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1. Defensive play was much improved
At times this preseason the Devils have been very shaky in their own zone. That was not the case last night in Winnipeg.
Despite facing a lineup featuring stars like Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine, the Devils held the Jets to 15 scoring chances – only two of which were high-danger.
They didn't give the Jets much time or space to create. They also did a fantastic job of protecting the slot and keeping traffic away from Keith Kinkaid.
At the forefront of the improved play was the Mirco Mueller - Sami Vatanen pairing. They logged 17 minutes of ice together at 5v5 and were on for just two chances against. Two! Their positioning/gap control was good, they moved the puck well, and they spent a lot of time in the offensive zone.
I've been hard on Mueller this preseason – I think deservedly so – but he played very well last night. Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come.
2. Taylor Hall did Taylor Hall things
No. 9 looks ready to pick up where he left off last season. He recorded a pair of nice assists in what was his second multi-point game in a row. He was excellent defensively and skated as hard on the backcheck as he would on a breakaway, which surely gave John Hynes a twinkle in his eye.
Hall has all the talent in the world and, even in preseason, still looks determined as ever. I think we can safely expect another monster season from him.
3. The 2nd line was threatening
I liked what I saw from the Marcus Johansson - Pavel Zacha - Jesper Bratt unit. They skated hard and played with a lot of pace. They were consistently buzzing around the offensive zone. Most importantly, their passing was really fluid and crisp. They always seemed to know where to find one another and did so in some creative ways. None of them were hesitant to pull the trigger, either, with each player recording at least three shot attempts. More of this, please.
4. Miles Wood was good
Wood's 1st preseason game went about as well as you could hope. His speed was on display early and often. He recorded four shots on goal/five shot attempts and I thought his hands did look better, which is something he said was a priority in the summer.
Wood posted a +7 shot attempt differential at 5v5 and led Devils forwards in ice time during that game state. I'm thinking he'll be ready to go opening night.
5. Damon Severson was better
After a poor pass from MoJo put the Devils in a bad spot, Severson saved a goal by blocking a shot in the crease. He also scored one of his own on an absolute cannon (created by MoJo, funny enough). Severson's underlying numbers were good, too, as he finished with a +6 shot attempt differential and +4 chance differential during 5v5 play.
It wasn't a perfect performance – there were a couple hiccups below the dots and he left it to chance not fully corraling the puck prior to the Kyle Connor goal – but I thought it was a step in the right direction.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com.
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