I know it’s early in the season, but should New York Rangers fans be worried? I’ll come back to that, but first a little bit about the New Jersey Devils game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and what it’s like to watch hockey in Australia.
Being in Australia, obviously watching hockey requires somewhat a high level of dedication; time zones play a massive part in making it difficult to watch games where depending on your style of sports following, and for me I like to come home from work and watch the game without any spoilers. This means a complete social media blackout any time the New Jersey Devils play a game, as game starts are usually 11am at the peak of the season. But it’s also a lonely experience, as most people following hockey do similar or follow the live scores online or watch games at work, or do similar to myself and watch after work, so that means you can never enjoy it with friends in a group.
I mean for the Devils season opener, I had a few friends over to watch the Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets at Calgary Flames, so it was a good day.
But there also has been a dedicated group here in Melbourne, Australia, where I reside, called Hockey Night in Melbourne, and their first season event was Thursday the 12th of October where they happened to be showing the New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maples Leaf game on delay. So I took advantage of this and again, had a social media blackout and joined another 30 hockey fans to watch the game. It just reminds me how fun it is to be with like-minded people and why I enjoy travelling to the USA every year to hang out with friends and watch the New Jersey Devils live. So besides a great win, I had a few drinks and enjoyed the company of friends watching hockey, and can’t wait to get back there in March 2018.
Let’s be honest. The New Jersey Devils struggled against the Washington Capitals after showing speed and scoring against the Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs, even scoring the first ever regulation 3 on 5 goal in the New Jersey Devils history.
— NHL (@NHL) October 12, 2017
The Washington Capitals play their system extremely well; they’re fully structured in their defense and power-play and know how to exploit teams’ weaknesses, although they have struggled in the playoffs over the last few years, not even making it to the Stanley Cup Final.
But the New Jersey Devils bounced back with another win, this time against their biggest Division rivals, the New York Rangers.
Drew Stafford returned to the line-up after a day-to-day injury (with Kyle Palmieri returning against the Toronto Maple Leafs after also being injured in the season opener against the Colorado Avalanche) and John Hynes began to shuffle lines, similar to last season. After a slow start where the Rangers scored first, the Devils slowly started to get back to what made them successful at the beginning of the season, showing speed and better defensive plays. This wasn’t without Devils casualties however, not in the literal, physical sense of injuries, but in Marcus Johansson getting benched after only playing 4 minutes and 48 seconds and then not getting any further ice time from early on the second period. This isn’t a surprise however as he made some horrible plays, including a random drop pass to no one right in front of Keith Kinkaid which lead to a strong scoring chance by the New York Rangers.
I have to speak about Keith Kinkaid; I never rated him very highly, as in previous seasons, you never know which version you were going to get. He could steal a game or give it away. But in today’s game, he kept the Devils in it. Without him, the Devils would have easily lost, so his off-season work has certainly helped, and there is the change of the goaltender coach as well which has obviously helped Cory Schneider too, who stood on his head against the Leafs with 50 shots.
The Devils turned it on in the second period, scoring three unanswered goals, with Adam Henrique getting the scoring started, followed by a beautiful deflection by Miles Wood from Ben Lovejoy contributed by Will Butcher, and Butcher assisting on Drew Stafford’s goal with a great pass. Will Butcher is now the first rookie to ever have 8 points in the first 5 games in NHL history. The Devils still struggle on defense, but Ray Shero is starting to build a nice young core, and I can only be positive as to how the next couple of years will go. Nico Hischier did get an assist playing against the Rangers today, still yet to score a goal, but the scoring will come. He seems nervous at times, but he has great puck possession, and he seems to be fitting in to the team very nicely. He did get an elbow to the head from Rick Nash which hopefully will be followed up by Player Safety. Nico looks like Taylor Hall last year, trying to do too much by himself, trying to spark the team and get the puck to the net, which is the complete opposite of Hall this season, where he seems to be fitting in nicely with his line-mates and working more as a team rather than a one man crew trying to force plays. Hopefully Nico over the season settles in a similar matter, and the scoring will follow.
Now, obviously seeing the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers is always a good thing, but what a fall from grace from the last few years of playoff appearances. The Rangers are now off to a 1-5-0 start, worst in the Metropolitan division, and second worst in the Eastern conference. The Devils did play against their backup goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, but the Rangers were also coming off a loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before where Henrik Lundqvist, the Devils lost to the Washington Capitals the night before and also looking for a bounce back, but the Rangers just keep continuing to slide. Having a look at Lundqvist’s numbers, they aren’t the worst. He is sporting a 2.82 Goals Against Average and a .914 save percentage. Not horrible, but yet he has a 1-3-0 record. The Rangers currently have a -8 Goal differential, so they’re scoring is obviously a huge problem. You would have to think that Lundqvist doesn’t have too many years left, so it will be interesting to see how their season goes. I will be attending the New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils game on April 3rd 2018, so bring that on.
I’ve started listening to Puck Podcast, which is a new thing for me as I’m not a podcast person. Previously, I’ve just never been in a position to spend hours of my time listening to podcasts, as much as I’d like to, but now that I’ve moved and I spend an hour each way between home and work, and this particular podcast is once a week for about 2 and a half to 3 hours, it kind of makes sense. It also helps that it got recommended to me by a friend so I sat down to listen to it while I typed out this blog post. I’m an hour in, and I know why now why my friend listens to it. It’s a very balanced, well produced podcast, that any hockey fan would enjoy. Hopefully I meet up with the guys while I’m in California in March 2018, as they seem like a great bunch of guys.