If you win once, nice. Win two in a row and it’s a step in the right direction. Win three in a row, that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.
At least that’s how I envision Hasan following tonight. After humiliating the Canadiens to the point of replacing Dominique Ducharme with Marty St. Louis behind the bench, the Devils had a more impressive win by defeating the Blues 7-4 in St. Louis last night.
It’s probably one of their best wins of the season. It came against a good opponent that’s playoff bound in a strong division. Plus it was on the road with travel after whipping Montreal 7-1 two nights prior.
Skating again without Jack Hughes (Covid Protocol), the Devils used a quick start to get the jump on the Blues. They scored the game’s first two goals before St. Louis realized they had to start playing.
On some good work down low by the third line of Dawson Mercer, Jesper Boqvist and Andreas Johnsson, they forced St. Louis into a turnover. Justin Faulk panicked with the puck sending it right to P.K. Subban, whose shot beat Jordan Binnington unassisted at 2:12. It was his third goal.
Continuing to dictate the play, the Devils got a great individual effort from fourth line center Mike McLeod, who increased the lead to two at 15:07. Taking a Damon Severson outlet inside his zone, he took off through the neutral zone and then used a pick to get in and deke Binnington to go forehand for his third goal in two games. A strong move and nice finish for a hard-working player.
It didn’t take St. Louis long to respond. Finally put on notice that they couldn’t take the Devs lightly, they replied back only 30 seconds later when Klim Kostin put home an Oskar Sundqvist centering feed in the slot past former Blue Jon Gillies. He made the start against the team he only got into one game for due to their goalie depth.
After a solid first period in which they doubled up the Blues in shots 10-5, the Devils took a one-goal lead to the locker room. They had to kill off a Severson minor for interference on Pavel Buchnevich early in the second. Following that, it was mostly St. Louis.
Unlike the opening period, the Blues played with more intensity. Able to start sustaining pressure in the Devils zone, they finally tied things up.
After coming close a previous shift, they outworked the Devils down low where Brayden Schenn was able to steer in a Colton Parayko rebound past Gillies for his 11th at 5:13. On the play, Buchnevich occupied the front of the net where Ty Smith defended while Subban got caught on the wrong side for the tying goal.
Things continued to go wrong in the period. A mishap allowed Faulk to atone for his mistake by capitalizing on a Devil one for his seventh unassisted at 15:03. That gave the Blues their first lead. It also made it three consecutive goals against the Devils. They needed to stop the bleeding. Something Ken Daneyko mentioned during the telecast.
After a tough period in which they were outscored 2-0 and outshot 14-9, it would’ve been easy to fall apart against a quality team at their barn. Especially given the Devils’ fragile state. Instead, they picked themselves up by playing a strong third period to earn the victory.
Trailing by one, they got a crucial penalty kill on a Jonas Siegenthaler delay of game. The right names showed up to lead the comeback. On a good Smith outlet for Hischier, he gained the St. Louis zone and drew players before finding Yegor Sharangovich open for his ninth at 9:08. It was a good read from Hischier, who had a great game finishing with two goals and an assist.
With the game tied at three, Mercer reacted to a hard hit from Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola on Boqvist. On the play, Mikkola stepped up in the neutral zone and caught Boqvist against the boards with his stick in a strange position. Mercer took exception. The two exchanged punches. They each received two for roughing.
Mercer’s response would prove pivotal. It resulted in a four-on-four. With more open ice, it was the Devils who took advantage. On what can best be described as some soft coverage by the Blues, they allowed Sharangovich to skate freely into their zone and drop the puck for Subban. He then made a good cross-ice pass for Hischier, whose shot beat Binnington under his arm. That gave them a 4-3 lead with 8:26 remaining.
As the minutes dwindled, the Blues searched for the equalizer. It never came. Gillies made some timely saves. He stopped 27 of 31 shots to earn his second consecutive win. It got interesting late.
On what should’ve been the coup de grace, Jimmy Vesey took a Siegenthaler lead pass and then turned the Blues into traffic cone before catching Binnington by surprise with a good backhand inside the far goalpost for his seventh at 17:41. With only 2:19 left, that made it 5-3.
But before they could get comfortable, Buchnevich skated through a maze of Devils, who puck watched. He then was able to somehow find Schenn in front for a tip in that cut the lead to one with still 1:43 left. Schenn beat Subban on the play for his second of the game. But it was the loose play from the other skaters that allowed that goal to happen. Much too soft.
Fortunately, that didn’t end up costing the Devils. Following a Faulk long shot on net, Gillies aggressively moved the puck for Severson, who cleared the zone. With the St. Louis net empty, a hustling Boqvist got to the loose puck first and put in the empty netter with 1:19 remaining. The smart play from Gillies gave him an assist. A nice reward.
With time winding down, Hischier added a second goal into a vacated net to put the finishing touches on the Devils’ second straight win. They now have two days off before playing host to the Pens on Super Bowl Sunday. Start time is 1:30 PM.
There definitely are some positives. Hischier has goals in three straight and five points. He’s up to 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 42 games. For a second game in a row, Smith had an assist. He has three apples over the two wins. With a goal and two helpers, Sharangovich had a three-point night. A streaky scorer, he’s up to 21 points (9-12-21). Boqvist has four goals and two assists in his last six games.
Can the Devils build on the effort they got from key players? They have 34 games left. Obviously, there won’t be any playoffs. However, management has to be evaluating players. Especially with the trade deadline less than five weeks away.
Battle Of Hudson Three Stars 🌟 🤩 ✨️
3rd 🌟 P.K. Subban, Devils 3rd of season plus 🍎, 2 SOG in 16:18
2nd 🌟 Yegor Sharangovich, Devils game-tying goal plus 2 🍎, +1 in 16:09
1st 🌟 Nico Hischier, Devils 2 goals plus 🍎, 14-for-25 on face-offs, +1 in 19:07
I’m happy for Nico and hope he can solidify his status as a top-ish line center but team-wise it’s still near impossible for me to get into these games. Especially after it felt like a sick joke with Hughes coming up with COVID post-All Star weekend, not to mention they got whipped both just before and after the break plus there’s another break coming up after Tuesday (which I may wind up going to). Even if they split or sweep the next two and make me a little more of a believer, then they have another week plus off, who knows how they respond then?
I can’t believe the trade deadline is so late this year…not that there’s really a lot for us to trade (Vesey’s like our second biggest UFA after Subban), unless we decide to go outside the box with guys like Severson or Zacha to make a hockey trade or send a message.
There’s too many breaks. How is that good for the game?