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Five observations from Game 1 between the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning:
1. Too much self-inflicted damage
After a horrendous 1st period in which they were completely overwhelmed, the Devils fought back. They mostly looked like they belonged on the same ice over the final 40. Their power play was dangerous and, at times, they were able to carry play at 5v5. Their 2nd period was particularly good.
None of it mattered, though, because they gave the Bolts way too many freebies. Patrick Maroon handed them a goal by trying to force a cross-ice pass through two guys at the blue line. Mirco Mueller literally put it on the tape for an empty-netter while trying to clear the puck. Miles Wood took a penalty a planet away from the defensive zone and it resulted in a goal.
All of that has to be cleaned up. The Bolts are as talented as any team and don't need many opportunities to convert. If you're going to shoot yourself in the foot, it's not going to be much of a series.
2. Mirco Mueller struggled
His partner in crime, John Moore, didn't help the cause but I thought Mueller really struggled. His very first shift was a disaster and things seemed to snowball from there. He didn't look at all confident with the puck – a couple times he stumbled over himself while trying to make a play – and not much good came when he had it.
With Mueller on the ice at 5v5, the Devils were out-chanced 8-4 and out-scored 2-0. As mentioned above, Mueller also handed the Bolts a power play marker with a failed clearing attempt.
If I'm John Hynes, Damon Severson is going in for Game 2.
3. The 3rd line showed up
The Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen line garnered surprisingly good results down the stretch and that was again the case in Game 1.
They were able to work the puck down low and pressure in the offensive zone for extended periods of time. They cycled well, they finished their checks and, most importantly, they kept Tampa Bay's skill players in the defensive zone and didn't give them the opportunity to create.
Believe it or not, only Yanni Gourde's line controlled a larger share of the 5v5 shot attempts and the difference was negligible.
4. No help for Taylor Hall
If the Devils are going to stand a chance in this series, they need to give Taylor Hall some help offensively. They certainly didn't last night.
Hall picked up a primary point on each of New Jersey's goals and also led the team in scoring chances. The only time the Devils looked dangerous without Hall on the ice was when the 3rd line was out there, and it's not realistic to expect them to contribute consistently – especially when New Jersey is back on home ice and they're taking on the toughest matchups.
Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood and the deadline acquisitions – Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner – need to be a lot more dangerous than they were last night.
5. Sami Vatanen's play a positive
John Hynes was able to get Vatanen out against Tampa Bay's best players a fair amount and Vatanen held his own.
He shared the ice with Victor Hedman for more than 10 minutes. The Devils gave up one shot on goal and one chance in that time.
He shared the ice with Nikita Kucherov for well over eight minutes. The Devils gave up one shot on goal and two chances in that time.
Vatanen is going to stick to Tampa's best like glue when the Devils are back at home so it's encouraging Vatanen held his own against them in Game 1.
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