Hockey, Devils Take Latest Round of Hudson River Rivalry From Rangers 7-4
Two Different Rebuilds, Only One Victor By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
It’s apples to oranges. Actually, it’s more like Little Brother Vs. Big Brother. Either way you want to look at it, it all boils down to the same thing. There’s no one right way to build – or rebuild – a hockey team.
Tuesday night at Prudential Center the Devils hosted their cross-river rivals, the Rangers, in a game that provided deep insights into the way each has been built. While each has undergone a rebuild in recent years, it was the Devils who reigned victorious in this one, courtesy of a 7-4 win that was fueled by a five-goal second period. New Jersey tallied all five second period goals in a span of 10:55.
Before we get into the specific action of the game, let’s quickly compare and contrast how these two teams have gotten to where they are.
The last time the Devils qualified for the playoffs was the 2017-18 season. It was that same year the Rangers decided to tear things down and start over. It took a little over a year after that for the Devils to follow suit.
Both have been the beneficiaries of positive luck in the draft lottery. The Devils won it all in 2019 and took Jack Hughes, who has blossomed this year. One pick after that the Rangers selected Kaapo Kakko, who has yet to fully establish himself at the NHL level and remains out of the lineup after undergoing wrist surgery.
“We all have a lot of high draft picks,” Hughes said. “(But) our core, me, Nico (Hischier), (Jesper) Bratt, and Merc (Dawson Mercer) are younger.”
The following year, 2020, New York won the lottery and drafted Alexis Lafreniere. With the seventh pick in the first round, New Jersey took Alexander Holtz, who has put together a strong season in the AHL with the Utica Comets and is poised to compete for a spot on the Devils’ roster next season.
Those four are just the tip of the iceberg though. New York regularly ices a team with as many as seven or eight homegrown players in the lineup. The Rangers have also done well to complement those homegrown players with astute free agent signings and trades. On the other hand, at full strength, the Devils can ice as many as 13 homegrown players.
The fact each team has as many homegrown players as it does is a testament to how each team has attempted to build through the draft. However, the difference lies in how much those homegrown players contribute to their respective teams.
There’s no question the Devils have the edge in this area. Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Dawson Mercer and Damon Severson far out pace the production the Rangers have gotten from Kakko, Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and company.
The one area where the Blueshirts have outdone the Devils is in net as Igor Shesterkin is the runaway favorite for this year’s Vezina Trophy and one of the favorites for the Hart Trophy. New Jersey has not gotten nearly the same level of production out of Nico Daws and Mackenzie Blackwood (who is still on IR with a left heel injury).
All that being said, it’s the Rangers who are currently primed to make a playoff run, whereas the Devils are still a year or so away from being at the same level.
Now, in terms of the game…
1) Jacob Trouba laid out Nico Hischier with a thunderous hit in the opening minute, providing yet another contrast between the teams. The Blueshirts have consciously added grit over the past year in order to take the next step in their development. Meanwhile, the Devils are still in the acquiring skill phase of their rebuild, with some sandpaper type players likely to come in the off-season. For those wondering, Hischier was fine after the hit from Trouba.
2) 7:10 into the first period Mika Zibanejad cleaned up the loose puck to Nico Daws’ blocker side and put the little rubber biscuit past New Jersey’s young netminder for the 1-0 Rangers lead. Prior to the goal, Alexis Lafreniere had a couple quality chances that Daws shutdown. But in the end, New Jersey’s young netminder could not bail out his defense as it collapsed around him.
3) Zibanejad briefly halted his own team’s offensive push when he was called for high-sticking Jonas Siegenthaler at the 9:53 mark of the opening period. To illustrate the difference between the goalies, Igor Shesterkin did what Nico Daws couldn’t moments earlier and bailed out his teammates to prevent the Devils from scoring on their power-play.
4) Four-minutes and change after New Jersey’s power-play expired the young Devils allowed Adam Fox to skate in far too close to Daws. Fox’s high rising shot beat Daws and put New York up 2-0 at 13:55 of the first period.
5) On to the second period and the Devils did not manage a single shot on goal for the first 7:12 of the frame. Andreas Johnsson had a glorious opportunity around four-minutes in, but he attempted to wait out Shesterkin and never found the opening he wanted.
Ken Daneyko said on the Devils MSG Networks broadcast he was told that Devils Head Coach Lindy Ruff laid into his team during the first intermission. According to Jack Hughes, Ruff’s message was, “we need to win this period.”
