The New Jersey Devils made it to overtime against the always-good Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, and while they do need as many points as possible in the insanely close Eastern Conference race, getting anything is a win with this injured lineup. This team is without their best player and number one forward in Jack Hughes, their best defensemen in Dougie Hamilton, struggling but important veteran defender Jonas Siegenthaler, and two top-six forwards in Ondrej Palat and Timo Meier.
All in all they are playing without $35 million in talent, which is insane to think about. The fact that they were even in this game surprised me a little bit. That being said, the overall effort was there tonight, and the team should, for the most part, feel good about themselves. It will require this team to come together and guys to step up in a big way to stay in this playoff race.
Jesper Bratt was all over the ice on Thursday night and took the reigns with Hughes out. He put seven shots on net, and he had some very high-danger ones, including a barely saved shot on a breakaway that nearly trickled in. He had one goal on the night but was only a few inches from this being a 2-3 goal night for him. Bratt stepped up big when the team needed him to produce.
Nathan Bastian looks like he may have turned a corner this season. He tied the game up with a good play stripping a Lightning defender before a sneaky shot low went in. He was physically engaged again all night. Despite only playing 10 minutes, he was noticeable a lot has to start producing at least some energy and intensity for this team while guys are out like he did Thursday.
Vitek Vanecek might have had the best 800 save percentage game ever. If there was no visible shot clock, he could have fooled into thinking he was .940 on the night. He stopped some big shots and multiple breakaways from Nikita Kucherov and other stars, and without that, this team was dead in the water early. Some of the goals were also virtually unsavable as well so he has nothing to feel bad about and the defense needed to give him some more support and stop letting the opposition fly the zone for breakaways so easily.
Mikey Mcleod had what has become his usual game this season. They scored a goal, though it was called back, was 67% in the faceoff circle and had four hits. The dude stepped up in a big way and was the team's best center on the night again, and with him being locked into a top 6 role again for the foreseeable future, this is exactly what they need.
Luke Hughes had a rough night. It started early with him slipping and letting Luke Glendening walk in shorthanded and rip it in from the slot. After that, he did not make much of an impact on the game, and with the number of hurt players and the fact that this team is missing what was its top pair from last season, he needs to be ready to go and do more next game.
We all love Nico Hischier, but this was not his night. He looked completely off, at just 42% on the faceoff circle, where he is normally good on top of producing one shot, and not being engaged at all is not how he usually plays. The captain also lost almost all of his board battles and 50/50 pucks versus Lightning players on the night, which is not a good look, but we know how he usually plays, and this one can probably be looked at as an off night, but they really need him to be going hard and producing right now.