The New Jersey Devils got a big win on Sunday after partially thanks to the returning Ty Smith. He was back in the lineup after sitting for a few games as a healthy scratch.
It was a helluva win. The New Jersey Devils took down the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Dougie Hamilton scored the overtime winner, showing he is the top defenseman and the Devils should treat him that way. Before Hamilton was able to score a goal of his own, a defenseman in desperate need of a win got one.
Ty Smith has been a healthy scratch since their big win against the Vancouver Canucks last Monday. After that big win, the Devils lost two games against the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, two teams in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils pulled Colton White out of the lineup and brought back Smith.
It took three games to realize it was time to send the former 1st-round pick back into the lineup. It seems like the time off was good for Smith. In just under 10 minutes into his first game back, Smith was back on the board. He took a pass from the slot and put a one timer into the back of the net.
Ty Smith returns with a bang. He scored a goal off a beautiful feed from Jesper Bratt. It was one of the most necessary goals of the season. Say what you will about what’s important for the New Jersey Devils for the rest of the season, getting Ty Smith going is as important as anything.
Ty Smith needed a goal in the worst way for the New Jersey Devils.
There is a great run of young defensemen right now. Cale Makar is tops amongst them, but Quinn Hughes, Miro Heiskanen, Adam Fox, and many others are taking over the league. Ty Smith looked like he could have been in the same conversation as those players. He wasn’t there yet, but he was seventh in Calder Trophy voting last season, higher than any other defenseman.
Smith had some work to do, but he was still so young at 21 years old. He would grow into his role. Then, this season happened. Call it a sophomore slump, or whatever you want to call it, it was incredibly concerning. Smith made more mistakes than anyone on the ice. His on-ice impacts were some of the worst in the league. He has been on the ice for 41 goals against at even strength and just 27 goals for the Devils.
The best part of his return was the confidence he showed at the end of the game. He told Devils in-house reporter Amanda Stein he never wants to be a healthy scratch again. Seeing that mentality shows that the healthy scratch actually meant something this time. Hopefully, it lasts.
He was once again on the ice for two goals against on Sunday, but neither really felt like his fault. It just happened to happen when he was on the ice. The Devils shouldn’t worry too much, but just don’t let it become a habit.
The Devils need Smith in the lineup for the rest of the season. It’s one of the most important developments from the final two months. If Smith can get back on track, that’s as important as anything right now. The Devils are starting to get the right pieces to make next year’s team very good. They have Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler signed to reasonable deals next season. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are both signed long term. The only real deal they need to make is Jesper Bratt, and that one will be expensive.
However, if they can get Smith on track, this defense is pretty much set. Even if they trade Damon Severson, they will need to make some moves on the right side, but they will have the money available since Smith is still making the minimum. If they can get themselves at least a second-line defenseman, things will be in much better shape. If Sunday was any indication, it’s at least possible.