The New Jersey Devils will lose a game again…eventually. Yesterday was not that day, however, as they defeated the Ottawa Senators in convincing fashion with a 5-1 win backstopped by goaltender Akira Schmid. The victory was the Devils’ 12th in a row, one shy of the franchise record of 13 set during the 2000-01 season when they made the Stanley Cup Final but lost to the Colorado Avalanche. Here’s what stood out from yesterday’s win.
Schmid’s Career Best Start
With a loaded schedule this coming week that includes four games in six nights, the Devils decided to give Vitek Vanecek the afternoon off. That meant Schmid would make his second start of the season. His first outing went well, as he made 16 saves on 18 shots in a 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes. But yesterday was by far the best he’s looked in his young NHL career.
About five minutes into the game, Schmid stonewalled Drake Batherson on a sharp-angled one-timer on the power play, then ate up the ensuing rebound from Brady Tkachuk. Though I wouldn’t classify it as a turning point since the game was still 0-0, those types of saves are what teams need to get off on the right foot.
And while the Devils never trailed and did get out to a 3-0 lead 23 minutes into the game, Schmid still faced some quality chances. He stopped Tkachuk on a breakaway later in the game and consistently made high-end saves, whether it was with his blocker, glove, pad, etc. He was even stopping one-timers with about 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
In all, Schmid made 25 saves on 26 shots while stopping 1.27 goals above expected. His positioning was fantastic, but his calmness in net is what’s improved markedly from a season ago. Making the jump from the USHL — the top junior league in the United States — to the NHL was a big step, and it showed.
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Now, he looks like he belongs in the NHL. And with Vanecek needing a rest from time to time while Mackenzie Blackwood recovers from an MCL sprain he suffered two weeks ago, head coach Lindy Ruff should feel confident turning to Schmid until Blackwood is ready to return to action.
Other Devils Takeaways
Sharangovich With Another Strong Showing
After netting the game-winner in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, Yegor Sharangovich followed it up with another impressive outing. He tallied a shorthanded goal and had the primary assist on Jesper Boqvist’s marker, which gave the Devils a 3-0 lead.
Sharangovich’s shorthanded goal was all about his effort too. After Tim Stützle bobbled the puck along the blue line, Sharangovich pounced on it and passed it over to Nico Hischier, who eventually fired an intentional shot off Cam Talbot’s pad, looking for a rebound. Sharangovich drove to the net and cleaned up the rebound after Stützle was caught puck-watching. That made it 4-1 for the Devils and essentially salted the game away.
Sharangovich finished the afternoon with a game score of 1.91, the fourth-best game score of his season. This after he posted his second-best game score of 2022-23 against the Maple Leafs. He tends to get off to slow starts to the season, but he usually picks it up as things progress. It’s only two games, but perhaps he’s starting to find his rhythm.
Devils Outplayed Another Team at 5-on-5
As has been the case during most of their 12-game winning streak, the Devils once again won the five-on-five battle. It started with a strong first period that saw them control over 77 percent of the expected goals while holding the Senators to just one high-danger chance.
The Senators did find their legs a bit over the final two periods, as they had a 36-25 shot attempt advantage and controlled 55 percent of the expected goals. But that likely had to do with score effects — the concept that teams tend to sit back once they build up leads — since the Devils led 3-0 after 23 minutes and were up 4-1 after 40 minutes. Otherwise, there wasn’t much doubt about who was the better squad.
- The curse is finally over. After having some of the worst shooting luck in the league to start the season, Erik Haula finally got off the schneid with a power-play goal in the first period. That tally gave the Devils a 1-0 lead, and they never looked back. Now that he finally got the weight of not having scored a goal through 17 games off his shoulders, hopefully he starts putting the puck in the net consistently.
- Not only did Boqvist score a goal, but he was also one of the Devils’ better players yesterday. His game score of 1.97 ranked third among all skaters — Senators included — but it’s not his offensive game that stood out. Surprisingly, he’s turned into an effective two-way forward, as the Devils allowed just 0.18 expected goals with him on the ice at five-on-five yesterday. He’s been above-average defensively to start this season, which the team will take from him in a third-line role, especially if he starts finding his way onto the scoresheet.
- The BMW Line continues to roll. Nathan Bastian tallied a goal, while Miles Wood had an assist, but it was Michael McLeod who had himself a game. He picked up a helper on Bastian’s marker and put in the empty-net tally to seal the deal in the third. His game score of 2.25 ranked first among all skaters yesterday and helped the BMW Line continue its impressive run during this 12-game winning streak.
- The Devils have three defense pairs they can rely on each night, but the unit of Ryan Graves and John Marino stood out yesterday. Both of them finished with expected goal percentages above 60, and they kept the Tkachuk, Stützle and Claude Giroux line in check. They looked like a shutdown pair and will need a repeat effort with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in town to start the new week.
The Devils will look to tie the franchise record for a winning streak on Monday when they take on the Oilers. Keep it here at The Hockey Writers for the latest coverage as the Devils look to make some history ahead of American Thanksgiving.
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Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017