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Five observations from New Jersey vs Colorado:
1. Devils had no answer for Avalanche’s top line
Colorado is a very top-heavy team. They don’t have many legitimate scoring options beyond the top line. If you can slow down their big three, you’ll have a really good chance of winning. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done and the Devils found out the hard way last night.
It was a classic performance from the Avalanche’s top line in every sense. As usual, they didn’t dominate in terms of possession or on-ice scoring chance differential. They simply went shot for shot and relied on their talent to shine through – and it did.
Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen accounted for 10 of Colorado’s 26 chances (38.5%) and four of the team’s five goals. Everything they touched turned to gold.
There were some tough defensive sequences (Andy Greene allowing Landeskog to walk right down broadway and score comes to mind) but overall the Devils weren’t bad. They only gave up four high-danger opportunities, which would have tied for their 2nd lowest total of 2017-18. Colorado just capitalized on everything.
2. The 3rd pairing was uncharacteristically bad
I don’t know if Will Butcher’s shoulder was bothering him or if it was simply an off night, but his performance alongside Ben Lovejoy was ugly regardless.
More often than not this pairing spends most of its time patrolling the opposing blueline and helping the Devils sustain offensive zone time. That was not the case last night. At all.
At 5v5 they were not on for a single Devils scoring chance. Not just when they were together (they were split for almost as long). Like, at all. Not one. Both players finished with sub 30 Corsi For%’s, too. Despite getting caved in they somehow weren’t on for a goal. That was about the only positive from their play.
3. Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier were finally rewarded
Prior to last night, they had combined for 31 scoring chances in four games. 31! Yet they entered the game goal-less on the year. With the way they generated opportunities around the net, it felt inevitable they’d be rewarded sooner than later. That proved to be the case. Nico banged one in on the doorstep to get the Devils on the board and their 2nd goal came on a beautiful one-timer from Hall. Let’s hope the floodgates open.
4. Damon Severson stood out again
Another game, another strong performance from No. 28.
He finished 1st on the team in 5v5 shot differential (+4), 1st in on-ice chances for (9), and 1st in on-ice high-danger chance differential (+6). Nobody else was better than +3 in the latter.
Severson kept things simple moving the puck effectively, he jumped into the play to help keep possessions alive, and his defense was solid again, which Ken Daneyko highlighted during the broadcast. He’s never going to be someone who puts opponents through the end of the rink but he’s using his solid frame to lean on guys and seal them off. John Hynes and co. have been on him for years about that so it’s no coincidence his ice time is spiking – last night he led Devils in 5v5 minutes – now that he has really bought in. I love what I’m seeing from him right now.
5. PP2 continues to struggle
The top power play is scary good. They move the puck so effortlessly and seemingly create chances at will. I’ve been really impressed with them.
The 2nd power play is scary bad. At least it has been so far. Last night, for example, they generated one (1) shot attempt and zero (0) chances in a little over a minute. For comparison, the top unit generated nine attempts and five chances in ~2:30.
I don’t know what the answer is – Jesper Bratt’s return will surely help – but it’s clear some changes need to be made.
Too long, didn’t read version:
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
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On lineup decisions when Bratt returns, 5v5 dominance, and Butcher
On Johansson, Butcher, and a clear matchup pairing