Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
Five observations from New Jersey vs Pittsburgh:
1. Pittsburgh's forecheck caused problems
The Devils are a team that likes to make short passes in quick succession to get the puck out of trouble and move up the ice. They really struggled doing so vs the Penguins. The latter forechecked extremely hard and used their speed effectively to close gaps. They were always on top of the Devils just sitting on a pass. That resulted in quite a few broken exits, which led to the Penguins generating more sustained offensive zone pressure than any team would be comfortable with. A lot of times the Devils were able to get away with it – on the scoreboard, anyway – but they really need to be much sharper down the stretch.
2. Defense led to offense for Nico Hischier
The 19-year-old rookie possesses elite puck skills and makes great plays with it look routine on a nightly basis. It was his play without it that stood out to me last night, though. On several occasions he was able to use a quick stick to fish pucks out of the pile and take it the other way. He did that, and then slipped by two Penguins, after being bodied off the puck by Evgeni Malkin and it led directly to Kyle Palmieri's opening goal.
Hischier is relentless after the puck and clearly is already quite good at using his stick to pickpocket opposing players and snag extra possessions. He reminds me of Auston Matthews that way. I wouldn't be surprised if Hischier puts himself in the Selke conversation down the road.
3. The Devils missed Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon was a factor in his first game back. In particular, he was very effective around the net. He completely screened Matt Murray on Taylor Hall's goal, which was a perfectly placed shot, and he made a lot of plays in tight. There were some nice passes dished while under pressure and he did a good job of retrieving pucks, getting it to an open man, and keeping possessions alive. He's been a nice fit on this team.
4. Sami Vatanen is struggling vs the Penguins
Most players will have a tough time against the Penguins, especially when playing almost exclusively against Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
Still, Vatanen is the Devils' No. 1 defenseman so it's a little discouraging to see him garner the results he has over the last two meetings.
In a hair over 40 minutes with Vatanen on the ice at 5v5, the Penguins out-attemped the Devils 54-16, out-chanced them 28-12, and out-scored them 4-1. It hasn't even been a contest.
5. Blake Coleman strikes again
This guy must live for games against the Penguins because he makes an impact every time. In the first couple meetings he didn't get individual results but was all over the ice and generated more than his share of chances. The last two games he was rewarded accordingly with a goal in each of them. It'd be fun to see him vs the Penguins in a playoff series, although that's probably not realistic.
Palmieri, Hall lead Devils past Hurricanes
Marcus Johansson has played better than given credit for