Fans of the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche were treated to a 3 point coming out party for a rookie today. It just might not have been the rookie they were expecting. First year NHL Defenseman Will Butcher grabbed an assist on each of three power play goals to help propel the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 victory this afternoon.
The Devils kept Butcher’s minutes low in his debut, but utilized him early and extensively on the power play. His puck movement and poise from the point of attack allowed the Devils to assert zone control on the power play yielding points on 3 occasions. The first year pro looked like a veteran out there quarterbacking a power play with on target tape to tape passes and excellent movement in space.
For the first goal Butcher finds Palmieri in the circle. While Palmieri takes the puck behind the net, Butcher is left all alone at the point, but he doesn’t remain stationary, nor does he coast. Butcher actively skates to find a passing lane to give Palmieri an outlet with the puck. As Palmieri completes his circuit behind the net he sends the puck back to Butcher at the point. Butcher receives the pass and sends it towards the net. There’s no big windup or anything to telegraph the shot.
This shot has to get through two Avalanche players in front (Circled in Yellow), Adam Henrique AND Jimmy Hayes’ screen. Henrique(circled in red) would ultimately get the deflection on this that would lead to the goal, but it is Butcher’s work in space and finding a shooting lane that ultimately leads to this puck going in the net.
The second goal Henrique is behind the net with the puck with 2 Avalanche on him. Hayes moves in to assist with the puck battle along the back wall. As this puck scrum develops Butcher is on the right side half wall, but starts to move into the circle seeking open ice. The Avalanche player defending Butcher commits to the behind the net scrum as does the one covering Taylor Hall. The Avalanche completely over commit with 4 players below the goal line.
Seeing this, Butcher moves up the halfwall back towards the point. Henrique sends the puck along the wall and Butcher gathers it. Palmieri skates back to the opposite point. At this point the Avalanche, seeing the open ice they have left scramble to recover. Butcher gathers the puck, and sends a quick pass to Palmieri who fires it. It misses the net, but the lively boards put the puck on the stick of Jimmy Hayes for the backhand tap in.
For the third power play goal, Bratt has the puck along the half wall. He centers to Henrique who quickly bumps it out to Butcher at the point. Butcher winds up for a slapshot, freezing the defender in front of him. The flatfooted defender is now not able to react as Butcher sends the puck over to Hall. This move draws the eyes of all the Colorado defenders allowing Bratt to creep from the half wall into the circle unnoticed.
Hall gives a little shoulder dip like he might shoot and sends the puck over to the wide open, unchallenged Bratt who delivers the goods with a beautiful top shelf shot. The deft puck movement on this play pulls the Avalanche defenders away from Bratt putting them all out of position to even have a chance of making a play on him.
No Avalanche player is in even the frame as Bratt receives Hall’s pass on this reverse angle replay.
If this is a sign of things to come for New Jersey, Will Butcher could be in for a BIG year.
Video Link to game highlights:
Butcher produces three assists in Devils’ 4-1 victory