Devils’ California Road Trip Filled With Highs and Lows

The New Jersey Devils are home after a California road trip where they earned three of a possible six points. The trip started bleak after the Devils were handed their first shutout loss of the season by the Anaheim Ducks. However, they then secured a point against the Los Angeles Kings and finally earned a victory against the San Jose Sharks before they hopped on a plane back to New Jersey.

Some moments made Devils fans cheer and others made them scream at their screens. Here are some of the biggest storylines from the past week.

Severson Redeems Himself

The spotlight was on defenseman Damon Severson after Dougie Hamilton was injured in the first period against the Ducks. Severson finished the game with 23:18 of ice time, including 8:12 short-handed.

Against the Kings, Severson was paired with Ryan Graves and played 21:54. However, the 6-foot-2 defender found himself in the penalty box three times in the third period, first for tripping Trevor Moore – thankfully, the Devils killed off the penalty – then interference against Andreas Athanasiou. Unfortunately, the Kings scored the go-ahead goal with 3:40 seconds left in regulation while Severson was serving his third penalty.

Related: Devils News & Notes: Severson, Holtz & More

Fans took to social media, as they do, and blamed Severson for the overtime loss. During the post-game press conference, Severson defended himself.

“Yeah, it sucks being the guy who took the penalties obviously,” said Severson. “Unfortunately, I gotta watch what I say because I can get into trouble. I wasn’t looking to see the last [penalty]. I have to see it again. I was already turning and went to box the guy and must have hit him in the face, from what I understand. The other [penalty], I took a stride, and the guy tripped over my leg. The other one, I thought, was very soft. The guy just fell. I was just trying to play hard in front of the next and box him out. I know the rules are different this year, but guys can’t be going down that easily.” 

By the final game of their road trip, Severson redeemed himself with the shootout winner against James Reimer of the Sharks – Jesper Bratt and Logan Couture scored in the first round.

“It’s a great feeling as a player, especially when you get that vote of confidence from the coach,” Severson said. “When you get a chance to finish the game like that, it’s icing on the cake on the road trip. It’s huge. A great feeling for me and the team going home now.”

Blackwood Makes His Season Debut

It took nine games, but Mackenzie Blackwood finally made his season debut against the Kings, facing 29 shots, making 26 saves, to finish the game with a .897 save percentage. The 6-foot-4 goaltender looked comfortable, and his heel didn’t seem to be an issue as he moved easily within his crease.

“I was pretty happy with how [my heel] held up,” Blackwood told the media. “I wasn’t sure how it would be for a full game, but it was good enough to get me through the whole time without limiting me.”

Moving forward, the Devils will be able to use both Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier, who has a 4-1 record in five starts this season. The Devils will have an excellent tandem who can steal games if necessary.

Changes to the Devils’ Lineup

Head coach Lindy Ruff made changes to his forward group and defensemen during this trip. After the team was shut out by the Ducks, they called Alexander Holtz up from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League (AHL). In two games, he averaged 14 minutes of ice time, including time on the power play. He registered four shots on goal and played both games on a line with fellow rookie Dawson Mercer.

The biggest news from the trip was the loss of Dougie Hamilton, and the Devils’ defense had to step up and fill the void. Ty Smith continues to struggle. He mishandled the puck in overtime against the Kings, which led to Alex Iafallo’s game-winning goal. The good news is that Jonas Siegenthaler and PK Subban have been one of the team’s most consistent pairings this season. Hamilton was spotted on the ice in Anaheim and is not expected to miss extended time.

Devils Penalties Prove Costly

The Devils took way too many penalties during their California trip. Yes, some penalties are worth taking if they prevent a goal. However, most if not all of the Devils’ penalties were unnecessary and avoidable. Over the past three games, they gave up 16 power-play opportunities, and in his postgame press conference after the loss to the Kings, Ruff said the lack of discipline is unacceptable

Related: Devils Must-Watch Games in November

Overall, leaving California with three points is a win. The Devils maybe should have had four, but their play improved as they made their way around the Golden State. The Metropolitan Division is competitive; it’s the only division in the league that all eight teams are over the .500 mark. Ruff’s team performed well enough, and they have a solid foundation to keep building on throughout the season.

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