Devils’ Smith, Mercer & Hamilton Lead the Way in Win Over Blues

It was Youth Hockey Day at Prudential Center when the New Jersey Devils hosted the visiting St. Louis Blues. Once I walked through security, and out to the tunnel, I was greeted by a group of kids ecstatic to see their favorite Devils players take the ice for warmups. They shouted and cheered as Dougie Hamilton, Dawson Mercer and Jack Hughes walked past them. The players made their way to the ice and the children dispersed as it was now time to focus on the task at hand.

The Devils came out flying and set the tone for the game early with their most dangerous weapon, their speed. Ty Smith, Mercer, and Hamilton all scored and goaltender Nico Daws made 19 saves on 21 shots. It was the second meeting between the clubs and the second victory for head coach Lindy Ruff’s team. The win was a milestone for the Devils’ coach as he tied Paul Maurice for sixth on the NHL all-time wins list with his 775th as an NHL head coach. When he was congratulated after the game, Ruff said he did not know about his newest milestone. It was one of the team’s best performances and it all started in the crease.

Nico Daws Earns His Fourth Career Win

The Devils have been frequently starting 21-year-old goaltender Nico Daws, giving him five starts in their last six games. He is finding a rhythm and has a record of 4-3-0 this season with a save percentage of .908, which is comparable to Brian Elliott of the Tampa Bay Lightning. After the game, coach Ruff talked about his decision to start Daws again.

“You’re trying to get a goaltender to feel comfortable,” said Ruff. “When you look at a young goaltender, sometimes when he gets a little bit of rhythm and he knows he’s going back in I think it helps. He still has to play well, but I think it helps confidence-wise.”

Nico Daws New Jersey Devils
Nico Daws, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

New Jersey seems to be finding more stability in goal with Daws winning three of his last five starts. The defense performed well in front of him yesterday afternoon limiting their opponent to one shot in the second period and eight in the third. The Blues’ 21 shots were the lowest that the 6-foot-4 goaltender has faced in a game that he has started this season.

Ty Smith’s Exciting Return to the Ice

Ty Smith returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past three games, dating back to the Devils’ matchup against the Vancouver Canucks. He had to watch his team play from above as 24-year-old Colton White took his spot in the lineup. Yesterday, he made his return and his presence was immediately felt as he gave his team the early lead scoring his second goal of the season.

“It was a great play by Nico who entered the zone, and it was an unreal play by Bratt,” said Smith after the game. “It was a gift really. I just had to put it in an open net.”

Smith finished the game with three shots on goal and one blocked shot in 13:55 of ice time. He was paired with P.K. Subban and was on the ice for their opponent’s second goal of the game. He played well enough that fans should expect to see him back in the lineup tomorrow when the Devils host the Colorado Avalanche at Prudential Center.

Dawson Mercer Does It All

If there was one player who stood out on the ice yesterday afternoon, it was rookie Dawson Mercer. There may have been an extra spring in his step knowing that his family was here for the week visiting from Newfoundland. His four shots on goal were a team-best and he played a physical game that resulted in him being called for roughing along with Torey Krug in the second period.

Mercer found himself in the faceoff circle once and beat Ryan O’Reilly and after the game told the media that he is ready to jump in and take a faceoff whenever needed. He may have only played 15:46 of ice time but was hard to miss the 24 times he jumped over the boards for a shift. His goal in the second period was his 14th of the season, which is tied for fifth among all rookies.

Dawson Mercer New Jersey Devils
Dawson Mercer, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last night, Mercer played with Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich and while they haven’t found consistency as a line on the stat sheet, they are always a threat thanks to their speed. After the game, coach Ruff talked about their chemistry and abilities to create opportunities on the ice.

“They have good chemistry and are always in on a good number of really good opportunities,” said coach Ruff. “I thought we left too many opportunities out there in the previous game. Sharangovich in New York had quite a few really good opportunities that we did not capitalize on. Tonight, Mercer capitalized on the really good opportunity. When you’re in on three or four and you’re feeling good about your game, you’re gonna capitalize on probably one of them.”

Post Game Reaction

Mercer on the Feeling on the Bench When St. Louis Tied the Game

“They got those two quick chances and we just settled back. I believe we went out after the goal and had a couple of strong shifts and we kept on playing. We knew we had a lot of shots and we were playing well. We didn’t want that to affect our game and I think that really helped us get through the last ten minutes and finish it off at the end.”

Hamilton on His Game-winning Goal

“I don’t know what happened with Jack on the wall if he lost his stick or something, but I was just trying to read that to see where the puck was going, and jump by my guy if possible. I was able to do that and Pav [Zacha] made a great pass and I put it in.”

Smith on Sitting Out for the Past Three Games

“It’s something I don’t want to happen ever again.”

Coach Ruff When Asked About Seeing Urgency Out of Smith

“I thought he had a good game. He would probably like a little better read on the second goal against. Try to be a little bit tighter on coverage there. I thought overall coming back in and scoring a big goal for us right off the bat was a step in the right direction for him.”

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