Remember the day when the New Jersey Devils drafted Pavel Zacha? While it was a peculiar move at the time, the Devils organization knew they found something special in him way back in 2015. While many people say the New Jersey Devils should’ve gotten Ivan Provorv, Mikko Rantanen, or Mathew Barzal, it’s hard to argue with the results when Zacha goes on a hot streak. Even in a shortened season during a rebuild, every player on the Devils has got to step up. Zacha seems to get the message as 15 games into this season, he has 12 points, which is the most on the team. So, where did this streak begin for Zacha?
Pavel Takes Charge 5 Games Into The Season
While Zacha hadn’t made an impact yet, Devils fans were getting impressed by Ty Smith‘s introduction to the NHL and seeing how different Jack Hughes is in year 2. In the 5th game against the New York Islanders on January 24th, he received his first point while grabbing a loose puck to bury a rebound to put the Devils up 2-0. Despite the loss against the Philadelphia Flyers the next game, Pavel got point no.2 when he put a rebound home to score the Devils’ 3rd goal of the game. Two games later against the Buffalo Sabres, Zacha got his first assist on a secondary assist to Ty Smith’s goal on the power play. This game would become the game where Zacha’s point streak begins.
The very next day, he would get his second assist of the year when he helps close out a game against those same Sabres thanks to a Miles Wood empty-net goal. However, following the game, he got put on the COVID-19 protocol list.
Even when Zacha returned with the team two weeks later, his point streak continued as he scored a power-play goal against the New York Rangers. By the way, that was the first power-play goal the Rangers had given up in over seven games.
Against the Boston Bruins two days later, Zacha put on what is perhaps the best Devils play of the year for his 4th goal. Zacha did a Spin-O-Rama around Jake DeBrusk to set up a shot for Andreas Johnsson. The following three losses against the Sabres twice and the Washington Capitals would earn three more assists. On February 25th, though, he would help the Devils defeat an agonizing opponent.
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Pavel Helps the Devils Finally Beat the Sabres
For this season, no other opponent season has been as challenging for the Devils as the Buffalo Sabres. After the outbreak, we played Buffalo three more times. In the first of three meetings, Buffalo dominated. They pressured the players for 40 minutes until the Devils scored two goals in the third, but it wasn’t enough. While the next game against Buffalo didn’t have the Sabres pressuring the Devils as much, the Sabres still won 4-1. Perhaps the biggest reason for the loss was the penalty kill. Since the penalty kill is the worst out of everyone in the league, Buffalo made sure to take some advantages with it every game played. The next game was no different, but Zacha made sure the Sabres didn’t win it in the end.
While the Sabres struck first thanks to a P.K. Subban turnover, Zacha was about to turn this game around with a little help from Jesper Bratt. With a pretty pass into the offensive zone by Pavel Zacha, Bratt was able to do some dirty dekes to beat Carter Hutton to tie the game. In the third period, now tied at two, Zacha helped give the Devils’ brand new captain his first goal of the year.
Zacha cut in front and made a great pass to Nico Hischier, who puts the puck in on his backhand. With the game tied up at three thanks to the penalty kill not doing their job, the game headed into overtime. While getting one point against Buffalo was great, the Devils needed to grab momentum in overtime if they wanted to win the game. Pavel Zacha made sure that his streak would continue as Bratt helped return the favor for Zacha in overtime. With Bratt leaving the puck for Zacha to shoot in the offensive zone, he took the shot and beat Hutton in overtime to win the game 4-3.
So, if you’ve been paying attention and counting the points, that’s five goals and seven assists for Zacha. He has scored at least one point in the last eight games in a row. This effort by him has been unbelievable, and hopefully, Zacha keeps it up. Lindy Ruff should keep him and Bratt together. When these two are on a line, they always seem to be gaining points, and that’s the type of goal scoring we want to see in these games. The hope now is to prove Zacha was not a draft bust. Hopefully, this inspires the other players on the team because, in a shortened season, everyone needs to score. Hopefully, he teaches a thing or two to a couple of players on the team.