy Ruff warned his team and the media that the Flyers would be physical. “They’re going to be on us.”
Consider the result of the game as “message received.”
“(We) had a good start to the game,” said Dawson Mercer. “We had a lot of good possessions.”
“Each couple of months we keep growing and maturing,” added Mackenzie Blackwood.
The best praise came from Head Coach Lindy Ruff, who said, “I thought we played a complete game all the way through. Probably our best game defensively…We were diligent with the play in our own end.”
The Devils came out and after a pre-game video hyping the team’s new jerseys – complete with a giant version being held on the ice by close to two dozen people – got immediately settled into a defensively solid game plan (They held the Flyers to 25-shots for the entire game).
A power-play opportunity – their first since their 8-4 loss to Winnipeg last Friday – 9:06 into the game gave the team a jolt on the offensive side; even though it didn’t result in a goal. On the power-play in question, Dougie Hamilton, Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt combined for several pretty passing sequences while being unable to find the back of the net. Head Coach Lindy Ruff pointed out after the game that Bratt maybe could have been a bit quicker to shoot, but it was a step in the right direction for a team who has struggled with the man-advantage.
The action intensified at the start of the second period when the Devils came out hot and capitalized on their momentum 5:30 into the period.
Jesper Bratt led the charge up the ice and sent a cross-ice pass through the slot to a streaking Nico Hischier. New Jersey’s Captain ran – skated? – out of room before sending a return pass to Bratt. Number 63 took advantage of the open ice in front of him, skated in a few feet and ripped a wrist shot past Carter Hart for the 1-0 Devils lead.
“Playing with him (Bratt), he’s so quick and agile,” explained Dawson Mercer. “He can make players go one way and he’ll go the other.”
“We needed that goal at that point,” said Ruff. “He gave us what we needed.”
A failed Philadelphia power-play followed moments later when Andreas Johnsson was called for interfering with Nick Seeler. But what the Flyers couldn’t do – score – the Devils later did when they received their own power-play. Travis Konecny was sent to the box for running over Mackenzie Blackwood a little over a minute after Johnsson was released from the Sin Bin.
On the Devils’ power-play New Jersey’s Ty Smith whizzed a shot from the point toward the net but it was sailing wide. That is, until Dawson Mercer stuck out his stick and redirected Smith’s blast past Hart for the power-play goal and a 2-0 Devils lead at 11:35 of the second period.
“It was great just to get the goal and feel good,” Mercer said about his goal. “We used that momentum throughout the game.”
The teams each registered another power-play chance through the duration of the second period, with New Jersey’s opportunity carrying over into the opening 1:06 of the third period; which they didn’t convert on.
Aside from a couple isolated flurries of offense from both sides the third period was about as non-descript as they come. The Devils were content to keep the Flyers to the outside and limit Philadelphia’s overall chances. The Flyers, try as they might, could not break through New Jersey’s defense. By the time Philadelphia pulled Hart for the extra attacker with 3:29 to go, it was just a matter of time until the Devils got back in the win column for the first time since beating the Flyers on Sunday November 28th.
Before the final horn sounded, Michael McLeod added the sweetener by potting the empty-net goal with 30-seconds left on the clock to make it 3-0 Devils; his first goal of the year. And 30-seconds later, Mackenzie Blackwood finished off his second shutout of the season; the eighth of his young career.
“I felt like we really needed a win tonight,” said Blackwood. “Definitely a must-win for us. If we play like we did against Ottawa (on Monday) and tonight, we’re going to win a lot of games…It’s just important to look at what we’ve done and keep it going.”
And one last note on the new (third) jerseys…Lindy Ruff quipped we’d see them again Friday night against Nashville and perhaps the same tie he wore tonight too.
Dawson Mercer’s second period power-play goal was the first power-play marker of his young NHL career…New Jersey came into the game riding a four-game winless streak while Philadelphia entered on a nine-game winless streak…The Devils delivered a strong special teams performance throughout the game as they went 1-for-3 on the power-play and 2-for-2 on the penalty-kill…Blackwood recorded a 25-save shutout, his second shutout of the year…Michael McLeod’s empty-net goal was his first goal of the year…Blackwood is undefeated in regulation in his career against the Flyers. “I haven’t really thought about that too much,” Blackwood chuckled.