Devils Dominate Garden, Best of Three Starts Thursday

After two horrible games, and a eulogy written by me, the Devils win two in a row to set up a best of three beginning on Thursday.

Now, I’m not going to say that the Devils read my pessimistic blogs after games one and two and got a wake up call. However, it is just a fact that the Devils are undefeated since I said they were going to be swept and they were not trying to win. Is there a direct relationship? Maybe. Is that just a coincidence? Could be. Am I just an idiot? Some people may say that. As of right now, none of the above can be ruled out. Most importantly though, the Devils have erased the two games to none deficit created by two blowout losses at home. They have done this through better penalty killing, better goaltending, better defense, and timely goal scoring.

The Devils took an early lead after Akira Schmid made a big stop, Jonas Siegenthaler cleared the puck out of the crease, and Jack Hughes dominated Igor Shesterkin on a breakaway. Jack Hughes is a certified Ranger killer. Hughes has scored in every game he has played in the world’s most overrated arena so far this season and now has eight career goals on Igor Shesterkin (second most in the NHL). Jack has three goals this series and now gets booed by Ranger fans every time he touches the puck because he just drives them insane with how casually he dominates their poverty franchise. Not only is Jack scoring goals regularly, but he is proving that he was born for playoff hockey. Hughes has never been known for being an overly physical player, some have even unfairly labeled him as injury prone. All series, the Rangers have understandably been trying to hit Hughes any chance they get and have knocked him down quite a few times. This increase in physical play has not slowed Jack down in the slightest. He has bounced up after every hit the Rangers deliver and even delivered a few hits of his own to guys like Kreider and Trocheck. He is a Devils for at least seven more years so Ranger fans better get their vocal cords ready, because Hughes domination of the Rangers is only just beginning.

Akira Schmid stepped in for his first playoff game in game three and has taken a firm grasp on the starting goalie job for the forseeable future. Schmid had a strong rookie season this year with a .922 save percentage and 2.13 GAA in 18 games played. In two playoff games so far, Schmid has stopped 57 of the 59 shots he has seen, completely shutting down the rapidly aging Rangers offense. In addition to his great saves, Schmid has mostly excelled at rebound control, which has really helped reduce the Rangers chances. Vanecek did not play horribly in the first two games and was not the reason for the losses, but Schmid has clearly played much better and been almost perfect.

I mentioned timely goal scoring earlier, and Jonas Siegenthaler really stepped up to provide that tonight. Just about seven minutes after the Rangers tied the game, Siegenthaler took a beautiful pass from Nico Hischier and wired it off the post and past Shesterkin to restore the Devils lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the third period. Siegenthaler, who was a healthy scratch for game two, has been relied on to be a steady defender all year, and not counted on to provide offense. But, in the playoffs, you sometimes need an unlikely hero to step up and that is exactly what Siegenthler did tonight. A massive goal that quieted the crowd in the world’s most overrated arena and swung the momentum back in the Devils favor.

We also cannot forget how important the penalty kill has been. In these last two wins, the Devils have killed off all eight Ranger power plays without allowing a goal. The Devils are doing a much better job of tying up the man in front of the net while also taking away the center of the ice. The Rangers are struggling to get cross ice passes and shots through the middle of the ice. This has forced the Rangers to waste time along the boards and down low while not allowing them to shoot for rebounds and tips like they did in games one and two.

I second everything Patrik Elias said. What a game. But this series is still far from over. The Devils have to go back to Newark and win a game at home. Shut the Rangers down again, win another close one, or blow them out. I’d be happy with either result. Build off of these two wins and get even better. Let’s Go Devils! You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth.

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