The Devils played physical, aggressive, fast, and earned their first win of the second round in an 8-4 blowout.
The Devils were dominated in the first two games of this series. Carolina out hit, out shot, scored, and out worked New Jersey in games one and two. The Devils completely flipped that script in game three to get themselves back into this series with a convincing win. It started early with Dawson Mercer, Jack Hughes, and Timo Meier winning the battles deep in the Carolina zone resulting in Meier’s first point of this playoff run. Mercer got to the puck first along the boards, and threw it behind the net where Jack Hughes controlled the puck, fought through a check, and a made one handed pass to Timo Meier who stuffed it into the net. New Jersey rarely, if ever, won battles for loose pucks in the first two games and Carolina was able to turn that into offense for themselves. Today, New Jersey fought for every inch of ice and every lose puck and skated away with an 8-4 win.
The Devils were able to sustain offensive zone pressure in this game for the first time this series, and not surprisingly, it resulted in pucks going in the net for he good guys. The Devils forechecked hard and held the blueline to keep the pressure on the Hurricanes for most of the game. That was not something the Devils were able to do really at all in games one and two. The fifth Devils goal was a perfect example of this. Both Hughes brothers fought hard to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Luke got the puck to Damon Severson who skated through the Carolina defense and ripped the puck into the back of the net. Luke Hughes really made this play as he controlled the puck deep in the Carolina zone, fought through a check, and made a perfect pass to Severson while on his knees. Luke earned two assists in this game and more than proved that he is ready for NHL playoff hockey. (he just needs to be a little more aware on the power play…)
Now as great as this game was from a New Jersey perspective, the power play is still a massive concern. The Devils allowed THREE SHORTHANDED GOALS against in this game and went just 1/4 on the power play, despite having multiple 5 on 3 advantages. That is just inexcusable and could be a massive problem going forward. The Devils were careless with the puck on the man advantage (Luke Hughes) and let Carolina get behind them for several odd man rushes while shorthanded. The Devils really need to figure out a way to turn the power play into an advantage for themselves instead of a momentum killer or worse offensive opportunity for the opponent. They got away with it this games, but they may not be so fortunate again.
The Devils offense exploded and the Devils showed they won’t just be bullied out of the playoffs. The Devils pushed back hard and earned a convincing win at home to get themselves back in the series. But now there can be no excuse going forward. This should be the expectation for games four through seven. The Devils should be expected to match, or even exceed, the physical play of Carolina, and should be expected to maintain significant pressure on the Hurricanes for long stretches of each game going forward. Clearly the Devils players and coaches have successfully adjusted to the Hurricanes and now need to do the same thing three more times this series. The days of just scoring one goal and being on the wrong end of blowout should be over. Just like last series, the Devils have adjusted and now need to keep rolling. Let’s hope the Devils use this momentum to carry themselves into the eastern conference final. You can follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth.