Next on the New Jersey Devils road trip was a two-game series at the Boston Bruins on March 28 and March 30, a team they have played very well against this season despite Boston being much higher in the standings. New Jersey is 4-2 in their games played, impressive since they are currently seventh in the NHL East Division standings with 31 points and the Bruins are in fourth place with 41. They started the series firmly with a 1-0 shutout before falling 5-4 in a shootout two nights later.
It was an improvement from the two games dropped in Washington; Mackenzie Blackwood helped them hold on Sunday, but after having a 3-1 lead in the second period of Tuesday’s game, Boston clapped back with two goals in the third to ultimately give the Devils only one point on the night. Let’s talk about two takeaways from this series as the team heads back to New Jersey to prepare for another series against the Washington Capitals.
Zajac Keeps Improving No Matter Who He’s With
It seems like any line Travis Zajac is put on, he makes better. On Sunday he was on his usual line that head coach Lindy Ruff has been using a bunch with Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen, a combination he’s been adding veteran mindset and a bunch of points to. On Tuesday, things were changed up a bit, with Zajac centering Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt on the Devils’ first line. It was no problem for him — he was noticeable in this series no matter who the wingers were next to him.
It’s been a milestone season for Zajac as his played in his 1,000th game, all for the Devils, a while back. He’s one of the most important components of this team, and it is promising to see him having a good season. In this series, he scored his 200th career goal, and was visible throughout. Him adding experience to younger lines has really benefited New Jersey overall, and being able to adapt to any player he centers is a huge advantage when it comes to getting points and winning games. It would be smart to keep him with these young players he’s meshed so well with.
Goaltending Was Good the First Night, But Needed to Be Improved in the Second
Don’t get me wrong, Blackwood is having a great season despite the circumstances. He had to shake off some rust after coming back from a COVID-19 break, but has since worked through some tough games and is getting back to his potential with a 10-10 record.
Blackwood notched his first shutout of the season on Sunday. He was impressive and played well — the Blackwood everyone loves to see. It was a good showing of the talent he has been showcasing since taking over as the Devils main starter — not to mention he had a third-period save that stretched him across the crease as he saved the puck right before it was about to roll over the goal line. It was quickly branded as one of the best saves in the league this season, and kept the Devils lead and his shutout intact. His well-deserved perfect night gave him 31 saves and some good momentum to face Boston again within the next two days.
With the next game came a few goals that stung a bit. The Devils had that two-goal lead going and some of Boston’s goals to come back and send the game to overtime could have been avoided. Blackwood letting in just one or two less could have ended this game in regulation rather than having to deal with a shootout loss. Tightening his game a bit would help to be more consistent with saves, bringing the team to more wins, and more awareness could have been the difference in this one as well. Besides that, Blackwood did help keep New Jersey in the game with a ton of great saves towards the end of regulation and into overtime.
Looking Ahead to Another Series
The Devils have two nights off in a row for the first time since their COVID-19 pause, a much-needed breather to prepare for another series, this time at home against the Capitals. It will be interesting to see if their improvement over the past few will continue, as most of their wins this season have come on the road.
Sam is currently Managing Editor, and used to be Sports Editor, of The Montclarion, Montclair State University’s student-run multimedia newspaper. She’ll be earning her Sports Media and Journalism degree from there in Spring 2021. A hockey fan since she was a young girl, she covers the Montclair State men’s team as well as the Metropolitan Riveters and New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers.