Statement win for Devils and Vanecek against Colorado

If you’d told me a couple weeks ago as the Devils were sitting at 0-2 that they would win five out of their next six and improve to 5-3 I would have laughed at the absurdity. Even now I’m still a bit shaky in terms of my belief in this team, in part because I’m still 0-2 in attended games (missed tonight’s game due to car issues after being on the IL for last week’s two home wins) and in part because let’s face it, the Devils have gotten off to good ten-game starts the last couple years as well. Until tonight you could attribute our recent streak to a cupcake schedule, and even Colorado was missing a few key guys – at least offensively. Still, a win is a win, especially when it’s a taut 1-0 shutout against a lot of guys who did just win a Stanley Cup.

What you have to say is encouraging about tonight’s game is that a lot of the ills that have plagued this franchise in recent years looked like strengths against a talented Avs roster – starting with Vitek Vanecek whose twenty-four saves were just enough for his second straight win and first shutout as a Devil. After a rocky start in the home opener two weeks ago, Vanecek won over the home crowd tonight with some key saves, especially on the Avs’ power play which the Devils managed to keep in check going 6-6 on the kill. Special teams had been another reliable bugaboo in recent years, until tonight. Not only did the Devils keep the Avs’ man advantage quiet (including a tense last-minute 6-on-4 after an ill-timed Tomas Tatar penalty), but New Jersey also scored their lone goal on the much-maligned PP with Jack Hughes’ wrister beating Avs goalie Pavel Francouz to break a scoreless tie early in the third period.

Other improvements include the Devils’ prowess in the faceoff dot tonight – a total of 34 faceoff wins in 48 chances (71%) including Nico Hischier going an insane 16-17 on the draw, tying a team record by none other than Bobby Holik:

It might have been in the salad days of Holik and John Madden where the Devils were last this good on faceoffs, with Nico and new acquisition Erik Haula leading the way for the Devils’ top three overall rank in faceoff wins on the season so far. Also a vast improvement has been the D as a whole, with a healthy Dougie Hamilton and last season’s breakout in Jonas Siegenthaler joined by this season’s breakout in John Marino, who earned the third star with another strong performance tonight leading the team with 22:01 in icetime, including an insane (and critical) 6:58 on the PK.

If Marino didn’t get the third star you could have actually given it to Nathan Bastian, after he had three critical blocked shots and a pivotal screen on the Hughes goal. New Jersey got contributions from role players and stars alike, which you need to beat teams like the Avs and hang with the big boys on a consistent basis. While they’ve certainly been consistent defensively this season and are getting better on special teams, you’d still like to see a little more offense going forward. Tuesday’s breakout in Detroit was nice, but still abnormal for this season where the Devils have scratched out eighteen goals in the other seven games. As always, goaltending is still a question mark but with Mackenzie Blackwood’s three-game winning streak and Vanecek’s strong last two games maybe the Devils at last have a tandem worth sticking with.

Clearly that’s going to be a hot hand approach though and right now that’s Vanecek, who’ll likely start on Sunday against the Blue Jackets, which is a pivotal game before the Western Canada swing. You’d like to beat a middling Jackets team even if in previous seasons big teams like them have been poison for our small, skill lineup. Perhaps that’ll be the next thing to change from prior seasons though. Can’t say I’ll be at that game either (not with it conflicting against Jets-Patriots) so you can probably chalk that up as a win too, hah. However they come for now, just so long as they give us a reason to believe.

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1 Response to Statement win for Devils and Vanecek against Colorado

  1. Derek Felix says:

    Other improvements include the Devils’ prowess in the faceoff dot tonight – a total of 34 faceoff wins in 48 chances (71%) including Nico Hischier going an insane 16-17 on the draw, tying a team record by none other than Bobby Holik:

    How? 16/17 vs the Avs. That’s awesome.


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