Devils surprisingly stout in 5-2 win over Oilers
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Five observations from New Jersey vs Edmonton:
1. The Devils were near flawless
Realistically, they couldn't have played a better, more dominant game. A big part of what made the Devils so successful last season was their team speed and relentless pressure. That was on full display vs Edmonton. The Devils smothered opposing players any time they touched the puck and killed a lot of possessions before they even started.
When all was said and done the Devils gave up just two(!) high-danger chances to a team featuring the best player in the league. They did a fantastic job of keeping everything to the outside.
2. Miles Wood stood out again
Last season Wood was a straight-line skater who played with an edge and chipped in some goals. Though he was a very useful player, there wasn't much to his game. He was fairly predictable, he didn't create many opportunities for his teammates, and at times he'd play *too fast* and skate himself into trouble. It's only been a few games but this year's version of Wood looks much better. He's connecting on passes he'd never even consider attempting a year ago. His hands are also softer/looser, which allows for finesse plays I never thought I'd see out of him. I've been thoroughly impressed with his performance since inking a new deal.
3. Pavel Zacha was sneaky good
He didn't do anything that would bring people out of their seats but he consistently made smart, simple plays and the Devils dominated territorially when he was on the ice.
Zacha posted a +10 chance differential at 5v5 (10-0) and I thought he was the game's best penalty killer by a landslide. He played a little over three minutes while down a man and was not on for a chance against then, either. I think he spent more time possessing the puck down low in the offensive zone than the Oilers did.
4. The top line carried the load
Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Kyle Palmieri look to be in mid-season form offensively. The Devils' top trio accounted for 14 of 48 shot attempts (29%), 10 of 27 chances (37%) and connected on a pair of goals – including one less than a minute into the game. They have to score a lot for their existence to be +EV as they aren't stout defensively and stacking the top unit leaves the rest of the lineup shallow on consistent contributors. So far, so good.
5. Stay in your net
The Devils only had a few defensive scares in yesterday's game and one or two were a result of Keith Kinkaid coming out to play the puck. Stay in the crease and save us all from the heart palpitations.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com.
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