Compared to the previous week, this week would not be a great week for the Devils. This week saw the New Jersey Devils take on the Buffalo Sabres in a home and road set and twice at home hosting the Washington Capitals. Let’s take a look back at this past week for the Devils:
Part 1 @ the Rock vs the Buffalo Sabres (2/23/21)
After keeping things even after the first period, the Devils would allow the Sabres to get on the board first in the second as Victor Olofsson to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead late on the power play. Olofsson would fire a shot at the right circle. That would go behind Devils goalie MacKenzie Blackwood. Buffalo would keep the 1-0 lead going into the third period.
Buffalo would get two goals early in the third from Rasmus Aplund and Dylan Couzens within a minute of each other to make it 3-0. Nikita Gusev got New Jersey on the board late in the game but it wouldn’t be enough to get the team back in the game. Cody Eakin would add an empty netter with a second left in the game to seal the win for Buffalo by a final score of 4-1.
OT victory in Buffalo (2/25/21)
New Jersey did not get off to another good start as Riley Sheahan got the Sabres on the board first as he scored his second goal of the season give Buffalo a 1-0 lead that would last through the first period.
Jesper Bratt gave the Devils and himself a boost as he tied the game 1-1 and added his first of the season. Bratt would get a pass from Pavel Zacha transitioning from defense to offense, skated in the offensive zone, go towards the middle of the ice and scored on the short side on Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark. About three minutes later, Casey Middlestadt re-gave Buffalo their lead and added his first goal of the season. At the end of two periods, the Sabres would lead the Devils 2-1.
In the third period, New Jersey scored was able to get a lead to make it 3-2 as they got goals from Miles Wood on the power play, and captain Nico Hischier’s first goal of the season. Unfortunately at the 15:30 mark, Sam Reinhart would tip in a pass from Taylor Hall on the power play to tie the game 3-3.
This game went into overtime and it would be Pavel Zacha who would be the hero early on and score the game winner. Jesper Bratt left a drop pass for Zacha who would take the puck to the right faceoff circle and fire the puck into the back of the net for his fifth of the season. New Jersey would come away with an OT victory by a final score of 4-3.
Back to back battle with Washington (2/27/21 & 2/28/21)
The Devils did not fair well in both matchups with the Washington Capitals. On Saturday, the Devils got down early 3-0 early as the Caps got goals from Garnet Hathaway, Daniel Sprong & Lars Eller. Nico Hischier was able to get a power play goal to get the Devils on the board by the end of the first period.
Pavel Zacha would continue his hot streak as he added his sixth goal of the season in the second period. New Jersey couldn’t contain Washington’s offense as Jakub Vrana would score on a breakaway and get an empty net goal from Nic Dowd in the third period as the Devils would lose 5-2.
Sunday saw a much better effort from the Devils as Mikhail Maltsev got the team ahead first with his second goal of the season. Later on, Jakub Vrana would tie the score for the Capitals as he would follow his own rebound shot and put it behind MacKenzie Blackwood. The score would be tied 1-1 after the first period.
Nicklas Backstrom early in the second would tap in a pass from Tom Wilson on a two on one to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. Fortunately for the Devils, Yegor Sharngovich would tie the game 2-2 seconds later as he fired a shot that I’m sure goalie Ilya Samsonsov wishes he had saved. At the 13:37 mark of the second period, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin would score what stood up as the game winner as he powered a wrist shot top shelf from the slot to give the Caps a 3-2 victory.
How they doin’? My thoughts on the week:
Not gonna sugarcoat it here, this week sucked for the Devils. Their penalty kill in particular absolutely was terrible and has been all season. They are ranked dead last in the NHL with a pathetic 62.3% success rate on the PK. It’s completely unacceptable. Lindy Ruff as well as his staff and the players need to be better here. There needs to be some sort of adjustments to how they approach the penalty kill because it’s clearly not working.
On a positive note, Pavel Zacha is finally starting to develop into the player we all thought he could be when he was drafted 6th overall back in 2015. Zacha has been more engaged offensively and is starting to put his offensive game together to go along with his defensive game. Zacha had two goals and four assists. It’s nice to see the Devils forwards are showing off their skills and putting together what they’re capable of offensively on the ice. Hopefully this upcoming week will be better for the New Jersey Devils
3/2: New Jersey Devils vs NY Islanders
3/4 & 3/6: New Jersey Devils vs NY Rangers
3/7: New Jersey Devils @ Boston Bruins