Good evening Devils fans. Last night, the Devils returned to the Rock after a bit of a road trip to take on the New York Islanders. The game we all got was…something. On the positive side, the top line of Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes and Tyler Toffoli combined for 8 points in total. On the downside, 5 goals were scored against Akira Schmid. Whether those were his fault or the defense’s blame, we’ll get into it as we delve further into the article.
The scoring was inaugurated due to a mishandled puck by Colin Miller at the point. Matt Barzal capitalized on it with a breakaway, finishing gloveside. Things didn’t improve for the Devils as Brock Nelson finished a Pulock-Engvall passing tic-tac to put the Isles up 2-0. The lead would be cut in half by John Marino, shooting from the blueline with traffic up front of Ilya Sorokin. The 2nd period saw the beginning of the Jesper Bratt show as the Swedish winger netted a pair of goals within the first five minutes. The first was an absolute beauty, seeing players make multiple tape-to-tape passes before Bratt finished with a one-timer near the right faceoff circle. The next saw Bratt and Toffoli go 2-on-1, beating Sorokin on the odd man rush. Pierre Engvall would tie it up, grabbing the puck for a rush as Simon Nemec was caught on the boards and beating Schmid five-hole. Marino would bring the puck into the zone and use some quality puck handling to beat the defender, finishing to bring the score up to 4-3 Devils. Jack Hughes would find the back of the net with a similar tic-tac-toe finish during even strength. Eleven seconds into the 3rd period, which saw Sorokin replaced by former Devil Ken Appleby, Matt Barzal would cut the lead down to 5-4 with the Devils defense caught puck-watching on the left side. Marino and Kevin Bahl would end up finding Bratt in the middle slot, who lit up the Isles goalie to bring the score to 6-4. Anders Lee ended up scoring a consolation goal to wrap the game up 6-5 Devils.
The highlights from last night’s game can be found below:
Key Thoughts of the Game
1. Schmid and the Defense Looked Lost
We can blame it on the toll of the road or a hungrier Isles offense, but the blueliners and goaltending looked rough from the start. Maybe it could have been some line swaps and miscommunication, unlucky bounces, or the Islanders wanted it more. Whatever the case, Schmid and the defense looked flat for most of the game, save a few moments here and there. While members of the D factored in offensively, they made serious mistakes on their own end, whether it was puck management, passing, getting caught puck watching, or overcommitting to targets. HC Lindy Ruff has some work cut out for him as they wrap up the preseason and work out the kinks.
2. The Top Line Looked Good
The Toffoli-Hughes-Bratt (or To Be Honest Line, if you want to get corny), looked fantastic last night. 8 points between the players and a preseason hattrick for Bratt, one of your top players, is exactly what we want to see as the regular season approaches. If they can continue this production output while fixing the defensive issues clearly on display from the game last night, these Devils could end up living up to expectations.
3. Relatively Quiet Night for Depth Forwards
With the exception of a Curtis Lazar assist on John Marino, no forward outside of the top line factored into the scoresheet. Per my previous article, I predicted this wouldn’t be the case and boy, was I wrong. The gritty Islanders offense fought fire with fire, going back and forth with the Black and Red to edge out the competition. This, along with a tougher defensive system, ended up isolating those role players we may have been hoping to see a final flash out of the pan with the regular season approaching and roster cuts immenent.
The Devils remain 5-0 in the preseason, looking to host the Rangers tomorrow night at 7 PM, at the Rock. The gametime lines could end up being as the practice ones listed below, per Amanda Stein. Time will tell if there are any changes for the game.
Oh my, look at this #NJDevils lineup at practice today with the whole group together.
As wrap up, some quick organizational notes regarding the roster cutting down. Per Sam Kasan at the Devils’ official site, four players were shipped to Utica: Graeme Clarke, Kyle Crisuolo and Chase Stillman and Daniil Misyul. Criscuolo cleared waivers on Tuesday. Erik Kallgren was placed on waivers with the intent on moving him to Utica. Don’t be surprised if a desperate team might aim to snatch him, possibly Tampa Bay. The only player I would have liked to keep around was Graeme Clarke but this just didn’t end up being his year. Hopefully, he can continue his strong AHL form and factor in later on in the season. Two more cuts to go to get to the 23 man roster.
What are your thoughts? Observations about the Islanders game? Would you run those lines or make tweaks? Any disagreements with the cuts?
Leave your thoughts and comments below. Raise Hell,