One of the many outlined details from this game was not only Jack Hughes scoring two goals and one assist against the Rangers, but backstop Mackenzie Blackwood holding the Devils defence and their lead intact. The Devils pushed the Rangers back onto their heels after taking a couple penalties and allowed some when it came to the penalty kill.
While taking a few too many, they are still a very young team who are learning to gain more experience together. However, if you look at the game penalties aside, the Devils second line with Andreas Johnsson, Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev just wasn’t clicking. I wasn’t surprised head coach Lindy Ruff benched the third line and reallocated more ice time to the first line with Yegor Sharangovich, Jack Hughes and Kyle Palmieri. That line was paying off dividends.
Lindy Ruff’s third line of Miles Wood, Travis Zajac and Jesper Boqvist got not only more playing time, but got more ice time showing that Zajac and Miles Wood were able to produce in a big game. However, Miles Wood scored a goal right off his skate from a Jack Hughes pass that was conducted on the power play. The Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian fourth line was very visible, bringing that consistency of speed, grit, physicality and strong forechecking, which is a consistent theme.
However, Tuesday being the Jack Hughes against Kakko and Lafreniere game, Hughes entered the night on a point streak and he proved he can score by crashing the net with a loose puck. It was the moment when the forward had the puck on the blade of his stick going backhand five hole, where his confidence shot up big time and so did his swagger after the goal. There is a true reason why Hughes was drafted first overall and Tuesday is absolutely why I had him first overall before the draft last February.
The New Jersey Devils face the Islanders next and the Devils, with their skill, youth and depth, are going to make it more of a positive problem for head coach Lindy Ruff. In a shortened 56 game season, it’s going to be more of a benefit for New Jersey. The team picked up backstop Aaron Dell, who is an upgrade not only on the depth chart, but has reliable experience at the NHL level.
It’s a bold move made by GM Tom Fitzgerald in order to get Mackenzie Blackwood some rest and help Scott Wedgewood with the workload moving forward.