In a season where many critics had the New Jersey Devils labeled as a possibility to fight for Connor Bedard, they are now in the second round of the postseason. This season’s roster was constructed after picking right-handed defenseman Simon Nemec 2nd overall.
The New Jersey Devils nucleus yielded 112 points in 82 games. Many critics like Keith Yandle said that the New Jersey Devils wouldn’t make the playoffs during the New Jersey Devils 13-game win streak. Boy oh boy did the New Jersey Devils prove those critics wrong.
This team shows a ton of Jerseytude. You don’t ever mess with the Devils and the fans’ mindset because they will want nothing more but to prove you wrong like Keith Yandle.
General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and company had a vision of what they wanted to do with the roster in the regular season. They waited for the right opportunities, and they pounced. They benefited from the John Marino trade from Pittsburgh, then adding Curtis Lazar and Timo Meier via trades later in the season. These guys were very critical in this playoff series. Yes, Akira Schmid is the MVP of this round, but Meier was a big pest that got into Igor Shesterkin‘s head throughout the series. Even after Meier got knocked down with a big hit from Jacob Trouba, he got back up for the handshake line.
When Akira Schmid was called up from the AHL, he was nothing but very solid in net this season showing how poised and economical he was in this regular season. Once the Devils went down 2-0 in this series, Akira Schmid won four games to save the Devils season.
There is something very encouraging about Schmid with his glove work and athleticism. Yet, his calmness in the way he carries himself might be his biggest strength. The Switzerland native was nothing but a Swiss Guard in net who won 2 of his 4 games with shutouts. The 5th round pick of the 2018 NHL Draft Class has developed into a young star goalie for many years to come.
On the offensive side of things, the New Jersey Devils needed to score first. Boy, did former Ray Shero pick Michael McLeod look good on the shorthanded goal alongside Ondrej Palat. McLeod and Nathan Bastian have been together since their time with the Mississauga Steelheads. They were freaking phenomenal in hitting the Rangers, creating chaos with their speed, and tiring out the Rangers on the 4th line.
Tomas Tatar, the veteran in the middle of a contract year, proved why Tom Fitzgerald brought him in as a free agent over a year ago. The man is looking for a good payday and benefited from a heads-up hockey pass from John Marino, who banked in a big goal like going to an Atlantic City casino. Erik Haula helped give an extra cushy goal on a slapshot goal fed from Jack Hughes and Ondrej Palat. Erik Haula has been a big blessing as a veteran on this roster, shepherding this pack of young veterans and rookies with a few key veterans around the roster. Ondrej Palat was very critical in helping that 3rd Devils goal count past Igor Shesterkin.
Jesper Bratt got himself a beautiful empty net goal assisted by John Marino to ice the game even more. This team had the attitude and the embracement of the New Jersey Devils and was very persistent on the forecheck, backchecking, and being stronger in all three zones of Monday night’s game. Jonas Siegenthaler, Ryan Graves, and Kevin Bahl are on the defensive side along with John Marino helped the Devils clear the puck out, and keep the Rangers far away from Schmid’s crease. “Schmido the Torpedo” had to bail out this team against the toughest goalie in the playoffs in Igor Shesterkin.
This is a moment for the Devils’ core to gain a huge amount of experience just being in these playoffs and know what it takes to go up against an opponent like the Carolina Hurricanes after taking down Shesterkin and the Rangers. The Devils are going on to play the Carolina Hurricanes and it’ll be a great experience for this core going forward. But it was one hell of a series, no pun intended seeing those on ESPN talking all about the Rangers and their 1994 talking points. Boy, it is a huge relief to see the New Jersey Devils stick a dagger in the Rangers’ window of trying to go deep at the end of their playoff window.