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The Devils went into MSG and beat that poverty franchise from Manhattan to stay hot, grow their lead in the division, and take first place in the entire NHL.
The Devils are now 19-4-0 and have an 8 point lead in the Metropolitan division over the second place Islanders. They have won three games in a row and 19 of their last 21. This win was especially sweet because not only did the Devils beat the Rangers in their building, but they did so in front of a sizeable number of loud Devils fans. The Devils fell behind early but came roaring back with four straight goals to send the Devils fans in attendance into a euphoric frenzy.
Tomas Tatar continues his redemption tour after a disappointing first year as a Devil. With his 6th goal of the season tonight on this incredible backhand, as well as an assist later, he remains well ahead of the pace he was scoring at last season. The Devils seriously lacked depth scoring last year and relied far too much on Bratt, Hischier, Hughes and Sharangovich to score all the goals. This year, the Devils have far more depth scoring, as further evidenced tonight where they had nine different players record at least one point. There are no passengers on this team, unlike last year’s team where several players were not contributing regularly. (Zacha, Johnsson, Tatar to name a few.) Every player on this team contributes and as a result losses are few and far between as the Devils now have the best record in the NHL. What also cannot be ignored is the continued great play of Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, both of whom assisted on this goal to remain well above a point per game on the year. Every night, Hischier and Bratt are all over the puck and proving night in and night out that they are elite players in this league. I really am running out of ways to describe just how incredible these two are. Their control of the puck is other worldly and frustrating as all hell for their opponents.
With two goals tonight, including an empty netter, Yegor Sharangovich remained hot and brought his season total to eight. Sharangovich started the year slow but now has 7 points (4G 3A) in his last 6 games. Sharangovich had 24 goals last year so the Devils rely on him to score relatively consistently and he is now starting to do that again. With guys like Hughes, Hischier and Bratt earning well over a point per game each, having a guy like Sharangovich be a consistent offensive threat and flirt with 30 goals makes the Devils offense one of the most dangerous attacks in the league. As shown here, Sharangovich has an elite shot and is a threat to score anytime he touches the ice. I still think he should get some time on the Devils second power play unit, as that is an area of the team that has struggled a bit and I think Yegor could make it better if he was utilized there.
Jack Hughes emerged as a super star last year and is proving this year that was no fluke. With a hat trick against Washington on Saturday and another goal tonight, Hughes now has five goals in his last three games and 12 goals in 23 games on the year. Hughes leads the team in goals and is tied with Bratt for the team lead in points. Hughes is still only 21 years old, in the first year of his 8 year contract, and he is dominating the league on a nightly basis. His 8 million dollar salary may already be one of the best bargains in the entire NHL. He has elite speed, incredible puck control, near perfect vision, and a great shot that is still somehow getting better. Even in the rare instances where Jack does make a mistake and turn the puck over, he gets right back on it and regularly wins the puck back quickly.
After the Devils scored their fourth consecutive goal, the Devils fans who traveled across to the inferior side of the Hudson River made their voices heard in a big way. Devils fans filled the arena with chants mocking Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin and it was a beautiful sound. There were also several times throughout the broadcast that “Let’s Go Devils!” chants could be heard echoing throughout MSG. The Devils are the far superior franchise with a much more impressive history to go along with a far better team on the ice right now when compared to the Rangers so it is nice to have our fans finally make our voices heard in their building. For far too long now the Ranger fans have come into New Jersey and had far too large a presence in our building. Hopefully tonight was the beginning of a reversal of that disgusting trend. They are a franchise that has won 1 Stanley Cup since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and are currently outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. They’ve been around since the Great Depression and have given their fans mostly depression ever since, winning only four championships in that time. They are the definition of a poverty franchise and it’s always a welcome sight to see the Devils hand them an L and deprive them of any points in the standings.
The Devils have a bit of a break now before they welcome Nashville to Newark on Thursday. The Devils are no fluke. This not just a good start. This is relatively sustainable. While I don’t think they will continue to earn 82.8% of the points possible like they have so far, this is a team that can easily surpass 100 points and contend for a Presidents Trophy. Then, once the playoffs start, who knows what can happen? A young, fast team with reliable goaltending is dangerous in a playoff series… You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth