5 Takeaways From Devils’ Thrilling Win vs. Oilers

There might be something different about this New Jersey Devils team. After perhaps their worst period of the season in the second frame, the Devils came storming back with three unanswered third-period goals to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 for their fifth consecutive win. Here are five takeaways as the Devils get ready to close out their Western Canada trip against the Calgary Flames tomorrow night. 

Devils Make a Statement With Comeback

The Devils got off to a good start and went toe-to-toe with the Oilers for the first 20 minutes. It was a different story in the second period, though, as the Oilers controlled play and broke the game open a bit by scoring twice to take a 3-1 lead. Add Mackenzie Blackwood’s injury about halfway through the second period, and things weren’t looking good. 

But that didn’t deter this young Devils team. Head coach Lindy Ruff switched up his line combos to start the third period to the following, and the move paid dividends: 

  • Tomáš Tatar – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
  • Yegor Sharangovich – Jack Hughes – Dawson Mercer
  • Miles Wood – Erik Haula – Fabian Zetterlund
  • Jesper Boqvist – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian
MacKenzie Blackwood New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Though Boqvist began the third period on the fourth line, he’d finish it alongside Hischier and Bratt. Either way, the Devils controlled play at five-on-five in the final frame. They out-attempted Edmonton 29-15, good for a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 65.91 percent, and controlled 55.89 percent of the expected goals (xG%). Eventually, they were rewarded for outplaying their opponent, as Ryan Graves and Bratt scored the game-tying and -winning goals seven seconds apart with under four minutes remaining in regulation. 

There was a sense of desperation from the Devils in the final frame to get back into the game that we had seen at times over the previous two seasons, but this felt different. It felt like a good team making a statement that they have arrived. Time will tell if that’s the case, but it certainly seems like these Devils are for real. 

Vanecek Outstanding in Relief

Blackwood’s injury was a stain on an otherwise impressive win. He was playing well, and it looked like he was in quite a bit of pain when he went down. The hope is he’s not out long-term. But in the meantime, Vitek Vanecek deserves a ton of credit for the way he played in relief, especially since his first action came in the middle of an Oilers power play. 

Vanecek gave up a goal to Draisaitl on that power play, but he was a brick wall after then. He made 18/18 saves following Draisaitl’s tally and stopped 1.02 goals above expected in just 31:09 of action. He made a pivotal save on Evan Bouchard when the Devils were still trailing 3-2 in the third period to give them a chance to complete the comeback: 

If Vanecek doesn’t make this save, the Oilers probably would have won the game. He’ll likely take the net for the foreseeable future while Blackwood recovers. Though, it’s worth noting that Jonathan Bernier made the trip to Western Canada and could be getting closer to a return to action after having hip surgery about 11 months ago. 

The BMW Line Played Their Part

While the BMW Line — Miles Wood, Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian — didn’t have great numbers at five-on-five, they still had a significant impact. Wood was particularly stellar, as he finished the night with two goals and an assist and one penalty drawn. His second goal early in the third period got the comeback started, while McLeod and Bastian each picked up points too. 

Related: 10 Observations From Devils’ First 10 Games

No one will mistake Wood for Jack Hughes, but he did pull off his best Hughes impression last night. He finished the game with eight shots on goal, nine shot attempts, six scoring chances, and three high-danger chances at five-on-five. His game score — an all-encompassing stat that measures a player’s total value for a single game — of 3.44 led all skaters, Oilers included. It was good to see him find the scoresheet, and his unit has been instrumental in helping Ruff and the Devils have four capable lines of providing offense through their first 11 games. 

Hischier Did It All

Though Hischier only finished with one assist, I thought he had a phenomenal game. He was constantly tracking down pucks and making life miserable for the Oilers’ defense when in on the forecheck. There was one shift in the first period that caught my eye. It didn’t result in a goal, but the effort from Hischier is what mattered: 

This is something that Cam Charron and Dimitri Filipovic mentioned on their deep dive of the Devils on last Friday’s episode of the Hockey PDOcast, but their offense is more diverse. While they’re still primarily a rush team, they’re creating much more off the cycle in the offensive zone. 

The Hischier line (him specifically) has been doing this quite a bit, and the shift above is one example. It didn’t result in a goal, but Hischier set up Zetterlund for a quality scoring chance. He then stole the puck from an Oilers skater and moved it to Tatar, who fed it to Hamilton in a prime scoring area. 

And not only is Hischier making things happen offensively, but he is locking it down defensively. Most of his ice time came against Draisaitl at five-on-five, but he held him to a 24.14 CF% and 16.13 xG% in those minutes. That kind of effort from Hischier is a big part of why he’s off to such an excellent start and in the way-too-early Selke Trophy conversation. 

Siegenthaler Helped Hischier Lock Draisaitl Down

It’s not easy trying to contain a team that has Connor McDavid and Draisaitl, but the Devils did it to their best abilities. Jonas Siegenthaler played a significant role in helping lock things down, as he also made life miserable for Draisaitl at five-on-five. In 7:09 against him, Draisaitl was held to a 30.43 CF% and 27.88 xG%. Whenever it seemed like he wanted to create something off the rush, Siegenthaler was there to deny it. 

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Siegenthaler’s strength is his defensive game, but he’s also beginning to show more offensive upside. He’s activating offensively and finished with three shots on goal, which isn’t something we saw from him a season ago. His five-on-five numbers were excellent, as he ended the night with a 62.22 CF% and 62.54 xG%. Considering it was a road game against McDavid and Draisaitl when the Devils don’t have the last change, that’s quite impressive. 

Quick Hits

  • Graves was having a rough night…until he tied the game at 3-3 with some fancy stickhandling in the offensive zone. The shot barely trickled through Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner, but a goal is a goal. It was a good redemption arc, and it speaks to the resiliency the team showed when things didn’t go their way for the first 40 minutes. 
  • Bratt made some history with his game-winning goal last night. Not only did his and Graves’ markers set the franchise record for two-fastest tallies scored in a game, but his goal extended his point streak to 11 games — setting a franchise record dating back to their Kansas City Scouts days for longest season-opening point streak. It was a typical Bratt performance, as he drove play at five-on-five and had a 69.23 CF% and 61.9 xG%. There is a big payday coming his way in the next few months. 
Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
  • Dougie Hamilton didn’t find the scoresheet, but it was just another standard Dougie Hamilton outing. He finished with nine shots on goal, 12 shot attempts and seven scoring chances at all strengths. Both his CF% and xG% were at 60 percent and above at five-on-five, so he certainly looks like he’s back to the defenseman he was before breaking his jaw last season. 
  • This is becoming a regular section in my game takeaways, but it was another strong effort for Devils defenseman John Marino. Once again, he’s finding ways to contribute offensively, as his stretch pass to Bratt set up the game-winning goal. He’s now up to six points in 11 games and is pacing for a career-high 45 points. And even though he primarily went up against McDavid, Marino held him without a goal when he was on the ice with No. 97. 

The Devils have already bagged all four points available on their Western Canada trip. It’ll be a successful trek one way or another, but they can really put the rest of the league on notice with a win against the Flames at The Saddledome tomorrow night — a team that many believe can win the Western Conference this season. 

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