Saturday night’s game was a disaster. The New Jersey Devils now have to go back to Prudential Center for Game 7 after a rough final 40 minutes at the Garden. Igor Shesterkin has been so good this series. While fans might not want to admit it, experience and goaltending are probably the two most important things regarding this kind of situation. Big players will show up on big nights. Let’s take a look at the game and what is to come for the final game.
The NHL’s officiating is as bad as ever. Dawson Mercer‘s play to hit the puck on the Patrick Kane breakaway was a great play. While they did clarify that the rule was evidently changed to a penalty regardless if you touch the puck first, the contact on his leg was still soft. Tomas Tatar was also high-sticked clear in the face in front of both refs with no call. The Rangers got away with a lot of infractions after the whistle all night, and even their goalie was throwing hands at players with zero consequence. The problem here is if the Devils responded, the penalty could and would have killed them.
The only goal that really mattered was scored by the fourth line, and the garbage-time goal was a powerplay marker by Mercer. The big guns didn’t get much done again, and how this team has made it to Game 7 is kind of astounding looking at some of the forwards’ points and play. They should be thanking Akira Schmid and the defense for carrying them in a big way.
With that being said, the veteran offense should be what gets a team through to the next round and gets you the greasy goals, but this team only has 13 goals in six games. Three of them are from veteran Erik Haula, Three from 21-year-old Jack Hughes, and two from 21-year-old Dawson Mercer. Palat is the only other player with more than one goal, and while we as fans sure can’t be picky with where it comes from, one was a massive fluke going over the goalie and floating back down and the other an empty net doesn’t breed confidence. He was a playoff beast for the Lightning, but he is a passenger way too much for the Devils. His two penalties tonight were both stupid ones to take that they could not afford.
Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, and Tomas Tatar have combined for a grand total of 0 goals despite having 123 combined in the regular season. They averaged roughly 31 goals each. It is absolutely unacceptable at this point that none put the puck in the net when it matters most. Hischier and Meier have looked absolutely snake bit with the puck and just can’t finish, but the other two have looked like replacement-level pieces for a lot of this series. If the first line and Meier end this series without a goal, Devils fans will be very unhappy about it. Without a big goal from this quartet, the odds of them pulling off a win are very low.
In net, Schmid had a bit of an off night. He’s certainly not to blame for all the goals. Pulling him, however, was not something that made a lot of sense at the time. We just have to hope it doesn’t impact his confidence because he has to start the next game and has to play like a top-tier goalie or this season is over.