Category Archives: NHL

Got Wood?

Miles Wood that is, in your hockey fantasy team?

It’s been a month since I’ve posted about the New Jersey Devils, and what a month it has been! The Devils have since won games against:
– Tampa Bay Lightning
– Ottawa Senators (twice)
– Arizona Coyotes
– Vancouver Canucks
– Florida Panthers
– Chicago Blackhawks

They’ve gotten at least a point against:
– Calgary Flames
– Edmonton Oilers

And lost in regulation against:
– San Jose Sharks
– Edmonton Oilers
– St Louis Blues

Not a horrible month in the grand scheme of things, and has actually left the Devils atop the Metropolitan division with games and points in hand. What an amazing effort. The rookies are contributing, the fourth line is contributing, and the team is finding ways to win, coming back when down, and close, tight games.
Case in point, the Chicago Blackhawks game. The Devils were down 4-2 at the end of the first period, yet rallied to finally win in an epic showdown.

Devils at Hawks

Miles Wood finished the game with 4 points (3 goals 1 assist), with his first ever NHL hat trick. Nico Hischier finished with a 3 point night (1 goal 2 assists), and Taylor Hall with 1 goal and 1 assist. Everyone on the team contributed (less some defensive brain farts), and had their first 3 goal deficit comeback win in regulation since April 2006. Just epic.

Which then leads me to the next point. Electronic Arts’ NHL video game series.
As of writing this, I had checked the New Jersey Devils’ roster on NHL 18. The current roster has the Devils’ overall offence rated at 86, defense at 88, and goalies at 92. There hasn’t been an update to the rosters since November 3rd, so I have to cut EA some slack, however I need to point out the following: the Devils are currently tied for 4th in Goals For (total goals scored by the team), and 5th in Goals Per Game Average (somewhat self-explanatory).

Now, the Devils have been in front of the Metropolitan division pretty much all season so far. So that’s fighting for a spot against the teams Columbus, Washington, Pittsburgh, both New York teams, Carolina and Philadelphia. When I scroll through those team rosters in NHL 18, respectively speaking, those teams are rated 89, 91, 93, 90 (x2), 88 and 91 respectively. Can someone please explain to me how the Devils are rated so poorly on offense when every single one of the same divisional teams listed above are below the Devils, or at the same level as the Devils? Case in point, the Devils are tied with the Islanders for 4th in Goals For, Rangers are in 3rd place by a difference of one goal. All the other divisional teams have scored less goals to the point they are outside the top 10. As for goals average per game, Devils are tied with Islanders for 5th, Rangers are 6th, and again, all other divisional teams are outside the top 10.
On top of that, three (3), yes three, of our rookies are currently in the top 7 for the Calder trophy – i.e. the highest points total by a rookie. Nico Hischier with 14 points, Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher with 13 points, all three players have played 17 games. That’s not far off a point a game average.

All I can say is, the next NHL 18 roster update better have an improvement with the Devils or I will not be happy. I want to play Online Versus against other players with my favourite team, however if I’m going against badly assigned player statistics, that’s just nothing short of frustrating and I’ll spam the hell out of EA for it.

Something very cool also happened over the last few weeks. I am visiting California for hockey for the first time since 2010 in March 2018, where I will see the Devils play in Vegas, LA, Anaheim, the up to San Jose, before flying back out east to watch the Devils finish off the season in New Jersey, and even the final regular season game in Washington, DC against the Capitals. My dad is joining me for my west coast portion of my vacation, and I will be taking him to his first ever (and second) NHL game against the Ducks and Sharks. It will be a great father and son moment sharing my passion with him, and will ensure he is wearing a Devils jersey in the crowd.

Hudson River Blues

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.


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.

February 18th

This is the date that Cory Schneider last won a game in regulation.

After watching the home opener live at 5AM on Sunday morning, I was excited to get home and watch the Devils face off in Buffalo against the Sabres. The life of an overseas hockey fan begins once again with social media blackouts and no conversing with friends in New Jersey.

I hadn’t realized it, but was reminded during the beginning of the game that Jacob Josefson, the ex-Devil, signed with the Sabres during the off-season; the first match-up of many for our Eastern Conference foes.

