Once in November, two consecutive in January. Those are the three games this season that New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson was not in the lineup. But he wasn’t injured, instead, he was taken out of the lineup by the coaching staff because they weren’t happy with parts of his game. Severson is also a younger player that has really made some strides under the John Hynes regime – he’s still just 23-years-old despite being in his fourth full season in the NHL.
“He’s been much more responsible; Damon is a very good player and part of his growth as a player is understanding that sometimes he can be casual. He can be casual with the puck, he can be casual defensively, and I think his attention to detail has gotten better. His competitive level has gotten better, his commitment to playing without the puck has gotten better,” Hynes told The Hockey Writers when we asked if they were happy with his recent performances.
“Offensively, he’s had more — that’s another part — he’s shooting for tips and he’s hitting the net. He doesn’t just get the puck and whip it towards the net; he’s got a purpose now. Much more purpose than he had in the beginning of the year, and that’s where his production comes from. So he stays in the lineup, gets the ice-time he deserves. We know he’s a talented player, but sometimes it comes down to the mental component, focus, and playing with a purpose. That’s what he’s done. He’s played with much more focus and commitment that he did earlier in the year.”
Practice Makes Permanent
Of his nine goals and eight assists, Severson has accumulated over his 54 games this season (second among the D on the Devils), eight of those points have come over the past 17 games aka after his benching. At the beginning of this month, following a win over the Philadelphia Flyers where he had the game-tying goal in the third period he alluded to the extra work he has been doing.
DAMON SEVERSON TIES IT UP AT 3 FOR THE DEVILS! pic.twitter.com/rt2ttDz8lZ
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) February 2, 2018
“(It was an) awesome pass, Pavel’s a skilled player and we’ve been waiting for a while to hook up like that. We practice little things like that after practices, passes, things we can do (during games),” Severson said of he and Pavel Zacha. “We’re great friends off the ice and it translated on the ice tonight.” The hard work is starting to pay off and most importantly the team is having a successful season as they head towards the final 25 games.
“We’re trying to develop our habits as good as we had at the start of the season (as a team). We had a long training camp that was very tough and we tried to ingrain the habits back into our games. At this time of year everybody knows where they’re supposed to be,” he told THW. “Every little detail matters. Mistakes are going to happen, it’s just a matter of not compacting those mistakes and making a bunch of them in a row.”
Leave it to Severson
In a big game against the Carolina Hurricanes Severson provided a clutch, late first-period goal to tie the game and his point shot in the third period was deflected into the net to stretch New Jersey’s lead to 5-2, 32 seconds after they had made it 4-2.
“I was thinking pass the whole way actually,” Severson said with a half-grin of his first-period goal vs. the Canes. “I saw Jesper Bratt was streaking down the middle there, he had a really good mid-lane drive. The whole way up I wanted to give it to him but it seemed like they had him covered, I tried to open up some space (to get it to him) but the pass wasn’t there.”
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 16, 2018
“I picked my head up and tried to find a spot to shoot and I was able to put it in. It was nice to able to capitalize and tie things up before the intermission,” he added. “Momentum is the biggest thing, you don’t want to be down by a goal in your own building going into intermission.”
His assist later in the game is exactly what coach Hynes was referencing when he said that Severson is ’shooting for tips and on the net.’ “That’s something myself and our forwards like to work on – tips, guys coming to the slot, moving screens and moving deflections. Those are big. Goalies can’t stop those, those are not hard shots but when they are deflected or are bouncing, they hit the ice – it’s tough for a goalie to stop those. So it was a great deflection by our guys, I was just trying to get the puck on the net.”
With nine goals this season he’s already matched and surpassed his career total entering the season of eight and although he’s unlikely to match his career-high in points (31, last season) he can still finish with a solid overall season if he continues to make strides while applying the pointers that the coaching staff has been giving him.
“When you go through a season there are (going to be) ups and downs and hopefully we’re on an up right now,” said Severson after the Devils’ second consecutive win over a divisional opponent. “Hopefully we can stay on this and not go back down for a while here. It’s going to be a dogfight until the end of the year (in our division).”
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.