After a 30-minute delay to the start of the game, because the Minnesota Wild got stuck in Thanksgiving traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel, the New Jersey Devils and the Wild hit the ice at the Prudential Center. The Devils would ultimately fall 3-2 in a shootout after rallying to tie the game in the third period. But they certainly deserved a better fate than they got last night. Here are some notable takeaways from one of their better efforts in a loss this season.
Hischier Leads the Comeback
Nico Hischier has been the subject of some criticism on social media from fans this season. Sure, he may only have two goals, but that criticism has been largely unwarranted. He’s done just about everything else asked of him by head coach Lindy Ruff, and last night was another example. Trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, Hischier led the comeback effort, picking up the primary assist on both Devils’ goals.
It was another strong night for Hischier at five-on-five, as he finished with a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 65.22 percent and expected goals percentage (xG%) of 62.14 percent. He’s up to 12 points in 17 games this season — nearly a 58-point pace over 82 games. And he’s been particularly great as of late, with 10 points in his last 11 games. It’d be nice to see him score more goals, but he’s setting them up. He’s also arguably been the team’s best defensive forward. There’s not much else he can do right now, and that’s what the Devils need while Jack Hughes continues to work his way back from a dislocated shoulder.
Devils Deserved Two Points
Though Hischier helped the Devils earn a point, they should’ve come away with the second. It was one of their better efforts of the 2021-22 season, as they dominated the game at five-on-five through three periods. They had a 55-33 shot attempt advantage (62.5 CF%) and had an xG% of 67.76 percent. And as we can see in the game-flow chart from Natural Stat Trick, there was rarely a dip in their play:
There are a couple of reasons why the Devils lost. One is that Cam Talbot was exceptional in net for the Wild. He stopped 40 of 42 shots and finished with a goals saved above expected of 1.67. The Devils also hit four posts, so when they got something past Talbot, they had little to no puck luck. That’s the way hockey works sometimes. But if they can finish their chances, that was very much a performance they’d like to repeat when they play the Nashville Predators tomorrow evening.
Devils Power Play Continues to Falter
If there was a glaring negative about the Devils’ effort last night, it was their power play once again. They did shoot the puck more often, which was a step in the right direction. One of their four posts also came on the power play off the stick of Jimmy Vesey late in the third period. Still, it finished the night 0/4. They gave up a shorthanded goal in the first period that proved to be pretty consequential in the final score. And they had a 5-on-3 for just over a minute late in the third period, but weren’t able to convert.
Ultimately, the Devils’ power play was a significant reason they didn’t come away with a regulation win. They’re only connecting on 13.7 percent of their power-play opportunities, which is simply not good enough. The team is currently on pace to finish the season with 96 points. But to sustain that, their power play needs to be much better. Getting Hughes back should help a bit, but it’s clear they have systemic issues to iron out to get their power play where it needs to be.
Severson Stands Out
If there’s one player who was the poster child for the Devils’ poor puck luck last night, it was Damon Severson. He hit the post twice, and set up Dougie Hamilton with a beautiful pass for a wide-open net in the third period. But Hamilton couldn’t control the puck cleanly and fired the shot just was wide of the net.
Still, Severson was perhaps the team’s best defenseman last night. He finished the night with a 69.23 CF% and 68.29 xG% at five-on-five and had four shots on goal, seven shot attempts, and two scoring chances at all strengths. He could’ve easily had a multi-point game, but it wasn’t meant to be. With that said, that’s a performance the Devils will want and need from Severson moving forward. If he can help generate offense when Hamilton isn’t on the ice, that’ll go a long way, especially when Hughes returns.
- Jesper Bratt didn’t find his way onto the scoresheet, but he was all over the ice. He had a 67.86 CF% and led the team with an 82.9 xG% at five-on-five. That’s to go with seven shots on goal, seven shot attempts, four scoring chances, and one high-danger chance at all strengths. He’s been the Devils’ best offensive facilitator in recent weeks, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
- Yegor Sharangovich found the back of the net once again, with this one tying the game with the extra attacker in the third period. It was another good effort from him at five-on-five, as he had a 61.9 CF% and 60.99 xG%. It was also the second game in a row for him performing well at center. Will Ruff keep him there and move Dawson Mercer to right wing in the team’s top-six when Hughes returns? He’ll need Sharangovich to keep it up at center, but it’s something to keep monitoring over the next few games.
- P.K. Subban is not the P.K Subban of old, but he has been playing well as of late. Last night was no different, as he finished with a 65.71 CF% and 70.59 xG%. It’s clear that he and Jonas Siegenthaler are the team’s second defense pair at the moment.
- Tomáš Tatar got off to a slow start with the Devils after signing as a free agent this summer. But it seems like it’s slowly starting to come around for him. His secondary assist on Pavel Zacha’s goal was his fifth point in his last seven games. His on-ice results at five-on-five are slowly beginning to tick upward too.
- Colton White checked into the lineup for Ty Smith, who was a healthy scratch. White fared quite well in Smith’s place, finishing with a 66.67 CF% and 60.66 xG%. Smith is a vital part of the Devils’ future, but he’s struggled mightily this season. White provided a steady presence alongside Severson, so I wouldn’t expect him to come out of the lineup tomorrow against the Predators. A few games off for Smith could help him clear his head and reset things too.
As mentioned above, the Devils take on the Predators tomorrow in Nashville. They’ll conclude the week on Sunday evening with their first matchup of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers. Wins against both teams will put them in a prime position in the Metropolitan Division heading into December.
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Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick
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