The New Jersey Devils are statistically having one of their best seasons to date, and although hockey is a team sport, there is one man (kid) you can thank for that, Jack Hughes.
In the first 49 games of the 2022-23 campaign, the Devils rode with a 32-13-4 overall record before the All-Star break. Hughes contributed by scoring 33 goals and notching 31 assists.
Due to Hughes’ performance in the first half of the season, the 21-year-old was selected to his second career all-star game. Hughes participated in the Honda Accuracy Challenge and the All-Star game, representing the Metropolitan Division. The Orlando native finished the Accuracy Challenge in ninth place out of ten and scored zero goals in the All-Star game.
Not being defeated by his All-Star weekend scores, Hughes returned to the Prudential Center with the Devils hoping to close the season the same way they started it.
Devils Vs. Canucks
The Devils hosted the struggling Vancouver Canucks on Monday night. The Devils fell behind early, with 14,630 fans in the Prudential Center. 27-year-old Andrei Kuzmenko scored his 22nd goal of the season for the Canucks, giving the boys from western Canada the early lead. After falling behind less than four minutes into the game, Hughes opened the scoring for the Devils with less than three minutes to go in the first period. This was Hughes’ 34th goal of the season.
The second period was high scoring and consisted of the Devils scoring three goals in less than a minute. First-year Devil, Ondrej Palat, netted two goals in 28 seconds. Then, 22 seconds later, Hughes’ scored his second goal of the game and his 35th of the season, giving the Devils a 4-1 lead as he packed away a wrist shot sitting back door. Fabian Zetterlund was given the primary assist on the goal, and Damon Severson was given the secondary assist.
The Canucks trudged their way back into the game, scoring three goals and pushing overtime. Three-on-three hockey is where the Devils seem to thrive, as their young, fast, and talented forwards always gain an edge over their opponents. Heading into Monday night’s golden goal period, the Devils were 8-4 in extra hockey, winning their last three overtime matchups.
Hughes was on the ice for most of the overtime period. When the clock drained to 42 seconds, and it seemed the game was heading to a shootout, Hughes hit the Canucks defense with a filthy no-look pass across the ice, where Jesper Bratt smacked the puck past Canucks goaltender, Collin Delia.
Hughes picked up right where he left off, adding three points to his season total, bringing the number up to 67. The Devils took the game 5-4 and are now sitting six points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Next up for the Devils
The Devils host the newest NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken, on Thursday back in the Prudential Center. Seattle had struggled during their inaugural season last year, going 27-49-6. The Pacific Coast boys seem to have found their rhythm as they sit at the top of the Pacific Division standings with 63 points in 49 games. The Kraken already tallied more points in 49 games this season than they did all of last year.
The last time the Devils and the Kraken squared off was on Jan. 19 in the newly built Climate Pledge Arena. The Kraken stole the points that game and defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.
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