5 Takeaways From Devils’ 7-4 Win vs. the Blues

After a 7-1 thumping of the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, the New Jersey Devils responded with their second consecutive seven-goal effort to defeat the St. Louis Blues 7-4. They did so after trailing 3-2 heading into the third period, but they were sparked by their captain Nico Hischier, who led the way with three points. Here are five takeaways from last night’s game. 

Hischier, Sharangovich Lead the Comeback

Heading into the third period, the Devils needed a jolt after giving up three unanswered goals and blowing a two-goal lead to find themselves down 3-2. Hischier and Yegor Sharangovich answered the bell, as they had multi-point third periods to help complete the comeback. Hischier added two goals and an assist in the final frame, while Sharangovich had the game-tying goal and two assists. 

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Both Hischier and Sharangovich were among the Devils’ top players. Hischier finished with a game score of 2.23, while Sharangovich had a game score of 2.20, which were second and third among Devils behind P.K. Subban. Since Jack Hughes entered COVID protocols after the All-Star Game, Hischier and Sharangovich have been linemates and seem to have found some chemistry. Hischier has five points in his last three games, while Sharangovich has four points in his last three contests. 

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’ll be interesting to see what head coach Lindy Ruff does once Hughes returns to the lineup, given his success with Jesper Bratt and Sharangovich before the All-Star Game. With Hischier gelling with Sharangovich and Bratt, it probably makes sense to let that trio stick and see where else Hughes may fit, given his ability to carry about any line he’s on. 

Subban’s Big Night

Subban has had an up and down tenure in three seasons with the Devils. With that said, 2021-22 has been his best campaign in New Jersey, and he had one of his best games of the season last night. Subban had the first goal of the game and added a primary assist on Hischier’s first goal of the third period.

Not only did Subban rack up a couple of points, but he had strong underlying metrics as well. He finished with a Corsi-for percentage (CF%) of 64.71 percent and led the team in expected goals percentage (xG%) at 67.58 percent. His game score of 2.59 was second among all skaters, Blues included, and was his second-best game score of the season. 

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Subban is a pending unrestricted free agent, and with the trade deadline about five weeks away, it seems like a good bet that the Devils try and trade him to a playoff contender in the coming weeks. If he can have a few more similar performances leading up to then, he could up his trade value and help the Devils net a stronger return. 

Devils Penalty Kill Steps Up Again

The Devils’ penalty kill has been among the league’s best since just before the extended NHL Christmas break. They had a tall task heading into their contest against the Blues, as their power play ranks second in the league. But the penalty kill stood tall, as they killed off four Blues power plays, including a crucial one in the third period after Michael McLeod picked up a minor for goaltender interference.

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The Devils didn’t give up much on the power play, which is why their penalty kill has had so much success this season. The Blues had just six shot attempts, four shots on goal and one high-danger chance across four power plays. With the four successful kills, the Devils have killed off 38 of the last 42 power plays they’ve faced since Dec. 18, a success rate of 90.4 percent. It hasn’t made much of a difference in the win-loss column, but it sure did against the Blues, as you could argue it was decisive in the outcome. 

McLeod Getting Into a Groove

After a slow start to the season, McLeod has gotten into a bit of a groove lately. He had two goals against the Canadiens on Tuesday night and had a pretty rush goal last night against the Blues that gave the Devils a brief 2-0 lead in the first period. 

Not only did McLeod have a pretty goal, but he had a solid game at five-on-five, finishing with a CF% of 60 percent and xG% of 47.03 percent. His game score of 1.40 was fourth among Devils behind Subban, Hischier, and Sharangovich. McLeod even saw minutes on the top line alongside Hischier and Sharangovich in the third period, which we’ll get to in a second. 

But overall, it’s good to see McLeod finding some scoring touch. He produced at a 14-goal pace in 2020-21 but had been struggling to uncover the same level of production this season. If the Devils are to find some consistency to keep winning games down the stretch run, they’ll need McLeod to continue providing depth scoring. 

Bratt Injured in the Third Period?

It’s hard to know what happened for sure, but Bratt only played 8:52 at five-on-five and finished with just 12:21 for the entire game. He barely saw any ice time during the third period as well. Ruff didn’t comment on Bratt’s status in his post-game conference, so there aren’t further details on his condition if he is injured, as Matt Loughlin pointed out on Twitter. 

Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bratt did not have a good game. In fact, it was one of his worst of the season. He finished with an xG% of 24.11 percent and a game score of -0.39, both of which were the worst among Devils skaters. That game score was his seventh-worst of 2021-22, so he may have been dealing with a nagging injury of some sort. Since Ruff didn’t offer any details after the game, we’ll have to wait and see for an update until the next time the Devils hit the ice for practice. But it is something to keep an eye on. 

The Devils are back in action on Super Bowl Sunday for a matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1:30 PM at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Be sure to stay tuned to The Hockey Writers as they look to extend their winning streak to three games.

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