The Devils came out where they left off against the Avalanche, just dominating the game for the first 5 minutes. The Sabres had a couple of early chances but Devils’ players were in prime position in front of net to cover rebounds, with Will Butcher clearing the puck from an empty net chance by the Sabres.
It didn’t take long for the first goal, with Brian Gibbons rebounding the puck off Stefan Noesen and in. The Devils also went on the attack with a power-play, where they displayed crisp passing and several chances, but no goal.Will Butcher was very active with good coverage, and Schneider with another nice clear from a rebound. Schneider seems to have worked on improved rebound control in the off-season, as it seems much improved.
With 4 minutes to go in the first period, the Sabres bounced back, with some back and forth, and not so one-sided, but that changed quickly, with strong fore-checking from the Devils, Pavel Zacha outworking opponents, getting a chance to Hall, Andy Greene with a quick shot and Hall following up.
Nico Hischier continued to show his puck possession skills with tight turns and with the puck behind the net, gave a quick pass to Brian Gibbons who buried it, Nico getting his first NHL point!
The Devils went to the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.

What was really good that I enjoyed, was Steve Cangialosi and Ken Daneyko giving Jacob Josefson a shout-out to begin the second period. I always liked Josefson, and like they said, kept thinking each season was his time to break out, but never did. Hopefully he does well in his future.

The second period started just like the first, with the Devils on the attack, dominating play, and not giving the Sabres any chances to fight back. Jesper Bratt drew a penalty by being slashed. In a lapse of play, Jack Eichel split two defenders but luckily didn’t score shorthanded. Will Butcher and Taylor Hall get a late chance, but no success on the power-play.
With the NHL cracking down on face-off violations, the Devils suffer their first infraction, going to four on four late in the power-play, and the Sabres getting a shortened one. At the last minute of their power-play, Evander Kane splits the Devils and scores, breaking through for the Sabres, and drawing another penalty; the Devils go straight back on to the penalty kill.
Wasting no time, Adam Henrique clears the puck and started a two on one with Jesper Bratt, with a nice soft pass over the stick. Bratt undressed the goalie making the shorthanded goal look easy with a quick deke opening up the net. The Devils get the goal back and lead 3-1.
After killing the penalty, the Sabres get a good shot on goal with Schneider making a stop. Immediately from the face-off, Hall bounces the puck up the middle and in to the offensive zone. The Sabres commit a cardinal sin by misplaying the puck straight back to Hall, where he gives Marcus Johansson an easy goal with an uncovered net, extending the lead to 4-1.

The Devils continue to dominate throughout the second period, with Miles Wood showing some passion getting in to a fight as well. The Devils receive an offensive zone face-off, and again, Hall throws a pass in front of the net with Jesper Bratt making a perfect deflection in goal.
With a minute to go, Nico Hischier off a defensive zone face-off passes the puck up to Jesper Bratt and begins a two on one with Marcusu Johansson. After a little back and forth, Johansson buries the puck. The Devils go to the second intermission leading 6-1, totally dominating the end of the second period, and the Sabres fans booing their team.

The third period wasn’t any different, although the Devils didn’t extend their lead at all. They did give up a wraparound shot, again by Evander Kane, where the puck crept through the gap. He was the only active player in an otherwise lifeless Sabres team. The game finished 6-2, Devils winning their second for the season and first on the road.

Throughout the entire game, the fourth line just continued to push hard; they really are showing they belong in the NHL, and complimenting the Devils roster. Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall show marked signs of improvement from last season, and Taylor Hall since last game as well, picking up two assists and firing shots. Neither never stopped moving and showed their speed.
Whilst Nico Hischier picked up his first NHL point, Jesper Bratt has just continued to show how much of a steal he was as a 6th rounder. He might very well be the surprise of the league, and definitely someone to keep an eye on. He won’t be going back to juniors or the AHL, that’s for sure.

The Devils’ power-play suffered, going 0-4 compared to their first game of the season which was 3-4. The Sabres did do a good job of not giving them any opportunities and probably the only bright moment from an otherwise poor game for them. The penalty kill was good apart from Evander Kane making two defenders look like traffic cones.

The next three games will be the real test for the Devils, with a trip across to Toronto to face an excellent Maple Leafs team on the upward trend, and an always tough Washing Capitals group with Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby, although it will be good to see another game where Australian Nathan Walker is playing (hopefully). The Devils then play their first game against the New York Rangers, who started slow but can never underestimate, plus the rivalry factor.
If the New Jersey Devils can come out of the first five games with a winning record, such as 3-1-1, I will consider that an excellent start to the season. The injuries to Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford don’t help, but hopefully they will make their return soon. If the rookies keep playing the way they have, then they don’t need to be rushed back, which is always a good thing.

