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Five takeaways from New Jersey vs New York:
1. The top line was dominant
Few lines filled the net at a higher rate than Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri last season. They were on the ice for 4.17 goals per 60 minutes, which was good for 4th in the NHL among 79 trios to play at least 200 minutes together.
While it'll be tough to sustain that number in 2018-19, last night's performance suggests they might be up for the challenge.
They looked extremely sharp from start to finish. They connected on all three goals the Devils scored and created numerous Grade A opportunities in overtime as well.
The passing was crisp, they were in sync and, with Nico Hischier's hand issues a thing of the past, all three players are legitimate threats to score. They won't be together all the time but I'm really looking forward to watching them play when the games count.
2. 5v5 play was an issue
The Devils had an abysmal night at 5v5 – particularly when the top line was not out there.
During that game state, the Rangers out-chanced the Devils 31-16 and won the high-danger battle 22-6.
They were hemmed in the defensive zone numerous times, there were tons of blown coverages, and the Rangers had no problem getting the puck into dangerous areas on a consistent basis.
It's not like the defense was devoid of NHL players, either. Three regular Devils were featured, as was 2018 1st round pick Ty Smith. That was a pretty disappointing effort.
3. Another poor performance from Mirco Mueller
The Devils were out-attempted 24-10 and out-chanced 10-2 with Mueller on the ice at 5v5. Somehow he ended up +2, which is a good example of why that stat is complete garbage, but he did not play well.
The same can be said of his debut performance, where he was caved in against Montreal.
Through two games he owns a 29.03 Corsi For% and 16.67 Scoring Chance For%. This despite being paired with Damon Severson in Game 1 and Sami Vatanen in Game 2.
I want to be wrong but I just don't see anything more than a fringe NHLer here.
4. Tough night for the bubble forwards
Nick Lappin, John Quenneville, Brett Seney, and Mikey McLeod are among those competing for the final spot or two up front. With preseason quickly winding down, you'd like to see someone stand out and really grab hold on a spot. That didn't exactly happen last night.
The Devils were out-chanced 13-2 with Lappin on the ice and he did not record a shot on goal.
While not as extreme, the Devils were out-chanced/out-possessed with Quenneville/Seney on the ice and neither generated a single chance.
Lastly, McLeod posted a minus-12 on-ice chance differential and, like Quenneville and Seney, did not generate a chance of his own.
It was a really underwhelming night for the bubble guys across the board.
5. Jesper Bratt continues to shoot
The other day I commented on Bratt showing more of a shoot-first mentality, which was extremely nice to see.
That continued last night against the Rangers. He was darting around the ice like his usual self and also funneling pucks towards the net when he had a good look rather than forcing it to a teammate.
In just over 17 minutes of ice, he attempted five shots and finished tied for the team lead with four chances.
Note: numbers courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey, as usual.
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