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Five observations from New Jersey vs Columbus:
1. The Devils played up in competition
Given the Blue Jackets are a talented team desperate for points, and the Devils have a laundry list of injuries, I did not think this game would be particularly close. Early on, it looked like I was right. The Blue Jackets scored a goal less than a minute in, then quickly drew a penalty to go on the attack once again. It just felt like it was going to be one of those nights. It wasn't.
After a poor ~10 minutes, the Devils dug their feet into the ground, put on their hard hats, and really went to work. They pushed back in the final 10 minutes of the opening frame and were clearly the better side over the last 40 minutes of regulation, where the Devils held a 25-10 chance advantage (71.4%).
Doing that with a fully healthy roster is impressive. Doing that with Kevin Rooney, Drew Stafford, and Kenny Agostino ranking 3rd, 4th, and 5th among forwards in ice time is honestly hard to believe.
Even in defeat, they're playing better than the sum of their parts a lot these days and John Hynes deserves a lot of credit for that. The results may not be there but the effort is and that's all you can ask for.
2. Team defense was excellent
Over the last 10 games, the Devils have been one of the best shot and chance suppression teams in the league. There's no better example of why than last night.
In 65 minutes against a Blue Jackets team that features plenty of star power – Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Matt Duchene, and Seth Jones come to mind – the Devils conceded just 18 shots on goal and five high-danger chances.
They did not give the Blue Jackets quality or quantity and that really shows when looking at the heatmap. The slot, in particular, was a ghost town.
3. Damon Severson was terrific
I thought he played one of his best two-way games of the season. He logged more than 22.5 minutes at 5v5. In that time, the Devils controlled 61% of the attempts and 71% of the chances. Impressively, a lot of his success came against Columbus' best players.
For example, Severson went head-to-head with noted Devils killer Artemi Panarin for more than 10 minutes. The Devils out-chanced the Blue Jackets 9-2 in that time.
Beyond steady play in the defensive zone, Severson also helped drive the offense. There were some nice rushes through the neutral zone and, once shop was set up offensively, he didn't hesitate to jump into the play to help create for his teammates.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky was in vintage form
This season has not gone to plan for Bobrovsky. The 30-year-old, in a contract year, is not performing at the standard we've grown accustomed to. He owns a .905 save percentage on the year, which is well below his career average of .918. Simply put, he hasn't looked himself on many nights. You wouldn't know it from last night's game, though.
The Devils tested him with 32 chances (10 high-danger) and he was up to the task, conceding just once in 65 minutes of play and stopping both attempts in the shootout. He was calm, controlled, and used his wicked athleticism to make a few sprawling and reactionary saves when necessary.
I know the Devils aren't exactly overflowing with natural finishers right now but he still deserves a lot of credit for his performance. He stole two points.
5. Final notes
a) I loved Blake Coleman's game. Like Damon Severson, he spent a lot of time against Columbus' best players and yet the ice was tilted in New Jersey's favor. On top of strong on-ice numbers, Coleman the team in shot attempts, chances, and made a beautiful play setting up Travis Zajac for the team's lone goal.
b) Mikey McLeod is a pass-first guy but it was nice to see him show a little more confidence and take some shots for himself. He had a few pretty good ones, especially on the power play, and also finished tied for the team lead in hits.
c) Cory Schneider wasn't tested much but, after stopping 17 of 18, his save percentage is now up to .937 over his last seven appearances. Great to see.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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