Still on the lookout for Nico Hischier’s first goal, but onward and upwards. And now Cory Schneider has two regulation wins to start the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils season.

Ilya who?

If you ask a New Jersey Devils fan what their opinion is of Ilya Kovalchuk coming back to the NHL, you will get three answers:
1) He will be welcomed back with welcomed arms as he is a massive solution to our scoring woes, especially as the (New Jersey) Devils have had issues this season scoring 5 on 5, and more recently they have relied on the power play to score goals.
2) The only reason he will be welcomed is to trade his rights to another team for assets.
3) A resounding no based on morality regardless of the outcome of him coming back.

If you’re not aware of the history, the Devils traded with the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 and added Kovalchuk to their roster. The Devils gave up defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Once Kovalchuk’s contract came to an end, the Devils began negotiation of a new contract in the off-season, which lead to (what a fan of any other team no doubt describes as) entertainment; this was due to the first contract being rejected by the NHL due to claims it circumvented the rules of the salary cap.
A second contract was negotiated and accepted, however the NHL advised that the consequences of such a result was the loss of a first round and third round draft pick and a monetary fine. The Devils did appeal the loss of the first round pick and did receive it back, albeit the 30th pick regardless of where they finished in the season.
At the end of the 2012 season where the New Jersey Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, the Devils held the 29th pick. This is where, at the time, I would have given the first round draft pick as compensation; however the Devils used the pick. In hindsight it wasn’t really a good decision that fans were happy with, including myself, however it ended up turning out ok.

After two full seasons and the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13, a shock announcement was made that Ilya Kovalchuk was retiring from the NHL on grounds he wanted to play back at home in the KHL. This came after he played in the KHL during a lockout-shortened 2012-13 NHL season, and even delayed returning to the New Jersey Devils after a new player’s agreement was ratified.

Fast forward to now and the rumours of him returning to the NHL return (and tend to every year), of course around the trade deadline. What makes this more interesting this time is that there has been a public comment made that (apparently from) Kovalchuk if his benching does not stop, he will cancel his contract and return to North America (sounding familiar?).

If you read the article from Sports Illustrated that was posted last year, you will see that there are ways for Kovalchuk to return to the NHL, and after the latest rumours, it has fuelled debate once again.

So the question is, should Ilya Kovalchuk be allowed to return to the NHL? As you can see from the Sports Illustrated article, and the various opinions of New Jersey Devils fans, it’s not an easy answer.

For me, I liken him to the phrase “He who should not be named” as I fall quite strongly in to category 3. As a Devils fan and my upbringing, I place integrity, principles, and loyalty as strong values.
I just cannot allow myself to want a player on the team when they put their own selfish needs ahead of the logo on the jersey (to paraphrase Lou Lamoriello); Kovalchuk used the excuse of going home to quit on the Devils, however it was also in regards to a better tax rate and higher paid income which helped him move back to Russia.
He is now doing a repeat (although more publicly than the shock of retiring from the NHL) by threatening to leave his KHL team and return to North America. This just shows the sort of character and person he is. Why on earth would any NHL team want that sort of risk, let alone character, in their locker room? Kovalchuk is creating a pattern for himself and soon no one will want to touch him, not only due to possibly upping and quitting on his current team, but potentially the locker room atmosphere he may create.

As much as the New Jersey Devils need more scoring in any regard (and let’s be honest, these past several games have been nothing short of embarrassing), they should not be looking to Kovalchuk as a solution, especially when they have Pavel Zacha (2015 sixth overall draft pick) currently playing in the OHL and doing well who should be making the team next season, the upcoming trade deadline and free agency period, all before next season. Ray Shero has shown he is looking at a long term rebuild and should not be looking at a short term solution that is Kovalchuk.

If the New Jersey Devils do not offer a new contract to Kovalchuk, his only options will be to request a vote from all 30 General Managers to allow him to return, or to wait until his current KHL contract ends and wait a full year without playing any sort of hockey. This puts Kovalchuk’s age at 35, and starting to get to an age where his time may run out to return to the NHL as an effective player.

I’d be very happy to never see him in the NHL again, but that’s just me.

