New Jersey Devils: Player Analysis In Canucks Shutout


As a scout and a contributor, I will offer  player analysis who have had the most impact on games, win or lose. I look forward to your opinion and hope that you find this analysis helpful.

Last night, the New Jersey Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-0, in the first game of a crucial Western Canada road trip. The team played, perhaps, their most complete game of the season. The Devils are flying high with a Metropolitan Division leading 9-2 record, and an impressive road record of 5-0.

Brian Boyle joined the lineup for the first time since he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Although the team limited his ice time to 15 minutes, Boyle definitely distinguished himself as a terrific two-way player. He helped create several good scoring opportunities and had some quality chances of his own. Boyle was dominant in the face-off circle, as he has been throughout his career. He is a welcome veteran addition to a young team in need of leadership and depth.

The Devils penalty kill continues to be one of the teams’ strengths. They play a disciplined style and are, obviously, well coached. When on the PK, the Devils play the passing lanes, almost to perfection. Not allowing their opponents to move and pass the puck freely negates scoring chances.

Blake Coleman has proven his value to the team by becoming a relentless penalty killer. His anticipation seems to always put him in the right place at the right time. His forechecking and backchecking abilities are excellent. Coleman can even create scoring chances with his speed and skill. While many questioned whether or not he should have made the team, he has proved to be a versatile addition.

Taylor Hall continues to pace the team, adding two more assists. This is quickly becoming a stellar season for the young star. Hall’s leadership and work ethic have raised him within the teams’ hierarchy. Always a speedy skater, Hall’s playmaking abilities makes everyone on the ice with him better for the opportunity. I’ve been especially impressed with his selfless play and willingness to fit into the Devils system.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season has been the play of Jesper Bratt. The talented, 19-year-old Swede has become a dangerous scoring threat. He seems to understand his responsibilities at both ends of the ice. He was a constant presence in the offensive end of the ice and seemed to give the Canucks fits with his speed, stick handling and puck control.

Will Butcher added a much-needed offensive touch to the Devils back line. His command of the point on the power play is impressive, and his ability to create plays offensively gives the Devils a dimension that has been missing since the days of Scott Niedermayer. His mobility, speed and defensive anticipation has made the Devils are better team defensively. Butcher appears to be the “real deal” and a budding superstar.

The Devils may have to deal with the loss of Marcus Johansson, after his head first crash into the boards after less than a minute of ice time. Johannson’s puck skills and scoring touch would be severely missed, should he miss any significant time.

Jimmy Hayes netted his third goal of the season, which turned out to be the game winner. Hayes has been a pleasant surprise as a key free agent signing. His puck protection skills, anticipation and physical play seem to have him returning to the form he displayed as a member of the 2014-15 Florida Panthers, when he scored a career high 19 goals. Should Hayes continue to contribute offensively and play a solid two-way game, his addition should fortify the Devils third line.

More from Pucks and Pitchforks

Another of Ray Shero’s free agent pickups, Drew Stafford, added an empty net goal for his fourth of the season. Stafford has added a solid veteran presence to the line-up and has solidified himself as a first line player. Stafford’s ability to communicate with his teammates on ice is quite remarkable. His leadership ability just about gives the Devils an on ice coach during the game. I’ve been especially impressed with his board and corner play, as well as his puck protection.

Finally, Cory Schneider’s performance last night was nothing short of spectacular. His ability to play the angles and position himself is remarkable. He was able to control play in front of the net by not allowing some the long rebounds that have plagued him in the past. Schneider looks to be at the top of his game and as Cory goes, so go the Devils.

General Manager, Ray Shero, has done a very good job of mixing youth with veteran talent. This swing through Western Canada will give us a good idea as to where this team stands among the NHL’s elite.

The road trip continues tonight with a game against, the young, speedy and talented Edmonton Oilers. Look for an offensive type game with the goaltending being the deciding factor in the game.