Game 25: Special Teams and Determination keys to humiliation of the Devils


Teammates congratulate Alexandar Georgiev on his third career shutout in a 4-0 humiliation of the Hudson Rival Devils, who heard boos in Newark. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Hartford Courant

Alright. Let me start off by saying this post will be a little different from the usual stuff. Being that Hasan took the Devils side of what was a unmitigated disaster for his team in a mess of a home game against the Rangers, I’m going to take a different direction on yesterday’s 4-0 humiliation against a Hudson rival that looks horrible.

Like Hasan accurately stated in his game review that included not one but two Rangers shorthanded goals in a embarrassing third period, things are looking more up for the Manhattan side of this rivalry. That simply stated, even I couldn’t believe how uncompetitive the Devils were in the final period. Here’s some proof:

The story of Saturday’s game was special teams. The Rangers were plus-three despite being shorthanded six times, which included a Chris Kreider major for boarding and a hi-sticking double minor on Libor Hajek. They scored once on the power play and twice on the penalty kill to move into first with six shorthanded goals.

I’m not going to tell you this was some masterpiece. It wasn’t. The Devils had the better of the play at five-on-five. They had six power plays. They probably should’ve been at least tied after two periods. I thought they deserved to be ahead based on how undisciplined the Rangers were. Without Jack Hughes (lower body injury), they had a better forecheck and created more scoring chances.

It didn’t matter. A perfect example were the two goalposts the Newark hosts hit. That was indicative of the kind of game it was for the team in their classic throwback Christmas ornament jerseys. I rather like those. You don’t get to see it much anymore. But it definitely brings me back to younger years in the early 90’s when Ken Daneyko and Kevin Todd (yes I went there!) rocked the green and red.

When you get as many opportunities as the Devils had, you have to take advantage. I listened to the first two periods on the radio. As fate would have it, it was a rare game for the Devils where they were on WFAN. Anytime you can catch Chico Resch doing color commentary with Matt Loughlin, it’s a good thing. Some might ask why didn’t I switch to Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney. Because I can listen to them anytime on ESPN Radio. Plus I have always had a soft spot for Chico because he did me a solid when I worked as a production assistant in ’00-01. He’s a great guy. Fun and insightful.

I thought Resch touched on a critical point after New Jersey failed to capitalize on a second straight man-advantage early in the second. He mentioned how the power play cost the Rangers on Black Friday at Boston. I think they ironically went 0-for-6. He said that could come back to bite the Devs as it did the Blueshirts. At least they got a point in that game.

Of course, Chico knew what he was talking about. He was prophetic. The Devils had better chances in the opening stanza, but gave up a power play goal to Adam Fox on a great cross ice feed from Kaapo Kakko. So, they converted their one chance in the first while the Devils were wasting opportunities. Once Ryan Strome hi-sticked Kyle Palmieri with 32 seconds to spare in the first, the Rangers kept marching to the penalty box.

Shortly following a successive kill of Strome’s minor, Artemiy Panarin tripped up Jesper Boqvist. It was another chance for the Devils to draw even and maybe swing the momentum. Instead, they hardly challenged Alexandar Georgiev, who was strong throughout in pitching his third career shutout with 33 saves. He did hold firm with some good saves down low like on Taylor Hall, who otherwise was invisible. But until the third, he hardly had to sweat despite 21 Devil shots. It was a real eye opener though because it had been a week since he started.

Here’s the other thing. The Rangers made mistakes that could’ve cost them. You had a bad giveaway by Hajek that led to a point blank Devils opportunity Georgiev stopped. Fox had a turnover in the neutral zone that almost resulted in a goal. Kyle Palmieri rang the shot off the crossbar. That’s what happens when things are going bad. You don’t get the bounces.

On a day Panarin didn’t register a point for only the fifth time in 25 games, the Blueshirts got big performances for other key players. That included Georgiev, who saved his best for the third on a two stop sequence that made one wonder how the puck didn’t go in. Miles Wood eventually put in the rebound, but the whistle had already blown rendering the play dead.

There were some brutal penalties from the Rangers, who were in action for the second consecutive day. Another bench minor handed the Devils a fourth power play with less than five minutes left in the second. It didn’t matter because they were so predictable. They never could get the shots they wanted. It was far too deliberate. Good power plays are instinctive. The puck must move quickly to set up shots. Nikita Gusev had some good attempts. But that was it. Palmieri missed a good chance wide in the slot. Hall couldn’t beat Georgiev from the right circle.

One other interesting discovery was that PK Subban was hardly used. He received 3:02 on the power play from endangered species John Hynes. That was behind defensemen Sami Vatanen (7:36), Will Butcher (5:31) and Damon Severson (4:49). If they’re not going to use him on the power play, then what’s the point? Hasan is absolutely right. It’s time for GM Ray Shero to pull the plug on his coach and staff. I’d clean house.

