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Five observations from New Jersey vs Pittsburgh:
1. Marcus Johansson continues to impress
Johansson's value is sky-rocketing with each passing day. Crazy as it might sound, I don't think two points did him justice against the Penguins. He was *that* good. At 5v5 alone, he recorded a beautiful goal, a primary assist, eight shots on target, six chances, and five high-danger looks. To put the latter into perspective, the other 17 Devils combined to record six high-danger chances. Johansson was all over the ice from start to finish and seemingly every time he touched the puck it led to a scoring opportunity, be it for himself or a linemate. It wasn't exactly surprising to see he led the way in 5v5 shot contributions by a good margin (four clear of Jesper Bratt).
2. Keith Kinkaid's playing his way out of New Jersey
Another game, another poor showing from Kinkaid. He allowed four goals – including some questionable ones – on 28 shots, marking the 10th time in 13 outings he has finished with a sub .900 save percentage. His save percentage has started with a .7 as many times (three) as it has with a .9 in that span, which helps put into perspective just how awful he has been.
Have the Devils played steady defense in front of him? Rarely, but he hasn't done much, if anything, to help his cause during this horrible stretch of play.
After the game, as has happened a few times of late, Kinkaid blamed his poor numbers on puck luck and bounces as opposed to playing poorly. John Hynes, perhaps tired of hearing that train of thought, had no time for excuses.
Kinkaid's time with the Devils is quickly reaching an end. He just might be departing via waivers, as opposed to a trade, given how things have gone over the last couple months.
3. The bottom-6 was awful
Blake Coleman aside, New Jersey's bottom two lines were made up of young guys with little experience and fringe NHLers. It certainly showed.
Five of the six finished with a sub 50 Corsi For% and the lone exception (Kenny Agostino) had a negative on-ice chance differential. None of the six recorded more
than three shot contributions or a single chance at 5v5.
4. Will Butcher handled himself well
I liked what I saw from Butcher vs the Penguins. Playing a top-4 role against a team with that much firepower, there isn't really a way to hide Butcher. And he showed he didn't need to be. The Devils out-attempted and out-chanced the Penguins with him on the ice. More impressively, that was more so the case against the Evgeni Malkin/Phil Kessel line than any other. In ~5 minutes of head-to-head time against Malkin, the Devils won the shot battle (on goal) 9-1 and out-chanced the Penguins 6-1. He didn't have a single offensive zone start, or offensive zone faceoff, against them either.
Individually, Butcher created as much offense as any defender on the roster piling up a respectable seven shot contributions.
5. Final notes
a) I know everyone likes to pile on Ben Lovejoy but I thought he played pretty well alongside Will Butcher. His on-ice numbers were solid, he had a few shots on target, and he finished 2nd to Coleman with four hits. Someone is going to scoop him up.
b) The Devils gave up more high-danger looks (1) on the power play than they created (zero). Not ideal!
c) It's tough to ever rule out a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, et all. That said, I came away from the game unimpressed by the Penguins and that's been the case for me quite often this season. They give up way too much defensively considering their goaltending can be iffy.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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