If Thursday night was an indication of how the 2020-21 New Jersey Devils will fare this season then do not expect them to be world-beaters. After not playing for 310 days, the Devils took to the ice against the Boston Bruins, one of the better teams in the East Division. And early on it looked like the Devils hadn’t played in around 10 months.
However, as the game progressed the Devils got better and found their legs. With only a couple of players skating in the summer or starting in leagues overseas, it was a good effort by the Devils. Unfortunately, it was not enough against the Bruins as they fell 3-2 in a shootout. If the first game was a trend it will be a long season for 2020-21 New Jersey Devils
2020-21 New Jersey Devils Played Well In Loss To Boston
You can put to all the negatives you want but for the most part, the Devils acquitted themselves admirably. And this will be most games during the season. It will take time to adjust to Lindy Ruff‘s coaching style and system. And for some players, they will need to be reacquainted to the NHL style of play. And that definitely showed.
“If you look at the first period, the way we played, for me, we looked nervous, we looked tight,” head coach Lindy Ruff said after the game. “It looked like we hadn’t played in 10 months. And Mackenzie (Blackwood)stood tall for us, so obviously hives us a chance in the second and third, and I thought our game really came around the last couple of periods and overtime.”
So for the most part, opening night was a success for the Devils. However, if the Devils want to be a contender they will have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. While a point is a point, the Devils had chances to steal the second point, especially in overtime. Starting off on the right foot is so important. Just look what happened season. A win opening night might have sent the Devils in a different direction. However, at this level, there are no moral victories. And that is something this young Devils team will have to learn along the way.
Positives For The 2020-21 New Jersey Devils Season
One of the biggest positives that can be taken from this game is the play of Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood was in mid-season form already. That is a good thing for the Devils. In the first game, he stopped 35 of 37 Bruins shots including 15 in the first period. He stopped all 23 shots faced at even strength including eight in the so-called high danger areas. Considering there were no preseason games. Blackwood had a fantastic night. If he continues to play like this, Blackwood will be a contender for the Vezina Trophy and will give the Devils a chance to win on most nights. However, the Devils just can’t rely on Blackwood every night. Eventually, they will burn him out and that strategy will backfire.
Another positive from the night was the play of Yegor Sharangovich. Sharangovich looked like a player that belonged in the NHL. The Devils expect big things for him this season. He is a player that can play in all roles for the Devils. He had a couple of good scoring chances and while the goals weren’t there, Sharangovich did draw three penalties. While it will take some time to get used to playing with Jack Hughes and Kyle Palmieri, that line will only get better as the game progress.
Speaking of Jack Hughes. He was another positive from the night. Hughes had that explosive speed he was known for coming during his draft year. His new size was on display. He did not get manhandled like during his rookie season. And he was a guy who wanted the puck. And yes he did pick up two assists, it was the rest of his game people were noticing. Not afraid to mix it up with anyone on the ice. He overpowered a Bruins player to set up the first Devils goal.
The Wood, The Bad And The Ugly
The Devils are hoping Miles Wood can take the step in his development this season. Wood has the speed to skate with anyone in the league. However, his brain is just not all there. He did have a goal in the opening night loss, and he will very physical. The line of Wood, Travis Zajac and Jesper Boqvist were noticeable on the ice. Having a third line that can be physical and generate scoring chances is something the Devils need.
However, sometimes being noticed is not such a good thing. Being out there for goals is one thing, but Miles Wood continues to take bad offensive zone penalties. Both were for goalie interference and it cost his team dearly. His penalties come at the worst time and kill any momentum the Devils gain. This is something he will need to fix going forward and he knows it taking the blame for his mistakes
“Those two calls on me are extremely selfish,” said Miles Wood after the game. “I’ll put the blame on me. That shouldn’t happen.”
Now to the ugly. One area the Devils most clean up if they want any success this season is special teams. The Devils were 0-for-5 on the power-play and gave up two power-play goals to the Bruins. Now granted the Devils are learning a new system under Mark Recchi, but the Devils have to take advantage when the Bruins go to the box.
The Devils will be in every game they play in. They may even win some games. But for the most part, it is going to be a long season for the 2020-21 New Jersey Devils.