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10 TAKEAWAYS: Reaching the Finish Line

With just four games left on the regular season schedule, several players are approaching career-highs

by Amanda Stein amandacstein / NewJerseyDevils.com

Here we are, with just four games left in the season. Some days it feels like the season has truly flown by and so much has happened. The overall results have been disappointing, but there has also been a huge degree of maturation and important experience. Through the highs and lows, we've seen the emergence of new players, rookies standing up and making a difference, making cases for themselves for next season. And some of the young veterans are making pushes to reach or surpass their career highs in all different categories. 

We break it all down this week in 10 Takeaways:

1. Some Wholesome Content

In all my years of reporting, I don't think a player has ever answered one of my post-game questions quite as wholesomely as Yegor Sharangovich did last week. It was the first time Yegor had scored two goals in a game and notably at the same time, the first two power-play points of his career. 

So, the day before he says he just wants to score more goals. I didn't know if he meant in a single game, so I asked him about it. He says scores more goals one day, the next day he scores his first two-goal game. Why?

"My wife told me that I could score three goals and I tried to score three goals." 

Close, but what a wholesome answer from the 22-year-old.

Tweet from @amandacstein: The face #NJDevils Yegor Sharangovich makes when says all he wants to do is "score more goals": pic.twitter.com/dBnn5WnPqf

2. Leading the Pack

I guess the top two this week is about giving Sharangovich some love. But when you have a month of April as he did, you'd be hard-pressed not to want to shout it from the rooftop. 

He led the Devils with 14 points (7G-7A) in the 16 games played in April. That marks the most points recorded in a single month this season by a New Jersey skater. 

3. Losing Track

Just as Kevin Bahl was stepping onto the ice for his solo lap, making his NHL debut last week, the line of Devils players waiting to step out on the ice started to back up as players came to a halt to allow Bahl his solo moment. Ty Smith was standing next to me at the time and asked, "how many times have we done this, this season?!" 

The right answer was seven (though I did say eight at the time), and it's pretty wild to think that Ty was one of them when the season kicked off, and here we are at the end of the season and it feels like a distant memory.  

4. Big Bahl-er

Lining up next to the 5-foot-11 Smith was the 6-foot-7 (without skates on) Kevin Bahl. The optics were great, making Smith probably look smaller than he is, and Bahl even taller. 

But the two paired up really well and Bahl expressed his excitement to play with Smith after the game. The two have been teammates with Hockey Canada and played a couple of shifts together at World Junior tournaments. 

"I was just very excited to get out there," Bahl said. "When I got out there, I was just trying to calm my emotions. Even before the game, I was thinking about calming myself down. There's just so much pent-up energy going out there. You don't want to have too much adrenaline going out there."

5. Taking Advantage 

Every player who has made their debut has recorded at least their first NHL point. In fact, most also have their first NHL goal. Marián Studenič, Nolan Foote, Ty Smith, Yegor Sharangovich and Mikhail Maltsev all have their first goals, while Tyce Thompson and Bahl, two others making their NHL debut this season, have at least their first NHL point. 

6. Trailing Only the GOAT

Mackenzie Blackwood has reached the 100 games played mark of his young career. In his first two seasons, he played in 23 and 47 games respectively, while this year he's now at 32 games. 

Posting a victory on April 27 against Philadelphia was the 42nd win of his career. So why does that matter or seem notable? Well as NHL Public Relations pointed out, only one other Devils goaltender had posted more victories through their first 100 games. Not a tough trivia answer, because it's Martin Brodeur who had 11 more with 53 wins through his first 100 games played, to debut with a franchise. 

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Mackenzie Blackwood has recorded 42 wins through his first 100 appearances with the @NJDevils. Only one goaltender to debut with the franchise recorded more victories through that span.Need a hint? He's a 4-time Vezina winner and 3-time #StanleyCup champion. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/RgjUQRK2v4

7. Near Perfect Record

Did you know Mackenzie Blackwood has never lost in regulation to the Flyers? After the Devils' third straight win over the Flyers on Saturday, Blackwood improved his record to 6-0-2 against the division rivals. 

8. Will They Do It?

With just four games to go in the Devils season, there's still time left for players to reach career highs. Players to keep your eyes on? 

Miles Wood is two goals away from his career-high 19, set during the 2017-18 season. 

Pavel Zacha is one point away from his career-high 32, set last season in 65 games. This year, he sits at 31 through 46 games. One more goal and he'll top his career-high 13, which he matched with a goal against Philadelphia on April 29. 

Four more points for Jesper Bratt would bump him to 25 points, which is a career high from the 2018-19 season. 

9. Another Devils Debut

While not an NHL debut, it may have felt that way for forward A.J. Greer. He made his Devils debut after being acquired in the Palmieri/Zajac trade with the NY Islanders. On Monday he was called up to the NHL club and played in his first NHL game since February 2019. 

10. Welcome to the Show!

Well, this one isn't Devils related, but certainly NHL related. Welcome to the league, Seattle! The 32nd NHL franchise was officially brought into the fold this week, making a final expansion payment. That means their GM Ron Francis is open for business, able to participate in trades and anything else an NHL franchise participates in. Next thing to keep your eye on when it comes to Seattle is the Expansion Draft, which will take place just prior to the NHL Draft.  

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