As the New Jersey Devils look to try and gain traction to building consistencies in goaltending they have moved on from the penalty kill and power play not being problematic near the first half of the season. Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood’s been very iffy this season in net due to his foot surgery not being very successful. It’s hard to blame Blackwood in the net especially now that the defence is beginning to find a form of structural layout finally with Alain Nasreddine around.
The Killer J’s in Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes has been buzzing of late and have been helping shore up not only the offence but improving the strategy on the power play. One of the keys to Jack’s recent success is that in the recent match played against the Los Angeles Kings was the setup pass to Jesper Bratt. Jack had King’s defenders covering him every other shift possible, but that left Jesper Bratt open when Jack peeled defenders to his left and opened a shooting lane for traffic upfront by Cal Petersen who was out of position on the one-timer to Bratt on the Power Play.
Rocked The Hurricanes
In the recent win versus the Carolina Hurricanes, Jack Hughes got open to help rip one home after darting an into the slot and beginning to use that NHL wrist shot that he’s beginning to improve on. Having Nathan Bastian around on the power play is a bit unconventional to most critics but not with the way Mark Recchi sees him because Bastian brings that right-handed Brian Boyle type of presence. That size, physicality, and grit remind me of Battle Ship Kelly in The Don Cherry Story because he gets an enforcer that turns into a tip-in and power play gritty goal helper. Bastian is not an enforcer by trade but he’s a power forward who can provide that presence and screen that is more important in even strength and power-play situations.
Nathan Bastian had 2 tip-in goals in the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes whereas Jack LaFontaine in his NHL debut at the Prudential Center the Devils was down 2-0 after the start of the opening minutes. His play helped spike the energy in the New Jersey Devils lineup that night and they played a very playoff-heavy team so well that they just need to harness that versus teams like Montreal who aren’t playing that well overall.
The biggest conundrum right now is that Akira Schmid and Nico Daws are likely going to finish up the year in Utica, and it seems more than likely that Jon Gillies won’t be able to cut it long term where Tom Fitzgerald knows a goalie like a Mikko Koskinen might want out of Edmonton and play in a market like New Jersey with a younger core of players in quantity growing more around the quality of young forwards and defenders with a defenseman like Dougie Hamilton who is only week to week can help make life easier to play.
With February starting to come GM, Tom Fitzgerald should look into bolstering that NHL-ready backup role because Mackenzie Blackwood is looking to rebound, and you don’t want him to lose more of that confidence. The Devils should also be more bullish in acquiring more young right-handed defensemen in the AHL and NHL because they have a plethora of left-handed defenders in the minors, and in the pipeline.
Expect more trade activity to pick up in February and die out on trade deadline day on March 21st before closing time sets in. This time of year Tom Fitzgerald usually collects assets but this year I see him doing a bit of both as he did with the asset he used to get Jonas Siegenthaler which has been a very savvy business decision. The Devils have some extra mid picks they can attempt another parlay that could prove to help improve the team in net and on right defence. Will, there be another Jonas Siegenthaler type move made no one is thinking of with the salary cap looking the way it is?
It waits to be seen what Mr. Fitzgerald can do once again and only time will tell when he can improve the New Jersey Devils head coaching position by the end of the 2022-23 season when Ruff’s contract is set to expire in that timeline.
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