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Game Day Preview: Analytic-darling Devils bring win streak — and roster-building lessons — to Vancouver

Oh look, another team that (on paper) is built better than the Canucks.

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NHL: MAR 15 Devils at Canucks
New Jersey Devils right wing Nathan Bastian (14) celebrates after scoring a goal on the Vancouver Canucks during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on March 15, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Not many teams have been as porous as the Canucks over the last decade.

One of the teams on the Canucks’ level in terms of mediocrity per decade is the New Jersey Devils.

However, things might finally be starting to turn around in New Jersey.

So far this season, the Devils look like they could do some damage.

Their talent up front is evident. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are a great 1-2 punch down the middle. Erik Haula, Dawson Mercer and Michael McLeod are all solid two-way players who can line up at centre.

On the wings, Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, Tomas Tatar, Fabian Zetterlund and Ondrej Palat are all skilled and speedy. That doesn’t even include rookie Alexander Holtz, who might be the most talented of the bunch.



TV: SN360. RADIO: SN650


However, the biggest lesson for the Canucks comes from the Devils’ blueline.

The Athletic’s Thomas Drance recently wrote a good recap on what the Devils have done, but they basically overhauled their blueline within 24 months. Players like Ty Smith, PK Subban and Dmitri Kulikov are now gone. In their place are Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, John Marino and Jonas Siegenthaler. Damon Severson is basically the only holdover on defence.

Like many, I was a fan of John Marino and Ryan Graves, who were both acquired in exchange for a second/third-rounder and a good prospect. I even wrote about the Canucks potentially acquiring Graves in this “bold moves” off-season blueprint for 2021.

But, the reason the Devils were able to acquire both of these players (and really, the reason they were able to trade for Siegenthaler and sign Hamilton as well) is because they had the cap space and draft capital to do so.

Hmm...maybe if the Canucks didn’t trade for OEL and Garland, perhaps they could have been in that position this offseason, but I digress.

Right now, the Devils look dominant. They average an eye-popping 40.9 shots per 60 at 5-on-5 while giving up only 19.7 shots per 60.

If the goaltending holds, this team could be the biggest surprise of the NHL season.

That’s still a big if, but it hasn’t been a big issue so far with Vitek Vanacek and Mackenzie Blackwood providing the Devils with six quality starts in nine games, good for 66.7% (the league average is 53%). Vancouver, on the other hand, has gotten two quality starts (one each from Martin and Demko) in nine games this season.




JT Miller — Bo Horvat — Conor Garland

Andrei Kuzmenko — Elias Pettersson — Ilya Mikheyev

Tanner Pearson — Jack Studnicka — Nils Hoglander

Vasily Podkolzin — Nils Aman — Dakota Joshua


Quinn Hughes — Luke Schenn

Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Tyler Myers

Riley Stillman — Ethan Bear

Starting Goalie: Spencer Martin (expected)

Backup: Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Jack Rathbone, Kyle Burroughs

Injured: Tucker Poolman (undisclosed), Travis Dermott (concussion), Brock Boeser (undisclosed), Curtis Lazar (undisclosed)

Bruce Boudreau confirmed that Ethan Bear will make his debut tonight. And, with 12 healthy forwards, it looks like Studnicka will also make his debut.

Tough breaks for Rathbone and Burroughs, who look to be coming out of the lineup in favour of a now-healthy Stillman and Bear.



Erik Haula — Jack Hughes — Jesper Bratt

Tomas Tatar — Nico Hischier — Fabian Zetterlund

Yegor Sharangovich — Dawson Mercer — Jesper Boqvist

Miles Wood — Michael McLeod — Nathan Bastian


Jonas Siegenthaler — Dougie Hamilton

Ryan Graves — John Marino

Brendan Smith — Damon Severson

Starting Goaltender: Mackenzie Blackwood (expected)

Backup: Vitek Vanacek

Scratched: Andreas Johansson, Alexander Holtz, Kevin Bahl

Injured: Ondrej Palat (lower body)

Jesper Bratt is the Devils player to watch tonight. He leads the team with 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists). That’s good for fifth in the NHL, trailing only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak and Artemi Panarin. Nico Hischier is second on the team with 9 points.

How They Stack Up

Goals for/game

  • New Jersey: 3.44 (T-8th)
  • Vancouver: 3.11 (T-15th)

Goals against/game

  • New Jersey: 2.56 (4th)
  • Vancouver: 3.89 (T-28th)

Shots for/game

  • New Jersey: 39.3 (1st)
  • Vancouver: 27.9 (27th)

Shots against/game

  • New Jersey: 21.9 (1st)
  • Vancouver: 32.6 (18th)

Power play

  • New Jersey: 19.2 (21st)
  • Vancouver: 25.8 (9th)

Penalty kill

  • New Jersey: 93.1 (4th)
  • Vancouver: 62.1 (32nd)


A battle against the Devils? That calls for a little Tenacious D.

Enjoy the game, folks.