The astonishing aspect is the Rangers continued to take bad penalties. Hajek got his stick up to bloody Wayne Simmonds with 33 seconds left in the period. So, it was four more minutes for the penalty kill. The reason it was successful was they were active in their box by not allowing the Devils to get point blank clean looks. They got their sticks on pucks and cleared the zone to groans from the Devils side.

The Rangers penalty killers outworked and outhustled the Devils power kill play. Never was that more evident than on Zibanejad intercepting a dreadful pass in the neutral zone and working a give and go with Brendan Lemieux for a shorthanded goal at 2:35 that made it 2-0.

They weren’t done. Following a unwise play by Kreider in which he delivered a shoulder hit to a turning Matt Tennyson right into the boards, he received a questionable five minute major and game misconduct. Interestingly, they actually reviewed their call on the iPad. I felt it wasn’t malicious. At best four minutes. However, with how serious such hits are due to concussion protocol, they upheld the call. Kreider also fought Kevin Rooney, winding up with 20 penalty minutes. Where was that when I had him?

It didn’t matter that he was kicked out of the game. Instead, more Devils follies allowed this to happen.

That was way too easy. It looked like a cardinal copy of Lemieux and Zibanejad combining for a shorty 3:17 earlier. This was more off the rush started by an aggressive Jacob Trouba, who dropped for Zibanejad and went to the Devil net to create a perfect passing lane for Zibanejad to dish across for a Jesper Fast shorthanded goal on a quick one-timer past Mackenzie Blackwood short side. The same exact location as Zibanejad off Lemieux’s feed earlier.

By now, the Devils natives were restless. Boos rained down at The Prudential Center. “Fire Hynes!” chants were heard. They got what they deserved. It looked like they quit too. A ominous sign that something’s wrong. Think Knicks. Heck. The Giants have become this bad too under the clueless and passionless Pat Shurmur. I’m not gonna compare Hynes to him. At least he guided a team to the playoffs. Shurmur stinks.

Even if you love what you saw from the Rangers in that third period, it was very easy to notice a rival in chaos. With Hall reportedly being shopped by Shero, it looks like the for sale sign could come soon for the Devils. He likely won’t be back next summer. So, it makes sense. Will a valuable right defenseman like Vatanen become available? He’s the Devils best. We’ll see.

With boos raining down along with “Fire Hynes!” and “Let’s Go Rangers!” chants, you would’ve thought the apocalypse hit Newark. This kind of stuff used to happen at Madison Square Garden in the Dark Ages. I was part of some miserable games. I understand what Hasan is going through.

For some inexplicable reason only known to Hynes, he pulled Blackwood down three. That led to Brady Skjei lobbing one down the ice into an open net from 100 feet. It makes about as much sense as these early goalie pulls that Patrick Roy started. Those have to go. It’s an insult to the fans.

The game was long over. Those two shorthanded goals demonstrated how much more determined the Rangers were compared to the Devils. A huge contrast between two teams going in different directions.

There’s no need to further analyze that display. It was nice for the Rangers to come out of the holiday weekend banking three of four points on the road. Now, they get the Golden Knights at MSG on Monday. That should be a good test.

So, who does David Quinn go with? Is it back to Henrik Lundqvist, who’s played his best hockey recently. Or does he stick with Georgiev following the shutout? My guess is you’ll see one more Marc-Andre Fleury vs Henrik Lundqvist match up. Then perhaps they give Georgiev either Columbus this Thursday or Montreal on Friday. We’ll see.

This game was like taking candy from a baby. Don’t celebrate it too much. They did what they had to do despite a C effort.

Battle Of Hudson 3 🌟

3rd 🌟 Jacob Trouba, Rangers (assist on Fast shorthanded goal, very physical throughout, definitely one of his best games)

2nd 🌟 Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers (33 saves for 1st shutout of season and 3rd career)

1st 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, Rangers (shorthanded goal and primary assist in what was a dominant third by the top center)

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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1 Response to Game 25: Special Teams and Determination keys to humiliation of the Devils

  1. hasan4978 says:

    LOL I didn’t realize till now the last goal was an empty-netter. At least that didn’t go against Blackwood’s ledger, he didn’t deserve yesterday. Guess he was trying to spoil the shutout as much as anything but there were games where Lemaire wouldn’t even pull the goalie down two cause in his words they didn’t deserve it. Yesterday the Devils didn’t deserve a goal, especially after that four-on-four where they just stood around with their thumbs up their noses.

    It didn’t exactly feel like a game we outshot the Rangers by ten or whatever, the best chance I remember was when Zacha found Boqvist in front and Georgiev stoned him early in the second period. I’d probably add in Coleman as one of the better Devils but yeah Wood was likely the best Devil yesterday, sadly. If anyone did deserve a goal, but the refs blowing the whistle was fitting. I wasn’t even mad at that point.

    Like

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