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The New Jersey Devils are sporting a 0-2-1 record in preseason play after being blanked by the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
I have some thoughts:
The game was really sloppy on both sides but I thought the Devils did some good things. Despite having five fewer power plays, they still outshot the Islanders 36-27 and won the scoring chance battle.
Why? They were far better at 5v5, which wasn't lost on them.
The Devils out-attempted the Islanders 40-25 and out-chanced them 17-8 during that game state. If they stayed out of the box a little more, the result probably would have been different.
Pavel Zacha looked really good. He used his size effectively to protect the puck, he didn't hesitate to drive the net, and the shoot-first mentality he talked about adapting was on full display. He recorded six shot attempts and finished tied for the game-high with five scoring chances. More of that, please.
Steve Santini needs to have a strong preseason to solidify his spot in the team's top-6. So far, so good. He was steady vs the Rangers and that was the case again vs the Islanders. The Devils dominated territorially when he was on the ice (81.25 Corsi For%) at 5v5 and he logged more PK ice than anyone. I want to see the quality performances continue when he faces teams with more veterans in the lineup but his play thus far has been quite impressive.
I liked what John Hynes did last night feeding penalty kill time to the bubble players up front.
Blake Pietila (5:01), Kevin Rooney (4:47), Joey Anderson (4:32) and Mikey McLeod (2:00) all played more than Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman, the team's two leading forward returnees in PK time on ice last year.
If any of those guys crack the lineup, they're destined for a bottom-6 role and no power play time so they'll have to perform well in other areas – such as the penalty kill – if they're going to be worth rostering. Hynes was smart to give them legitimate reps and find out who can actually do it.
I think it's time the Kurtis Gabriel experiment comes to an end. The guy has played four AHL seasons and recorded 10 points or fewer in three of them. All he does is look for trouble and take bad penalties (Gabriel piled up 14 PIMs in less than seven minutes of ice without even fighting). Even his teammates were annoyed by the constant nonsense.
It's one thing to try and stand up for a teammate. It's another to start shit with anyone and everyone just for the hell of it.
Cut Gabriel and give his spot in the lineup to someone who may actually have a future with the team.
Five takeaways from Devils vs Rangers
On Marcus Johansson and Pavel Zacha
Three reasons to be optimistic about the Devils heading into the 2018-19 season
Three question marks for the Devils heading into the 2018-19 season
Power play dominance, and a little luck, behind Hall's big spike in production
The Devils should give Miles Wood an opportunity in the top-6
Damon Severson should benefit from John Moore's departure