Devils’ Holtz Shines in Preseason Win Over Bruins – 10/8/22

Preseason is officially in the books for the New Jersey Devils as they beat the Boston Bruins last night to improve to a record of 5-2-0. Both Mackenzie Blackwood and Vitek Vanecek were awarded ice time in the crease and played well, which provided fans with even more confidence in the team’s netminders as the regular season is set to begin. Let’s break down all of last night’s action starting with the players who made up the roster.

New Jersey’s Lineup Against Boston

Ondrej Palat – Jack Hughes – Alexander Holtz

Yegor Sharangovich – Erik Haula – Jesper Bratt

Tomas Tatar – Dawson Mercer – Fabian Zetterlund

Jesper Boqvist – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian

Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton

Ryan Graves – John Marino

Brendan Smith – Damon Severson



Noticeably Missing

There were two regulars who were missing from last night’s lineup and those were of course Miles Wood and Nico Hischier. The Devils’ captain was unable to finish the team’s first preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens due to cramping, only appearing in the first period. On Sept. 29 head coach Lindy Ruff told the media that the 23-year-old suffered a hamstring strain and would be re-evaluated in 10 days. The latest update is that he is progressing and working out. Wood remains healthy and was simply not utilized at TD Garden. Having the two aforementioned players out of the lineup meant that both Zetterlund and Boqvist received one final look.

Holtz’s Perfect Preseason Ending

Over the past few weeks, fans have watched Holtz like a hawk, anxiously waiting to see if the young Swede would be worthy of a roster spot. While the answer to that question won’t reveal itself until Monday evening, he has won the fanbase over as most feel he is deserving of a top-six role when the season opens later this week.

Alexander Holtz New Jersey Devils
Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last night he scored the Devils’ first goal of the game, and later assisted on Jack Hughes’ third-period goal. It was his first two-point night of the preseason and may have solidified his spot alongside Hughes and Palat on the team’s top line. It appears he has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, even before last night’s contest, but celebrating a goal and an assist was the perfect ending to his training camp.

21 and Under

Last night’s game gave fans another reason to be excited about this team’s young core. New Jersey’s three youngest forwards contributed to their team’s victory in a big way by scoring three of its five goals.

Hughes, who turned 21 in May, had a two-point night and scored on his only shot of the game. Mercer continued to display his versatility as he moved back to the center position with Hischier out of the lineup. In the second period, he scored the Devils’ second goal of the game by tipping the puck past Bruins’ goaltender Linus Ullmark.

After his two-point performance, 20-year-old Holtz met with the media and said he feels good about what he has done over the past few weeks, and it is now up to the coaching staff to decide what his future will be.

“I feel like I made a strong case for myself this preseason, with the rookie tournament and scrimmages as well,” he said of making the final NHL roster. “I’m looking forward to what’s upcoming next.”

Devils Still Have Work to Do on Special Teams

Coming into preseason there was an understanding that special teams would not be magically fixed overnight. The power play would need to undergo a complete makeover, while the penalty kill also needed to be re-evaluated with the departures of Jimmy Vesey and Janne Kuokkanen. There have been glimpses of improvement on the man advantage, but there’s still a long way to go as the Bruins had a few opportunities to score while shorthanded last night.

Related: Projecting Devils’ Roster to Start 2022-23 Season

One of the biggest negatives of the preseason was back on Sept. 29 when the Devils faced the New York Rangers and gave up two shorthanded goals. After leading the league in that category last season, it will be an issue that the coaching staff will want to rectify quickly before things get out of hand.

Gameday Notes & Observations

  • Three of Lindy Ruff’s four lines contributed to the scoresheet. The fourth line that consisted of Boqvist, McLeod and Bastian combined for four shots on goal and six hits while McLeod was 33 percent in the faceoff circle.
Nathan Bastian New Jersey Devils
Nathan Bastian, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
  • Speaking of the faceoff circle, this was an area that the team struggled with as the Devils finished the game winning only 25 percent of their faceoffs. After the game, Ruff said when the team faces some tighter matchups he will utilize McLeod and have him take a good amount of the draws, which is an indicator that he could very well be on the final roster.
  • Bratt led all forwards with 15:48 of ice time; second on the team was Bastian playing 15:47.
  • Last night marked the first time that 25-year-old Pavel Zacha faced his former club. He played on a line alongside David Krejčí and David Pastrnak.

The Devils will hit the ice at noon today for a practice and will have tomorrow off. The final 23-man roster will need to be submitted to the NHL by Monday, Oct. 10 at 5:00 pm. Game one of the regular season will be this Thursday at Wells Fargo Center against John Tortorella and the Philadelphia Flyers.

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