New Jersey News And Notes
The New Jersey Devils have won five of their last six games. New Jersey’s final two contests feature a game against the New York Islanders tonight and the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. This is now a team that seems to have bookended their season with a nice start and a nice finish. What that long middle portion was no one knows?
Are they perfect? New Jersey is far from it. This is the youngest team in the league with an average age of just above 24. The forward group is just over 22 years old per player. Then, the special teams are a bane of one’s existence. Now, the power play showed some improvement over the past few weeks. It is up to 14.6% which is 28th in the NHL but was around 11-12% most of the season. The penalty kill has inched up slightly to 70.9% which is still dead last in the league.
New Jersey clicks more as a team now. Also, MacKenzie Blackwood looks in good form again as the season ends. Blackwood has five straight wins and in his last three starts, he has yielded just five goals (96 of 101 shots stopped).
Some notable hot stretches:
- Jack Hughes — 4 points last 4 games
- Yegor Sharangovich — 4 goals, assist last 5 games
- Pavel Zacha — 4 goals, two assists last 5 games
- Jesper Bratt — 2 goals, assist last 5 games
The two significant players would be Sharangovich and Zacha. Jack Hughes drives the offense and creates chances for himself and everyone else. Pavel Zacha has 34 points this season and though other parts of his game have been lacking, the offense has featured two huge spurts. Those are important. Whether he is a long-term answer or a possible trade chip, no one knows for certain with Tom Fitzgerald and New Jersey. For better or for worse, Zacha’s offense has been interesting, to say the least.
The bigger surprise continues to be Yegor Sharangovich. He looked a little lost early on in his callup. Everyone remembers that overtime goal early in the year against Boston. However, the Russian rounded into a nice, consistent player that Jack Hughes has shown chemistry with. Yes, the interviews are priceless but Sharangovich is on a 25+ goal pace for 82 games.
Everyone knows how up and down MacKenzie Blackwood has been but that cannot be completely pinned on the goaltender. COVID ravaged this team and yes, he has had some awful stretches. However, this last run of games proves he has a good bit of fight left. So, has this team for that matter. They may get dominated, they may get run out of the building, but they have not quit. The same could not be said about New Jersey a few weeks back.
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About the New York Islanders game…
Again, New Jersey is a heavy underdog for tonight’s game. They are right around +200 on the money line. The Islanders come in cold losers of three straight games. It has not worked out with New Jersey’s acquisitions either. Kyle Palmier has three points in 15 games and Travis Zajac has been a healthy scratch in a few contests. They looked a bit less out of sync on Thursday night but Blackwood stopped 32 of 33 shots in the 2-1 New Jersey win.
This game expects to feature a little more blunt attacking from the Islanders as they try to right things. They are now the fourth seed in the East Division. If the playoffs started today, they would play the Pittsburgh Penguins. That may very well be the matchup. However, a couple of wins in the final stretch of the regular season would help their confidence.
As for New Jersey, they are riding that wave now. Does it make one wonder what could have been? Yes. Maybe, there is some hope for next season. After all, New Jersey will not have to wait almost ten months the next time around.