Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt put on outstanding performances to lead the Devils to their first win in three weeks.
It appears that a break is exactly what the Devils needed. Coming off of the extended Christmas break, the Devils had not played a game in 10 days. Prior to the break the Devils had lost the last six games and nine of the last ten. Last night however, the Devils looked sharp from the opening puck drop and came away with a well earned two points to get off on the right foot heading into the New Year.
Jack Hughes was the best player on the ice last night. Not only did he have a goal and two assists in the game, but he was all over the puck all night. Hughes led all players in the game with six shots on goal. Hughes had outstanding advanced numbers too. In last nights game, over 74% of the shot attempts were taken by the Devils when Jack Hughes was on the ice. This goes to show that when Hughes was on the ice, the puck was in the offensive zone the vast majority of the time. While watching the game, it seemed like Hughes’ stick was a puck magnet. Any time he was on the ice, Jack would be carrying the puck and creating offense. Games like last night are exactly why it was a good decision to sign Hughes to a long term contract extension. Games where he dominates every shift, such as last night, will become more frequent and he will be a truly special player in the NHL.
We also cannot miss the fact that Jesper Bratt was outstanding last night as well. Bratt contributed a goal and two assists of his own last night, bringing his team leading point total to 27 points (9G 18A). Bratt is breaking out this year and showing that he is worthy of a big time contract extension this offseason. He is on pace to smash his previous career bests in goals, assists and points. Much of Bratt’s increased offensive output can be traced to the fact that this season, he is averaging more shots on goal per game than any other season in his career with over 2.7 shots per game. He is also having his best season yet in the Corsi and Fenwick categories. Both of those stats show how much a player’s team is controlling the puck when that player is on the ice. By any available stat, Bratt is having a fantastic season and helping the Devils create the offense they are sorely lacking. I think this is even more obvious when watching the games. When Bratt gets the puck, it seems like it is impossible to take it away, like the puck is glued to his stick. Bratt also excels in using his outstanding skating ability to create space for himself and his teammates. Bratt is rarely knocked down when he has the puck and has a great command of his edges make quick turns and create opportunities for himself and his teammates.
The Devils will need to build off of the performance they had last night and string a bunch of wins together if they hope to get back into playoff contention. It is a long way to climb right now, but with 51 games remaining, there is still time for the Devils to move up in the standings. Assuming there are no further postponements, the next three Devils games are against Edmonton, Washington and Boston. All of those teams are above NHL .500 and are playoff contenders. If the Devils can win two of the three, that will go a long way to proving GM Tom Fitzgerald right when he said the answers to the teams problems are already in the locker room.
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