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Devils drop preseason opener, fall to Rangers in overtime

September 18, 2018, 10:18 AM ET [20 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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Five observations from New Jersey vs New York:

1. Ty Smith looked good

If Smith had any nerves about suiting up for the first time against professionals, it certainly didn't show. He was rock solid from start to finish.

Smith showed great poise with the puck on his stick. Even when pressured by forecheckers, he never panicked. He simply made a smart pass and kept play moving in the right direction. He showcased his high-end puck skills while quarterbacking the power play. He made some really slick/creative plays, including a spinning backhand pass to hold the line. The Devils capitalized just seconds later.

When all was said and done, Smith finished 2nd on the team with 19:25 of ice. All the power plays helped inflate his numbers but it's clear the coaching staff liked what they saw and had no hesitations throwing him out there.

I do think he has a shot of making the time out of camp, however, we should probably wait to see if he can do this vs teams featuring more NHL bodies before we pencil him into the opening night lineup.

2. Bubble forwards impressed

The Devils have a plethora of guys fighting for the last one or two roster spots up front and they all stood out at times vs the Rangers.

After a slow start, I thought Mikey McLeod really picked it up. He started carrying the puck more and making plays rather than just trying to survive. His speed was really evident, as always, and he made a really nice pass setting up Nick Lappin in the slot for his PP marker.

Speaking of Lappin, he did all he could to make a positive impression. He attempted two shots from the slot and cashed both of them while leading all Devils forwards with a 64.29 Corsi For% during 5v5 play.

John Quenneville was easy to notice as well. He showcased his excellent release ripping one past Alexandar Georgiev from the half-wall on the power play. It was also nice to see him step in for McLeod after he was rocked in the opening frame.

Lastly, Blake Pietila played a strong game. He caused the Rangers all kinds of problems with his relentless forechecking (see the 1st goal) and finished tied for 3rd on the Devils with a +3 scoring chance differential at 5v5.

3) Andy Greene and Steven Santini were rock solid

These two spent almost 400 minutes together last season and things didn't go well, to say the least. With that duo on the ice, the Devils controlled less than 40% of the shot attempts *and* goals. They played tough competition but, honestly, it'd be hard to do any worse.

That's why I wasn't thrilled to see them lining up together last night against the Rangers. They played surprisingly well, though.

They ranked 1st and 2nd on the Devils in CF% and gave up absolutely nothing to the Rangers' top line. No, seriously.

In a little over six minutes against Pavel Buchnevich, Kevin Hayes, and Chris Kreider, the Devils out-attempted the Rangers 11-1 and did not give up a single scoring chance.

4) Jesper Bratt shot the puck

Last season Bratt averaged 1.34 shots and 2.36 attempts per game. It was surprising he scored 13 times shooting as little as he did. If he wants to build on that total this season, he's going to have to pull the trigger with more frequency. Against the Rangers, he showed he might be willing to do just that as he tied for 2nd on the Devils with five attempts. For perspective, he reached that mark in just six of 74 games (8%) last season.

I think his strong pass-first mentality worked against him in the 2nd half once teams caught on. Simply taking some open shots himself would make him less predictable and, thus, more dangerous. Let's hope last night was a sign of things to come.

5) PP1 struggled

It's not uncommon for power plays to struggle in preseason. Particularly, early on. Nobody has had much practice time and the Devils are still tweaking how they operate under assistant Rick Kowalsky. With that said, it was pretty tough to watch the top unit vs New York.

They mustered up just four shots in over seven minutes of ice on the man advantage. They also gave up a short-handed marker in what ended up being a one-goal game.

Again, there is no reason to panic but it was still a pretty disappointing effort given the personnel they had out there.

Note: numbers via NaturalStatTrick and Corsica.Hockey.

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