The New Jersey Devils got a huge win against their biggest rival the New York Rangers on Thursday night. It took every block, every big save, and every defensive takeaway to keep the Rangers at one goal. The Devils only scored two goals despite peppering Igor Shesterkin with 31 shots. So, Vitek Vanecek had to be sharp.
He was sharp, but the Devils defense seemed to turn back the clock. They only allowed six high-danger chances at 5v5. That’s a VERY low number. The Devils themselves got 14 high-danger chances. The Devils dominated the first period, and they really didn’t let up for the rest of the game.
This was the kind of performance from this defense that we haven’t seen in weeks. The Devils defense was suffocating. They didn’t really give the Rangers offense, which is one of the better units in the league, a chance to get anything together. In one of the biggest matchups on the year, the Devils came out on top 2-1.
Ryan Graves and John Marino have been in a bad state for the last few games. Graves especially has been bad. However, the two players were incredible on Thursday night. In fact, Head Coach Lindy Ruff trusted Graves and Marino to shut down the Rangers at the end. One play imparticular saved the game.
Graves swept the puck off the goalline with Vladimir Tarasenko right there. The game was moments from being tied, and Graves was right where he needed to be. This is why Ruff trusted his shutdown unit to do just that at the end of the game.
Marino and Graves were on the ice for one high-danger chance against. They were dominant. Nobody was able to get past them at even strength.
Early in the game, it looked like Graves was going to be the same player who was struggling. He got destroyed by Adam Fox before Vitek Vanecek bailed him out. Luckily, this wasn’t any other night. This was a night when the Devils desperately needed a win, and the defense stepped up.
Want your voice heard? Join the Pucks And Pitchforks team!
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. The Devils and Rangers are still on a collision course for a first-round matchup. Sure, the Carolina Hurricanes’ last-second loss to the Detroit Red Wings helps the Devils cause for the Metropolitan Division, but we need to prepare for a likely Rangers matchup. If Graves and Marino play like this, then the Devils will be in great shape.