6) At the aforementioned 7:12 mark of the second period, Ryan Graves broke New Jersey’s shotless streak and then Tomas Tatar cleaned up the rebound to cut the Devils’ deficit to 2-1. 1:18 later, P.K. Subban, who surprisingly was not traded at Monday’s deadline, tied the game 2-2 with a rocket shot of his own, bringing new life to his team and the fans at The Rock.
7) 4:10 after Subban’s game-tying blast Dawson Mercer parked himself to the left of Igor Shesterkin and banged home the rebound off a shot from Ryan Graves to put New Jersey in front 3-2. And 33-seconds later Tatar netted his second of the period to make it 4-2 Devils.
8) Out of frustration, Ryan Reaves slashed Mason Geertsen 19-seconds after Tatar’s second goal to give New Jersey its second power-play of the game. Initially, it appeared Jesper Bratt scored on the power-play to increase his team’s lead to 5-2, but a coach’s challenge from Gerard Gallant resulted in the goal being waved off because of an offside infraction.
9) Then, 2:35 after the Devils’ power-play came to an end, Yegor Sharangovich netted his team its fifth goal of the period (for real this time) when he took a pass from Nico Hischier above the left face-off circle. Sharangovich’s shot deflected off Justin Braun’s stick and soared past Shesterkin at the 18:07 mark of the middle period.
“(That was) one of the better periods we’ve played this year,” said Jack Hughes. “We don’t lack offense. We know how to score.”
“There’s a big difference between 4-2 and 5-2,” Dawson Mercer explained.
“The sign of a good team is the ability to bounce back,” added Lindy Ruff. “We stressed our transition game.”
10) The third period began with Alexander Georgiev in net for the Rangers as Gerard Gallant mercifully pulled Igor Shesterkin. It wasn’t Shesterkin’s fault his teammates collapsed in front of him and after a season of carrying them on his back he just wasn’t able to be their superhero this time.
11) Artemi Panarin wasn’t content to sit back and allow the Rangers to go down meekly. So, with 3:46 gone by in the third, Panarin sent an innocent looking shot towards Nico Daws and Ryan Strome deflected it past New Jersey’s netminder to bring the Rangers within 5-3.
12) New Jersey had a third power-play opportunity 7:53 into the third period and this time the Devils cashed in. The Rangers tried to make one too many passes on a short-handed attempt and turned the puck over. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier played a little game of give-and-go before Hughes shot the puck past Georgiev for the 6-3 Devils lead at 9:36 of the third.
13) 1:10 after Hughes’ power-play goal, New Jersey’s 2019 first overall pick went up the ice and put a surprising backhander past Georgiev to increase New Jersey’s lead to 7-3.
14) A Jimmy Vesey hooking penalty against Zibanejad at the 14:32 mark of the third period led to a power-play goal by Chris Kreider. The goal brought the Rangers within 7-4, 24-seconds into the man-advantage.
15) That was the last of the action as New Jersey closed out its first win against the Rangers in their last nine tries.
“It’s a huge win for our fans,” Hughes explained. “Obviously (it was) a really positive game.”
“I get a big kick out of winning,” Ruff concluded.
New Jersey’s power-play went 1-for-3 on the night. Meanwhile the Devils went 0-for-1 on the penalty-kill…Nico Hischier led all Devils forwards in ice time at 20:40…Dougie Hamilton led all New Jersey defensemen in ice time at 21:59…Jack Hughes’ power-play goal was the 100th point of his career…Tomas Tatar’s two-goal night was his first multi-goal game with the Devils…Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich, Ryan Graves, P.K. Subban, Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Tatar each had multi-point nights…This was the first time in the last nine meetings between these teams that the Devils pulled out a victory.
WHAT THEY SAID:
As a semi-regular feature of our game coverage we’ll be hearing from members of the Devils fan base.
Prior to their game against the Rangers, The President of The Devils Fan Club had this to say about her beloved team.
“I am looking for the Devils to be excited that they did not lose any teammates at the trade deadline,” Trudy Stetter said. “And they added a goalie who could provide some quality and stability to their play. Add that to the excitement of playing their cross-river rivals and I predict the Devils win 4-3!”
Score aside, Trudy got the end result right and that’s all that matters. Now the Devils are onto Toronto.