The New Jersey Devils are your Stanley Cup Champions! (Not really)

It has been a busy week with the (New Jersey) Devils playing four (4) games in the past 8 days; a home and home series against division rivals New York Islanders, and a small three (3) game home stand against the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues (still yet to play).

The Devils have been playing a strong, fast style this season under new head coach John Hynes, however the home and home series against their division rivals the New York Islanders was always going to be a big test (as well as the next few games too), and this certainly showed.

The Devils looked tired against the Islanders. In the first game, the Devils managed to score twice to be 2-0 however the Islanders fought back in the second period tying up the game however neither team was able to score in the third period to win. Ultimately the game went to a shoot-out where the Devils once again impressed and won.
The second game against the Islanders the Devils fell behind 1-0 however tied it up in the third only to have the Islanders score late to win the game, splitting the home and home series.

Considering that the Islanders have been the stronger team over the past couple of seasons, and even to the point of the Islanders going 4-0 against the Devils last season, to see the Devils fight and get one win in the home and home series is a good start.

The Chicago Blackhawks came in to town to start a three (3) game home stand, and this really was one of the first big tests for the Devils this season, facing the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions.

The Devils did not give the Blackhawks any opportunity, scoring four (4) goals in a row. The first period was littered with three (3) goals, and the second period provided the fourth – however the Blackhawks did score one, the Devils going in to the final period leading 4-1.

Once the clock hit six (6) minutes remaining, I witnessed something I had not seen before – the Blackhawks’ coach decided to pull the goalie for the remainder of the game in an attempt to have the Blackhawks’ deep offense try and win the game.
This was worrisome for two reasons – the Devils have struggled to clear the defensive zone let alone score an empty net goal over the last season or so, and the fact that the Blackhawks’ offense is scary good.
The Devils, whilst not scoring an empty net goal, did an amazing job and only allowed the Blackhawks to score one further goal, winning the game 4-2.

At this point of the season, the Devils are 7-5-1 and actually looking good, and whilst early in the season, on the cusp of a wild card playoff spot (albeit with plenty of games to go). This is an accomplishment however considering that over the past two or so seasons the Devils have started slow, and in fact quite terribly. A good start to the season could mean a lot after the trade deadline and heading toward the March – April stretch of games.

The Vancouver Canucks have always been a tough opponent for the Devils, and their games have never disappointed, this one included.
The second game of the three game home stand started with a bang; Vancouver struck first 2:20 in to the game, however Adam Henrique scored a beautiful short-handed goal shortly after to tie the game. Mike Cammalleri scored late in the period to give the Devils a 2-1 lead heading in to the second period.
The second period saw Sergey Kalinin score his first NHL goal moving the Devils to 3-1, however the Canucks fought back and at the end of the period scores were tied at 3-3.

The third period was nothing short of intense. Both teams had plenty of chances, with the puck only being stopped by the iron, and both goal-tenders showing off their skills; Ryan Miller the veteran giving a master class to the somewhat younger Keith Kinkaid, but both matching one another on the highlight reel.
Adam Larsson had a mammoth hit on Jared McCann, and for all intents and purposes was legal, however McCann dropped to the ground visibly shaken, and the referees handed out a 5 minute interference penalty and a game misconduct. The fact alone of a 5 minute interference penalty was handed out when normally only 2 minutes, was a shock, but then to also receive a game misconduct when Larsson never left the ice nor hit McCann above the shoulders, is a controversial call.
As such, the Devils went on to kill a 5 minute penalty in spectacular fashion. This resulted in the game going to overtime, a position the Devils are becoming familiar with, especially with the new 3 on 3 overtime rules.

The Devils had luck on their side when the referees called an interference penalty against the Canucks during 3 on 3 overtime, which lead to an amazing set up for Kyle Palmieri to be the home town hero and score the overtime winner.
The Devils are now 3-0 in overtime and 2-1 shoot-out winners; a record that is a more pleasing sight to Devils fans than previous seasons, and whilst the Devils aren’t winning too many games in regulation, they are living up to their motto to never quit and are finding ways to win.

The Devils face the St. Louis Blues next to end their home stand, before venturing to Chicago, then returning to New Jersey to face the Penguins, before heading off on their somewhat regular early-season west coast road trip, which the Devils have also struggled with the last couple of seasons, and again will provide a good test for this new team.