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A few New Jersey Devils notes on this off-day:
I've been asked a lot about who should come out of the lineup when Jesper Bratt returns.
Personally, I would like to see Brian Boyle sit. Through two games he ranks last on the Devils in Corsi For% and Scoring Chance For%. His lack of foot speed sticks out in a negative light on a team built on pace. He is also not a key penalty killer (he played ~20 minutes down a man last season), although he has been used more frequently in the early going this season.
J.S. Dea is a better fit based on the team's style of play and he has experience playing center. I'd slot him as the 4C, drop Stefan Noesen down to L4, and give Bratt his original spot as RW2.
I think the more likely scenario, however, is Bratt rejoining the 2nd line, Noesen joining Travis Zajac on the 3rd line, and John Quenneville sitting in the press box. Then maybe a rotation from there. I hope that's not the case but I think it will be. Time will tell.
Two games is two games but it's pretty hard not to be excited about what we've seen from the Devils thus far.
They've had no problem getting the puck into high-danger areas and they rank 1st generating 3.71 Expected Goals For/60 at 5v5 as a result.
Defensively, their numbers are equally as impressive (and surprising). Despite going up against the league's best player and the 2017-18 Stanley Cup winners in back-to-back games, they rank 2nd giving up just 1.79 Expected Goals Against/60.
I still think the defense is going to cause some headaches but the team's speed, and relentless puck pursuit while forechecking *and* backchecking, really helps insulate it.
Remember how dominant Will Butcher was vs soft competition last season? Well, it's been more of the same thus far.
With Butcher on the ice at 5v5, the Devils have controlled 66% of the shot attempts (38-19), 63% of the chances (20-12), and have out-scored opponents 4-0.
As long as the top-4 holds up, the Devils can continue to reap the benefits that come with Butcher playing a sheltered role.
Five observations from a statement win over the Capitals
On Johansson, Butcher, and a clear matchup pairing
On Severson's usage, Zacha's penalty killing, and more
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