This past week, the New Jersey Devils began the busy part of their schedule. Three games in the week, all against talented opponents. For the young and injured Devils, it did not go well. Out of the possibly six points, New Jersey only came away with one.
The week started Tuesday night, a home game against their rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. The game resulted in a 5-3 loss and the biggest problem of the week showed up: penalties. The New Jersey Devils conceded five penalties in 60 minutes to the dangerous Flyers and paid for it. Two goals came from the man advantage for the Flyers. Allowing five power play chances is not a recipe for success and will usually result in a loss.
One nice aspect of the game for the Devils was that Michael McLeod scored his first NHL goal Tuesday night. It has been a long time coming for McLeod, and he was one bright spot in a poor performance.
On Thursday night, New Jersey once again hosted the Philadelphia Flyers. This was a game New Jersey should have won. The Devils got on the board first when defenseman Damon Severson caught Philadelphia on a line change and used the post to get the puck past goalie Carter Hart. New Jersey outshot the Flyers 34-17 and had four power play chances. However, New Jersey was not clinical. The power play continued to stay in neutral with very few quality chances, and some good saves from Hart prevented the Devils from scoring more. Another aspect of Thursday night’s loss that was important was the Devils faceoff problems. While the Devils outshot the Flyers, Philadelphia was dominant on faceoffs. The Flyers won 73% of the faceoffs, including some on the penalty kill which made it even harder for the Devils power play to get going.
However, just like Tuesday night, there were some positives to take from the game. One of which was Jesper Bratt. The young winger cleared the COVID-19 protocol list and was able to suit up for the first time this season. He was placed on a line with Jack Hughes and Andreas Johnsson and they looked dangerous. While none of them picked up any points, it is a line that could be very dangerous as the season continues and the guys build more chemistry.
The Devils then traveled to Buffalo to take on Taylor Hall and the Sabers. In their first game against Hall an exciting battle resulted in a point for the Devils. The Sabers defeated New Jersey in a shootout, winning 4-3. The main story of this game was the Devils special teams failure. Once again, the Devils gave away five penalties. Although they only allowed one goal from them, that cannot happen. The Devils also drew five penalties, including a five-on-three power play in the first period. They tried to get cute on that one and generated zero good chances with a two man advantage. Ty Smith did score a power play goal later on in the game, but that was the only one. New Jersey has only three power play goals on the year so far and is a reason they are coming out of games with no points.
Putting Things into Perspective
This week was a disappointment for the Devils, no doubt about it. The beginning of the season may have had some Devils fans thinking there was a chance New Jersey could compete for a playoff spot. That likely will not happen, but again you never know. Even though this past week was bad, remember that the Devils are without their starting goalie who was elite early this season in Mackenzie Blackwood, they are also missing Nico Hischier who is a very good player and will help out immensely on faceoffs. Hischier is a leader and when he gets back on the ice the team will improve. Also, Travis Zajac was just put on the COVID-19 protocol list. He may be out for a few games, making an already young team even younger.
Sure this week was bad, but for a team who is in the middle of rebuilding, has a new coaching staff, and is in a very weird season, the Devils have been dealt some bad cards. This is a building block year, and the fact that they are still competing with some very good teams even through all the injuries and unknowns in a COVID-19 season, tells me that this team has a high chance of being very good in a few seasons.