New Jersey Devils: Picking Up The Pace

By Frank Maduri
Oct. 20, 2016

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils skate into Boston tonight (TV: MSG Plus in NY area) to play a Bruins team that is looking to bounce back from an off year last season and will give the Devils all they have in front of their home fans at TD Garden.

The Devils played well in front of their home fans in the opening home game of their 2016-17 season on Tuesday night in Newark, with a victory over the Anaheim Ducks by a 2-1 final score. The newly obtained star winger, Taylor Hall, broke through with two goals in that contest for New Jersey.

The Devils started the season with two losses on the road in Florida – an overtime loss to the Panthers in the season opener, and a loss in Tampa to the Lightning in which they squandered a two goal lead. In those games in Florida the Devils looked sluggish in certain phases of the game. They were maligned by both the beat media and the fans for not taking enough shots, especially in power play situations. In addition, they took too many ill-advised penalties.

New Jersey picked up the pace in the home opener, they were faster to loose pucks, they cleaned up some issues with their transition game, and they were more aggressive in taking shots. They also cut down on their penalties and played more disciplined hockey. Instead, it was the Ducks who were worn down by the Devils relentless puck movement which forced them into some poor decisions and penalties.

This led to a two man advantage power play situation in which Taylor Hall scored a pivotal goal in front of some very enthusiastic Devils fans. The team played pretty tightly on the power play and also killed a Ducks penalty off earlier in the game.

The Devils still have to clean up some areas which will be on display tonight against Boston. They have to make better entry passes and put them on the “tape” more than they have in their first three games this season. The Devils also could pressure the puck more effectively and consistently throughout a game, which they struggled with on their two game trip to Florida, but seemed to improve to some degree against Anaheim.

The puck pressure from both the forecheck and the back check, will be critical against a team like Boston and their style of play. In the event that the Devils cannot pressure and create turnovers or back check and allow Boston to keep the puck in the zone for extended periods, it will be a long night for New Jersey.

The roster, particularly the young players, have been impressive to me so far, and I have covered and watched this team for a long time. The players have clearly bought into Head Coach John Hynes and his approach because everything that Hynes points out for improvement gets fixed the following game.

The arrival of young phenom, Pavel Zacha, has been a revelation to this team, I like watching him move the puck. He has made some very intelligent plays with the puck so far. It is going to be fun watching him grow into this role.

The Devils have certainly picked up the pace and they will continue to be tested as it is almost game time tonight in Boston. The next few weeks will provide the answers to many questions that I have about this team. The display by Taylor Hall on Tuesday night proved that process will be fun to watch.