On Tuesday afternoon, before the New Jersey Devils‘ game against the Montreal Canadiens, Jack Hughes met with the media. One reporter asked him about playing consistently on both sides of the puck. He was pretty straight forward with his answer.
This was, as Bleacher Report put it, a savage response. Hughes was having none of the reporter’s nonsense, asking him about something negative that didn’t really have a place in the conversation. The Devils have been one of the best teams at both ends of the ice. They have the second most goals in the league and the fifth least goals against. When it comes to shots, they are even better (2nd in shots per game, 1st in shots against).
Hughes took that motivation into the game. He was ready for the Montreal Expos… err, Canadiens. He kicked off the scoring four minutes into the second period with a power play goal. Dougie Hamilton found Hughes; he came closer to the net and rocketed a shot past Jake Allen.
Then, in the second period, Hughes did it again. Dawson Mercer threw the puck out of his own zone, Hughes’ speed helped avoid an icing, and Allen threw the puck to his defenseman, who allowed Mercer to tip it away. It went on Hughes’ stick, and that was all he needed.
Hughes ended up with the primary assist on Jesper Bratt‘s insurance goal in the third period, and Hughes was clearly the top player of this win. He missed out on his first career hat trick when his empty net shot missed wide. Still, this was the best game of the year for Hughes. He’s a player who some are criticizing for not doing enough, despite averaging more than a point per game. This game was a good reminder of what he could do.
Hughes is still trying to find the right linemates. He started the game with Bratt and Yegor Sharangovich as his linemates. He finished with Mercer and Erik Haula. It will help when he gets the same linemates every night, but for now, he will do what he can with whoever Lindy Ruff puts him with.