Thanks in large part to new additions, the Devils beat Chicago at home to start 1-0 despite flashbacks to 2019.
WOW. WHAT. A GAME. That was a roller coaster. The game ended like 18 hours ago and I still haven’t stopped thinking about it. The game started with a BANG when Dougie Hamilton scored just 17 seconds into his Devil career.
Couldn’t draw up a better start to his career as a Devil. Hamilton was an asset defensively as well, using his long reach and good position to prevent high danger chances. If last night is any indication for how his career as a Devil will go, Dougie will be worth his huge contract and then some. Hamilton is a total game changer.
The Devils did show some flaws though. Discipline is still an issue, as the Devils took FIVE penalties. That is far too many against any NHL team, but it especially too many against a team that has players like Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the power play. In those 5 shorthanded situations, the Devils allowed two goals. Only the first game but if discipline and penalty killing remain problems, we could see some demoralizing losses this season.
Johnathan Bernier had a very good game, stopping 24 of 27 shots including a few jaw droppers. The only goals he gave up were on the Chicago power play and an empty net 6 on 5 situation. If that is the goaltending we get from Bernier and Blackwood returns to form, the Devils will have one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Bernier proved to be another reason for optimism last night as we go forward in this season.
Jack. F’n. Hughes. What a game out of 86 last night. Both of his goals were highlight reel material where Jack showed his elite skill and ability to take over a game. His first goal gave the Devils a 2-1 lead in the second period. Hughes and Sharangovich forechecked aggressively after entering the zone and forced Chicago to cough the puck up. Hughes wasted no time in pouncing on the loose puck, spinning and firing the puck into the net. Jack has fantastic offensive instincts and they really showed and paid off tonight.
But Jack wasn’t done yet. The game went to overtime and Mr. Hughes simply would not allow the team to lose. He came down the ice on a 2 on 1 with Ryan Graves. Jack cut across the ice, and dangled the puck like it was on a string. He pulled Chicago goalie Kevin Lankinen out of position and slid a back hand shot into the vacant goal. The Prudential Center then EXPLODED with joy as the Devils went from giving up a 2 goal lead in the third period to being victorious. All thanks to the one and only Jack Hughes. He is primed to “pop” this season, as he said himself and I cannot wait.
What a win. But this game did give me horrifying flashbacks to 2019-2020 where the Devils could not hold a lead at home to save their lives. Not this 2021-2022 Devils team though. These guys are different. Thanks in large part to guys Like Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, Tomas Tatar and Dawson Mercer, all of whom had points tonight in their Devil debuts, the New Jersey Devils are 1-0-0 instead of being 0-0-1 or worse. The new additions, the continued growth of Jack Hughes, and a real season with ample practice time under head coach Lindy Ruff are all great reasons to believe that this team is different from the same old Devils of the last decade. These guys are ready to compete and ready to win and I cannot wait to watch it for 82 games AND playoffs!!