The New Jersey Devils 2021 season opener had shades of 2019 written all over it, a massive offseason where the Devils acquired a premier defenseman, tons of hype surrounding the team heading into the season, a sold-out Prudential Center, the Devils getting out to a big lead late, them blowing that big lead, but this time around, the Devils had an all-star caliber Jack Hughes.
As someone who had gone to both home openers, when the Devils blew a two-goal lead with under four minutes remaining, I swore the Devils franchise was cursed, but Jack Hughes said otherwise. Every hockey analyst’s favorite pick for breakout player of the year did not disappoint in his season debut, finishing with two goals, one being a highlight reel game-winner, followed by the celly of the century. For Hughes to have the confidence and ability to break out a move like that in overtime, followed by the stick toss into the crowd should not only give every Devils chills, but faith that the dark days in New Jersey are over, and the kid who’s supposed to lead them to the promised land has officially arrived.
As for the game itself, an undermanned Devils team who were without defensemen, Ty Smith and Damon Severson, along with winger Miles Wood, and goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, proved to have enough depth to get the job done. In their Devils debuts, General Dougie Hamilton scored the Devils’ first goal 17 seconds in and finished with a +3, while Graves finished with an assist and a +4 rating, which ain’t too shabby. Not to mention, the rook Dawson Mercer recorded his first point in his debut as well. Nico Hischier looked like a captain, as his play may not have shown up in the stat sheet, but his defensive stick was fantastic, he was winning puck battles, and almost notched a goal on a pretty passing sequence. But nobody looked better than Jack Hughes, who seemed to be playing hockey in slow motion. The IQ/hockey sense on the 20-year-old is a sight to see. Before the puck’s on his stick, Hughes already knows what he’s doing with it. For those who’re more basketball fans, Hughes is basically a premier point guard with a shooting touch, almost like Chris Paul, fantastic at creating turnovers, high IQ can set up players on a tee, and can score when he wants.
If the last two days couldn’t get any better, defensemen Damon Severson and Ty Smith reported to practice on Saturday, meaning we should expect to see them back in the lineup this week. As for Wood and Blackwood, neither of them were in attendance for Saturday morning’s skate around, so still no timetable on when they’ll return.
A look ahead to this upcoming week, the Devils are slated to continue their homestand on Tuesday in their first-ever matchup against the Seattle Kraken, followed by bouts against the Washington Capitals on Thursday and the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.